Yomei no suke (a sinecure post as honorary deputy governor) (揚名介)

Yomei no suke is a vice minister of kokushi (provincial governors), an honorary post without official duties and benefits. It indicates a person in a government post.


A person having nenkan (a right granted to members of the Imperial family and some Court nobles to nominate a person for a certain government post) and nenshaku (a right granted to a retired emperor, the mother of the Empress Dowager, the Empress Dowager and the Empress to nominate a person for a certain rank) took the salaries given to the government posts while conferring only the official name of a government office on those who requested a court rank appointment for their success. Therefore, a person was occasionally appointed to a government post in an honorary capacity under this system. People in these honorary posts were called 'yomeikan' as they had no power and were officials in name only. Later, as the government's financial position worsened, a person was occasionally appointed as vice governor of provincial offices (suke) in an honorary capacity. The resulting honorary post of suke was called the yomei no suke. "Godansho" (the Oe Conversations, with anecdotes and gossip) describes typical examples of honorary posts including Yamashiro no suke (assistant governor of Yamashiro) and Suieki kan (head of the waterway station). It can be said that Buke-kani (official court titles for samurai) in the Edo period were also merely honorary titles.

However, there is a different hypothesis that Yomei no suke originally had a different meaning.
According to "Sakkai-ki"(Diary), in 1426, the retired Emperor Gokomatsu asked Sadachika NAKAYAMA (who wrote "Sakkai-ki") and KIYOHARA no Yoshinari the places of duty of the 'Yomei no suke' and they answered 'Yamashiro Province, Kozuke Province, Kazusa Province, Hitachi Province, and Omi Province.'
Yamashiro Province was home to Heian-kyo (the ancient capital of Japan in current Kyoto), where there was a rule that Yamashiro no suke, together with Kura no suke (Deputy chief of Kuraryo, Bureau of Palace Storehouses), had to take part in the parade in the Kamo Festival ("Kanshoku-nangi"(book of government posts and criticism). Meanwhile, Kozuke, Kazusa, and Hitachi Provinces were shinno ninkoku (provinces whose gubernatorial posts were reserved as sinecures for imperial princes), where suke acted on behalf of the Vice Governor of the Province. Also in Omi Province, which was the closest province to Heian-kyo other than the Kinai region (the five capital provinces surrounding the ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto), high officers, such as Sangi (councilor) and Hassho (eight ministries and agencies), or close advisers of the Emperor frequently served concurrently as kami, while the suke acted on behalf of the Vice Governor. That is, in all of the above cases, it is assumed that the name 'Yomei no suke' originally indicated an important honorary post which also carried some authority.

However, when the system of nenkan and nenshaku became common and the suke as yomeikan was created, the meanings of yomeikan and Yomei no suke became confused. As a result, the Yomei no suke, which was originally a high-ranking office, came to be regarded as a purely honorary role.
Incidentally, Sadachika NAKAYAMA described in his book "Sakkai-ki" the following historical event when asked by the retired Emperor Gokomatsu to look for the precedents of Yomei no suke:
In the Kamakura period, Ietsune ICHIJO accidentally said, as he faced Yamashiro no suke in the Kamo Festival, 'Yomei no suke will pass through' thereby disclosing a secret that Yamashiro no suke was Yomei no suke, and this caused an uproar.

Yomei no suke in "The Tale of Genji"

The term 'Yomei no suke' appears only once in "The Tale of Genji" in the volume 'Yugao' as: 'a house of a Yomei no suke.'
However, in the Kamakura and Muromachi periods, when "The Tale of Genji" was regarded as a Japanese classic, it seemed that the meaning of Yomei no suke was no longer understood and commentaries of "The Tale of Genji" treated the term 'Yomei no suke' as 'the most difficult part in the Tale of Genji' or ';one of three critical matters in the Tale of Genji.'

It seemed that even Koreyuki SESONJI in the Insei period (the period of government by a retired emperor) could not interpret the original meaning of 'Yomei no suke.'
Accordingly, in "Genji shaku" (commentaries of the Tale of Genji) an incorrect explanation was added that 'Yomei no suke is suke appointed in the country, who was from the Minamoto clan.'
In the Kamakura period, FUJIWARA no Sadaie frankly stated in "Okuiri" (Genji commentaries) that "'Yomei no suke' is the most difficult part to understand in the Tale of Genji and that its meaning may never be understood. "
In the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan), Yoshinari YOTSUTSUJI stated in "Kakai-sho Commentary" that: "Thorough interpretations of each family are different secrets. Therefore, they are passed down by word of mouth." which means that the meaning of 'Yomei no suke' was kept secret and passed down by word of month without keeping a record. Later in "Mingo nisso" (commentaries on the Tale of Genji) by Michikatsu NAKANOIN, it was stated that: "'Yomei no suke' was one of three critical matters in the Tale of Genji. (omitted) The descriptions in 'Kakai-sho' were completely incorrect. The interpretation of 'Yomei no suke' should be described separately." which means that the meaning of 'Yomei no suke' was not described in a public commentary, but in a secret document.

Kanera ICHIJO added correct explanations in his book "Gengo hiketsu" (Secrets of The Tale of Genji) (a book of secrets explaining 15 points which were put on hold in "Kacho yojo" (Aesthetic Impressions)) in 1477 as follows:
Seishinko-ki (diary)
July 22, 967. Yomei kanpaku (chief adviser to the Emperor only in name) is a person nearing retirement. I think that Yomei should not be limited to suke of the country. Thus in the Seishinko Diary the Yomei are called the Yomei kanpaku. They were also referred to as Yomei jo or Yomei sakan.

[Original Japanese]