Inkyo (Retirement) (隠居)

Inkyo is when the head of the family gives away the reigns of the family to another family member and withdraws from official household affairs. Not limited to the reign of the family, it means to give his or her position to another person and live a leisurely life. Or to withdraw from his or her life occupation. It is also called intai.

With reference to the Civil Codes of Japan, inkyo means that the head of the family hands over his reigns of the family to the heir before his death, and in accordance with the enforcement of the law regarding emergent measures on Civil Codes due to enforcement of the Constitution of Japan (No.74 laws in 1947), head of the family system and inkyo system were abolished at the same time as the enforcement of the Constitution of Japan (May 3, 1947).

Inkyo in the Civil Codes

Inkyo in the Civil Codes was stipulated in the old Civil Codes drafted by Gustave Emile Boissonade and announced officially in 1890 (Civil Codes on the acquisition of property and on person (No.98 laws of 1890) which was abolished without enforcement). Later, inkyo was institutionalized by Civil Codes No.4 and No.5 (No.9 laws in 1898) publicly announced and enforced in 1898, it was in effect by 1947 when Civil Codes were revised.

In the Civil Codes before the revision, the right to govern and direct the family i.e. the right of family head was assigned to the head of the family, and the title of the head of the family was called Katoku, the reigns of the family. Inkyo was one of the causes for succession of the reigns of the family to a successor. When a retiree and his successor of the reigns of the family submit an application of inkyo based upon a declaration of an intention to retire, succession of the reigns of the family commences while the current head of the family is still living. The Civil Code before the revision, in and after article 752, the conditions of inkyo was stipulated, except for the due circumstances beyond their control as follows.

1) The head of the family is aged 60 or over. 2) Fully competent successor of the reigns of the family simply accepts the succession.

When the head of the family retires, he loses the right as the head of the family, and he has to become subject to the right of the new head of the family.

Historical Examples of Inkyo

Even once a person retires, he or she should not always live a leisurely life. For example, Emperor Shirakawa in the Heian period handed over his throne to his son, Emperor Horikawa, he became Daijo Tenno (the retired Emperor) and held the real political power until 1129 when he died. It is a so-called Insei (rule by the retired Emperor), thus it is also a kind of inkyo that emperor becomes an retired or cloistered emperor.
However, these are examples of just retiring from the public duties of the Ritsuryo codes, and in fact they retained the position of the head of the family and the real political power as the position of the ruler exercising his power as patriarch of the Imperial family
There were only a few examples of those who retired as a ruler exercising his power as patriarch over the Imperial family while he lived, like Emperor Gotoba and Emperor Gouda.

In the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), although FUJIWARA no Yoritsune, a Sekke Shogun (Shogun from a regent family) was forced to quit his position as shogun, and handed it over to his heir, FUJIWARA no Yoritsugu, he was still called Otono and acted as a guardian of the new shogun. And after Tokiyori HOJO, Tokuso (reign of original household of the Hojo family) who retired shikken (Shogunal Regent) he retained the real power, and this became the common style during the reign.

In the Muromachi bakufu, the third shogun Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA abdicated from his position as shogun and gave it to his 9-year old legitimate eldest son Yoshimochi ASHIKAGA in 1394, and became a priest and also moved his residence to Kitayama Gosho (Kitayama Palace). However, Yoshimitsu also retained the real power until he died at 51 in 1408. Like these examples, quitting the position as shogun and becoming Ogosho (a retired leading figure) is a sort of inkyo. After that, Yoshimochi handed over the shogunship to Yoshikazu ASHIKAGA and Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA did the same to Yoshihisa ASHIKAGA while retaining the real power, all these were aimed at establishing the succession of shoguns. Yoshitane ASHIKAGA was forced to quit as shogun by his own subordinate Masamoto HOSOKAWA and became a powerless retiree, and after this incident, shoguns became almost powerless puppets of Shugo daimyo (Japanese territorial lord as provincial constable) and his former subordinates, finally the Muromachi bakufu was ruined by Nobunaga ODA in 1573.

Nobunaga tried to unify Japan, and in 1576, he handed over the right of the head of the family to his legitimate eldest son Nobutada ODA and retired to a new residence, Azuchi-jo Castle from Gifu-jo Castle. Although he assigned the right of the reigns of the family, Nobunaga retained the actual power of politics until he died in the Honnoji Incident in 1582, and Nobutada's succession to the reigns of the family was just for form. According to one estimate, Nobunaga only gave the right of the reigns of the family to Nobutada because he wanted to establish Nobutada's position as the heir while he was living. After the nominal inkyo, Nobunga used the appellation, 'Uesama' (the upper lord).

Among the other Warring lords, almost all family heads of the Gohojo clan retired while living and handed over the reigns of the family to the next generation, trying to stabilize the future generation.

