Kurodo (Chamberlain) (蔵人)

Kurodo refers to one of Ryoge no kan (class outside of the Ritsuryo system) under the Ritsuryo system (a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo codes) in Japan. The Kurodo played the role of secretary. Kurodo was called jichu, sekiro or sekihairo in Tang China. Kurododokoro (the chamberlain's office) was a place to perform clerical work, and was established in the northern part of Kyoshoden Hall (Palace Archives) in the Imperial Palace.
蔵人, Chinese characters of kurodo, also refers to one of hyakkan na (a name taken after his or her family's official rank) or person's name, and in this case, it was pronounced as 'Kurando.'


In 809, Emperor Heizei assigned his throne to Emperor Saga, and moved to Heijo-kyo (the ancient capital of Japan in current Nara) as the Retired Emperor Heizei. At this time, his choki (a favorite mistress), FUJIWARA no Kusuko of kokyu (empress's residence), and her older brother, FUJIWARA no Nakanari accompanied him, but, FUJIWARA no Kusuko was in the position of kami (director) (naishinokami (or shoji; Principal Handmaid) of naishi no tsukasa (female palace attendants) which played a role of secretary to the emperor. Therefore, Emperor Saga who were in Heian-kyo without a secretary had a problem in documentation and clerical work. Furthermore, since there was a conflict with the Retired Emperor which brought about the Kusuko Incident, in 810, FUJIWARA no Fuyutsugu and KOZE no Notari were appointed as Kurodo no to (Head Chamberlain), and Mano KIYOHARA was appointed as kurodo, as new secretaries. This was the start of the history of the kurodo. Such appointments were conducted also for the purpose of preventing secrets from being leaked to the side of the Retired Emperor Heizei. Thereafter, the authority was strengthened during the periods of Emperors Koko and Uda, and the organization was expanded.

Official duties

As a domestic governing institution of the Imperial Family, Kurododokoro was originally in charge of management of documents and gyobutsu (Imperial treasures), handling of confidential documents, and handling of suits. Eventually, Kurododokoro stopped handling suits, but became an institution handling everything handled by tenjobito (a high-ranking courtier allowed into the Imperial Palace) such as transmission of Shochoku (imperial edict) and Joso (report to the throne), guard, clerical work, routine tasks and so on. In the mid Heian period, Kurododokoro came to handle matters concerning all domestic governing institution of the Imperial Family which were called '-sho' or '-dokoro' such as Naijudokoro (Royal Pages Office), Mikushige-dono (the place handling clothes in the Imperial palace), Shinmotsudokoro (Serving Office), Outadokoro (an organization that provided the education and management for ancient Japanese music, Uta, and traditional instruments), Gakusho (chamber of music), Tsukumodokoro (a palace office responsible for making accessories and furnishings), Goshodokoro (an office to maintain books in the Imperial Court), Ippon-goshodokoro, Uchi no goshodokoro (the place that kept Emperor's books), Edokoro (Imperial office treating about pictures) and so on.


Kurodo no betto (superintendent of chamberlains)
This refers to a person nominally responsible for Kurododokoro. This post was concurrently assumed by a minister under the Ministerial Ritsuryo system. The fixed number was one. The role was to transmit Shochoku to each minister.
Emon no suke (assistant captain of Outer Palace Guards)

Kurodo no to
This refers to a person actually responsible for Kurododokoro. The fixed number was two.
In most cases, one was selected and appointed among Benkan (officials of the dajokan), and was called 'Tono Ben,' and the other was selected and appointed among Konoe no chujo (middle captain of the palace guards), and was called 'Tono Chujo.'

Goi no kurodo (Kurodo with the Fifth Rank)
This refers to officials of Kurododokoro. The fixed number was three. The role was to perform that of a secretary like taking charge of transmitting Chokushi (imperial orders) and Joso jointly with Kurodo no to. Some officials who concurrently assumed the posts of Benkan and Emon no suke (assistant captain of Outer Palace Guards) were called 'sanji kentai' (filling three positions).

Rokui no kurodo (Kurodo with the Sixth Rank)
This refers to officials of Kurododokoro. The fixed number was approximately four to six. The role was to perform that of a secretary such as serving of Emperor's meals, and so on.

Hikurodo (trainee in the Kurododokoro)
Zoshiki (low-level functionary)
Tokoroshu (assistant official of the Emperor's private office)
Suino (the officer for all of general affaires including the receipts and disbursement of the treasury)
Kodoneri (minor officer)
Takiguchi no musha (samurai guards of the Imperial Residence)
Takagai (hawker)
Konin (caretakers of dominion of Todai-ji Temple)

[Original Japanese]