Famous Samurai Clans


The most famous samurai clans emerged from the two most substantial feudal conflicts – the Genpei war (1180-1185) and the Warring States Period (1467-1590). Basically, the samurai used to be great warriors of Feudal Japan who deserved respect and fear due to their gracefulness and brutality during peace and war. They were bound by a strict code of honor and were willing to sacrifice their own lives instead of suffering a harsh existence of dishonor. They were the most dominating warriors in Japan for hundreds of years, and their success in battles can be traced to their hard work and dedication. If you’re curious about Japanese clans, here are some of the most famous samurai clans you need to know.


1. Minamoto Samurai Clan


The Minamoto originated from eastern Japan, and just like their chief opponent, the Taira, they were descendants of the imperial family. Both the Taira and the Minamoto gained their popularity during the 12th century when they fought hard for the control of Japan. Certain members of the Minamoto clan are remembered due to the role they played in history. Their greatest general, the famous samurai Minamoto Yoshitsune, led the war to victory against the Taira. His half brother, Yoritomo, was also famous for creating the post of the shogun.


2. Taira Japanese Clan


Taira was Minamoto’s main opponent, and their power ended when they lost the sea battle of Dan-no-Ura in 1185. The defeat resulted in many of their most famous samurai warriors committing suicide, and their clan is still remembered today as committing one of the largest mass suicides in the history of the samurai.


3. Ouchi Samurai


The Ouchi descended from a Korean prince and played a crucial role in the politics of Japan for nearly 900 years. The clan gained its popularity in the early 1500s when Yoshioki, the leader of the clan, restored a deposed shogun. Yoshioki had a son named Yoshitaka who preferred art instead of war. At one time, Yoshioki’s retainer and a few other warriors rebelled against him as a result of embarrassment from Yoshitaka’s interests — leading both the father and the son to commit suicide and end their line.


4. Imagawa Clan


Imagawa was among the four clans that worked hard day and night to control eastern Japan in the mid-1500s. They used scheming, war, and marriage as their strategies to dominate their opponents. Eventually, they were overshadowed by the rise of one of the most famous samurai leaders in Japan, Oda Nobunaga.


5. Takeda Samurai


Takeda was the rival of the Imagawa, and their success can be traced to their ruler, Takeda Shingen, who had exceptional leadership skills and extended the territory of his clan at the expense of his neighbors. He forced his father from power in 1541 and expanded northwards into the Shinano province. One of the reasons for his fame was due to his entering the priesthood and taking Buddhist vows during his tenure as a military commander.


Other Famous Samurai Clans


  • Tokugawa
  • Asai
  • Asakura
  • Mori
  • Ashikaga
  • Hojo


Japan’s Greatest Warriors


Without a shadow of a doubt, the samurai were feudal Japan’s great warriors. When you hear the word samurai you may think of just one group of warriors, but there were many different clans and families that had their own samurai armies.


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