The history of the Ogasawara family and Ogasawara-ryu Yabusame

The history of the Ogasawara family and Ogasawara-ryu Yabusame

The history of the Ogasawara family in Kainokuni*1

Tomitsu Kagami was a member of the Kai-Genji clans*2 who were descendants of the Seiwa-Genji clan. *3 He started to use the family name of Kagami because they were based in the Kagami area in Kainokuni.*1

*1: Kainokuni
present-day Yamanashi Prefecture

*2: Kai-Genji clan
The Kai-Genji clan, one of the Seiwa-Genji clans, was founded by Yoshimitsu Minamoto. The members were called by the name 'Kai-Genji' after the area's name because they lived in Kai Province.

*3: Seiwa-Genji clan
The Seiwa-Genji clan was one of the Genji clans who were the descendants of the 56th Emperor of Japan, the Seiwa emperor (reign 858-876), and his sons or grandsons. The descendants of his grandson Tsunemoto (a son of the sixth Imperial Prince Sadazumi) were the Kai-Genji clans, including Yoritomo Minamoto.

Tomitsu had many sons and extended his influence on the southwestern area of Kainokuni, deploying his sons to proximal areas.

His second son Nagakiyo, who was born in 1162, was based in the Ogasawara area*4 and later started using the family name of Ogasawara. Since then, the name of Ogasawara has been passed on to the present day.

*4: present-day Minami Alps City in Yamanashi Prefecture

In 1180 at the end of the Heian period, the Jisho-Juei War broke out and it developed into a nationwide internal war in Japan.
This war happened during the dynamic change between the Taira clan government period and the Kamakura bakufu (the Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) period and it also had a huge influence on the Kai-Genji clans.

Yoritomo Minamoto, a direct descendant of the Seiwa-Genji clan, came back to Kamakura (present-day Kamakura City in Kanagawa Prefecture) after the Battle of Fuji River and started to solidify the foundation for the new Kamakura bakufu. Later, he became the first shougun of the bakufu.

Nagakiyo Kagami, who was a son of Tomitsu, succeeded to build a strong relationship with Yoritomo Minamoto through his service to the Kamakura bakufu. He won the trust of Yoritomo Minamoto and strengthened his foundation as the local feudal lord.

The Ogasawara family and the horseback archery

During the Heian and Kamakura period, warriors were expected to be good at the art of archery, especially at the skill of horseback archery because it was the most effective combat skill in the periods.

During the Kamakura period, the skill of horseback archery was used not only in the battle fields, but also in the ceremonies of the Kamakura bakufu or the shrine rituals. Such performances consisted of three forms: 'Inu-oumono,' 'Kasagake,' and Yabusame.

The Kagami family and the Ogasawara family played important roles in the Kamakura bakufu. Ogasawara-ryu horseback archery was born in the process of ritualization of the techniques with great improvement.

Nagakiyo Jiro Kagami, who was the second son of Tomitsu Kagami, established the foundation of Ogasawara-ryu Yabusame. Nagakiyo started using the family name of Ogasawara since 1184. And that was the beginning of the Ogasawara family.

In the Muromachi period, Sadamune Ogasawara, the seventh family head of Ogasawara, added the rules of decorum, or manners, to the basic theory of Ogasawara-ryu Yabusame. He combined three elements, the skill of archery, the equestrian art, and the rules of decorum into one martial art. He was given the letter '王'as the family crest from the Emperor Godaigo who regarded the Ogasawara family as the ideal model of the samurai class.

Sadamune Ogasawara refrained from using the letter '王' as the family crest, because it represented kings, and started to use 'Sangaibishi'(Three-storied Rhombus) that symbolized the shape of the letter.

The Ogasawara family crest
'Sangaibishi'(three rhombus)

The skill of archery, the equestrian art, and the rules of decorum, known as Ogasawara-ryu horseback archery(The Ogasawara School of Yabusame), was succeeded by the Ogasawara family and the name of Ogasawara and Ogasawara-ryu became famous.