The Kikuchi clan (菊池氏 Kikuchi-shi) was a clan in feudal Japan descended from the Fujiwara family that ruled Higo province (Kyūshū) during the Muromachi and Sengoku periods. The clan is known as a servant in defense of the emperor and against foreign invasions.
They distinguished themselves on the first during the Jurchen invasion of northern Kyūshū in 1019, and grew in prominence during the Mongol invasion of Japan, where the heroism of Kikuchi Takefusa helped to repel the enemy.
The Kikuchi were also active during the Kenmu Restoration (1333-1336), an attempt by Emperor Go-Daigo to restore his authority against the Kamakura shogunate.
The clan descended from the Fujiwara clan, but it appears that a Buddha statue of Baekje origin (in Korea) found at their site of origin is of the same type as the Buddha statue owned by the Kikuchi clan, and since the statue was created before the Fujiwara clan existed, the Kikuchi clan is believed to be older than the Fujiwara.
Suzuki Matoshi, a Japanese genealogist, believes that the clan originated from the Baekje kingdom, while Japanese historian Oota Akira, believes that it originated from the Ki clan.
From this family came many famous warriors including Kikuchi Takanao, Kikuchi Takefusa (the one who helped stop the Mongol invasions of Japan), Kikuchi Taketoki, and Kikuchi Takemitsu, whose stories have become some of the most famous in Japanese history.
Along with the Ōtomo, Ōuchi, Shōni, and Shimazu clans, the Kikuchi would write the history of the island of Kyūshū.
The fall of the Kikuchi clan came with the invasion of the Ōuchi clan, and then that of the Ōtomo clan led by Ōtomo Sōrin, following which many clan members went into hiding (some became part of other clans, including Hayashi Narinaga, a general in the service of Mōri Motonari, and Saigō Takamori, who was named the "last samurai").
Known initially as Fujiwara no Noritaka (藤原 則隆) was the first to take the name Kikuchi. His father Masanori (政則) was a servant for the Fujiwara clan. Genealogists believed that Masanori was the son of Fujiwara no Takaie (藤原 隆家) but new evidence shows that his father was named Chikanori (親則).
It is recorded that Masanori received a katana for his wartime military service and also on April 3, 1022 he was appointed governor of Tsushima for his service against the Toi invaders. He changed his name to Tsushima-no-kami Kuranori.
Noritaka held a high position in the Daizaifu government. When Fujiwara no Takaie returned to Kyoto in 1070, Noritaka decided to retire and built a retreat villa in Kikuchi District, Higo Province, where he lived until his death.
The remains of the villa can still be seen today. In 1071 he became master of Kikuchi District, where he built a castle town with servants. Today there is a town in Kumamoto Prefecture called Kikuchi. He took the name of his district and founded the Kikuchi clan.
Born the second son of Tsunemune, he was known as Kikuchi no Jirō Takanao (菊池 次郎隆直) and became the sixth head of the Kikuchi clan. His childhood name was Kurō (九郎).
He received the title of Higo no kami (vice-governor). In 1180, at the beginning of the Genpei War, he sided with Minamoto no Yoritomo and began moving his troops from Kyūshū, but Taira no Sadayoshi marched against him and defeated him. He later participated in the battle of Dan-no-ura.
Shortly after the battle, ,that same year, he was handed over to Minamoto no Yoshitsune by his lord Ogata no Saburo Koreyoshi and was taken to the bed of the Rokujō River where he was beheaded.
"One of your servants, Kikuchi no Jirō Takanao, has been my enemy for years ... You could count on me if you kill Kikuchi."
(Minamoto no Yoshitsune)
In the late twelfth century, distant events in eastern Japan led to the establishment of Japan's first military government, the Kamakura shogunate, which, at least in its initial stages, functioned in tandem with the old imperial administration.
The wars surrounding the birth of this new regime saw the Kikuchi clan merge into a powerful warrior league, or bushidan. In 1181-82, their leader, Kikuchi Takanao, joined Ogata Koreyoshi of Bungo, another prominent local warrior, in revolt against the Taira, who converted them into de facto allies of Minamoto Yoritomo, founder of the first Bakafu.
This rise was, however, crushed by Haruda Tanenao. Then, perversely, as the fighting drew to a close and Taira's star waned, the Kikuchi chose to align themselves with their former enemies and, along with the Kyūshū warriors, including Haruda, Yamaga and Itai, suffered a crushing defeat from the Minamoto.
