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  • Japanese/Okinawan: 摂政 (sessei/shisshi)

Sessei, or Shisshi in Okinawan, was the highest government post of the Kingdom of Ryûkyû below the king; the sessei served the function of royal or national advisor. Though the same kanji which compose the Okinawan word sessei/shisshi (摂政) are read as Sesshô in Japanese, the position is not quite the same, and is not derived originally from the Japanese model or system.

The sessei worked alongside the king and the Sanshikan (Council of Three) to draft and enact laws, though the king gradually became more and more of a figurehead over the course of the period when Ryûkyû was a subsidiary of the Japanese han of Satsuma (1609-1870s). The sessei and Sanshikan together were known as the wii nu za, or "Upper Seat," while the less powerful Council of Fifteen was known as the shicha nu za, or "Lower Seat."

Like most Ryukyuan government officials at the time, most sessei were appointed from the elite class of yukatchu, scholars of Chinese subjects from the town of Kumemura. Some were actually Han Chinese, appointed into this top-ranking position because of their expertise in matters of government; Chinese were occasionally also appointed to other high-ranking positions, such as that of chôshi.[1]

According to the "Mirror of Chûzan" (中山の世鑑, chûzan no sekan), the classical Ryukyuan history text by sessei Shô Shôken, the sessei have always been a part of the system of the Ryukyuan Kingdom and were originally appointed by the "excellent ancestors" (英祖). The three men who held the position of sessei during the first Shô Dynasty of Ryukyuan kings were Chinese, but beginning with the Second Shô Dynasty, sessei were native Ryukyuans. Royal officials, sometimes princes, would select the sessei, and the appointment would come with an appropriate rank and title, often that of "prince" (王子), despite the sessei often being a member of the aristocracy and not royalty himself. It was not uncommon for such a title to be conferred upon anyone who performed great service to the kingdom, though right of succession and other such royal rights implied by the title of "prince" did not accompany such an honor. In some cases, however, a royal prince already in the line of succession by right of descent would serve as sessei; the Crown Prince served as sessei, for example, from 1828 to 1835, before taking the throne as King Shô Iku.[2]

While most sessei essentially played the role of a bureaucrat and privileged member of the royal entourage, Shô Shôken, who held the post from 1666 to 1673, is particularly known for acting as a lawmaker, issuing a great many important and beneficial reforms during his short tenure.


  • Smits, Gregory (1999). "Visions of Ryukyu: Identity and Ideology in Early-Modern Thought and Politics." Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.
  1. Chan, Ying Kit. “A Bridge between Myriad Lands: The Ryukyu Kingdom and Ming China (1372-1526).” Thesis, National University of Singapore, 2010, 59.
  2. Miyagi Eishô 宮城栄昌, Ryûkyû shisha no Edo nobori 琉球使者の江戸上り, Tokyo: Daiichi Shobô (1982), 16.