Sanshoku suinin mondai (the question of the three alternative positions (三職推任問題)

Sanshoku suinin mondai is a controversy in relation to the interpretation of the articles in Haretoyo KAJUJI's diary "Haretoyo-koki (summer in the 10th year of Tensho)" dated April 25 (old calendar) and May 4 (old calendar) of 1582.


Nobunaga ODA held no official title after resigning as Udaijin (Minister of the Right) and Ukone no daisho (Major Captain of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards) in May (April in old lunar calendar), 1578. In June (May in old lunar calendar), 1582, there was a move in the Imperial Court to endorse Nobunaga for one of the three posts, Daijo-daijin (Grand minister of state), Kanpaku (chief adviser to the Emperor), or Seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians") as a reward for his subjugation of Takeda. The point of the argument is whether the move was forced by Nobunaga or not, while other issues which could be derived from the main argument include considerations to the grand plan of the Oda administration and the background of the Honnoji Incident.

Excerpts from the diary

On 25th (snip)

I called on Murai's.

It was mentioned (written as '被申候') that an envoy with court ladies should be sent to Nobunaga in Azuchi to inform him that he should be endorsed for Daijo-daijin, Kanpaku, or Shogun.

So I reported.

On 4th (snip)

Nobunaga had his pageboy, Oran ask the envoy about the business.

I congratulated him on his victory in Kanto and said that Nobunaga should be Shogun, and then Oran came back with Nobunaga's note.


"Haretoyo-koki" that had been handed down had missing pages from May to September in 1582, but in 1968 Yoshihiko IWASAWA released "The Record of Summer in 1582" he found in Naikaku-bunko (literally, "Library of the Cabinet," National Archives of Japan now) which was a fragment of "Haretoyo-koki." Iwasawa's interpretation of the line 'he should be endorsed for Daijo daijin, Kanpaku, or Shogun' was that it was Haretoyo who said it in line with the Emperor's wish, and later this interpretation prevailed to form a common belief that Nobunaga refused the Emperor's wish.

However, Kyoko TACHIBANA, a researcher of history, studied usages of '被申候'in other passages across Haretoyo's diary and concluded it was what Sadakatsu MURAI said, arguing that Sadakatsu would never say such a thing without Nobunaga's permission because Nobunaga disliked his followers' arbitrary decisions or executions, and that he represented Nobunaga's wish to gain the post, which led to controversies of pros and cons among historians. Tachibana's interpretation also claims that Haretoyo's words 'should be the Shogun' in an article on May 4 (old calendar) were the official intention of the Imperial Court, and Nobunaga intentionally expressed his false embarrassment concealing his true meaning by having 'Oran' (Naritoshi MORI) meet the envoy. Based on this interpretation, Tachibana concluded that Sanshoku suinin indicated Nobunaga's victory over the Imperial Court which it was unable to veto.

Akira IMATANI, supporting Tachibana's theory, presented that Nobunaga bowed down to the Imperial Court's authority because he had to keep the medieval relationship of power with the Emperor.

Masanobu HASHIMOTO presented that Nobunaga accepted the post of Daijo daijin instead of Seii taishogun. He thinks that the informal decision of appointing Nobunaga as Daijo daijin had been already made after confirming his informal consent when Haretoyo talked about Sanshoku suinin mondai based on the following facts: Sakihisa KONOE, who assumed Daijo daijin in March (February in old lunar calendar), abruptly resigned in June (May in old lunar calendar); Hideyoshi called Nobunaga 'Daishokoku' (the Grand Minister) in his letter to Terumoto MORI on August 15 (July 17 in old lunar calendar) after the Honnoji Incident, while the formal discussion at court on granting a posthumous title of Daijo daijin to Nobunaga was in October; and the subsequently issued Emperor's order of the posthumous title for Nobunaga contained a word 'choji Dajodaijin' (重而太政大臣) (the Grand Minister again), which Hashimoto believed meant the second appointment of Nobunaga as Daijo daijin.

Shin HORI (a historian) argued against these interpretations that Haretoyo expressed his own opinion on May 4 (old calendar) at that time and Sanshoku suinin had nothing do to with Nobunaga's intention, because: the article of the diary dated May 4 and "Message from Imperial Prince Sanehito" (誠仁親王消息) suggest that such an unspecific Sanshoku suinin came from a situation where no one knew what Nobunaga wanted; and nothing suggests Nobunaga and Sadakatsu had talked about this matter. Hori pointed out that Nobunaga had resigned as Minister of the Right and Major Captain of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards because he would not take any official post until his unification of the whole country, and Hori also said Nobunaga probably did not want any official post, and instead he had the aim of becoming an emperor outside the Ritsuryo system (a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo code).

Tetsuo OWADA with the same interpretation as Hori's presented that Nobunaga probably thought of accepting the title of the Shogun after May 4 (old calendar).

This controversy was still under way as of 2007 without reaching any settlement over an accepted theory.

[Original Japanese]