2001 Waka for Japan 2001
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Court Offices, Titles and Ranks

The structure of the Japanese court government was laid out in two documents Taihô Ritsuryô 大宝律令 'The Code of the Taihô Era' (701) and Yôrô Ritsuryô 養老律令 'The Code of the Yôrô Era'(718). Some alterations were made in 927 by the Engi Shiki 延喜式 'Regulations of the Engi Era', but thereafter the government remained largely unchanged, although wielding less and less real power as the court declined in influence and the samurai in the provinces took over control of the country.

Having a position in the government, though, was all important to the aristocrats in the capital, as it brought with it rank and, in the early years before the government became impecunious, wealth. A man was most often referred to by the position(s) he held, which situated him precisely in the elaborate hierarchy of status relationships which governed aristocratic life.

Here, then, is an outline of the structure and offices of the imperial government. To see it in Japanese, click here.

Emperor
Department of Shintô
Great Council of State

Controlling Board of the Left

Controlling Board of the Right

Ministry of Central Affairs

Ministry of Ceremonial

Ministry of Civil Administration

Ministry of Popular Affairs

Ministry of War

Ministry of Justice

Ministry of the Treasury

Ministry of the Emperor’s Household


All of the above (with the exception of the Emperor, of course) had their own officials, and the eight ministries were divided into bureaux with responsibilities for different areas within their remit.

Senior officials within the government were divided into four general classes: Head (kami 長官), Assistant (suke 次官), Secretary ( 判官) and Clerk (sakan 主典). Within these four classes there were a range of different titles for officials, depending upon the department, ministry or bureau in which the person worked. Senior official positions also carried with them court rank, and the most important ones had various emoluments as well. In addition to the senior officials, there were also cohorts of junior officials attached to the various ministries and bureaux in order to carry out the essential menial tasks of the government.

If you click on the various links above, you can find out the structure and officials of the various branches of the government.

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