The battle took place off the coast of Kyūshū, at Dannoura, and saw the emergence of Minamoto no Yoritomo as the undisputed military leader of Japan.
His forces came largely from the east, whereas, in the period before the defeat, the Taira relied almost exclusively on Kyūshū warriors. The new military regime, therefore, was decidedly titled eastward and westward, a fact that would have profound consequences for the future of the island.
Yoshitaka was the eighth clan chief and son of Takatsugu. During the Genpei War he fought on the side of the Heike and after the war, even though he was on the losing side, the Minamoto allowed Yoshitaka to keep the land.
During the Shōkyū War of 1221, Yoshitaka's role was that of Kyōto Obanyaku who was the guard post of Kyōto, particularly of the palace and residences of special members of the imperial family (and later those of the Fujiwara clan).
He sent his two uncles to Kyōto to follow the Gotobajoko (Emperor in Retreat), and the Kamakura shogunate rewarded him by increasing the clan's lands.
Takayasu's second son was known as Kikuchi Jirō Takefusa (菊池 次郎 武 房); his mother was a daughter of Takuma Yoshihide (託摩 能 秀) who was in turn the son of the famous Ōtomo Yoshinao, governor of Bungo and Buzen with the title Sakon Shogen (possibly an illegitimate son of Minamoto no Yoritomo).
He gained much fame for his crucial role in the Mongol invasions of Japan and in 1274, during the first Mongol invasion (Bunye), he fought together with his brother Aritaka, being rewarded.
The family became famous during the second Mongol invasion in 1281, when Takefusa's heroism helped repel the enemy. The Mongol force that landed from the Momochi camp was divided into two groups, attacked by Takefusa at Akasaka, the larger group retreated to Sohara Hill, and the smaller group to Tukahara's camp at Befu.
The Mongol force planted a camp in the Sohara camp that had a 30-meter-high hill and had a beautiful view of the streets of Fukuoka city, a place that is now called Soharakouen Park.
The stone monument in the center of Soharakouen Park shows the remains of the battles of the Mongol invasion. Takefusa gained fame for all the number of enemy leaders he killed.
His servant Takezaki Suenaga (竹崎 季長, 1246-1314) commissioned a scroll depicting the battle against the Mongols. Takefusa died young at the age of 41 only a few years after his victory, and because his son Kikuchi Takamori died before him he was succeeded by his grandsons.
Born the first son and heir of Takamori and grandson of Takefusa, he was also known as Kikuchi Jirō Tokitaka (菊池 次郎 時 隆).
His father died before his grandfather, so he was appointed clan chief but he too died very young at the age of seventeen fighting to maintain his position against his uncle Takenori; he was succeeded by his younger brother Taketoki.
Takamori's second son, he was the twelfth head of the clan, and succeeded his older brother Tokitaka. His child's name was Shoryumaru (正竜丸). After coming of age he became known as Kikuchi Ikejirō nyudō Jakua and formerly as Taketoki.
He became clan head after his brother and uncle Takenori both died fighting for the position of clan head. Taketoki had twelve sons who ensured the clan's lineage.
In 1333 Emperor Go-Daigo asked Taketoki to help him and he became his right hand, receiving many rewards. In the third year Genkō (1333), Taketoki attacked, on the orders of Go-Daigo, the then Chinzei-tandai Hōjō Hidetoki (北条 英時).
He burned Hakata and attacked the Hōjō, but Taketoki was captured with his sons (one named Yoritaka) and beheaded; then the enemy used his head to practice archery.
Taketoki was an intelligent samurai but Hidetoki did not underestimate him and his allies Ōtomo Uji and the Shōni clan betrayed him. After his death a rebellion began to overthrow Hidetoki and his first son Takeshige succeeded him.
Taketoki was buried in the city of Fukuoka where he has a tomb for his head and a grave for the rest of his body. The Kikuchi Shrine was built in his honor.
