Shumon aratame

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  • Japanese: 宗門改 (shuumon aratame)

Shûmon aratame were Edo period records of religious affiliation which historians find useful as something akin to census information. The Tokugawa shogunate required all subjects to officially register with a Buddhist temple, and also that every year every head of household had to report to his village headman or equivalent official that no one in his family was a Christian. As each village headman or other local/regional official reported in, each domain totaled the figures, and recorded a total number of people in the domain. These are not necessarily always reliable indicators, however, of actual religious belief or affiliation, as many people are known to have simply registered with the nearest Buddhist temple, rather than necessarily with one of any particular sect or denomination with which they associated.[1]

Given that population surveys performed by the shogunate or by individual domains more explicitly conducted to serve that purpose were infrequent or inconsistent, and do not necessarily include people of all ages and from all classes of society, the shûmon aratame records serve as a useful supplementary source for determining population figures. The shûmon aratame also provide a somewhat different perspective on domain population as they include people associated with the domain resident outside of the domain temporarily or long-term, such as retainers on sankin kôtai attendance in Edo, or merchants active in Osaka, whereas other population surveys might more strictly reflect people actually resident in the domain at that time.

In Tosa han, the number of registered adult males was recorded beginning in 1660, and for the full population from 1681 every year until 1870. While in Tosa residents were generally recorded as registered even as infants, in many domains, people do not appear in the records until age one, age four, or even age fifteen. The records for most years survive, though not all do. The situation in most other domains can be assumed to be similar.


  • Luke Roberts, Mercantilism in a Japanese Domain: The Merchant Origins of Economic Nationalism in 18th-Century Tosa, Cambridge University Press (1998), 57-58.
  1. Arne Kalland, Fishing Villages in Tokugawa Japan, University of Hawaii Press (1995), 30.