Hirosaki Castle, Edo-era seat of government for the Tsugaru clan
|Home province||Kai Province|
|Parent house||Minamoto clan, Nanbu clan|
|Founder||Minamoto no Mitsuyuki|
|Final ruler||Tsugaru Tsuguakira|
|Current head||Yoshitaka Tsugaru|
|Founding year||13th century|
|Ruled until||1873 (Abolition of the han system)|
|Cadet branches||See below|
The Tsugaru clan (津軽氏 Tsugaru-shi?) was a Japanese samurai clan originating in northern Japan, specifically Mutsu Province (the northeast coast of Honshū). A branch of the local Nanbu clan, the Tsugaru rose to power during the Azuchi-Momoyama period. It was on the winning side of the Battle of Sekigahara, and entered the Edo period as a family of lords (daimyo) ruling the Hirosaki Domain. A second branch of the family was later established, which ruled the Kuroishi Domain. The Tsugaru survived as a daimyo family until the Meiji Restoration, when Tsugaru Tsuguakira of Hirosaki and Tsugaru Tsugumichi of Kuroishi were relieved of office. Their extended family then became part of the new nobility in the Meiji era.
Origins through 1599
The Tsugaru clan initially claimed descent from the Kawachi Genji branch of the Minamoto clan; in later years, this claim of origin would change to the Konoe family, which was a branch of the Fujiwara clan. It was first known as the Ōura clan (大浦氏 Ōura-shi?), a branch family of the Nanbu clan, which ruled sections of northern Mutsu Province. Relations between the two families soured after the Ōura declared their independence from the Nanbu in 1571, during the headship of Ōura Tamenobu. He had been vice-district magistrate (郡代補佐 gundai hosa?) under the Nanbu clan's local magistrate Ishikawa Takanobu; however, he attacked and killed Ishikawa and began taking the Nanbu clan's castles. Tamenobu also attacked Kitabatake Akimura (another local power figure) and took his castle at Namioka. The Ōura clan's fight against the Nanbu clan, under Nanbu Nobunao, would continue in the ensuing years. In 1590, Tamenobu pledged fealty to Toyotomi Hideyoshi; Hideyoshi confirmed Tamenobu in his holdings. As the Ōura fief had been in the Tsugaru region on the northern tip of Honshū, the family then changed its name to Tsugaru.
The Tsugaru in the Edo era
The Tsugaru clan sided with Tokugawa Ieyasu's Eastern Army during the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. Its immediate neighbors also all supported the Eastern Army. After the Tokugawa victory at Sekigahara, the Tsugaru clan was granted an increase in territory, along with permission to keep its existing domain of Hirosaki (named for the family's castle town). The domain started out small at 45,000 koku, before being increased in size to 100,000 koku. Tamenobu remained politically active in the early years of the Edo era, mainly in the Kansai area; he died in Kyoto in 1608.
The early years of the Edo era were marked by a series of major O-Ie Sōdō disturbances that shook the Tsugaru family: the Tsugaru Disturbance (津軽騒動 Tsugaru-sōdō?) of 1607, Kōsaka Kurando's Riot (高坂蔵人の乱 Kōsaka Kurando no ran?) of 1612, the Funabashi Disturbance (船橋騒動 Funabashi-sōdō?) of 1634, and the Shōhō Disturbance (正保騒動 Shōhō-sōdō?) of 1647. In 1821, there was a foiled plot by Sōma Daisaku, a former retainer of the Nanbu clan, to assassinate the Tsugaru lord; this stemmed from the old enmity between the two clans.
A major branch of the Tsugaru clan was founded in 1656, which was first given hatamoto rank, before being promoted to daimyo status in 1809; this became the ruling family of the Kuroishi Domain, which immediately bordered its parent family's domain. A lesser branch was founded by Tsugaru Nobuzumi, the son of the first Kuroishi-Tsugaru family head; this branch remained hatamoto through the end of the Edo period. The main Tsugaru family's funerary temple in Hirosaki was located at Chōshō-ji. Though neither Tsugaru daimyo family ever held shogunate office, the Tsugaru of Hirosaki (together with many of the other domains of northern Honshū) assisted the shogunate in policing the frontier region of Ezochi (now Hokkaido). In the late Edo period, during the headship of Tsugaru Tsuguakira, the Hirosaki domain's forces were modernized along western lines.
The Tsugaru clan in the Boshin War
During the Boshin War of 1868-69, the Tsugaru clan first sided with the imperial government, and attacked the forces of the nearby Shōnai Domain. However, it soon switched course, and was briefly a signatory to the pact that created the Ōuetsu Reppan Dōmei, before backing out, once again in favor of the imperial government. It did not take part in any of the major military action against the imperial army. The Kuroishi branch joined the Hirosaki-Tsugaru in siding with the imperial government. As a result, the entire clan was able to evade the punishment meted out by the government on the northern domains. After northern Honshū was pacified, Tsugaru forces joined the imperial army in attacking the Republic of Ezo at Hakodate. In return for its assistance, the Meiji government granted the Tsugaru family of Hirosaki a 10,000 koku increase to its fief. Both branches of Tsugaru daimyo were made imperial governors (藩知事 han chiji?) of their domains in 1869. Two years later, as with all other daimyo, both Tsugaru lines were relieved of their offices by the abolition of the han system.
Meiji and beyond
In the Meiji era, Tsugaru Tsuguakira, who had been the last daimyo of the main Tsugaru family, was ennobled with the title of count (hakushaku). Tsugaru Tsugumichi, the last daimyo of the Kuroishi-Tsugaru, became a viscount (shishaku). Tsuguakira later worked as a supervisor in the Number 15 National Bank (第十五国立銀行 Dai jūgo kokuritsu ginkō?), and Tsugumichi became a member of the House of Peers in 1890. As Tsuguakira was heirless, he adopted Konoe Hidemaro, the son of court noble Konoe Tadafusa, as his heir; Hidemaro succeeded to headship upon Tsuguakira's death in 1916.
Main line (Hirosaki)
(as Ōura clan)
(as Tsugaru clan)
Branch line (Kuroishi)
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- The Nanbu clan claimed descent from the Seiwa Genji.
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- McClellan, p. 10.
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- "Nobility, Peerage and Ranks in Ancient and Meiji-Japan" (accessed 15 July 2008)
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- Ravina, Mark (1999). Land and Lordship in Early Modern Japan. California: Stanford University Press.
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- (Japanese) Tsugaru-han on Edo 300 HTML (accessed 15 July 2008).
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- Dazai, Osamu (1985). Return to Tsugaru: travels of a purple tramp. Tokyo: Kodansha International.
- Kurotaki, Jūjirō (1984). Tsugaru-han no hanzai to keibatsu 津軽藩の犯罪と刑罰. Hirosaki: Hoppō shinsha.
- Narita, Suegorō (1975). Tsugaru Tamenobu: shidan 津軽為信: 史談. Aomori: Tōō Nippōsha.
- Tsugaru Tsuguakira Kō Den kankōkai (1976). Tsugaru Tsuguakira kō-den 津輕承昭公傳. Tokyo: Rekishi Toshosha