The Konoe (jap. 近衛家, Konoe-ke) were a family of the Japanese court nobility (Kuge), descended from Fujiwara Iezane (1179-1242).
The Konoe formed the most important of the five families (Go-sekke) from which the empresses and the kampaku were elected.
They held great political influence at court for centuries, beginning in the Heian period.
Konoe Clan General
The Konoe-ke was founded as a split from the most powerful Fujiwara branch, the Hokke of Konoe Motozane, who was supported by Taira no Kiyomori.
The heads of the families usually passed through the following cursus honorum, with the appropriate court rank bestowed upon them as well: Gon-Chūnagon (権中納言) was followed by appointment to the office of naidaijin (内大臣), then "chancellor on the right" (右大臣, udaijin). After taking office as "chancellor of the left" (sadaijin), appointment as regent often followed soon after or at the same time. Most regents resigned after a few years. They were then often given the honorary office of grand chancellor (dajo-daijin). Many also retired to Buddhist monasteries, similar to the resigned emperors.
The Konoes traditionally cultivated calligraphy as an art. Hisamichi, Taneie, and Nobutada in particular are considered outstanding exponents.
By the end of the Heian period, the political importance of the imperial court had already declined sharply; since 1221, the appointment of a regent required the approval of the shogunate. With the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate, the court became entirely restricted to ceremonial. At this time, it was customary to give entry-level offices to children. For example, Konoe Sakihisa had already been elevated to the 5th court rank at the age of 5. At 13 he was naidaijin and at 18 regent.
The family residence burned down completely four times between the Ōnin upheavals and 1600, with the first partial reconstruction begun in 1472 and not yet completed in 1489.
In the Sengoku period, the principle of primogeniture was strictly enforced - virtually all descendant sons were sent to monasteries at a young age or given by adoption to other noble families. The Konoe family managed in later times to secure their influence even within the sword nobility by adopting its members into their prestigious family or by cleverly marrying off their daughters. Many of these also became imperial consorts, as it was common practice until the Taishō-Tennō for one of the imperial wives to come from the wider Fujiwara clan. The Hino had been retainers (kerai) of the Konoe since about 1560, until a split occurred in 1602. The family income of 1800 koku attested for 1679 was rather modest. At this time, the family was affiliated with Nichiren Buddhism. Fusatsugu, Masaie, and Hisamichi were particularly staunch followers.
After the 1884 nobility reform with the introduction of five classes (kazoku), the heads of families were placed in the top class, that of princes (Kōshaku), and lower-ranking male family members became counts. These exercised direct political influence through their seats in the manor until 1945.
The family accumulated significant archival records and art treasures over the centuries. The Yōmei Bunko Foundation, established by the 29th head of the family and Prime Minister Konoe Fumimaro in 1938, manages them. The Tokyo National Museum held an exhibition of over 200,000 items from the inventory in early 2008.
Historically significant members
Heian and Kamakura Period
Konoe Motozane (近衛 基実; 1143-1166), son of Fujiwara no Tadamichi is the forefather of the family. He rose extremely quickly, receiving the following fifth rank when he was only five years old, and the following second rank when he was 14. In 1257-1260 he was udaijin, in 1258 he became head of the family and immediately thereafter Kanpaku for the Nijō-Tennō (r. to 1265), then Sesshō for Rokujō. Posthumously, he was appointed Dajo Daijin in the true first rank.
Konoe Motomichi (近衛 基通; 1160-1233)
Konoe Iezane (近衛 家実; 1179-1242), Motomichi's son became udaijin in 1199, sadaijin in 1204, regent in 1206-21, who when he resigned became grand chancellor for a year in 1221. During the Jōkyū War he sided with the opponents of ex-emperor Go-Toba. In 1221-1223 he was again Sesshō, then Kanpaku until 1228. In 1242 he became a monk under the name Enshin. He is also known as Inokuma, hence the title of his diary Inokuma Kampaku-ki (= Guchu-reki), which covers the period 1199-1211. This work was preserved because on 1465/9/20 his descendant Masaie used the back cover for a description of the Buddhist ritual Sento Gohako.
Konoe Motomichi (近衛 道経; † 1238), also called Kitashirawa, the younger brother of Iezane, became naidaijin in 1207, udaijin in 1208. He took the tonsure in 1234 and died at the age of 55.
