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The Sakakibara clan (榊原氏, Sakakibara-shi) was a branch of daimyōs of the Minamoto samurai clan during the Edo period.
During the Edo period, the Sakakibara were part of the fudai daimyo or "inner clans", hereditary vassals or allies of the Tokugawa clan, as opposed to the tozama daimyo, "outer clans ". The Sakakibara were one of four families privileged to provide a regent during a shogun's minority.
The Sakakibara fudai clan appeared in the 16th century and its elevation to official clan status dates from 1586.
The family descended from Nikki Sadanaga of the Seiwa Genji branch of the Minamoto clan. The first to take the name "Sakakibara" was Sadanaga's son who resided in Sakakibara in Ise province. He took the name of Sakakibara Toshinaga.
Sakakibara Yasumasa (1548-1606) was an ally of Tokugawa Ieyasu in the Sengoku period. After the battle of Sekigahara, he received a special honor and the name by which he is known today dates from this period.
He was granted the right to use one of the characters of Ieyasu's name, Yasu masa. Along with Sakai Tadatsugu, Ii Naomasa, and Honda Tadakatsu, he is known as one of the "four heavenly kings of the Tokugawa" (Tokugawa shi-tennō).
The nickname describes four men, each renowned for his loyal support of the Tokugawa clan.
Yasumasa was awarded the han (fiefdom) of Tatebayashi (100,000 koku) in Kozuke province. Yasumasa's sons took part in the fighting against the Tokugawa at the siege of Osaka.
Sakakibara daimyos were moved several times by the shogunate. In 1643, Sakakibara Tadatsugu and his clan were re-established at the Shirakawa domain (140,000 koku) in Mutsu province.
In 1649, the seat of Sakakibara was moved to Himeji estate in Harima province.
The last assignment decided by the shogunate saw the clan settle in 1741 at the Takada estate (150 000 koku) in Echigo province.
Takada became a center of power during the Boshin war and then, once the war was over, was transformed into a detention center for the defeated samurai of the Aizu domain.
During the Meiji era, the chief of Sakakibara was ennobled as a viscount in the new kazoku nobility system which was then established.