Kabane () were Japanese hereditary noble titles. Their use traces back to ancient times when they began to be used as titles signifying a family's political and social status.[1]


As the national unification by the Yamato imperial court progressed, a kabane was given to the most powerful families by the imperial court, which gradually became a hereditary noble title. During the ancient times, new kabane were made and there were almost thirty of them.[2] Some of the more common kabane were Omi (), Muraji (), Sukune (宿禰), Kuni no miyatsuko (国造), Kimi (, or ), Atai (), Fubito (), Agatanushi (県主), and Suguri (村主).

The descendants of the Imperial family were given Omi and the descendants of gods were given Muraji, and out of these, the most influential families were given Ōomi and Ōmuraji.[2] During the Taika Reform, these were however abolished, and the kabane was no longer tied to a specific occupation or political position, but simply began to signify a family's aristocratic lineage and social status.[1] In 684, the traditional kabane system was reformed into an eight-kabane system consisting of Mahito, Ason, Sukune, Imiki, Michinoshi, Omi, Muraji, Inagi.[2]

The imperial House of Yamato became the most powerful family in the kabane system, although during the 6th century AD, a number of other leaders, often with high ranks of Omi and Muraji, sometimes overshadowed the Yamato rulers.[3] This power dynamic became one of the incentives of the Taika Reform.[4]

The kabane were divided into two general classes: the descendants of the Imperial line (皇別, kōbetsu) were given Omi, and the descendants of the gods (神別, shinbetsu) were given Muraji.[2]

At first, the kabane were administered by individual clans, but eventually they came to be controlled by the Yamato court. In 684, the kabane were reformed into the eight kabane system (八色の姓, yakusa no kabane). The powerful Omi of the time were given the kabane of Ason, which ranked second under the new system, while most of the Muraji were given the kabane of Sukune, which ranked third. Later, as the clans began to devolve into individual households, the kabane system gradually faded from use.


It is generally believed that the name kabane (姓) either derived from the word "agamena" (崇名), or alternatively from the word "kyöröi" (骨), meaning "family" in Old Korean.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Encyclopedia Nipponica. Japan: Shogakkan. 2001. Kabane. ISBN 409526117X.
  2. ^ a b c d Gibney, Frank (1995). Britannica International Encyclopaedia. Japan: TBS-BRITANNICA. Kabane. OCLC 55231838.
  3. ^ "Kabane | Japanese society". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2020-06-02.
  4. ^ Hane, Mikiso; Perez, Louis G. (2014). Premodern Japan: a Historical Survey. (Second edition ed.). Boulder, CO. ISBN 978-0-8133-4970-1.
  • Hane, Mikiso; Perez, Louis G. (2014). Premodern Japan: a Historical Survey. (Second edition ed.). Boulder, CO. ISBN 978-0-8133-4970-1.