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The Rōjū (老中), usually translated as Elder, was one of the highest-ranking government posts under the Tokugawa shogunate of Edo period Japan. The term refers either to individual Elders, or to the Council of Elders as a whole; under the first two shōguns, there were only two Rōjū. The number was then increased to five, and later reduced to four. The Rōjū were appointed from the ranks of the fudai daimyōs with domains of between 25,000 and 50,000 koku.[1]


The Rōjū had a number of responsibilities, most clearly delineated in the 1634 ordinance that reorganized the government and created a number of new posts:

  1. Relations with the Emperor, the Court, and the Prince-Abbots.
  2. Supervision of those daimyō who controlled lands worth at least 10,000 koku.
  3. Managing the forms taken by official documents in official communications.
  4. Supervision of the internal affairs of the Shogun's domains.
  5. Coinage, public works, and enfiefment.
  6. Governmental relations and supervision of monasteries and shrines.
  7. Compilation of maps, charts, and other government records.

The Rōjū served not simultaneously, but in rotation, each serving the Shogun for a month at a time, communicating with the Shogun through a chamberlain, called Soba-yōnin. However, the Rōjū also served as members of the Hyōjōsho council, along with the Ō-Metsuke and representatives of various Bugyō (Commissions or Departments). As part of the Hyōjōsho, the Rōjū sometimes served a role similar to that of a supreme court, deciding succession disputes and other such disputed matters of state.

Under the reign of Tokugawa Tsunayoshi (1680–1709) the Rōjū lost nearly all their power, as the Shogun began to work more closely with the Tairō, Chamberlains, and others, including Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu, who held the power of a Tairō, but not the title. The Rōjū became little more than messengers, going through the motions of their proper roles as intermediaries between the Shogun and other offices, but not being able to exercise any power to change or decide policy. As Arai Hakuseki, a major Confucian poet and politician of the time wrote, "All the Rōjū did was to pass on his [Yoshiyasu's] instructions" (Sansom 141). Even after Tsunayoshi's death, the Rōjū did not regain their former power. They continued to exist, however, as a government post and a council with, officially if not in fact, all the powers and responsibilities they originally held, through the Edo period.

List of Rōjū[edit]

Each office-holder is listed once. Some may have served under multiple shōguns, and as a result of multiple terms, the list may not fully accurate reflect the order in which the office was held. For example, Hotta Masayoshi served in 1857–58 after Abe Masahiro (1843–57), but also served earlier, and is listed earlier; he is not also listed after Abe.

Under Tokugawa Ieyasu[edit]

Under Tokugawa Hidetada[edit]

Under Tokugawa Iemitsu[edit]

Under Tokugawa Ietsuna[edit]

Under Tokugawa Tsunayoshi[edit]

Under Tokugawa Ienobu and Ietsugu[edit]

Under Tokugawa Yoshimune[edit]

Under Tokugawa Ieshige[edit]

Under Tokugawa Ieharu[edit]

Under Tokugawa Ienari[edit]

Under Tokugawa Ieyoshi[edit]

Under Tokugawa Iesada[edit]

Under Tokugawa Iemochi and Yoshinobu[edit]


  1. ^ Beasley, William G (1972). The Meiji Restoration. Stanford University Press. p. 18. ISBN 0804708150.
  2. ^ Screech, Timon. (2006). Secret Memoirs of the Shoguns: Isaac Titsingh and Japan, 1779–1822, p. 242n91. Also known as "Honda Tadayoshi"