Shimotsuke Province

Shimotsuke Province (下野国, Shimotsuke-no kuni) was a province of Japan in the area of Japan that is today Tochigi Prefecture.[1] Shimotsuke was bordered by Kōzuke, Hitachi, Mutsu and Shimōsa Provinces. Its abbreviated form name was Yashū (野州). Under the Engishiki classification system, Shimotsuke was ranked as one of the 13 "great countries" (大国) in terms of importance, and one of the 30 "far countries" (遠国) in terms of distance from the capital. The provincial capital is located in what is now the city of Tochigi. The Ichinomiya of the province is the Futarasan jinja located in what is now the city of Utsunomiya.

Map of Japanese provinces (1868) with Shimotsuke Province highlighted
ukiyo-e " Shimotsuke " in "The Famous Scenes of the Sixty States" (六十余州名所図会), depicting Mount Nikkō, Urami Waterfall (Shimotsuke, Nikkōsan, Urami no taki)
Shimotsuke province map (1838)


During the 4th century AD, (Kofun period) the area of modern Gunma and southern Tochigi prefectures were known as Keno or Kenu (毛野). At some unknown point in the 5th century, the area was divided at the Kinugawa River into Kamitsukeno (上毛野) and Shimotsukeno (下毛野). Per the Nara period Taihō Code, these provinces became Kamitsukeno-no-kuni (上毛野国) and Shimotsukeno-no-kuni (下毛野国). In 713, with the standardization of province names into two kanji, these names became Kōzuke (上野) and Shimozuke (下野).

The area of Shimotsuke is mentioned frequently in the Nara period Rikkokushi, including the Nihon Shoki and had strong connections with the Yamato court since the Kofun period. A large Buddhist temple complex, the Shimotsuke Yakushi-ji, located in what is now the city of Tochigi, dates from the Nara period.

From the Heian period, the area was dominated by a number of samurai bands, including the Utsunomiya clan, and the Nasu clan. A branch of the Minamoto clan, the Ashikaga rose to prominence during the Kamakura period from their shōen at what is now Ashikaga, and went on to create the Ashikaga shogunate of the Muromachi period.

During the Sengoku period, Shimotsuke was contested between the later Hōjō clan, the Takeda and the Uesugi clans. After the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate, much of the province was assigned to several feudal domains. Tokugawa Ieyasu and Tokugawa Iemitsu chose the sacred site of Nikkō to be the location of their tombs, and thus the area prospered as a site of pilgrimage through the end of the Edo period.

The Nikkō Kaidō and the Ōshū Kaidō highways passed through the province, and numerous post stations were established.

Following the Meiji Restoration, the various domains became prefectures with the abolition of the han system in 1871. These various prefectures merged to form Tochigi Prefecture in 1873.

Historical districtsEdit

Bakumatsu period domainsEdit

Name type daimyo kokudaka notes
Utsunomiya Domain fudai Toda 77,000 koku
Mibu Domain fudai Torii 30,000 koku
Karasuyama Domain fudai Okubo 30,000 koku
Sano Domain fudai Hotta 18,000 koku
Kurobane Domain tozama Oseki 18,000 koku
Ashikaga Domain fudai Toda 12,000 koku
Ōtawara Domain tozama Ōtawara 11,000 koku
Kitsuregawa Domain tozama Ashikaga 10,000 koku
Fukiake Domain tozama Arima 10,000 koku



  • Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric and Käthe Roth. (2005). Japan encyclopedia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-01753-5; OCLC 58053128
  • Papinot, Edmond. (1910). Historical and Geographic Dictionary of Japan. Tokyo: Librarie Sansaisha. OCLC 77691250
  • (in Japanese) Shimotsuke on "Edo 300 HTML"

External linksEdit

  Media related to Shimotsuke Province at Wikimedia Commons