Kabane (姓) were Japanese hereditary noble titles from the late 5th to the late 7th century, abolished during the Taika Reforms. They were used with clan names (uji na) in pre-modern Japan to denote rank and political standing of each clan (uji). There were more than thirty. Some of the more common kabane were Omi (臣), Muraji (連), Kuni no miyatsuko (国造), Kimi (君, or 公), Atai (直), Fubito (史), Agatanushi (県主), and Suguri (村主).
The Japanese Yamato house (later recognized as the imperial family with the title Tennō) became the most powerful family in the kabane system, although during the 6th century AD, a number of other leaders, often with high ranks of omi and muraji, sometimes overshadowed the Yamato rulers. This power dynamic became one of the incentives of the Taika Reforms.
The kabane were divided into two general classes: those who claimed they were descendants of the Imperial line (皇別, kōbetsu), and those who claimed they were descendants of the gods (神別, shinbetsu). There is often no historical evidence for such distinctions beside old records and other transmissions.
At first, the kabane were administered by individual clans, but eventually they came to be controlled by the Yamato court. In 684, the kabane were reformed into the eight kabane system (八色の姓, yakusa no kabane). The powerful omi of the time were given the kabane of ason, which ranked second under the new system, while most of the muraji were given the kabane of sukune, which ranked third. Later, as the clans began to devolve into individual households, the kabane system gradually faded from use.
- Hane, Mikiso; Perez, Louis G. (2014). Premodern Japan: a Historical Survey. (Second edition ed.). Boulder, CO. ISBN 978-0-8133-4970-1.
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