Minamoto no Yoshikuni (源義国)

MINAMOTO no Yoshikuni was a busho of Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan) in the late Heian period. He was the fourth son of MINAMOTO no Yoshiie. He also was the ancestor of both Nitta clan and Ashikaga clan.


He was the fourth son of MINAMOTO no Yoshiie. As Yoshiie's first son MINAMOTO no Yoshimune died prematurely and the second son MINAMOTO no Yoshichika raised a rebellion in Saigoku (western part of Japan), he was expected as the next 'toryo (leader) of Minamoto clan' as well as his elder brother and the third son, MINAMOTO no Yoshitada. However, Yoshikuni was excluded from candidate successors due to his rampageous behavior and Yoshiie's consideration that Yoshiie didn't match the trend of the era.

Though he was defeated in the confrontation with his uncle Yoshimitsu (Hitachi kassen) and ceded Hitachi Province to Satake clan who was the lineage of Yoshimitsu, he had steadily extended power over Shimotsuke Province through the establishment of Ashikagasho district and the like. His fierce character had not changed in his last years during which he tore up chokkan (the emperor's censure); he was called Arakaga nyudo (fierce lay monk of Kaga).


In 1106, he fought against his uncle MINAMOTO no Yoshimitsu and his cousin MINAMOTO no Yoshinari in Hitachi Province. The battle is so called 'Hitachi Kassen'. As a result, Yoshikuni received chokkan, and the arrest order for his father Yoshiie was issued. In addition, the arrest order for Yoshimitsu and his company 平重幹 was also issued toward Kokushi (provincial governor) in each district.

In 1127, his second son MINAMOTO no Yoshiyasu was born.

In 1142, he donated his traditional domain in Ashikaga to Anrakuju-in Temple which was goganji of Emperor Toba to turn it into Ashikagasho district (transferred from Hachijoin-ryo to Daikakuji-to).

In 1143, Yoshikuni donated his shiryo (private land) developed in Yanada County to Ise Jingu Shrine so that it was certified as Yanada mikuriya (manors of Imperial family and powerful shrines).

In 1149, as Yoshikuni's roto (retainer) scuffled in Kyoto, Yoshikuni was accused of that.

In 1150, Yoshikuni conflicted with Ukone no daisho (Major Captain of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards) Oii Mikado FUJIWARA no Saneyoshi to burn down Saneyoshi's residence; Yoshikuni received chokkan.

In 1155, he died at the residence in Nitta no sho manor owned by his first son Yoshishige NITTA.

His graveyard is in Banna-ji Temple in Tochigi Prefecture.

Years of Birth and Death

Yoshikuni's birth year and death year are uncertain with various theories. According to the popular theory, he was born in 1091, entered into priesthood in 1154 and died on August 3, 1155 (Sonpi Bunmyaku [Bloodlines of Noble and Base]).

Other theories about his birth and death years are introduced as a reference.

Birth year of 1084: described in "Keizu sanyo" (pedigree charts of Edo period).

Birth year of 1089: different theory of the above. Though this theory is frequently adopted to novels and the like, details are not known. This theory is not adopted by any history book.

Birth year of 1082: it is described that Yoshikuni was 18 when Yoshitada died, according to 'Nitta Ashikaga Ryo-kakeizu' (genealogies of both Nitta and Ashikaga families) owned by Ashikaga Banna-ji Temple. According to the "History of Ashikaga City" issued in 1928, the age was mistaken for 28; it estimates the birth year as 1082 by reverse calculation. This theory is adopted by the history book, "History of Ashikaga City."


Yoshikuni's first son was MINAMOTO no Yoshishige (ancestor of Nitta clan); Yoshishige's mother was Kozuke no suke FUJIWARA no Atsumoto no musume, or Naritsuna ASHIKAGA no musume. His second son was MINAMOTO no Yoshiyasu (ancestor of Ashikaga clan); Yoshiyasu's mother was Shinano no kami MINAMOTO no Arifusa no musume. His third son was MINAMOTO no Suekuni.


Yoshikuni's descendants are Yamana clan, Satomi clan, Momoi clan, Ishito clan, Kira clan, Imagawa clan, Hosokawa clan, Hatakeyama clan, Shiba clan, Isshiki clan, Serata clan and the like. Yoshisada NITTA who was the supreme commander in the capture of Kamakura at the overthrowing of Kamakura bakufu, Takauji ASHIKAGA who started Muromachi bakufu, Yoshimoto IMAGAWA who were killed by Nobunaga ODA in the Battle of Okehazama, Yoshimasa SHIBA and Mitsuie HATAKEYAMA who formed the foundation of Muromachi bakufu in the early Muromachi period, Katsumoto HOSOKAWA and Sozen YAMANA who were the taishoes (general) of the West squad and the East squad in the Onin War, respectively, and the like were Yoshikuni's descendants.

[Original Japanese]