The emblem (mon) of the Uesugi clan
|Parent house||Fujiwara clan ()|
|Current head||Uesugi Kuninori|
|Founding year||Late 13th century|
|Ruled until||1868 (Abolition of the han system)|
|Cadet branches||?gigayatsu Uesugi|
The Uesugi clan (, Uesugi-shi) was a Japanese samurai clan, descended from the Fujiwara clan and particularly notable for their power in the Muromachi and Sengoku periods (roughly 14th through 17th centuries).
The clan was split into three branch families, the ?gigayatsu, Inukake and Yamanouchi Uesugi, which boasted considerable influence. The Uesugi are perhaps best known for Uesugi Kenshin (1530-1578), originally from the Nagao clan, one of Sengoku's more prominent warlords. The family name is sometimes rendered as Uyesugi, but this is representative of historical kana usage; the "ye" spelling is no longer used in Japanese.
In the Edo period, the Uesugi were identified as one of the tozama or outsider clans, in contrast with the fudai or insider daimy? clans which were hereditary vassals or allies of the Tokugawa clan.
Uesugi clan's crest: Two flying sparrows in bamboo.
Nagao clan's crest: nine suns with three tomoe.
Kenshin's standard: the first character in Bishamonten (?, bi).
Kenshin's standard: the flag of divine appointment.
Kenshin's standard: open fan horse insignia.
Kenshin's standard: the suspended and chaotically written dragon character (?).
Warrior clan (prized swords and cavalry during Kenshin and Kagekatsu's time)
Kanj?ji Shigefusa was a 13th generation descendant of the clan's great progenitor. Near the end of the 13th century, he received Uesugi domain in Tango Province, and he adopted the name of "Uesugi" after arriving and establishing himself. The three main branches of the Uesugi are the Inukake, the Yamanouchi and the ?gigayatsu.
They gained such power in the Kant? region that, when in 1449 Kanrei Ashikaga Shigeuji killed his deputy Uesugi Noritada to significantly diminish if not eliminate the family's power, the Uesugi rose up and drove Shigeuji out of the area, asking the shogunate in Kyoto for another Kanrei. This development left the Uesugi extremely powerful within the Kant? region, more so than ever before, and the clan quickly expanded and grew, splitting into three branches, named after their home localities. The ?gigayatsu became based at Kawagoe Castle, in Musashi Province, while the Yamanouchi were in Hirai, in K?zuke Province. The third branch, the Inukake, held a castle in the region as well.
The three would begin fighting for domination of the clan and the region almost as soon as the split occurred, and intense fighting continued for roughly twenty-five years, until the end of the ?nin War came about in 1477, bringing with it the end of the shogunate. Though the ?gigayatsu and Yamanouchi branches both survived this conflict, the Inukake did not.
Traditionally the ?gigayatsu relied on the ?ta clan, while the Yamanouchi relied on the Nagao of Echigo Province as the pillars of their strength. ?ta D?kan, a vassal of the ?gigayatsu Uesugi, who were less numerous than their Yamanouchi cousins, lent them a great boost of power by building Edo Castle for them in the 1450s. On the other hand, Nagao Tamekage, Deputy Constable of Kamakura in the first decades of the 16th century, allied himself with H?j? S?un, who would later become one of the Uesugi's strongest rivals.
The expansion of the H?j? into the lower Kant? forced the two branches of the Uesugi to become allies. In 1537, Kawagoe fell to H?j? Ujitsuna. Then in 1545, both of the branches of the Uesugi shared defeat, and attempted to regain their power. However, the ?gigayatsu branch family came to an end with the death of Uesugi Tomosada, during a failed attempt to retake Kawagoe castle that year. Uesugi Norimasa, the holder of Hirai castle, which had fallen in 1551 to the H?j?, took up arms with his retainer, Nagao Kagetora in Echigo. Kagetora then adopted the surname of "Uesugi" after campaigning against the H?j? in Sagami Province; he would later take the name Uesugi Kenshin, and become one of Sengoku's most famous generals, battling the H?j? and Takeda Shingen for control of the Kant?.
At the end of the Sengoku period, Kenshin's adopted son Uesugi Kagekatsu, then head of the clan, was a supporter of Ishida Mitsunari during the battle of Sekigahara. As a result of being on the losing side of the conflict, the Uesugi were afterwards much reduced in power.
Much research has been done on the economics of Yonezawa in the Edo period, particularly by Mark Ravina among others, and it is taken as fairly representative of a tozama (outsider) domain. Yonezawa was far from the capital, with far less direct political control from the shogunate, and also less trade and urbanization. Yonezawa was largely an agricultural domain, making it again a good representation of agricultural and social developments among the peasantry in this period.
Despite agricultural advances and generally high growth in the 17th century, Yonezawa, like most parts of the country, experienced a considerable drop in growth after 1700; it may in fact have entered stagnation or decline. The official koku revenue of the Uesugi daimy? was cut in half in 1664, but the clan continued to expend as before, maintaining the same lordly standard of living. Yonezawa, again representative of many other domains, entered debt, and was especially hard-struck by famines in the 1750s. The situation became so bad that in 1767, daimy? Uesugi Shigesada considered giving the territory back to the shogunate. Instead, he allowed his adopted son Uesugi Harunori to take over as daimy?; through agricultural and moral reforms, and series of other strict policies, Harunori turned the domain around. In 1830, less than ten years after Harunori's death, the shogunate officially praised Yonezawa as an exemplar of good governance.
The Meiji Restoration in 1868 brought the abolition of the han system, that is, the end of the domains, the feudal lords, and the samurai class.
The head of this clan line was ennobled as a count in the Meiji period. The present head of the clan, Uesugi Kuninori (born 1942) is a professor at the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, Ministry of Education.
Media related to Uesugi clan at Wikimedia Commons