Konoe Iemichi (近衛 家通; † 1224, age 21) was the eldest son of Iezane, who became udaijin in 1219, sadaijin in 1221.
Konoe Kanetsune (1210-1259; 近衛 兼経) became gon-chūnagon in the third court rank in 1224, naidaijin in 1227, chancellor on the right in 1231, on the left in 1235. Elevation to the following first rank in 1236, was followed by appointment as regent in 1237-1241. He served as grand chancellor for one year from 1240, then reigned again from 1242, first as Sesshō, and from 1247 to 1252 as Kanpaku. He left behind the Shigō go sukui ki ("On the Accession of the Shijō to the Throne in 1232") and his diary Okanoya Kampaku-ki (岡屋關白記). He was one of Dōgen's patrons when he was still in the capital. His wife was a daughter of Kujō Michiie.
Konoe Motohira (近衛 基平; 1246-1288), the son of Kanetsune, became Gon-Chunagon in the following third rank in 1255. From 1258 Naidaijin, 1261 Udaijin, 1265 Sadaijin became regent in 1267, He died 23-years-old the following year. His diary is entitled Shinjin-in Kampaku-ki.
Konoe Iemoto (近衛 家基; 1261-1296), also called Kōzanji, was the firstborn of Motohira.He was udaijin in 1288, sadaijin in 1289, and regent for the Fushimi-Tennō in 1289-1291 and 1293-1296. His principal wife was a daughter of the Kameyama-Tennō. Surviving from him is a textbook of Japanese music Zan'ya-shō. His younger brother:
Konoe Kanemori († 1336), was a temporary member of the Council of State and, from 1310, chancellor extraordinary.
Konoe Tsunehira (近衛 経平; 1287-1318; also Gojōyōji), was the son of Iemoto with his principal wife, hence head of the family. Elevated to the following third rank in 1295, he became Gon-Chūnagon in 1301, Naidaijin in 1309. From 1313 chancellor To the right, since 1315 in the following first rank. The next year he became chancellor To the left, in 1318 instructor of the crown prince.
Konoe Iehira (近衛 家平; † 1324, age 53) whose father was Iemoto (his mother the concubine), became udaijin in 1305, sadaijin in 1309, and regent in 1313-1315. He had a drinking problem and, like the drunkard Sugawara Tadanaga, damaged the emperorship by proving disloyal and partisan. The Masukagami records his sexual preference for pubescent boys, which became more apparent in middle age. After entering the clergy, he took the name Okamoto Nyōdō. His son:
Konoe Tsunetada (近衛 経忠; 1302-1352) became Gon-Chūnagon in 1316, Udaijin the following year Sadaijin in 1323. In 1330 and again in 1336-7 he became Kanpaku and was promoted to the following first rank. He remained loyal to the Southern Dynasty and accompanied Go-Daigo into exile on Yoshino Mountain. His son was named Jitsugen.
Konoe Mototsugu (近衛 基嗣; 1305-1354), son of Tsunehira, also known as Okaya Kampaku. After his elevation to the third rank in 1316, in 1319 Gon-Chūnagon, in 1326 Naidaijin, in 1330-31 chancellor at right and instructor of the crown prince. 1337-1338 regent for Kōmyō. Author of the temple history Ryōga-ji-ki.
Konoe Michitsugu (近衛 道嗣; † 1387, age 56). 1347 naidaijin, 11349 udaijin, 1360-1362 sadaijin, and 1361-1363 regent. Name in the spiritual state: Goshinshin-in. A painting in the Jizoin from 1364 is said to be a contemporary portrait.
Konoe Kanetsugu (近衛 兼嗣; † 1388, age 29) the son of Michitsugu, became naidaijin and udaijin in 1375. He was briefly Sesshō in 1388.
Bakufu from 1392
Konoe Fusatsugu (近衛 房嗣; 1402-1488), son of Tadatsuga, was court architect during the Go-Daigo-Tennō period. He is also considered the designer of the shogunal residence Muromachi, built in 1433-1436. His rival at court was Ichijō Kanera. He was regent from 1445 to 1447, grand chancellor in 1461, and retired to a monastery in 1474. His firstborn son:
Konoe Norimoto (近衛 教基; 1423-1462), became Gon-Chūnagon and director of the left gate guard (左衛門督) in 1442. Naidaijin in 1455, Udaijin in 1457, then also head of the office for the imperial bodyguard on the left (左大将).
