Shumon Ninbetsu Aratame Cho (The Village People Register of Religious Faith and Relationship) (宗門人別改帳)

Shumon Ninbetsu Aratame Cho refers to a register created in the Edo period, which is equivalent to a modern household register. It is also known as Shumon Aratame Cho or Shushi Ninbetsu Aratame Cho. Many Shumon Ninbetsu Aratame Cho are still extant, serving as valuable documents that enable scholars to examine even the lineage and family history of ordinary people.


As Christianity was banned by the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) of domains decided to investigate what kind of a faith their subjects had and record results in a register as a measure of policing. Older ones were created in the 1630s, and after the completion of the terauke seido (the system in which the public should be registered in any one of designated temples to prove their Buddhist faith) in 1664, Shumon Ninbetsu Aratame Cho were created nationwide.

Creation of Shumon Ninbetsu Aratame Cho

It was decided that Shumon Ninbetsu Aratame Cho should be created every year by Nanushi or Shoya (village headman) or by machi-doshiyori (ward head), but afterwards, it became a regular practice for Shumon Ninbetsu Aratame Cho to be created once every several years in some areas. The name and age of family members per household and the name of a family temple were recorded in Shumon Ninbetsu Aratame Cho, which virtually worked as a household register. When leaving the domicile in the case of marriage, apprenticeship, etc., a person was required to have terauke shomon (certificate of the family Buddhist temple) and to be registered in new Shumon Ninbetsu Aratame Cho in new address. If a person left the domicile without doing the above-mentioned procedures (elopement or moonlight flit), he/she was removed from Shumon Ninbetsu Aratame Cho, the status called 'cho hazure' (homeless), and suffered disadvantages such as a restriction on residency.

Change in purposes

In the 18th century, with its purpose as religion investigation being attenuated, Shumon Ninbetsu Aratame Cho were used as basic documents for the check of the nation's population (census) and for the collection of taxes and so on. After the Kyoho reforms, the nationwide integration of censusing was pursued, and after 1726, it was re-decided that the census should be carried out once every six years.

[Original Japanese]