Shimotsuke Province

Map of Japanese provinces (1868) with Shimotsuke Province highlighted

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.

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)


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 Kamitsuteno (上毛野) and Shimotsuteno (下毛野). Per the Nara period Taihō Code, these provinces became Kamitsuteno-no-kuni (上毛野国) and Shimotsuteno-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 shoen 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 late 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. Tokugwa 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 thorugh 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 Gunma Prefecture in 1873.

Historical districts

Bakumatsu period domains

Name type daimyo kokudaka notes
Utsunomiya Domain fudai Toda77,000 koku
Mibu Domain fudai Torii30,000 koku
Karasuyama Domain fudai Okubo30,000 koku
Sano Domain fudai Hotta18,000 koku
Kurobane Domain tozama Oseki18,000 koku
Ashikaga Domain fudai Toda12,000 koku
Ōtawara Domain tozama Ōtawara11,000 koku
Kitsuregawa Domain tozama Ashikaga10,000 koku
Fukiake Domain tozama Arima10,000 koku



Media related to Shimotuke Province at Wikimedia Commons

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