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Nabeshima Clan

Nabeshima Clan

The Nabeshima (Japanese 鍋島氏, Nabeshima-shi) formed a family of the Japanese sword nobility (Buke), descended from Shōni (小貳) Tsunefusa and thus from the Fujiwara.

With an income of 357,000 koku, the Nabeshima residing in Saga (Hizen) were among the great Tozama-Daimyō of the Edo period.

Nabeshima Clan History

The Nabeshima were a collateral line of the Shōni clan and thus descended from the powerful and prestigious Fujiwara family.

After the Shōni clan was in decline following several defeats at the hands of the Ōuchi and the Ryūzōji, Shōni Shigenao established his own clan in Nabeshima in Hizen Province and took the name of the town.

In the struggle for supremacy in Kyūshū, the Nabeshima supported the Ryūzōji clan, but were decisively defeated by the rising Shimazu clan in 1584.

In 1587, the clan was among the supporters of Toyotomi Hideyoshi during his invasion of Kyūshū. In gratitude, they enfeoffed Hideyoshi with the region around Saga, which would later become the Saga fiefdom.

The head of the family, Nabeshima Naoshige, was also one of the commanders in the Imjin War, Hideyoshi's long-planned invasion of Korea.

After Hideyoshi's death in 1598, considerable tension arose between the Council of Five Regents he had appointed and the highly ambitious Daimyō of Mikawa, Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was also a member of the council.

The Nabeshima initially supported Ishida Mitsunari, but switched sides before the Battle of Sekigahara and engaged Tachibana Muneshige in a bitter petty war to prevent him from participating in the battle.

After Tokugawa Ieyasu's final victory, Nabeshima Naoshige was considered a Tozama-Daimyō, which excluded the family from posts in the government, but they were allowed to retain the fief of Saga, one of the richest regions in Japan.

As supporters of the Tokugawa shogunate, they were instrumental in suppressing the Christian Shimabara Rebellion in 1637.

In the Boshin War, the Nabeshima joined the reform forces of the Satsuma-Chōshū alliance.

The abolition of the Han in 1871 ended the family's rule over Saga, but the Nabeshima continued to be among Japan's influential families in the Meiji period, the so-called Meiji oligarchy.

Nabeshima Clan Overview of the family

  • Shigenao (茂尚), son of Tsunefusa, settled in Nabeshima (Hizen) towards the end of the 15th century and took over the name of the place.
  • Naoshige (直茂; 1537-1619)
  • Katsushige (勝茂; 1580-1657)
  • Naomasa (直正; 1815-1871)
  • Naohiro (直大; 1846-1921), last daimyo, went with two brothers to study in England in 1871
  • Main line in Saga, 357,000 koku, "prince" after Meiji Restoration until 1945
  • Other members of the family:
  • Tadanao, studied at the Tharandt Forestry Academy from 1911 to 1914
  • Naotsugu (直紹; 1912-1981), son of Tadanao, was a politician and explorer of Japanese porcelain.
  • Collateral line in Ogi (小城), 73,000 koku, vice count.
  • Collateral line in Hasuike (蓮池), 53,000 koku, vice-count.
  • Tadashige (忠茂; 1537-1619)
  • Collateral line in Kashima (鹿島), 20,000 koku, vice count.

The collateral lineages, all based in Hizen, were content with a "permanent house" (陣屋, jinya).

Other members of the clan

  • Yamamoto Tsunetomo


During the Edo period, numerous porcelain manufactories were established in the fiefdom. The famous Imari porcelain, named after the port city of Imari, enjoyed great popularity in Japan and was also exported to Europe in considerable numbers. Named after the family is the Nabeshima porcelain, whose decoration has broken away from the Chinese models and looks "modern".