Nakatomi clan

Nakatomi clan (中臣氏, Nakatomi-uji) was a Japanese aristocratic kin group (uji).[1]The clan claims descent from Amenokoyane.[2]

Nakatomi clan
Cadet branchesFujiwara clan


The Nakatomi was an influential clan in Classical Japan. Along with the Inabe clan, the Nakatomi were one of two priestly clans which oversaw certain important national rites, and one of many to claim descent from divine clan ancestors "only a degree less sublime than the imperial ancestors".[3] It is said that soon after the beginning of Jimmu's reign, a Master of Ceremonies (saishu) was appointed; and this office was commonly held by a member of the Nakatomi clan after the 8th century.[4] This was due to the hereditary nature of both governmental positions and clan roles – a clan's role might be to supply warriors, or, in the case of the Nakatomi, to conduct Shinto rites and hold the associated positions. Though their material holdings were not the most extensive, their spiritual and ritual importance placed the Nakatomi and Imibe second only to the Imperial House during their heyday.

One particularly important ritual which the head of the Nakatomi clan oversaw was the Ōharai purification rite, performed twice every year, in which the High Priest (of the Nakatomi clan) asked the kami to cleanse the spirits of all of the people of their impurities.

Asuka periodEdit

As a result of the Nakatomis' ritual position and role in the Asuka period, they were among the chief advocates of conservatism in the controversy over the introduction of Buddhism to Japan in the 6th century. However, by the time of Nakatomi no Kamatari, in the early 7th century, the clan had switched sides, possibly as a result of their loyalty and close connection to the Imperial family; following Prince Shōtoku, likely the most famous advocate of Buddhism in all of Japanese history, and later Prince Naka no Ōe, the Nakatomi helped eliminate the Soga clan, powerful and very active supporters of Buddhism, and of the current administration of the time (see Isshi Incident).

The clan soon came to be opposed by a number of other clans which vied for power and prestige at Court, and for influence over the Imperial succession. It is said however, that despite being overshadowed by others in terms of pure material wealth, the head of the Nakatomi clan was, in the mid-7th century, the most powerful man in Japan.[3] Even into the 8th century, members of the Nakatomi clan maintained their important ritual position, becoming hereditary heads of the Jingi-kan (Department of Rites) established by the Code of Taihō in 701.

Precursor of the FujiwaraEdit

Arguably the most well-known clan leader, Nakatomi no Kamatari was granted the name Fujiwara by Emperor Tenji as a reward for loyal service to the sovereign. Kamatari is honored as the founder of the Fujiwara clan, which accumulated extraordinary powers and prestige in the Heian period (794–1185).

Nakatomi Family Tree (大中臣系図)Edit

Ikatsu ōmi-no-mikoto (雷大臣命)
O-o-obase-no-mikoto (大小橋命)
Nakatomi no Amahisa-no-kimi (中臣阿麻毘舎卿)
Nakatomi no Abiko (中臣阿毘古)
Nakatomi no Mahito (中臣真人)
Nakatomi no Kamako (中臣鎌子)
Nakatomi no Kuroda (中臣黒田)
Nakatomi no Tokiwa (中臣常磐)
Nakatomi no Katanoko (中臣可多能祜)
Nakatomi no Mikeko (中臣御食子)      Nakatomi no Kuniko (中臣国子)      Nakatomi no Nukateko (中臣糠手子)
  ┃                             ┃                      ┃
  ┃                               Second Branch of Nakatomi clan (中臣氏二門)       Third Branch of Nakatomi clan (中臣氏三門)
Fujiwara no Kamatari (藤原鎌足, 614–669)      Nakatomi no Hisata (中臣久多)      Nakatomi no Tareme (中臣垂目)
  ┃                                               ┃
Fujiwara clan (藤原氏)                                                  First Branch of Nakatomi clan (中臣氏一門)

See alsoEdit

  • Kogo Shūi—a record of the conflict between the Nakatomi and Inbe clans.


  1. ^ Papinot, Jacques Edmond Joseph. (1906). Dictionnaire d’histoire et de géographie du Japon; Papinot, (2003). "Nakatomi," Nobiliare du Japon, p. 39; retrieved 2013-5-5.
  2. ^ "Encyclopedia of Shinto - Home : Kami in Classic Texts : Amenokoyane". Retrieved 2020-11-20.
  3. ^ a b Sansom, George (1958). A History of Japan to 1334, pp. 35–36.
  4. ^ Brown, Delmer et al. (1979). Gukanshō, p. 249 n10.