Ministry of Popular Affairs

Pre-modern 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
Military Hyōbu-shō
Justice Gyōbu-shō
Treasury Ōkura-shō
Imperial Household Kunai-shō

The Minbu-shō or Mimbu-shō (Japanese: 民部省, "Ministry of Popular Affairs")[1] may refer to:

  1. one of the Eight Ministries (八省) of the Japanese imperial court, established by the Taihō Code of the early 8th century, and continued under the Ritsuryō legal system.[3]
  2. A short-lived ministry during the Meiji period (Aug-Sep 1869, Aug 1870-Sep 1871 ).[4]

Minbu-shō (Ritsuryō)

The ministry, established by the Taihō Code and Ritsuryō laws, was one of the Eight Ministries, in the wing of four ministries reporting to the Controlling Board of the Left (左弁官局 Sabenkankyoku) out of eight ministries.[5] As the name indicates, this body was concerned with oversight over the affairs of the common people, viewed as taxable producers of goods.[2][6] The ministry maintained various records: the population census sent from the provinces, cadastral (real estate) records, and tax accounting records.[6]

Ministerial authority under Yōrō Code

The Yōrō Code (a revised version of the Taihō Code that created the ministry), stipulates the powers vested in the ministry, under its Official Appointments statute (職員令 Shikiin-ryō, "Article for the Ministry of Popular Affairs"). There it is stated that :


"the ministry is responsible for the registers of populations,[lower-alpha 1] the labour tax, family obligations [i.e. exemptions from labour tax in deserving cases, such as that of a son the sole support of aged parents, etc.];servants and slaves [who being unfree and propertyless were untaxable]; bridges and roads, harbours, fences, bays, lakes, mountains, rivers, woods, and swamps etc.; rice lands in all provinces."Sansom tr.[2]

In the above "all provinces" does not include the capital.[8] The census for the aristocracy who had clan names (uji or kabane) etc. was under the purview of the Jibu-shō (Ministry of Civil Administration). And the ministry was not "directly responsible for the upkeep of roads, bridgees, etc.," but merely kept such records for taxation and tax transportation tracking purposes.[2]

Popular Affairs certificate

The ministry issued order certificates or charters called the minbushō-fu (民部省符 "Popular Affairs certificate") to officials and provincial governors (kokushi). The shōen system recognized private ownership of reclaimed rice-paddy lands, but did not automatically confer tax-exemption (as some misleading dictionary definitions suggest). From the early Heian Period, the tax-exempt or leniency status was ratified by the certificate or charter (kanshōfu (官省符)) issued either by this ministry or the Great Council (daijō-kan) itself. (See kanshōfu-shō (官省符荘)).[9][lower-alpha 2]

In the Jōgan (貞観) period (859-877) occurred a breakdown of the Ritsuryō system under the Fujiwara no Yoshifusa regime, with authorities of the ministries absorbed by the Great Council.[10] The decree of Jōgan 4, VII, 27 (August 826)[lower-alpha 3] essentially stripped the ministry of its control over the tax-leniency policy, ordaining that all applications for tax relief would be decided completely by the Great Council of State (daijō-kan), and its ruling delivered directly to the countries by the Great Council's certificate (daijō-kan fu). The ministry still issued certificates for exemptions on the shōen estates, but this was just rubberstamping decisions from above, as before. These changes in the exercise of administration were codified in the Jogan shiki (貞観式 "Procedures of the Jogan Era") and later Engishiki.[lower-alpha 4][11] The ministry was thus reduced to processing clerical responsibilities concerning the provinces.


The Minbu-shō (民部省) was headed by the minister, whose office was ordinarily filled by a son or close relative of the emperor, of the fourth grade or higher.[2][12][13]

aliases: "Chief administrator of the ministry of civil services"[14]
aliases: "Vice-Minister"[2]
aliases: "Assistant Vice-Minister"[2]

Under the Ministry were two bureaus:

The Shukei-ryō, or Kazue-no-tsukasa (主計寮), the "Bureau of Computation"[17] or "Bureau of Statistics."[2] was in charge of two forms of taxes, the chō (調 "handicraft tax") and the (corvée). The was a form of conscripted compulsory labor, or more often the goods paid to be exempt from the obligation.

