Ministry of the Center

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Premodern Japan
Imperial seal of Japan
Part of a series on the politics and
government of Japan during the
Nara and Heian periods

Chancellor / Chief Minister
Minister of the Left Sadaijin
Minister of the Right Udaijin
Minister of the Center Naidaijin
Major Counselor Dainagon
Middle Counselor Chūnagon
Minor Counselor Shōnagon
Eight Ministries
Center Nakatsukasa-shō  
Ceremonial Shikibu-shō
Civil Administration Jibu-shō
Popular Affairs Minbu-shō
War Hyōbu-shō
Justice Gyōbu-shō
Treasury Ōkura-shō
Imperial Household Kunai-shō

The Ministry of the Center (中務省, Nakatsukasa-shō) (lit. the department of the inner (or privy) affairs) was a division of the eighth century Japanese government of the Imperial Court in Kyoto,[1] instituted in the Asuka period and formalized during the Heian period. The Ministry was replaced in the Meiji period.


This ministry encompassed those of the Imperial Household whose functions brought them closest to the emperor.[2] The ceremonies of the Imperial Household evolved over time. Among those holding the highest office in the Imperial Household ministry was Takaharu-shinnō, who would later become Emperor Go-Daigo.[3]


The ceremonial nature of the Imperial Household has changed over time. The Ministry was established in 649 as a liaison between the Daijō-kan and the Emperor.[4]

The ambit of the Ministry's activities encompasses, for example:

  • attendance upon the Emperor, including advice to him on his personal matters, supporting him in the maintenance of a proper dignity and helping him in the observance of proper forms of etiquette[5]
  • assisting in the inspection and countersigning of drafts of Imperial Rescripts[5]
  • making of representations to the Emperor[5]
  • support in the issuance of imperial orders in time of war[5]
  • monitoring the reception of addresses to the Emperor[5]
  • compilation of the history of the country[5]
  • maintenance of the records relating to the gazetteer[5]
  • maintenance of the records relating to the personal status of imperial princesses from the second to the fourth generation[5]
  • maintenance of the records relating to the maids of honour and other court ladies[5]
  • oversight of the submission to the Emperor of the census of the population in the various provinces[5]
  • oversight of the submission to the Emperor of the accounts of the taxes to be levied[5]
  • oversight of the submission to the Emperor of the lists of the priests and nuns in the provinces[5]
  • assistance relating to the Grand Empress Dowager, the Empress Dowager, and the Empress[5]
  • supervision of the Imperial archives[5]
  • administration of the annual expenditure of the court and to various articles to be provided for the use of the Imperial family[5]
  • supervision of the astronomical calculations and the arrangement of the calendar[5]
  • oversight of the pictorial artists at court[5]
  • regulation of medicaments to be supplied to the Emperor and the medical advice to be given him[5]
  • maintenance of order in the palace[5]


Amongst the significant Daijō-kan officials within this ministry structure were:[6]

  • Minister or chief administrator of the Ministry of the Center (中務卿, Nakatsukasa-kyō).[7] After the 11th century, this position in the Imperial court was always an Imperial prince.[4] This official oversees the inspection of the interior apartments of the palace; and he is granted the privilege of retaining his swords in the presence of the emperor.[6]
  • First assistant to the Minister (中務大輔, Nakatsukasa-taifu).[6]
  • Second assistant to the Minister (中務少輔, Nakatsukasa-shō).[6]
  • Third assistant to the Minister (中務大丞, Nakatsukasa dai-shō).[6]
  • Fourth assistant to the Minister' (中務少丞, Nakatsukasa shō-shō).[6]
  • Emperor's equerries (侍従, Jijū), 8 positions. There are 8 officials with this title, all equal in rank and in the confidence of the Emperor.[6]
  • Ministerial equerries (内舎人, Udoneri), 90 positions. There are 90 officials with this title; and when a sesshō becomes a kampaku, these men function under his orders. If the emperor is still a child, or if a woman occupies the throne, a kampaku is chosen to represent the emperor; and the kampaku is considered first amongst all others in Japan. Then the Shogun cannot undertake anything of importance without his approval. When the emperor governs directly on his own, the Udoneri may be by-passed.[6]
  • Chief draftsman and editor (大内記, Dai-naiki).[6]
  • Assistant draftsmen and editors (少内記, Shō-naiki). These officials must be very well versed in the affairs of China and Japan: and they edit or re-draft all of the emperor's edicts, rescripts, memorials and letters. For this kind of work, only men of the highest merit and distinction are chosen.[6]
  • Drafting clerks (監物, Kenmotsu).[6]
  • Chief surveyor of palace apartments (中宮大夫, Chūgū-daibu).[6]
  • Assistant surveyor of palace apartments (中宮権大夫, Chūgū-gon-no-daibu).[6]
  • Majordomo of the palace (内舎人頭, Udoneri-no-kami).[6]
  • Chief curator of the palace (内蔵頭, Kura-no-kami).[6]
  • Assistant curator of the palace (内蔵権頭, Kura-no-gon-no-kami).[6]
  • Chief court tailor (縫殿頭, Nui no kami).[6]
  • Chief court astrologer (陰陽頭, On'yō-no-kami)[6] -- see Onmyōdō.
  • Chief court calendar-maker (暦博士, Reki-hakase).[6]
  • Chief court astronomer (天文博士, 'Tenmon-hakase).[6]
  • Chief court time-keeper (漏刻博士, Rōkoku-hakase).[6]
  • Chief court architect (内匠頭, Takumi-no- kami).[6]

In the Meiji period, a variant equerry was introduced as part of the Imperial retinue. As explained in an excerpt from the 113th Imperial decree of 1896 (Meiji 29) (明治29年勅令第113号):

"Aides-de-camp to the Emperor of Japan (侍従武官, jijū bukan) will perform attendant duties and will relay to him military matters and orders, be present at military reviews [in his name] and accompanying him to formal ceremonies and interviews."[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kawakami, Karl Kiyoshi. (1903). The Political Ideas of the Modern Japan, pp. 36-38., p. 36, at Google Books
  2. ^ Ministry of Central Affairs, Sheffield.
  3. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1959) The Imperial House of Japan, p. 204.
  4. ^ a b Nussbaum, Louis Frédéric et al. (2005). "Nakatsukasa-shō" in Japan Encyclopedia, p. 692., p. 692, at Google Books
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Kawakami, p. 37 n1,, p. 37, at Google Books citing Ito Hirobumi, Commentaries on the Japanese Constitution, p. 86 (1889).
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Annales des empereurs du japon, p. 427., p. 427, at Google Books
  7. ^ Varley, H. Paul. (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki, p. 272.
  8. ^ 侍従武官ハ天皇ニ常侍奉仕シ軍事ニ関スル奏上奉答及命令ノ伝達ニ任シ観兵演習行幸其他祭儀礼典宴会謁見等ニ陪侍扈従ス


  • Kawakami, Karl Kiyoshi. (1903). The Political Ideas of the Modern Japan. Iowa City, Iowa: University of Iowa Press. OCLC 466275784. Internet Archive, full text
  • Nussbaum, Louis Frédéric and Käthe Roth. (2005). Japan Encyclopedia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-01753-5; OCLC 48943301
  • Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Nihon Odai Ichiran; ou, Annales des empereurs du Japon. Paris: Royal Asiatic Society, Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland. OCLC 5850691
  • Ponsonby-Fane, Richard Arthur Brabazon. (1959). The Imperial House of Japan. Kyoto: Ponsonby Memorial Society. OCLC 194887
  • Varley, H. Paul. (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki: A Chronicle of Gods and Sovereigns. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-04940-5; OCLC 59145842