The Suneya Clan (強矢家)

From what, today, we consider the fourth generation, the history of Toda-ha Buko-ryu centers around the Suneya clan.  It is, however, unclear just who should be designated as the first Suneya family member to have done Toda-ryu, as we have no records of anyone formally studying the rye prior to accounts regarding Suneya Ryosuke, the 13th generation headmaster.

Suneya Yoritake Senhachiemon Wakasa no Kami (also known as Suneya Danjyō)  (強矢弾正)

Suneya Yoritake was a bushi in the service of Suwabe Tōmi no Kami, one of the leading retainers of  Hōjō Ujikuni. The name, Suneya (lit. “Strong arrow”) was awarded to him after he drew a very powerful bow and shot a bundle of fifteen arrows at once.  He was killed during the battle of Odawara.  In some Toda-ha Buko-ryu lineages, Yoritake is listed as the third generation shihan of the ryu, preceding Daifuku Gozen.

According to the linked website, the Suneya ancestral house in Fujikura-mura was inherited by the Arai family.  #53 is said to be the actual armor of Suneya Danjyō, passed down from Hachigata Castle, and #54 that of another member of the family.

Suneya Koreyoshi Wakasa (強矢維行)

In Tensho 17 (1590), before the fall of Odawara, Koreyoshi, still a child, was exiled with his mother to Fujikura village (then called Kurao-mura) in the Chichibu area. He became a surveyor/census taker for the Tokugawa.  Essentially, the purpose of this role was to tabulate the population of an area as well as all the landholdings, both for the purposes of taxation and political control.

Suneya Wakasa is listed in the current lineage chart of Toda-ha Buko-ryu.  It is most reasonable to assume that this is Suneya Yoritake Senhachiemon Wakasa no Kami rather than Koreyoshi.  The reasoning here is that the Yoritake is definitely listed in some other lineage charts as Suneya Danjyō – his name appearing twice.  This being confusing, another part of his name is generally used.  The oldest lineage charts, in fact, never mention Koreyoshi.

Suneya Danjyō Yoriyuki (強矢弾正頼行)

Suneya Danjyō was also exiled with Koreyoshi.  It is unclear what their relationship was, but it is certainly significant that he holds the same name, Danjyō, as the great warrior.  He, too, became a surveyor/census taker under the service of Daikan (head administrator of the area) Ina Hanzaemon, with a salary of 267 koku.  Well known for his skill in bujutsu, he died in the Kanbun (circa 1661-1673) era at the age of 73.

Suneya Koretoshi (強矢継利)

Koretoshi became soncho (village head) of Fujikura-mura, dying at the age of 62.

Suneya Koreaki Takebei (強矢維明)

Koreaki followed as soncho of Fujikura-mura.  He was well-known for his skill at kenjutsu and naginatajutsu and also held a menkyo in Hōjō-ryu gungaku (military tactics).  He died in Shotoku (circa 1711-15) at the age of 40.

Suneya Yasukatsu Heidayu (Hyodayu) (強矢庸勝)

Yasukatsu followed as soncho of Fujikura-mura.  Known for his skill in kenjutsu and naginatajutsu, he died in Enkyō 4 (1747) at the age of 37.  Noting that he was a baby at the time of his father’s death, he must have learned bugei from others in the clan.

Suneya Yoritada Hyozo (強矢頼忠)

Yoritada followed as soncho of Fujikura-mura.  Known for his skill in kenjutsu and naginatajutsu, he won a shiai with a bushi from Jōshu, Shiozawa Daibō of Okuyama Nen-ryu.  He died in Kan-en (1748), one year after this father,  at the age of 25.

Suneya Tada _____Tsunezaemon (強矢忠賀)

Also village headmaster, he died in Meiwa 5 at the age of 42.

Suneya Koremasa Bunzaemon (強矢継政)

Koremasa followed as soncho of Fujikura-mura.  He went to Ozawaguchi in Chichibu to study Kogen Itto-ryu from Henmi Tashiro Yoshitoshi, the creator of that martial tradition.  He died in Bunsei (circa 1818 – 1830)

Suneya Kore____ Minzaemon  (強矢継賀)

Minzaemon studied kenjutsu from his father, Suneya Koremasa from the age of thirteen, receiving a menkyo kaiden in Kansei 5 (1794).  In a long life of 88 years, he is said to have had 804 students.

The Transmission of Early Toda-ryu naginatajutsu – to sum up

There are no records of any contact between Toda Seigen and Hōjō Ujikuni.  This certainly does not mean that such contact did not exist, but it is not only unknown that they met, it is further unknown if Ujikuni practiced any form of Toda-ryu.  As noted in the section on Toda Seigen, Toda Echigo no Kami served the Maeda, and it is conceivable that Hōjō Ujikuni could have met him in the last years of his life.  However, if Ujikuni learned, much less transmitted Toda-ryu, he would have had to have done so earlier, because after 1590,  he was isolated and in exile.

The ryu is said to have passed to Daifuku Gozen, who spent the last years of her life as a nun (in some sense, a hostage) at Shoryuji temple, near the remains of Hachigata castle.  It is quite possible that Hōjō Kamekuro, mentioned in the section on the Hōjō family, was Daifuku Gozen’s child.  She or her husband may have taught Kamekuro martial arts, or he may be included in the lineage simply becasue he is the end of their line.  We know nothing more about him, however.  It is also possible that Daifuku Gozen taught the Shoryuji Oshō, a priest of Shoryuji.

How the ryu was next transmitted through the Suneya family is a puzzle.  As is described above, Suneya Yoritake was a retainer of Hōjō Ujikuni. However, he was killed at Odawara, and his son Suneya Koreyoshi was exiled, with his mother, to the Chichibu area, while still a small child.

Nitta Suzuyo, based on her research, designated Suneya Danjyō as the fourth generation shihan of Toda-ha Buko-ryu.  There is no way, however, that he could have learned from Daifuku Gozen, as he was very young, probably a toddler when Odawara castle fell and he was taken to Fujikura-mura.

Several theories are possible at this point.  Perhaps Danjyō went to Shoryuji and learned from the Shoryuji Oshō.  This priest may have been passing down martial skills that he learned from Daifuku Gozen, or he was a skilled martial artist in his own right, perhaps of Toda-ryu.

It is conceivable that Danjyō (or someone in a later generation in the Suneya family) created a lineage including Hōjō Ujikuni, Daifuku Gozen and Suneya Yoritake.  The Suneya, from Koretoshi onwards, were a minor clan of village headmasters.  Yoritake, however, was a retainer of one of the most glorious daimyo in the Sengoku period.  A martial tradition passed down from such forebears would be marvelous indeed, far more so than mere family tradition handed down within a clan of census takers and village chiefs.