Obu Suesada (飯富季貞)

Suesada OBU (also known as MINAMOTO no Suesada) (years of birth and death unknown) was a busho (Japanese military commander) and a poet who lived in the late Heian period. It is said that he was descended from MINAMOTO no Mitsumasa, from MINAMOTO no Mitsuyoshi, or from MINAMOTO no Yoshitada of the Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan) in the Seiwa-Genji (Minamoto clan). Although he was the Seiwa-Genji, he was a Samurai-Daisho (commander of warriors) of the Taira family, and a busho who was well versed in both literary and military arts. His last name, Obu clan, was named after his home ground, Obu no sho (the present Chiba Prefecture). His nickname was Gen Daifu Hogan. Toramasa OBU was his descendant.


He was Kenin (retainer) and Samurai-Daisho of the Taira family. As a capable busho, he carried out many different duties from military command on the front line to backup logistics support. Also, he was one of the people who supported the latter period of the Taira clan government. He left his mark on the history of waka poetry, too. From Takiguchi no musha (samurai guards of the Imperial Residence), he was promoted to Meryo (the section taking care of imperial horses), Uemon no shojo, and then he served concurrently as kebiishi (a police and judicial chief). In TAIRA no Kiyomori's latter days, he was given Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade).
He was called 'Gen Daifu Hogan.'
He emerged as a close aide to TAIRA no Kiyomori, participating in the planning of household management, and worked as secretary and so on. Gradually he came to deal with the practical business of ruling chigyo-koku (provincial fiefdom), planning and carrying out policies of finances and management of fiefs.

In addition, under TAIRA no Munemori's command, he accumulated and carried provisions of rice for the army, and then launched into military affairs, being in charge of the commissariat such as conscription and training warriors. When the Minamoto clan raised an army, he became a Samurai-Daisho of the Taira family and led the army, taking part in various battles with TAIRA no Morizumi and killing OE no Tonari, MINAMOTO no Yoshimoto, and MINAMOTO no Yoshikane. Also, after the war started going against them, he defeated Koreyoshi OGATA and Takanao KIKUCHI who rose in revolt against the Taira family in the Kyushu District. However, the Taira family was defeated in the Battle of Dan no ura. Suesada also fought in the battle, but he was captured.

In 1177, when the Shishigatani Incident occurred, TAIRA no Norimori visited TAIRA no Kiyomori in order to spare FUJIWARA no Naritsune's life, saying that Norimori wanted to become a priest.

In 1179, he defeated OE no Tonari and OE no Ienari, the father and son, at their residence in the capital.

In 1180, at Toba in Kyoto, he intercepted the Ishikawa Party (Ishikawa-Genji (Minamoto clan)) at Kawachi, who tried to flee to the Kanto region, captured many of them, and totally destroyed their army together with TAIRA no Morizumi.

In 1180, along with TAIRA no Morizumi, he attacked and utterly demolished the survivors of the Ishikawa family at Ishikawa, Kawachi Province, which was home ground of the Ishikawa family.

In 1181, TAIRA no Munemori became sokan (military authority) of the Five Central Provinces and the provinces of Iga, Ise, Omi, and Tanba, so Suesada levied warriors at Yamashiro in Yamato.

In 1181, he went down to the Kyushu District with TAIRA no Morizumi, and defeated Takanao KIKUCHI, Koreyoshi OGATA, and so on, who went over to the enemy side, together with Tanenao HARADA who lived there.

In 1183, he destroyed the brothers of Koreyoshi OGATA and Koretaka USUKI, who raised another revolt again. The rebel army was strong, and he retreated to Dazaifu.

In 1184, he followed TAIRA no Norimori, and subjugated Michinobu KONO of Iyo, who revolted at the Imaki-jo Castle, Bizen Province, and brothers of Koreyoshi OGATA and Koretaka USUKI, chasing them to Kyushu.

In 1185, he lost in the Battle of Dan no ura. He was taken prisoner (April).

After the battle

Because his son Munesue, Muneto OBU, and so on served the Minamoto clan in Obu, the territory in the Kanto region, and he was one of the Minamoto clan, he was saved and allowed to join gokenin (an immediate vassal of the shogunate in the Kamakura and Muromachi through Edo periods).


His father's name is unknown. According to one theory MINAMOTO no Sueto was his father. Because Sueto was adopted by MINAMOTO no Shigetoki, a descendant of Mitsumasa, he came to be called a descendant of Seiwa-Genji Mitsumasa lineage, but Sueto's father by blood is unknown. Suesada took the family name of Obu, and his son Munesue OBU also took the same name. It seems that he was genetically related to Tadamune OBU whose home ground was Obu no sho like Suesada's, so it is sometimes said that he was of Seiwa-Genji Yoshitada lineage, which was founded by Tadamune's father, MINAMOTO no Yoshitada. However there are various opinions about the family branch, and none of them are reliable.

