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What is the Kikuchi Clan?

Last Modified:5/18/2017

The Kikuchi clan is the samurai family that had been powerful and prosperous for about 450 years from the Heian Period to the Age of the Civil Wars in 1070-1532. At the best time, the Kikuchi clan was quite powerful ruling the entire Kyushu. Here is their history.

The Birth of the Kikuchi Clan

For a long time, the Kikuchi’s roots have been considered to be in Fujiwara, the powerful court noble in the central Japan.

It is because the 17th head Taketomo wrote on his letter to the court in Yoshino as “the origin of the Kikuchi clan is Noritaka who is the offspring of the virtual head of Dazaifu regional government headquarters, Fujiwara Takaie."

However, according to the recent study, Noritaka is considered as a powerful local warrior who served for Fujiwara Takaie.

1 Heian Period

The 1st Head Noritaka-The 2nd Head Tsunetaka (1070―)

Kikuchi that time was the manor, owned directly by Dazaifu Government.

Fujiwara Noritaka came here as a Sho-kan, estate officer, and resided at one of the Juhachitojo Fortless, Kikuno-jo Castle in Fukagawa. It is believed that he built a practical housing by the Kikuchi River not assuming wars. He must have thought about the importance of ruling this territory and trading seriously.

His son, Masataka also built Masunaga-jo Castle in Saigo of Shichijo Sunada and it was also a practical housing just like Kikuno-jo Castle. He started expanding his territory in Higo using Kikuno-jo Castle as a homebase.

Kikunojo Site

The 3rd Head Tsuneyori-The 5th Head Tsunenao (beginning of the 12th century)

The 3rd head, Tsuneyori gained vast territories moving to Chikuho region while governing Higo territories. He made a stronger bond with Imperial Court dedicating the territoris in Chikugo to Emperor Toba (grandson of retired Emperor, Shirakawa). It might have inpacted his son Tsunemune to serve as the Imperial Bodyguard. The 5th head Tsunenao served as guard as well after his father.

2 Genpei War to Kamakura Period

The 6th HeadTakanao-The 9th Head Takamitsu (around 12th century)

Unfortunate time for the Kikuchi clan

At that time, the Taira clan was expanding its powers trying to govern even Kyushu region. The 6th head, Takanao started a rebellion with neighboring local rulers. During this time, Takanao used to be called “God of Higo," which tells us that the Kikuchi clan was acknowledged as the head of Higo by other forces.

However, because of the big crop failure, Takanao was defeated by the Taira clan and had to fight on the Taira’s side. As a result, after the ruin of the Taira family, the Kikuchi clan was given the cold shoulder and its territories were taken by Kamakura Shogunate.

Until the time of the 6th head Takanao, the Kikuchi clan used to use "Hiashimon" as their family crest, but Takanao changed it to "Narabitaka" (in-line falcon’s plume).

Hiasimon Crest
The 10th Head Takefusa (around 13th century)

The 10th head Takefusa tried to retrieve their fortunes. He fought well as seen on the "Scrolls of Mongol Invasion Attempts against Japan." The hero on the scrolls, Suenaga Takezaki, described Takefusa as “cool” and “pleasant.”

scrolls of Mongol Invasion Attempts

In spite of that, the return for his contribution was just a set of armor, and that let him go over to the enemy side, again.

3 The Period of the Northern and Southern Courts

The 12th Head Taketoki  & The 13th Head Takeshige (the beginning of 14th century)

On the opposite side of the government, the 12th head Taketoki, who was trying to attack the main base of the government in Kyushu (Chinzeitandai), was betrayed by his allies, Shoni and Otomo clans. Taketoki knew about their betrayal and sent his children back to Kikuchi (farewell of Sodegaura), and then he broke in the government. As a result, Taketoki died fighting in the battle.

After the overthrow, at the time of his son Takeshige, Taketoki was acknowledged as “the most faithful”, and Takeshige was officially appointed as the Guard of Higo from Emperor Godaigo.

Takeshige also established the first blood seal in Japan, “Kikuchi Family Precept.” It is said that the precept was taken in account to establish the "Charter Oath of Five Articles" as model by Emperor Meiji.

The 15h Head Takemitsu (the middle of the 14th century)

The 15th head, Takemitsu welcomed Prince Kanenaga, the son of Emperor Godaigo, as General in Kyushu, and gained the power to govern the Kyushu region as the side of the Southern Court.

Shokan-ji Temple and other temples of Kikuchi Gozan (the five most important temples) are said to be designated by Takemitsu, and they have been taken over carefully as Cultural Properties in Kikuchi even now.

The Kikuchi Matsubayashi Noh ( Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property) is said to have started at this time.

Kikuchi Matsubayashi Noh

The 16th Head Takemasa & The 17th Head Taketomo (the end of the 14th-the 15h century) 

The Kikuchi clan moved Kikuno-jo Castle in Fukagawa to Moriyama-jo Castle in Waifu at Takemasa’s time.

The 17th head Taketomo fought against Ryoshun Imagawa at Mizushima then Takumabara with Prince Yoshinari, the nephew of Prince Kanenaga. They kept winning, but Moriyama-jo Castle was taken by Imagawa Ryoshun and the South Court lost. The Northern and Southern Courts were united then.

Kikuchi Shrine


4 Muromachi Period

The 20th Head Tamekuni & The 21st Head Shigetomo (later half of the 15th century)

After the unification of the Northern and Southern Courts, the Kikuchi clan started losing its power.

On the contrary, they developed in academic field even the capital became to know about it. The 20th head Tamekuni encouraged his vassals to study, spread the analects, and established Hekigan-ji Temple in Shichijo region.

The 21st head Shigetomo made many achievements such as building Confucius Hall, holding Renga(linked verses) gathering making 10.000 Tanka (thirty-one syllable verse), and established the foundation of the Kikuchi Academic.

The 22nd Head Yoshiyuki and after (16th century-)

The history of the Kikuchi clan closed its history at the time of the 24th (26th) generation, but the offspring scattered over many regions in the nation and rooted. At present, Kikuchi city is building the relationship with Nishimera villege of Miyazaki as a sister city, Tono of Iwate and Tatsugo cho of Kagosima as friendship cities.

Many names of the areas around Waifu are related to Kikuchi-jo Castle and Kikuchi back then. There are also many historical sites and cultural assets including Kikuchi Shrine, Shogun Tree, Kikuchi Gozan (five most important temples), Juhachibantojo Fortless, etc.

Please come to Kikuchi and enjoy the rest of the history.








Social Education Section, Lifelong Learning Division, Education Board of Kikuchi City

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