Shinke (new family) (新家)

Shinke (new family)
Shinke is a type of status in the court nobility. Described in the main section.

This family became eligible to join the nobility by the Kazoku Rei (Law of Nobility) enacted in 1884. Shinke refers to families which were not daimyo (Japanese territorial lord) or former court nobles but were allowed to join the nobility as a reward for their contribution at the Meiji Restoration (families of the so-called genkun) or for services to the nation thereafter.

Shinke is a type of family status in the court nobility. Shinke refers to families established after the Bunroku and Keicho periods (i.e. a period roughly corresponding to the Edo period). The families which existed before this period are called kyuka (families of ancient extraction).

Among 137 Dojo families, 68 of them are Shinke (though whether Hirohata family and the Daigo family mentioned below are Shinke or not is still controversial). Most of the Shinke families were established within 100 years of the end of the Toyotomi government, a period roughly corresponding to the 17th century.

Although the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) controlled the Imperial Court, which had been weakened in the domestic wars, by means of the Kinchu narabini kuge shohatto, a set of regulations that applied to the emperor and the Kyoto nobles, a weak Imperial Court was not in the interests of the bakufu because it was the Imperial court which appointed the seii taishogun (great general who subdues the barbarians). To control the Imperial Court, the bakufu created a system which allowed a series of regents and advisers to dominate the Imperial court, but there was a risk that this would produce 'anti-bakufu sentiment' among the court nobles who were excluded from the system. In this context, the bakufu granted hereditary stipends not just to the heirs but to other sons of the nobility (who would otherwise have become priests to reduce the burden on their families) and permitted these other sons to establish new families, thereby placating the nobility while at the same time avoiding a decline in the number of court nobles and retaining the minimum number of people required for the operation of the Imperial Court. Many families had been discontinued in the period including the Northern and Southern Courts period and the Muromachi period, and the family names of these became targets for restoration.

Most of the Shinke families had the status of Urin or Meike (type of court nobility) and Han-ke (type of court nobility), but, despite their promotion to the nobility, did not generally become councilors. However, there were two families whose status was manifestly different from the other Shinke families, these being the Hirohata family (Ogimachi-Genji (Minamoto clan)) which was a part of the Hachijomiya family that had lost its membership of the Imperial family and the Daigo family (a branch family of the Ichijo family of regents): these families had the status of seiga just below the rank of regent and included members who advanced as far as sadaijin (minister of the left). Hence, it is sometimes questioned whether these two families can be grouped with the other shinke families.

At the other end of the scale, the families of jigenin (a lower rank in the nobility) who newly attained the rank of official were also called Shinke. Generally, with more frequent comings and goings than the Dojo, it seems that it was often ex-doctors from the Tenyakuryo (the Bureau of Medicine where medical expertise and special skills were required) who joined jige families as Shinke.