Senji (imperial decree) (宣旨)

Senji refers to the formal name of the documents to transmit orders of the emperor and Dajokan (Grand Council of State) in Japan in and after the period of ritsuryo system (the system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo code). This also refers to one of the styles of documents issued by the imperial court. A variant of Shochoku (imperial edict).


When the emperor's orders and intents (Chokushi [imperial order]) were put into document form at Dajokan as Dajokanpu (official documents from Dajokan to local governments) and Dajokancho (official documents from Dajokan to Buddhist temples), Shi (clerk) (under the ritsuryo system) of Benkankyoku (Controller's Office) received the orders and intents in oral. At this time, Benkanshi (controller) created own memo in order not to forget the contents of such orders and intents. This memo came to be issued to relevant people, then stylized as a document, and became Senji. Although only Benkan and Shi put their signatures to the documents, such documents were recognized and treated as documents reflecting the emperor's intents. Since the authority was added to the sentences without inji (royal seal), and false imperial decrees came to be issued often at the end of Edo period.

Originally, Shosho (imperial edict, decree) and Chokushi (imperial order) existed as orders issued by the emperor as specified in the Ritsuryo codes, but, by reason that the issuing of such orders was limited to those cases of important issues, and the format was regulated strictly, the issuance was allowed only at special occasions. Then, a style of document called Senji which were flexibly issuable appeared.

Procedures for issuing

Senji was issued only after the processes of transmission from the emperor to Naikikyoku (Secretaries' Office of the Central Affairs), via Naishi no tsukasa (female palace attendants), Kurodo no to (Head Chamberlain), Shokei (court nobles who work at Imperial Court as high rank post) in charge, Gekikyoku (Secretaries' Office of the Council of State) and Benkan. The procedures started around the Konin era.
A document transmitted from Naishi (a maid of honor to the emperor) to Kurodo no to was called 'Naijisen,' which developed to 'Nyobo hosho' (letters sent by the court ladies by imperial order) in and after the 'Kamakura period.'
Orders and intents which were, in principle, transmitted orally to Shokei from Kurodo no to were called 'Kuzen' (oral decree), but those which were put into document form later were called 'Kuzenan' (a paper that was made to tell imperial order).

In the Heian period, the emperor's orders and intents put into document form under the name of Gekikyoku which was originally in charge of examination of Shochoku, also came to be called Senji. A document which was issued by Benkan under its name by the order and intent of Giseikan (Legislature) (Kugyo [court noble]) instead of official Dajokanpu, was called Kansenji (a government edict).

Inzen (a decree from the retired emperor) and Rinji (the emperor's command)

From the insei period (during the period of the government by the retired Emperor) until after the Kamakura period, the number of Inzen issued came to exceed that of Senji issued. Rinji, which was issued through more simplified procedures than Senji came to be issued.

Senji' as a name of Nyobo (court lady)

In addition, Senji came to refer to a name of Nyobo serving the imperial court. Miare no Senji and Rokujosaiin no Senji are known as above example. Initially, it referred to Naishi who transmitted Kuzen to Kurodo (Chamberlain) when Senji was proclaimed, but later came to be called regardless of imperial proclamation of Senji.

[Original Japanese]