Fujiwara no Sumitomo (藤原純友)

FUJIWARA no Sumitomo (893? -July 21, 941) was a nobility who lived during the Heian period. He was the grandson of FUJIWARA no Totsune who was an officer of Oversight Department (division of the daijokan responsible for controlling central and provincial governmental offices). He was the third son of FUJIWARA no Yoshinori, an officer of Dazaifu (local government office in Kyushu region). FUJIWARA no Suminori was his younger brother. His official rank was Jugoi (Junior Fifth Rank) and Iyo-no-kuni no jo (provincial governor of Iyo Province).

He is known to have revolted against the Imperial Court on the Seto Inland Sea. FUJIWARA no Sumitomo's War, along with the rebellion led by TAIRA no Masakado in the Kanto region, is referred to as the Johei and Tengyo War.


Sumitomo was from the FUJIWARA Hokke (the Northern House, one of the four FUJIWARA family lines), which was most flourishing family among the four FUJIWARA family lines. FUJIWARA no Mototsune was his great uncle. He had no chance of succeeding in the capital as he had lost his father early, which made him decide to be a local official.

Sumitomo initially engaged in suppressing pirates that thrived in the Setouchi region as Iyo-no-kuni no jo, under the direction of his father's cousin FUJIWARA no Motona, Iyo no kuni kokushi (the provincial governor of Iyo Province). While Motona returned to Kyoto, Sumitomo remained in Iyo Province to settle down. He became the chieftain of pirates by around 936. With the Hiburi Island of Iyo Province (present Ehime Prefecture) as his base of operations, he controlled more than 1,000 ships to commit piracy in the surrounding ocean area. Before long he expanded his sphere of influence through the whole area of the Seto Inland Sea.

Around the same time as the outbreak of the rebellion in the Kanto region led by TAIRA no Masakado, Sumitomo rose in revolt by commanding the pirates in the Setouchi region. FUJIWARA no Sumitomo's influence reached to the Kinai region. In 939, Sumitomo ordered his subordinate FUJIWARA no Fumimoto to attack two members of Kokushi (provincial governor) of the Bizen and Harima provinces (Bizen no suke [Assistant Governor of Bizen Province]: FUJIWARA no Takaiko, and Harima no suke [Assistant governor of Harima Province]: Koremoto SHIMADA) at the Sukieki in Settsu Province, and captured them. In 940, Sumitomo attacked the Kokufu (ancient provincial offices) of the Awaji Province in February, and that of the Sanuki Province in August. In October of the same year, he finally attacked and looted the Dazai-fu (local government office in Kyushu region).

The Imperial Court ordered Tsuibushi (Pursuit and Apprehension Agent) no kami (the director general) ONO no Yoshifuru, Tsuibushi no suke (the undersecretary) MINAMOTO no Tsunemoto and Tsuibushi no sakan (secretary) FUJIWARA no Yoshiyuki and OKURA no Haruzane to go for tracking down and killing Sumitomo with their troops. In May 941, Sumitomo's fleet was destroyed by the troops commanded by Tsuibushi in the Battle of Hakata Bay. Although Sumitomo and his son Shigetamaro took refuge in Iyo Province, they died in prison after being captured by the Keigoshi (envoys to protect) of Iyo Province TACHIBANA no Toyasu in June of the same year.

In contrast to the rebellion led by Masakado, which was settled within only two months, Sumitomo's war required as long as two years to be settled. Furthermore, Tsuibushi is believed to have reported the details of the battle against Sumitomo to the government, which was titled "Sumitomo Tsuito-ki" (a record of how troops tracked down and killed Sumitomo). "Fuso ryakki" (A Short History of Japan) quotes part of the report.

Family Tree

Father: FUJIWARA no Yoshinori
Mother: unknown
Real mother: unknown
Son: FUJIWARA no Arinobu
Son: FUJIWARA no Noritoshi
Son: FUJIWARA no Iomaru (a theory says his name after genpuku [celebration of one's coming of age] was Yoshizumi, but the truth is unknown)
Son: FUJIWARA no Masumi (or Naosumi)

There is a strong theory against the fact that Sumitomo was descended from the Fujiwara family. According to the theory, Sumitomo was the son of Tomohisa TAKAHASHI in the Takahashi-go, Imabari City, a member of the Ochi family, the local ruling family in Iyo Province worshiping Oyamatsumi as the ancestor. When Yoshinori came to Iyo Province as kokushi, Sumitomo was adopted by him, with the result that Sumitomo changed the family name to Fujiwara, the theory adds.

In later years, the Arima family and the Omura family called themselves the descendants of FUJIWARA no Sumitomo. There is another theory that the Kamachi family in Chikugo Province was also descended from FUJIWARA no Sumitomo. However, it is believed that only TACHIBANA no Kimiyori was a descendant of Sumitomo.

[Original Japanese]