Nihonmatsu Domainsuffered from famine and population decline

Nihonmatsu Domain

Niwa family crest “Niwa Naozai”

Article category
History of the domain
domain name
Nihonmatsu Domain (1627-1871)
Fukushima Prefecture
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Nihonmatsu Castle

Nihonmatsu Castle

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The Nihonmatsu Domain was a domain that ruled over Nihonmatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture. If you are a fan of the history of the end of the Edo period, you may have a strong image of this being the domain where the Battle of Nihonmatsu took place. After several families became lords of the Nihonmatsu domain in the early Edo period, it was finally ruled by the Niwa family, whose ancestor was Mitsushige Niwa, the grandson of Niwa Nagahide, until the end of the Edo period. Many domains in the Tohoku region suffered from famine, and the Nihonmatsu domain was no exception. Let's unravel the history of Nihonmatsu Domain.

Nihonmatsu Domain before the Niwa clan ruled

Nihonmatsu was ruled by the Hatakeyama clan from the early Muromachi period. The Hatakeyama clan that ruled this area came to be known as the ``Nihonmatsu Hatakeyama clan'' or simply the Nihonmatsu clan after the name of the place. During the Azuchi-Momoyama period, Date Masamune began to take control of Oshu. As a result, Yoshitsugu Nihonmatsu, the 15th generation of the Nihonmatsu clan, tried to kidnap Date Masamune's father, Terumune, but failed, and Terumune and Terumune were both killed, which led to a full-scale war with the Nihonmatsu clan. After that, the Nihonmatsu clan was destroyed and the land of Nihonmatsu became the property of Date Masamune.
However, due to Toyotomi Hideyoshi's ruling, Nihonmatsu once belonged to the Gamo clan, and then became the property of Uesugi Kagekatsu.

In the Battle of Sekigahara that occurred in 1600, Uesugi Kagekatsu, who sided with the Western army, was transferred to Yonezawa with a reduced koku, and later Hideyuki Gamo was transferred to Yonezawa for 600,000 koku. However, during the time when Hideyuki Gamo ruled, the Nihonmatsu domain suffered from a series of natural disasters such as poor harvests, famine, large earthquakes, and storm and flood damage, and the annual tax was heavier than other domains, so it is said that the peasants dispersed one after another. Hideyuki Gamo died young at the age of 30, and his legitimate son Tadasato Gamo also died young without leaving behind any children, so the area of Nihonmatsu temporarily came under the direct control of the shogunate.

Afterwards, Yoshiaki Kato, one of the seven rulers of Mt. Shizugatake, was given the land of Nihonmatsu, and his son-in-law, Shigetsuna Matsushita, took over the position of lord. The Nihonmatsu Domain was officially established here, but when Shigetsuna Matsushita applied for the position in October of the year he became the lord, his eldest son was not allowed to succeed him due to his young age and was transferred to the Mutsu Miharu Domain. It was sealed.

Instead, he was succeeded by Akitoshi Kato, the third son of the first lord of the domain, Yoshiaki Kato. Akari himself ruled the domain safely, but his successor, Kato Akisei, carried out strict inspections and imposed harsh annual taxes on the people of his domain. As a result, the farmers were in dire straits and tried to complain about their harsh current situation to the Ou Matsumae patrol sent by the shogun. As a result, this appeal was crushed by the feudal lord, the Kato family, and a heavier annual tax was imposed. Due to this bad government, the people of the territory were dispersed and sold out one after another, and finally the Kato family was forced to leave. By the way, Akitoshi Kato was also a party to the Aizu feud, which was a family riot in the Aizu domain.

Niwa clan's rule

After the Kato family was annexed, Mitsushige Niwa, the grandson of Nagahide Niwa, a senior vassal of Oda Nobunaga, became the lord of the Nihonmatsu domain. Mitsushige Niwa actively carried out large-scale renovations of Nihonmatsu Castle, developed samurai residences and the castle town, established legislation, and promoted science, thereby solidifying the foundations of the domain's government. However, in addition to the heavy burden of official duties from the shogunate that had continued since the reign of the Kato family, natural disasters, poor harvests, and famines frequently occurred, and successive generations of feudal lords were troubled by peasant uprisings, dispersal, and population decline. In particular, the Kyoho and Tenmei famines caused tens of thousands of deaths. For this reason, the sixth lord of the domain, Takatsune Niwa, implemented a type of childcare allowance called the Baby Raising Act, which provided an allowance to families where the second or third child was born. The decline in the domain's population was a serious problem. However, the population of the domain did not recover easily, and the system collapsed in the Tenmei period at the end of the Edo period due to financial difficulties.

During the time of the 10th feudal lord, Niwa Chokuni, the Boshin War broke out. The Nihonmatsu Domain joined the Ouetsu Domain Alliance and fought against the new government army, but the number of soldiers in the Nihonmatsu Domain was less than 2,000 including child soldiers and child soldiers. Furthermore, the Niwa family did not accept Western-style military training due to their pride as Oda Nobunaga's senior vassals, so they had no chance of winning against the new government's army, which had received Western-style training.

As a result, Nihonmatsu Castle burst into flames and fell, resulting in the death of more than 300 soldiers of the domain. This battle is called the "Battle of Nihonmatsu," and it often appears in dramas and movies from the end of the Edo period. In addition, Nihonmatsu Castle had a disgraceful record as the first castle to fall since the Battle of Osaka.

However, the 10th lord of the domain, and the 11th lord of the domain, Nagahiro Niwa, who succeeded him, had his stone allowance reduced, but received no further punishment, and the 11th lord, Nagahiro Niwa, also became the prefectural governor.


The Nihonmatsu domain was a domain with a harsh environment, with a series of bad harvests and natural disasters, as well as severe annual tax collection that caused the population to disperse. There are signs that the feudal lords of the Niwa clan tried to do something about it, but they were unable to reach a fundamental solution, and at the end of the Edo period, they had the misfortune of having their castle set ablaze during the Boshin War. However, in the Meiji era, a spinning factory was built on the site of Nihonmatsu Castle, contributing to the modernization of Fukushima Prefecture.

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Writer(Writer)I am a writer who loves history, focusing on the Edo period. My hobbies are visiting historical sites, temples and shrines, and reading historical novels. If there is a place you are interested in, you can fly anywhere. I'm secretly happy that the number of sword exhibitions has increased recently thanks to the success of Touken Ranbu.
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