From SamuraiWiki
Jump to navigationJump to search
  • Other Names: 名主 (nanushi)
  • Japanese: 庄屋 (shouya)

Shôya, also known as nanushi, were village headmen in the Edo period.

Their responsibilities often included managing tax and census reports, overseeing tax collection, serving as a representative for the village & intermediary in communicating with higher authorities, and otherwise working for the good of the village and to maintain order. Such "census reports" were rarely true censuses, re-counting or re-accounting for the total population of the village, but rather often took the form of reporting specifically on births, deaths, changes of residence, marriages, adoptions, and the like within these small, relatively tight-knit communities.[1]

In some regions, headmen were also called outside of their villages to aid in other business, such as assessments of public work projects and the associated burden of corvée labor and material contributions from various villages, or in investigating fires, shipwrecks and the like alongside other officials.

The shôya was often aided by village "elders" known as kumigashira or hyakushô kashira. Villagers were often grouped into co-responsible groupings known as goningumi ("five person groups") or kumiai, each of which was then responsible to the kumigashira. In some domains, other levels of official positions existed between these.

Whether the position of shôya was hereditary varied from one region or domain to the next; in some regions, such as in Fukuoka han, it was also not uncommon for village headmen to be appointed from other villages.

Neighborhood headmen, also known as nanushi, claimed a similar or equivalent position, overseeing neighborhoods within the city of Edo. Around the end of the 18th century, there were some 250-260 nanushi in Edo, overseeing roughly one thousand neighborhoods. This meant that many headmen were responsible for as many as seven, eight, or even ten neighborhoods each. The goningumi and guardhouses in each neighborhood answered to the nanushi. The nanushi in turn reported to the machidoshiyori ("town elders"), assistants to the Edo machi bugyô (Edo City Magistrates).[2]


  • Arai Hakuseki, Joyce Ackroyd (trans.), Told Round a Brushwood Fire, University of Tokyo Press (1979), 323.
  • Arne Kalland, Fishing Villages in Tokugawa Japan, University of Hawaii Press (1995), 25-27.
  1. Kalland, 30.
  2. Katô Takashi, "Governing Edo," in James McClain (ed.), Edo & Paris, Cornell University Press (1994), 46, 55.