Ieyasu TOKUGAWA who established the Edo bakufu retired in 1605, only 2 years after he became shogun, and handed the position over to his third son Hidetada TOKUGAWA, and moved his residence to the Sunpu-jo Castle. However, what Ieyasu did was only to show that the shogunship was hereditary in the Tokugawa clan afterwards to daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) and the Imperial court, and he also retained the real power of politics until he died, just like Nobunaga did. In fact, although he gave his position to his son while he was living, he never gave away the title of 'Genji choja' (the top of the Minamoto clan) to Hidetada.

Later, Hidetada, Yoshimune Tokugawa, Ienari Tokugawa and so on handed over their positions to their sons and retired, and retained the real power of politics as Ogosho. There were many cases where lord of domain during the Edo period retired.
However, in case of the lords of domains, a few of them retained the real power after inkyo, and there are many cases where the reason of the inkyo was illness
Further, some of the lords were forced to quit their positions by a group of subordinates due to his misconduct, and handed their reigns to their successors (forced inkyo). During the last days of the Tokugawa Shogunate, there were many cases of retired former daimyo retaining or regaining real power, acting substantially as lords of the domains.

During the Meiji period, because of 'each emperor one era system,' an era name was used until emperor died and it is not considered that emperor in fact retired and became a retired emperor.

Some priests of Buddhist temples retire as inkyo, and in that case, the situation varies a little depending upon the sects. Some sects place successor priests, and other sects accepts the inkyo and place the vice priests who takes over the operation of the temples.

In the case of hossu (the chief priest) of Taiseki-ji Temple, the Head Temple of Nichiren Sho Sect, as a principle, he has to retire as inkyo after deciding the successor and gives over the position of the highest priestship to the successor. The hossu in inkyo may play the role of the incumbent archbishop and work as the head priest at the time of a Buddhist sermon or make a copy of the principal image of the temple when the incumbent is absent because of a trip or illness.

Examples in Foreign Countries

When considering cases in foreign kingdoms and Empires, there are few cases of inkyo. In the case of the line of emperors in China, although Emperor Gaozong of the Southern Sung Dynasty and Qian Long of the Qing Dynasty retired and handed over the reigns to their successors and became Retired Emperors, in contrast, most emperors kept their reigns until their death. Although fewer cases are found in Europe, Karl V of the Great Roman Empire who doubles as the king of Spain as Carlos I, retired due to the fatigue of state affairs and illness, and spent the rest of his life in a monastery.

Other than these example, most European kings and emperors, monarchs of Asian regions retain their reigns of power until death, and there are few cases where they retired while they were alive. However, there are examples where kings and emperors were dethroned by the persons in authority at the time, and the monarchy could not administer the affairs of state due to physical limitations and handed over the throne to the another person.

Merits and Demerits of Inkyo

Merits of inkyo is that with this system, an excellent successor could be mentored, or the successor could be prepared physically and mentally. For example, while Nobunaga and Ieyasu retained the real power of politics, even after being retired, minor things were left for their sons. At the battles after Nobunaga retired, such as the punitive battle of the Takeda clan in 1582, Nobunaga designated Nobutada as head of the army. Also after Ieyasu handed over his position to Hidetada, he designated the closest retainers, Masanobu HONDA and Tadachika OKUBO as supporters of successor Hidetada and let them build him up. Also famous is successful inkyo Terumune DATE in 1584 when he was just 41 in his virility, he handed over the reigns of the family to his legitimate eldest son Masamune DATE, and brought under control of the conflict between Masamune and his younger brother Kojiro DATE for succession, and it gave Masamune a chance to take a giant step. Like these examples, inkyo has many merits from the view point of building up a successor.

When considering demerits of inkyo, it often raises a conflict for real power. For example, when retired person A continues to retain real power and B who newly holds the reigns of the family is only a puppet of A. Then B who is discontent with formal inkyo may cause a rebel against A.

In the history of Japan, the example of Yoshishige OTOMO and Yoshimune OTOMO of the Bungo Province during the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States), may be typical. Sorin (Sorin OTOMO) handed over the reigns of the family at an early stage to his legitimate eldest son, Yoshimune and became a priest, however, he continued to retain the real power. Because of that, Yoshimune was a nominal monarchy and it is said that the relationship with his father, Sorin, was not good around 1580, and the reason why the Otomo clan was one-sidedly pushed by the Shimazu clan invasion was not only for losing the war at the battle of Mimikawa, but also the infighting of the Otomo clan.

Further, there is the example of Shingen TAKEDA who retained real power until his death and failed to mentor the next generation's successor to maintain the system, and was finally ruined. The reason why the Takeda clan was ruined only within nine years after the death of Shingen is said to be that the inner system for Katsuyori TAKEDA of the next generation was not established. Because of the above, there was friction inside the Takeda family between the old vassals group from the time of Shingen and the close retainers group from the time of Katsuyori.

Because there were cases where inkyo was problematic and the whole family ruined, inkyo has to be considered carefully.