|Founder(s)||Four Noble Houses|
Yonkō (四校, Yonkou; Japanese for "Four Schools") is a title held by the four individuals that are hailed as the greatest practitioners of the four respective fields of Shinigami combat: specifically being Hakuda, Zanjutsu, Hohō, and Kidō. Similar to Kenpachi, the honor is bestowed upon the one who manages to either kill or defeat the previous wielder. Originally, the term was created by the Four Noble Houses to demonstrate their superiority over the other Shinigami, as their clan heads were the first to hold the title.
Ever since the beginning of Soul Society, the realm of combat has always been viewed by four specific methods: the way of unarmed combat (Hakuda), the way of weaponry (Zanjutsu), the way of movement (Hohō), and the way of magic (Kidō). The ancients that were heralded as the greatest in these respective fields of combat were awarded the honored title of "Yonkō". The explicit story for the title was that it represented the four most powerful warriors that could best serve the Soul King, but in truth, it was a ploy crafted for the sole purpose of lording over their superiority as combatants. The Yonkō title was consistently held by the family leaders of the four noble houses each and every time. The Yonkō of Hakuda, for over two thousand years, was always held by a member of the Shihōin Clan. Similarly, the Yonkō of Hohō was held by a member of the Urahara Clan. Yonkō of Zanjutsu was an honor held by the Kuchiki Clan and quite possibly, just as it did for the Shihōin, assured their position as one of the land's four noble houses. Finally, the Yonkō of Kidō was held by the clan elder of the Tsunayashiro Clan. This is how it had been for nearly two thousand years.
This would only be the case until the establishment of the Gotei 13 sometime later. The Yonkō titles were eventually seized by other Shinigami not belonging to the four noble houses. Seireitou Kawahiru, who would become the Yonkō of Hakuda, acquired his title after killing the former titleholder, Yukara Shihōin, who was the head of the Shihōin clan at that particular time. This is an event that caused the Shihōin to develop a grudge for Seireitou but also declared Yukara to be a foolish man that was cheated out of the Shihōin's birthright. Raian Getsueikirite, the eventual Yonkō of Zanjutsu, was granted the title by its former wielder, Jinsuke Kuchiki, who also served as his adoptive mother and mentor in the swordsmanship arts after the death of Shōyō. Jinsuke saw the future of swordsmanship in the young Raian and, following a duel in which Raian properly demonstrated his superior skills, hoped that he would continue the growth of Zanjutsu as he continued in his training. Hikaru Kurokami and Hibiki Asakura also eventually acquired their respective titles, Yonkō of Kidō and Hohō, but it is believed they surrendered those titles long ago, without leaving any named successors.
The four Yonkō are meant to correspond to the four basic Shinigami combat skills: Zanjutsu, Hohō, Kidō, and Hakuda. This is because each Yonkō is said to be an almost unrivaled master of a respective field of combat. The title of that Yonkō would be upheld until someone came along who could match or surpass their predecessor, which is the most basic system of succession. In some circumstances, a candidate who could be well advanced in years would assume a title if there is no one else who possesses the skill that they do.
There are currently three known ways to become a Yonkō.
- Kill off the current titleholder in a duel.
- If the former titleholder is killed or dies naturally, the next person whose skills surpass all others in the title available becomes the next Yonkō.
- A current Yonkō may select a successor.
|Shihōin Ancestor||Yonkō of Hakuda||Succeeded|
|Yukara Shihōin||Yonkō of Hakuda||Succeeded|
|Seireitou Kawahiru||Yonkō of Hakuda||Current|
|Kuchiki Ancestor||Yonkō of Zanjutsu||Succeeded|
|Jinsuke Kuchiki||Yonkō of Zanjutsu||Succeeded|
|Raian Getsueikirite||Yonkō of Zanjutsu||Current|
|Urahara Ancestor||Yonkō of Hohō||Succeeded|
|Hibiki Asakura||Yonkō of Hohō||Succeeded|
|Kurama Shihōin||Yonkō of Hohō||Current|
|Tsunayashiro Ancestor||Yonkō of Kidō||Succeeded|
|Hikaru Kurokami||Yonkō of Kidō||Succeeded|
|Kazuya Kuchiki||Yonkō of Kidō||Current|
Behind the Scenes
The term "Yonkō" can be considered a homage to the group of the same name from the series One Piece, although the translation used for this group is slightly different. In One Piece, Yonkō is a title meaning "Four Emperors", referring to the four pirate emperors that rule the New World, whereas in this rendition, Yonkō means "Four Schools" and refers to the four highest masters in each of the four designated crafts.