Konoe Masaie (近衛 政家; 1444-1505) 2nd son of Funsatsugu.
Konoe Hisamichi (近衛 尚通; 1472-1544), son of Masaie, became gon-dainagon in 1485, udaijin in 1493, sadaijin in 1496, grand chancellor in 1512-1516. At the same time he was regent in 1493-1497 and again in 1513-14. His diary is preserved as Gohōjōji Kampaku-ki. His daughter was married into the shogunal family and became the mother of Ashikaga Yoshiteru and Ashikaga Yoshimitsu.
Konoe Taneie (近衛 稙家; 1503-1566) son of Naomichi. regent 1525-1533 and 1536-1542. Grand chancellor 1537-1542, he succeeded Ashikaga Yoshiharu to Kita-shirakawa in 1547 and served the shogun. His daughter, later named Keijuin, was the mother of Ashikaga Yoshiteru.
Konoe Sakihisa (近衛 前久; 1536-1612)
Konoe Nobutada (近衛 信尹; 1565-1614; = Nobusuke) famous calligrapher.
Konoe Nobuhiro (近衛 信尋; 1599-1649)
Konoe Iehiro (近衛 家煕; 1667-1739)
Konoe Hisatsugu (近衛 尚嗣) grandson of Nobuhiro was udaijin since 1642, sadaijin in 1647, and regent from 1651 to 1653. He died soon after his resignation, aged 32. His son Motohiro came from a liaison with a servant, but he was adopted by the main wife - Princess Akiko.
Konoe Motohiro (近衛 基熈; 1648-1722) son of Hisatsugu.
Konoe Hiroko (1666/3/26-1741/2/28 in Edo), daughter of Motohiro was the principal wife of Shogun Tokugawa Ienobu.
Konoe Iehisa (近衛 家久; 1687-1737), son of the aforementioned, delivered the shōgun senge to the new incumbent, his brother-in-law, in 1709. He became udaijin in 1715, sadaijin in 1722, grand chancellor in 1733, and regent in 1726-1736. His spiritual name was Nyozeikan-in. His diary is entitled Iehisakō-ki.
Konoe Uchisaki (近衛 内前; 1728-1785), Iehisa's son had become naidaijin in 1743, udaijin in 1749. For Emperor Momozono he was Kanpaku in 1757-1762, immediately following Sesshō (until 1372) for Go-Momozono, after the latter's coming of age again Kanpaku until 1778, since 1768 also Dajodaijin. His wife was Tokugawa Katsuko (徳川勝子).
Konoe Tsunehiro (近衛 経熙; 1761-1799), son of Uchisaki. 1779 Naidaijin; 1787-1791 chancellor at right hand as steward to the ex-emperor, hence Goyorakuin.
Konoe Motosaki (近衛 基前; 1783-1820), began his career as naidaijin in the following first rank in 1799, then was tutor to the crown prince (東宮傅). Chancellor on the right in 1813, on the left in 1815-1820. His daughter Sadako (定子) became the wife of the 11th Lord of Owari, Tokugawa Nariharu.
Konoe Tadahiro (近衛 忠熙; 1808-1898), son of Motosaki, served four emperors, Kōkaku, Ninkō, Kōmei - for whom he was regent in 1862-3 - and Meiji. He was a victim of the Ansei purge in 1858, from which he fled to a monastery. After three years, he was pardoned and became a mediator between the imperial court and the Shogun government. After the Meiji Restoration, he was feudalized. His principal wife was an adopted daughter of Shimazu Narioki. One daughter married the sadaijin Ichijō Saneyoshi.
Konoe Tadahiro (近衛 忠房; 1838-1873) was the firstborn son of Tadahiro. From 1858 he was sadaijin; he was also in charge of Shintō affairs and chief priest of the Ise shrine. He adopted his much younger half-brother Atsumaro.
Konoe Clan After 1868
Konoe Atsumaro (近衞 篤麿, 1863-1904). Sons of:
Konoe Fumimaro (近衞 文麿; † 1945) Prime Minister.
Konoe Hidemaro (近衛 秀麿, 1898-1973) composer and conductor.