From Hakata Nikki:
"Thus the heads of Kikuchi nyudo, his son Saburo, Jakua's younger brother Kakusho, and wakato were hung in the place where warriors practiced archery from horseback: Jakua's, Saburo's, and Kakusho's heads were displayed in the evening and then moved to the residence, where they remained for about ten days, then they were nailed to a board with a sign on it that they were the leaders of the rebels, Kikuchi Tarō nyuda Jakua, his son Saburo, and Jakua's younger brother, Jirō Saburō nyudo Kakusho. "
When he was surrounded by his enemies, Kikuchi Taketoki wrote this death poem that reached his wife:
"My ancestral home,
You will wait
For a man who does not know
If tonight will be
(Haiku by Kikuchi Taketoki sent to his wife)
The first son of Taketoki, at a young age he attained the rank of Ju-goi-no-ge (従 五位 下). His father and brothers were betrayed by the Shōni and Ōtomo clans when his father attacked the Hōjō clan.
After the event Takeshige rushed back to Kikuchi Castle and received the title of governor of Higo Province from Emperor Go-Daigo. In 1335 Ashikaga Takauji attacked Emperor Go-Daigo so Takeshige and his brother Takeyasu joined forces with Nitta Yoshisada repelling the Ashikaga who retreated to Kyoto.
Ashikaga Takauji returned to Kyōto and captured Takeshige but freed him. In 1337 he fought again with the southern armies, but in 1338 he died and his younger brother succeeded him.
He succeeded to the leadership of the clan after the death of his brother Takeshige. He had other older brothers but was the only one born to his father Taketoki's main wife.
His childhood name was Matajirō (又 次郎). He was a weak leader so his older brothers Takeshige and Taketoshi helped him.
The Kikuchi were attacked by the Ōtomo clan and were unable to handle the military situation, so Takemitsu took over the family and pushed him aside. Takehito became a priest and died at an advanced age.
Eighth son of Taketoki and older brother of Takemitsu, Taketoshi fought against the Ashikaga and the Northern Court. Taketoshi went to the aid of Nitta Yoshitada in the east, but his younger brother, along with other Kyūshū leaders, remained alert in Higo province, where the Kikuchi family had its stronghold.
Takauji had to deal with a group of several clans, including Aso, Mihara, and Kuroki, who were eager to clash with him in the Kyūshū, and who had entered Higo a few days before Takauji crossed the strait.
In early April Taketoshi attacked the stronghold of the Shōni in Chikuzen province: he succeeded in capturing the fort and driving out Shōni Sadatsune, who took up a position in the nearby hills, but was completely defeated and committed suicide with many of his relatives.
Kyūshū falls to the northern imperial court. In early 1336 a number of Kyūshū clans, anticipating the movements of the shogun's army against them, made efforts to unite and organize a common resistance.
A number of small fights were fought against the clans loyal to the shōgun on the island, including the siege of Dazaifu, in which the stronghold of the Shōni clans had been captured; Shōni Sadatsune escaped, but little was defeated and committed suicide along with many of his servants.
Shōgun Ashikaga Takauji, arriving in Munakata, a short distance in early April, learned of the siege of Dazaifu and the death of Shōni Sadatsune.
Gathering his forces, he marched from Munakata on April 15 and traveled to Tatarahama, fifteen miles (24 km) away, where he clashed with the opposing army, composed mainly of warriors from the Kikuchi, Aso, Mihara, and Kuroki clans under the command of Kikuchi Taketoshi.
The Baishō-ron military chronicle describes Tatarahama as "an expanse of over three miles (5 km) of dry beach, crossed at the southern end by a small stream."
The enclosure of the Hachiman Hakozaki Shrine consists of about five square miles of pine forest to the south is the town of Hakata. By the end of the battle, the Kikuchi clan forces had been pressed by Ashikaga Tadayoshi all the way to Dazaifu, at which point they fled into the hills.
The Aso and Akizuki clan commanders committed suicide and the other commanders surrendered. Takauji rewarded his commanders for their bravery and service, but offered forgiveness to his opponents and several clans who did not participate in the battle, who thus joined him.
Kyūshū thus became united under the Ashikaga shogunate and the Northern Imperial Court.
Takemitsu was the ninth son of Taketoki and continued to fight for the Emperor following in his father's footsteps.
He was a general of the Nanboku-chō era who fought on the side of the Emperor, along with Prince Kaneyoshi (懐 良 親王, also known as Kanenaga) (1326-1383, son of Emperor Go-Daigo).
He took part in the famous battle on the Chikugo River. He was the strongest and most reliable ally of Prince Kanenaga in the fight against the Bakufu. In danger from the triple threat brought by the armies of Ashikaga Yoshinori, Ashikaga Takasaki and Ashikaga Tadaaki, Takemitsu was forced to raise the siege of Takasaki and defend himself.