The Shuzei-ryō or Chikara-ryō (主税寮), the "Tax Bureau,"[2][17] was in charge of the third form of tax, the so ( "land tax (paid by rice)"). The three forms of taxes were known as Soyōchō (租庸調) under the Ritsuryō system.

trained mathematicians who calculated tax revenue and expenditures.[6]
The director was in charge of dispensing and receipt from the government granaries. so[2]
trained mathematicians who kept tax records.[6]

The Rinin (廩院) was an ancillary facility to this ministry that stored a portion of the corvée tax ( of soyōchō) and nenryō shōmai (年料舂米 "yearly assessed polished rice"), which were distributed during ceremonies and functions.[18][lower-alpha 5]

Personages who held offices

List of translated aliases


See also

Explanatory notes

  1. The word (in) all provinces (諸国) appears at the beginning of the original text, and so "aller Provinzen" appears here in Dettmer 2009, p. 226, but Sansom leaves ".. in all provinces" to the end of paragraph.
  2. The Ministry of Popular Affairs (which dealt with the common people and not the gentry) did not have the decision-power to issue such charter on its own initiative. It merely drafted and rubberstamped the charter at the behest of the Great Council. 坂本賞三 (1985), 荘園制成立と王朝国家 (snippet), 塙書房
  3. in volume 6 of Ruijū fusen shō ("assorted orders abridged")
  4. There is a shift in terminology. The exemption from kanmotsu (官物), which are mentioned in the Jōgan decree and the Engishiki, was understood to include the fuyu (不輸 "tax privlieges") rights
  5. This differs from the Ōiryō, the granary of the Imperial Household Ministry.


  1. "Ministry of Popular Affairs"[2]
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Sansom 1932, pp. 87–88, vol. IX; Samson does not redundantly print the Japanese 8-fold for each ministry. For the Japanese equivalent, consult pp. 71-77; pp. 77-82; pp.82-83 (overview and first two ministries).
  3. Sansom 1978, p. 104
  4. 1 2 高柳, 光寿 (Takayanagi, Mitsuhisa); 竹内, 理三 (Rizō, Takeuchi), eds. (1974) [1966], 角川日本史辞典 (2 ed.), 角川書店, p. 976, ISBN 4040305027
  5. 1 2 Organizational chart diagram, Deal 2006, p. 90
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Miller 1979, pp. 124–128
  7. Heading: "職員令 21 民部省条... 掌.." (Yōrō code text)押部, 佳周 (Oshibe Yoshikane) (1981), 日本律令成立の研究 (Nihon ritsuryō seiritsu no kenkyū) (snippet), 塙書房, p. 100
  8. Dettmer 2009, p. 226, note 405
  9. Sato, Elizabeth (1974), "Early Development of the Shōen", in Hall, John Whitney; Mass, Jeffrey P., Medieval Japan: Essays in Institutional History, Stanford University Press, p. 96
  10. Entry for "貞観時代 (Jōgan jidai)" in Kadokawa historical dictionary[4]
  11. 早川, 庄八 (1997) [1978], 日本古代の文書と典籍, 吉川弘文館, pp. 55–56 Missing or empty |title= (help); |contribution= ignored (help); Originally published 1978 in 『古代史論叢』 2 (中)
  12. 和田, 英松 (Wada, Hidematsu) (1926), 官職要解 : 修訂 (Kanshoku yōkai: shūtei 3rd ed.) (NDL), 明治書院, pp. 69–71
  13. Titsingh 1834, p. 428 Totsomg gives Japanese representation next to each French name of office, but the latter does not correspond well with modern English translations.
  14. 1 2 Varley, H. Paul. (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki, p. 272.
  15. Borgen 1994, p. 118; quote: "(Year) 877, Michizane was named junior assistant minister of ceremonial."
  16. Murase 2001, p. 5; "Senior Secretary in the Bureau of Popular Affairss"
  17. 1 2 3 McCullough 1999, p. 112
  18. 佐藤, 信 (1997) [1984], "日本古代の宮都と木簡", 2(下), 吉川弘文館, p. 62 Missing or empty |title= (help), Originally 1984 "民部省廩院について" in 土田直鎮先生還暦記念会編』, Vol. 2(下)
  19. Florenz, Karl (1906), Geschichte der japanischen Litteratur, C. F. Amelangs, p. 242
  20. Dykstra, Yoshiko Kurata (tr.) (2003), The Konjaku tales (snippet), Kansai Gaidai University Publication, pp. 270–271
  21. 1 2 Royall 2003;Commissioner of Civil Affairs (probably Koremitsu), p.228. Minbu no Taifu = Commissioner of Civil Affairs p.1162
  22. Nussbaum, p. 210
  23. Whitehouse 2010, p. 138
  24. Van Goethem 2008, p. 96 (Popular Affairs minister)
  25. McCullough & McCullough 1980, pp. 810
  26. Ooms 2009, p. 112, this source inconsistently use ministry or department for various shō.
  27. Borgen 1994, p. 117ff
  28. Versucher 2007, p. 319
  29. Kawakami 1903, pp. 36–7
  30. Ministry of Civil Administration, Sheffield.
  31. Naoki 1993, pp. 234


Translations of primary sources
Secondary sources
additional sources used to compile English translated names.
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