Shikibu-sho (式部省)

Shikibu-sho (Ministry of Ceremonial) was one of the eight central ministries under the Ritsuryo system (a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo code) in Japan.
It was also called by a Japanese name, 'Nori no tsukasa.'
Shikibu-sho was renamed Monbu-sho (Ministry of Education) during the period from 758 to 764. Shikibu-sho administered two bureaus, Daigaku-ryo (Bureau of Education) and Sani-ryo (Bureau controlling Sani, courtier without post).


Shikibu-sho was regarded as the most important ministry after Nakatsukasa-sho (Ministry of Central Affairs) among the eight central ministries, because it managed the personnel evaluation system (the Personnel Rating Section was responsible), the code of etiquette, the recruitment and promotion (the conferment of a court rank and appointment to an office), and the award, with administering Daigaku-ryo - an organization for training up government officials. Therefore, Shikibu-Kyo, the Secretary of Shikibu-sho, was recognized as an important post, which established a convention that the Imperial Prince with a rank equivalent to or higher than Shihon (the fourth rank of Imperial Princes' rank) was appointed to the post since 872. Similar case was Nakatsukasa-Kyo, the Secretary of Nakatsukasa-sho that was chosen from among the Imperial Princes with a rank equivalent to or higher than Shihon.
However, concerning the prerequisite for the post of Shikibu-Kyo, Yoshimoto NIJO mentioned in "Hyakuryo Kunyosho" (court and samurai rules of ceremony and etiquette) that was compiled in the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan): 'The most excellent Imperial Prince should assume the post of Shikibu-Kyo.'
Namely, it was believed that such an Imperial Prince outstanding at lineage, career and scholarship could assume the post of Shikibu-Kyo. Actually, in the early Heian period, the Imperial Prince with excellent political discernment and business ability, such as the Imperial Prince Kazurawara and the Imperial Prince Tokiyasu were frequently appointed to the Shikibu-Kyo.

However, as the blood relationship with the Emperor became more important in appointment than the political discernment, the Shikibu no Taifu (Senior Assistant Minister) came to be recognized as the substantial Secretary instead of the Imperial Prince appointed to the Shikibu-Kyo. Confucian scholar who served as an emperor's jidoku (imperial tutor) conventionally assumed the post of Shikibu no Taifu. The Shikibu no Taifu was chosen among family members of the Hino family, the Sugawara family and the Oe family that came from a long line of Confucian scholars. Particularly, for the Sugawara family and the Oe family, this appointment worked as the high road to produce Sangi (councilor) from their families. Even if such a person was promoted to the Sangi, he was allowed to serve as the Shikibu no Taifu concurrently. Meanwhile, both Taifu and Shofu (Junior Assistant Minister), assistant directors of Shikibu-sho, were prohibited to assume another supernumerary position concurrently.

As mentioned above, Shikibu-sho was regarded as the important ministry, and therefore the rank of Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) was often conferred on the Shikibu no Taijo (Senior Secretary, corresponding to Shorokuinoge [Senior Sixth Rank, Lower Grade] as a rule) and the Shikibu no Shojo (Junior Secretary, corresponding to Jurokuinojo [Junior Sixth Rank, Upper Grade] as a rule) extraordinarily. In addition, Shikibu no Jo (Secretary of the Ministry) with the rank of Goi (Fifth rank) was called Shikibu no Taifu (Master of the Ministry).

Moreover, such a person ranked Rokui no Kurodo (Chamberlain of Sixth Rank) serving as either Shikibu Taijo or Shikibu Shojo concurrently was extraordinarily admitted to the court, and therefore he was called Tenjo no Jo.


Kyo (corresponding to Shoshiinoge [Senior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade]) … one person

The quota of the posts equivalent to or lower than the Taifu was as follows.

Taifu (corresponding to Shogoinoge [Senior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade]) … one person
Shofu (corresponding to Jugoinoge) … one person
Taijo (corresponding to Shorokuinoge) … one person
Shojo (corresponding to Jurokuinojo) … one person
Daisakan (Senior Alternate Adjudicator, corresponding to Shoshichiinojo [Senior Seventh Rank, Upper Grade]) … two people
Shosakan (Junior Alternate Adjudicator, corresponding to Shohachiinojo [Senior Eighth Rank, Upper Grade]) … two people

Shisho (officials doing miscellaneous duties about documents) … 20 people
Shosei (officials managing clerical works in Kageyushicho [an organization auditing local governments in the Ritsuryo period]) … 30 people (since 812. But the number decreased to 20 only in 813.)

Shojo (low-ranked officials to convey petitions) … two people
Shibu (low-ranked bureaucrats) … 80 people (other theory suggests that the number was 30)
Jikicho (factotum) … five people

Government officials working under high-ranked personnel in Shikibu-sho

Sani-ryo (the office was merged into the head office of Shikibu-sho in 896)

[Original Japanese]