His son Munesue, however, is considered to be descended from Seiwa-Genji Yoshitada.


MINAMOTO no Mitsunaka - MINAMOTO no Yorinobu - MINAMOTO no Yoriyoshi - MINAMOTO no Yoshiie - MINAMOTO no Yoshitada - MINAMOTO no Tadamune - MINAMOTO no Sueto - MINAMOTO no Suesada - MINAMOTO no Munesue

It is said that the genealogy above was changed into the following one because MINAMOTO no Sueto was adopted by MINAMOTO no Shigetoki:

MINAMOTO no Mitsumasa - MINAMOTO no Tadashige - MINAMOTO no Sadamune - MINAMOTO no Shigemune - MINAMOTO no Shigetoki - MINAMOTO no Sueto - MINAMOTO no Suesada - MINAMOTO no Munesue.

Note: According to "Sonpi Bunmyaku" (a text compiled in the fourteenth century that records the lineages of the aristocracy), there is a description concerning MINAMOTO no Saneto, 'he lived in Wakasa Province, and was a roto (retainer) of Gyobukyo (Minister of Justice) TAIRA no Tadamori,' although it does not mention his real father. Strictly speaking, there is something about Obu no sho that should be known: both MINAMOTO no Sueto and MINAMOTO no Suesada did not take the family name of Obu until Munesue OBU used the family name after MINAMOTO no Tadamune called himself Genta OBU, taking the family name of Obu. However, MINAMOTO no Suesada used the name of OBU no Shoji (administrator of a manor), so he seems to have had something to do with Obu no sho. A part of the following genealogy also remains.

MINAMOTO no Yoshiie - MINAMOTO no Yoshitada - MINAMOTO no Tadamune - MINAMOTO no Munesue

According to this genealogy, MINAMOTO no Munesue, a grandson of MINAMOTO no Sueto, who was adopted by MINAMOTO no Shigetoki of the Mitsumasa lineage, became MINAMOTO (OBU) no Tadamune's adopted son and called himself Munesue.

As stated above, the genealogy around MINAMOTO no Suesada is not settled yet.


MINAMOTO no Suesada had two real sons, Munesue and Muneto, and an adopted son, MINAMOTO no Suemasa (Saiju). Munesue and Muneto became Kamakura gokenin, while Suemasa (Saiju), who was the best friend of Saigyo, became a venerable priest called Saiju Shonin at Mt. Koya.

MINAMOTO no Suesada had a brother named Bungo no kami (governor of Bungo Province) MINAMOTO no Mitsusue, who was Hokumen no Bushi (the Imperial Palace Guard) for the Taira family, but lost in the battle and was taken prisoner. MINAMOTO no Mitsuyuki, a son of Mitsusue, went down to Kamakura in order to plead to save his father's life which was granted. Kaido-ki' is a travelogue which was written on his journey.
Later he became Kawachi no kami (the governor of Kawachi Province), and was also known as a poet, writing 'Kawachibon Genji Monogatari.'
MINAMOTO no Chikayuki (Kawachi no kami) was a son of Mitsuyuki, and his family had been writers for many generations: his son, Yoshiyuki, and his grandson, Tomoyuki.

General remarks

Taking into consideration the fact that he had been serving the Taira family since he was young, his father Sueto was probably gokenin of the Taira family, too.
It can also be imagined that he was a close blood relative of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo, who saved his life and added him to the member of gokenin (however, we should not forget that Yoritomo had wariness toward his relatives, so he would have probably kept his relatives at a discreet distance.)

There is a relatively strong possibility that he was of the Yoshitada lineage, because even though he belonged to the Seiwa-Genji, he was a too distant relative to both the Mitsumasa lineage and the Mitsuyoshi lineage, which according to the way people thought in those days, probably meant that they weren't of the same family. If we accept the theory of the Yoshitada lineage, he and Yoritomo were supposed to be second cousins. From the viewpoint of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo, a direct descendant of the Minamoto family, Suesada seems not to have been powerful enough to be Yoritomo's rival because he was related too distantly and was not influential even though he belonged to the same family. That would be the reason why Yoritomo saved his life. From the above, the opinion that he belonged to the Yoshitada lineage is entirely appropriate.

Also, it is found that he had a career as a civil officer at first. Later, he was assigned to base, and we can see that when the powerful figure of the Taira family passed away, he was promoted to the rank of shogun from the position just below it. Under the system of the Taira family, the person who led an area army had to be somebody in the Taira family (a son of Kiyomori or his grandson), and it can be said that those who actually commanded the army were the highest rank of gokenin in the Taira family. He held the position during the latter period of the Taira clan government (the period of breakdown), so it can be said that he was a busho who recovered the Taira clan from a position of inferiority.

Representative poem

Though I have been thinking of you, now my feelings are tinged with the color of teardrops. ("Senzai (waka) shu" (Collection of a Thousand Years))

[Original Japanese]