Zuryomei (Honorary titles) (受領名)

Zuryomei were unofficial names for government posts.

They were unofficial names for government posts which the Imperial Court and temples allowed merchants and traders, coming in and going out of the Court and temples, to use.

Mainly over the Muromachi period and the Sengoku period (period of warring states), they were granted as an unofficial name of government post to vassals who had made military exploits and achievements by shugo daimyo (shugo were Japanese provincial military governors, that became daimyo, which were Japanese feudal lords) and daimyo (Japanese territorial lord) in the Sengoku period.

Zuryomei given by the Imperial Court and temples

In Kyoto, only merchants, traders and performers, who had businesses with the Imperial Court, Gosho (Imperial Palace) and temples, were granted the Zuryomei such as Kami (Governor), Suke (Vice Governor) and Jo (Provincial Governor), and a privileged position to increase their prestige for the social standing and family business. Merchandise dealt by merchants and traders with the Zuryomei was more valuable as a brand and traded at the most extraordinary price among the merchandise made by craftsmen in the same industry. Therefore, many merchants and traders sought the Zuryomei for their honor and prosperous trade.

Especially for the Imperial Court and temples which were exhausted by maelstroms of war and grabs for Shoen (manor in medieval Japan) made by samurai families, to grant official rank and the Zuryomei was an essential source of income.

Zuryomei in samurai families

After the Muromachi period, shugo daimyo started the custom of granting unofficial names of government post without official Ikai (Court rank) and Jimoku (appointment ceremonies) from the Imperial Court, to vassals and hikan (low-level bureaucrats) who had made military exploits. These unofficial names were the Zuryomei. In many cases, the Zuryomei was given to Kokujin (local samurai) and Busho (Japanese military commanders) who were under the control of daimyo (Japanese feudal lords) and also had a castle, territory and military strength. The custom later changed into a state in which the naming such as jikan (official name which samurai called himself without the Imperial Court's involvement), hyakkan na (a name taken after his/her or family's official rank) and azuma hyakkan (titles conferred on daimyo and samurai) became popular among samurai. When the Zuryomei was given by a lord, written appointment to a government service called kanto no kakidashi, zuryo no kakidashi, kantojo or the like was issued, which was respected as an honor representing a social status and fame of samurai family.

[Original Japanese]