Sakumei sakukan

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  • Date: 1844
  • Japanese: 作名作官 (sakumei sakukan)

The Sakumei sakukan ("invention of names, invention of offices") was a document created by the government of the Ryukyu Kingdom in November 1844, listing a series of false government offices which could be named in communications with Westerners, in order to keep the true hierarchies and structure of the kingdom's government secret.

The list concerned, chiefly, two top-ranking fake offices: the sôrikan (総理官) and fuseikan (布政官). Another fifteen were added in 1848 in conjunction with the circulation of the Ikokujin he hentô no kokoroe (a document instructing people how to answer foreigners' questions, i.e. the lies that should be told in order to protect the kingdom's secrets). These were not false titles entirely, but rather semi-empty offices; officials designated as sôrikan, fuseikan, or chihôkan (地方官)[1] engaged in diplomatic contact with foreigners in place of officials of any real level of authority.

The precise reasons for deploying such a policy, and for hiding the true titles of the government's offices, are unclear. The list was likely intended as only a temporary measure, initially, but after the arrival of yet another French ship, the Cleopatre, in 1846, this policy became more permanent.

Historian Kamiya Nobuyuki suggests the reasons for the implementation of this policy may have had some connection to the Makishi-Onga Incident of 1859.


  • Marco Tinello, "The termination of the Ryukyuan embassies to Edo : an investigation of the bakumatsu period through the lens of a tripartite power relationship and its world," PhD thesis, Università Ca' Foscari Venezia (2014), 142n255, 145.
  1. A position created in 1816 when the HMS Alceste and Lyra came to the island. Tinello, 145n259.