The three Ashikaga armies attacked and defeated him in late September 1372. Takemitsu had to retreat and flee to Chikugo with Prince Kanenaga. When Takemitsu died he left the Loyalist defense without a truly proven leader, and his heir Takemasa died in 1374.
Forty thousand soldiers who followed Takemitsu as their head advanced northward from Kikuchi to Kumamoto with Prince Kanenaga clashed with the Northern Dynasty army near the Chikugo River.
Takemitsu ordered 5,000 soldiers to cross the Chikugo River and planted an encampment around present-day Miyase. Takemitsu's unit traveled north along what is now the Oomuta railway line and headed for Ajisaka.
But the forces of the Shōni clan avoided confrontation and retreated to the point near Ooho Station. Although, as with this line of battle, the stalemate continued for half a month, at midnight on August 15, Takemitsu at the head of 3 000 men moved silently to the east side of the Shōni forces and attacked them from both sides.
Before long, 1 000 horsemen led by Takemasa arrived there for help and the Battle of Oohobaru began. Both sides alternated between advancing and retreating during a fierce fight in the surroundings of Ogoori.
The Kikuchi pressed the Shōni gradually, and the latter retreated along the Amagi railway line to the northeast to Yamakumahara, which stretched over present-day Tachiarai.
Although the Shōni army tried to reorganize the defeated forces at Mount Hanatateyama, they retreated further at Mount Hōmanzan, 15 kilometers to the north, because they were dispersed by the fierce search carried out by the Kikuchi, which did not allow them time to reorganize.
Also known as Kikuchi Jirō Takemasa, he was the first son of Takemitsu. He fought in the Kyūshū against the Northern Court with his father and achieved great success.
When Imagawa Sadayo (今川 貞世) (1326-1420) became head of the opposing army, things began to get worse for the Kikuchi. In November 1373 his father died and Takemasa became the head of the clan.
Learning of Takemitsu's death, Imagawa attacked and won many battles against Takemasa. Takemasa sought help from Asō Koretaka and was one of the most trusted servants in the war against the North. Takemasa died only a year after his father, on May 26, 1374.
Taketomo was Takemasa's first son and heir, becoming the seventeenth head of the clan. He wrote the "Taketomo moshijo" about the Kikuchi lineage. He stated that his ancestor was Fujiwara no Michitaka because the fourth generation descendant of the latter, Noritaka, moved to Higo province.
He sent a copy of the genealogy to the government. This move was explained by the intent of the Kikuchi family, who were struggling at the time, to show ancestry from the Fujiwara clan and thus enjoy a little more prestige and power.
Born the son of Shigetomo, he was the twenty-second head of the clan and was given the title Ju-goi-no-ge.
He was succeeded by his brother Masataka who was the last clan chief descending from the Kikuchi lineage since the twenty-fourth clan chief, Taketsune, was adopted by the Asa clan.
He was the son of Kikuchi Takeyasu and fourth in descent from Kikuchi Takazumi, one of the sons of Kikuchi Taketoki.
When the main line (Takemitsu line) had succession problems, Takekane was adopted from the family branch and became the twenty-fifth head of the Kikuchi clan.
Also known as Yuriko, he was the twenty-sixth and last chief of the Kikuchi clan before the kingdom of Higo was conquered by the Ōtomo. The head of the Ōtomo family, Ōtomo Yoshiaki, placed his younger brother Ōtomo Shigeharu as the fictitious heir to the famously wealthy but now extinct Kikuchi family of Higo.
However, Kikuchi Yoshitake did not act like a puppet at all and asked the Ōuchi for help by rebelling against Yoshiaki, but he was unable to compete against his older brother and was defeated.
Yoshiaki's rule over Higo was quite solid and he was appointed shugo of the province. When Yoshitake conquered Higo-Kumamoto Castle, his servant Akahoshi Chikaie sided with the Ōtomo. Chikaie later clashed with one of Yoshitake's servants, Kumabe Chikanaga, and was killed.
Ōtomo Sōrin (Ōtomo Yoshishige) became head of the Ōtomo in 1550, and his uncle Yoshitake declared his independence at the same time. Sōrin then marched against him and defeated him in 1554, ending the clan's long history.