The Soga Clan  蘇我氏

October 11, 2017

The most powerful of the competing clans  in early Japanese history until its overthrow in the mid-seventh century. The origins of the clan are unclear and the first dated reference we have to it is 465, when Soga no Karako (蘇我韓子) was part of an expeditionary force sent by the Emperor Yūryaku to chastise the Korean state of Silla. It became the most powerful clan under the leadership of  Soga no Iname (蘇我稲目, c.506–570), who became Grand Minister (Omi/ Ōomi), probably the most important non-imperial post in the land, in 1536 and retained the post for the rest of his life. He soon realized that one of the best ways he could consolidate his position was to marry his daughters off to the emperor. Two were married to the Emperor Kinmei, although they failed to produce heirs to the throne. The next clan head, Soga no Umako (蘇我馬子 551?–626), however, not only retained the Grand Minister post, but had more success in shaping the Imperial line to the clan's advantage. One of his daughters, Kitashihime (堅塩媛) became a consort to Emperor Kinmei, and of the thirteen children she bore--seven male, six female--one became the Emperor Yōmei, another the Empress Suiko. The end of the clan's domination came in 645 when the then clan head, Soga no Iruka (蘇我入鹿 610–645), probably the eigth in the line, was assassinated following what I suppose could be described as familial overreach. The last of the direct line seems to have been Soga no Hatayasu (蘇我果安), who died in 672.

© Rod Lucas 2016-2020

All text and photos by Lucas unless otherwise stated