Provincial Titles

Provincial Titles

Provincial Titles

This pages serves to list the various Provincial Titles used in the past and up to this day.

No doubt this page will continue to be updated as we continue our research. This page may also merge with Imperial and Court Title at a later date if we feel it necessary.


    • Agatanushi – (県主) This position was given to those who governed over small territories called ‘agata.’ ‘Nushi‘ in this title meaning Chief. These areas were smaller than larger ‘kuni and existed during the Kunigata System of adminstration during the time of the Yamato Court. Originally it was thought the Agatanushi were hereditary chieftains from small tribal states known as bozoko kokka.1
    • We see an early mentioning of this title (and kuni no miyatsuko) during the reign of Emperor Seimu when he gives Takeuchi no Sukune the title of Ōomi (大臣) to oversee the Ōkuniōkuni no kuni no miyatsuko (Rulers of the Great Countries and Small Countries) and Ōagata ōagata no agata nushi (Department Lords of the Great and Small Departments).34


    • Gunji – (郡司) This position was given to people to govern the administration of a gun (district), which was a smaller part of a larger kuni under the Ritsuryo System. This position was under the jurisdiction of the kokushi. In total there were four gunji ranks performing such tasks as law enforcement and land registration. These people would come from the local chiefs (kuni no miyatsuko). These positions were hereditary and were appointed for life. Should peasant uprisings occour it is often we saw the gunji siding with the people and not the kokushi. This post eventually dissapeared with the rise of shōen, with the former office holders becoming leaders of warrior bands known as bushidan.1


    • Kokushi – (国司 – National Masters2) This was one of the provincial titles given to adminstrators (shi) of a Province (kuni) under the Ritsuryo System. In total there were four classes kami (守 – Governor), suke (介 – Vice-Governor), jō (掾 – Commisioner) and sakan (目 – Inspector). The term kokushi originally applied to all of these ranks, but later would only apply to kami. Those that held these position were usually chosen from central government and assigned to a kokufu (Provincial Headquarters) for a period of 4 to 6 years where they were given income from state lands for their support. Their duties involved, the supervision of the military, police, land registry and tax bureau. During the middle of the 10th centruy with the rise of shōen the authority of the kokushi declined and it became an empty title. However, this title was still used during the Muromachi Period for its prestige.1 They would be assisted by the Shugo.2

Kuni no Miyatsuko

    • See: List of people who held this title.
    • Kuni no Miyatsuko – (国造) This was a position held by local chiefs of ‘kuni’ during the 6th and 7th centuries and often we see them given honorific titles of Omi, kimi and atae. By 645 and the Taika Reform this position was replaced by the Kuni no mikotomochi and Kokushi.12 Between the Taika Reforms and the start of the Kokugun System the kuni no miyatsuko system was abandoned but the title was retained by those presiding over Shinto Rites in the kuni. This later role became known as the Shin Kokuzō (‘New’ Kuni no Miyatsuko) as kokuzō is an alternate way to read the Kanji for miyatsuko.1
    • We see an early mentioning of this title (and agata nushi) during the reign of Emperor Seimu when he gives Takeuchi no Sukune the title of Ōomi (大臣) to oversee the Ōkuniōkuni no kuni no miyatsuko (Rulers of the Great Countries and Small Countries) and Ōagata ōagata no agata nushi (Department Lords of the Great and Small Departments).34


    • Shugo – (守護 – Military Governor) This was one of the provincial titles during the Kamakura Period and of which only warriors from the Kanto area could attain this position.2 The origins of the position may have been during the Taira-Minamoto war when people seem to have been irregularly given this position. It was only authorised nationally in 1185.1 They were military leaders of a shōen or a kuni which represented the shogun2 and they, with the jitō were the major governing posts during the Kamakura Shogunate.1
    • Overall they had a limited authority and were required to defer to the bakufu or even shogun if it pertained to a serious matter. They would assist the Kokushi and were specifically in charge of recruiting soldiers and maintaining public order.2 Additionally they had some criminal jurisdiction over some types of offenders and also held limited authority over the gokenin. Their criminal jurisdiction covered murder and rebellion, though these responsibilites (called Daibon Sankajō and dating to the 1190’s) were not formalised until 1232 in the Goseibai Shikimoku. The only real power they held was to organise and lead a palace guard duty (Ōban’yaku) in Kyoto.1
    • For the time they held this position they rarely visited the province they watched over, leaving that to deputies (shugodai) of which there was only one per province. This changed after the Mongol Invasion in 1274 when shugo were then required to live in their province.1
    • The title of shugo was not hereditary and did not include the right to income producing lands. They were also prohibited from confirming the private land rights of the gokenin, except for pro-forma validations of the Shogunates own confirmation (ando).1
    • In the 1280’s we see the Hōjo Family having many members with the title of shugo until their destruction in the 1330’s, During the Muromachi Period only four or five people retained this title. Afterwards we see a new wave of shugo from the Ashikaga Family and from local jitō.1


1. Kodansha. (1993) ”Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia”. Tokyo: Kodansha Ltd.
2. Louis Frederic, translated by Kathe Roth (2002) “Japan Encyclopedia”. London: Harvard University Press.
3. Yasumaro. O, translated by Gustav Heldt. (2014) “Kojiki. An Account of Ancient Matters”. New York: Columbia University Press.
4. Chamberlain, B. H. (1932) “Translation of the Kojiki.” Kobe: J.L. Thompson & Co.

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Provincial Titles