Through the years, the samurai clans fought for power and influence in ancient Japan. These warriors existed during the period of civilization and feudalism between 794 and 1692. Below are some of the most famous samurai clans that have shaped samurai culture today.
Famous Samurai Clans
The Hojo clans were at the helm of the Japan regency and feudalism between 1203 and 1333. The two families under the umbrella included the Hojo Komura, whose clan head became the regent warlord. In the late 1330’s, the Hojo regent got overthrown by the Ashikaga Shogunate.
The Hojo Odawara was a ground-breaking power clan in eastern Japan during the wars of the sixteenth century. This was the last tribe to hold out against the predominance of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. They eventually had to fall back to the post of Odawara.
The Minamoto clan hailed from eastern Japan. This clan was considered retrogressive and uncultured. The Minamoto clan was rivals with the Taira clan which were both blood relatives to the supreme family. This rivalry ended in an epic battle in the 12th century.
The Taira were the Mina Moto’s main adversaries. The Taira’s popularity ended in 1185 when they were defeated in the battle of Dan-no-Ura in the 12th century. The defeat led the Taira clan worriers to commit mass suicide, one the largest recorded in Samurai history.
The Ashikaga clan was one of the few families to hold the Shogunate. They rose to leadership in the 1330s. The tribe was brought down after a short time by the same machinations that had fought for their ascension to power.
The Ouchi family had Korean roots going to 611. The Ouchi clan had a controlling influence on the nation’s regulatory resources for a long time. Their grip on power peaked in the 1500s when their leading warrior Yoshioki reestablished a removed shogun.
The Imagawa clan was one of the four warring groups of eastern Japan in the mid-1500’s. They rose to power through war, business marriages and schemes that subverted their enemies. Their hold on power was weakened by the rise of the of Oda Nobunaga clan which churned Japan’s notable warriors.
The Takeda ascended to power under the leadership of Takeda Shingen. He was a successful ruler who broadened his faction’s domain to the detriment of his neighbors. In contrast to other leaders, he balanced agriculture and warfare, two things that led to the continued prosperity of his people.
This Northern clan saw their notable triumphs during the 1570s. Asakura Yoshikage who was the leader of the family achieved victory in 1562 by beating the Ikko-Ikki, a religious warrior faction. He then wedded his daughter to the leader of the faction thereby extending the reach of his stronghold.
The Asai was the Asakura’s most steadfast partners against the Nobunaga. They participated in the battle at Anegawa, losing many of their men. It was their château that Yoshikage was walking to when he was vanquished in 1573.
This clan aligned themselves with Nobunaga and rode to fame with him. After the demise of Nobunaga, their leader Tokugawa Ieyasu rose to fill the power vacuum. He crushed his rivals, took control of Japan, and set himself up as Shogun.
The famous Samurai clans of ancient Japan included the Hojo, the Minamoto, the Taira, Ashikaga, Ouchi, Imagawa, Takeda, Asakura, Asai and Tokugawa. These clans came from different parts of ancient history and each play a huge role in shaping Japanese samurai culture today. You can learn more about the various Samurai clans at your local Japanese culture club or event.