Shoya (village headman) (庄屋)

The Shoya (village headman) and the Nanushi (village headman) are one of village officers ("murakata-sanyaku" in Japanese; the three officers of a village), or one of the machiyakunin (municipal officials) in Edo period.

Each Shoya and Nanushi of a village was one of the three officers of a village ("jikata-sanyaku" in Japanese), and the official representative person for the village. In western Japan, the term Shoya was the commonly used name, and Nanushi was the commonly used name in eastern Japan. Additionally, in the regions of Tohoku and Hokuriku, the term Kimoiri (sponsorship) was the commonly used name.

Each Shoya and Nanushi of a town was one of the machi-yakunin (municipal officials) and the official representative person of the town. It is also called a Cho-Nanushi (a town headman), Cho-Shoya (a town headman), and Shihai-Nanushi (a town headman). Machi-Nushi was a familiar name for a town headman.

Function

Under the Murauke (also called "Murauke-sei"; a subcontracting system for a village in the Edo period), a village Shoya or Nanushi engaged in the administration of subcontract works, mainly for taxations such as nengu (land tax) and miscellaneous taxes, and other administrative business. Also, they subcontracted various business concerning the control over the village's residents: Horei junshu (compliance with laws and ordinances), Joikatatsu (conveying the will of the governing to the governed), Ninbetsu shihai (census-taking control), and land management. In other words, they were positioned in the smallest unit of a controlling organization. However, on the other hand, as a representative of a village a Shoya or Nanushi represented his interest for the benefit of the village residents; such as, acting as a leader of a protest movement toward a reduction and/or exemption from a nengu (land tax).
Such an aspect that the Shoya or Nanushi represented to the village is known as 'Soudaikinou.'
In practice, such functions of the Shoya or Nanushi as the smallest unit of a controlling organization and as the representation for the village residents were contradictive. Thus, through early-modern times it resulted in a negative influence upon the Shoya and Nanushi and destabilized the intent of their actions.

Shoya or Nanushi directed public works (engineering works) such as an irrigation channel. Some constructions Shoya built still remain today.

In the late modern times, when the power of the feudal lords waned, a lord of the shogunate system tried to deny the Soudaikinou (a function of village residents' representative) function of a Shoya and Nanushi. In some cases, a load of the shogunate system established new positions such as 'Torishimariyaku' for a village. Howevr, through out the early-modern times, lords of the shogunate system could not wipe out the 'Soudaikinou' function of a Shoya and Nanushi. The assignment of the Soudaikinou function of Shoya and Nanushi would be carried over to the Meiji government.

Selection procedures and compensation for the position of a Shoya and Nanushi

The procedures for the selection of a Shoya or Nanushi were often dependent upon the customs of each individual village. There were three selection procedures for the position: (1) the Heredity Nanushi system would require the legacy in a member of the same family having successively assumed an office in a Nanushi or Shoya position; (2) the Nenban Nanushi system required a yearly family rotation; (3) the final procedural type was a hybrid of the former two (This type was not heredity, but certain persons served in the position for several years). Additionally, there were cases that residents of a village executed an election called 'Irefuda' (vote) to select a Nanushi or Shoya. The desired forms in the selection procedures were entirely dependent upon the various regions and diversification by each villages even in the same regions.

There were three types of compensation for serving in these positions: (1) Payments by a feudal load: (2) Payments through village finance, called 'Muraninyo': (3) Payments in designated land, named 'Kyuden.'
These desired forms of compensational practice were dependent on the various regions and diversification by each village even in the same regions.

O-joya (also pronounced "O-shoya"; a superior village headman, a village official)

Differing from the Nanushi or Shoya, there were some cases that the position called Oshoya (a big village headman) was established to control several villages or more. Besides 'O-joya,' this position's name varied by region under the names of: "Onanushi," "Warimoto (a village official)," "Kimoiri (a sponsor, middleman, and also a village official)," "To-mura (a manger or an official to control villages, ten villages or more as a group)", and "Gougashira."

Nanushi in Edo (old name of Tokyo)

Edo town was originally composed of only homeowners, that is townspeople, and Nanushi was a representative of a town. However, most people of the homeowner class were absent from the town at an early stage and finally Nanushi of a town had disappeared at the end of the seventeenth century in Edo. Instead of a Nanushi of the town, Yamori (a manger who works for a homeowner or a landowner) who was to become a deputy of the homeowner, emerged. Then, Gachi-gyoji who was a representative of Yamori came to be a representative of a town.

Nanushi of local castle towns

Machi-doshiyori (ward head: Osaka and other region)
Toshiyori (Himeji City and other region)
Nanushi Toshiyori (Okayama City and other region)
Kimoiri (Kanazawa City and other region)
Kendan (policing and adjudication authority) and Kimoiri (Sendai City and other region)
Kendan (adjudication authority: Aizuwakamatsu City and other region)
Chodai (a town official to assist the government officials called a Machi Doshiyori or Machi Nanushi in Edo Period: Nagoya City, Inuyama City, Nagaoka City, and other regions)
Shoya (Okazaki City, Iida City, and other regions)
Cho-Kashira (丁頭: Sunpu and other regions)

A house of Shoya

A typical Shoya house was larger than that of the general farmers, many residences of Shoya and Ojoya, which remained today, have historical value, especially the omoya (main building) and Nagaya-mon Gate. Important Cultural Property' in the following sentences refers to the national important cultural property in Japan.

The Kadowaki family residence (Daisen-cho, Saihaku District, Tottori Prefecture)
The main housing of the Kadowaki family residence is designated as an Important Cultural Property. It is the parents' home of Takuji KADOWAKI, an emeritus professor of the Gakushuin University.

The Shoji family residence (Sakaiminato City, Tottori Prefecture)
An actress Youko TSUKASA was born into a branch family of the Shoji family.

The Fukada family residence (Yonago City, Tottori Prefecture)

It is designated as a place of scenic beauty.

The garden was constructed to welcome the Emperor Godaigo when he was exiled to the Oki Province.

The former Shoya, the Naganuma family residence (Miyako-machi, Miyako County, Fukuoka Prefecture)

It is designated as an Important Cultural Property.

The Ogane family residence 'Hana Shoya' (Makinohara City, Shizuoka Prefecture)

It is designated as an Important Cultural Property.

The Naka family residence (Kumatori-cho, Osaka Prefecture)

It is designated as an Important Cultural Property.

The Nagatomi family residence (Tatsuno City, Hyogo Prefecture)
It is the birthplace of Morinosuke KAJIMA, the former chairman of the Kajima Construction Corporation, Ltd.

The Miki family residence (Himeji City, Hyogo Prefecture)

The Meguro family residence (Uonuma City, Niigata Prefecture)

It is designated as an Important Cultural Property.

The Kamitokikuni family residence (Wajima City, Ishikawa Prefecture)

It is designated as an Important Cultural Property. The residence consists of omoya (main building) and two other buildings. The Kamitokikuni family is considered to be a descendant of Tokikuni, a child of TAIRA no Tokitada.

The former Sento Goryo (imperial property), Shoya Nishio mansion (Suita City, Okasa Prefecture)

It was the family home of Koichi KISHI's mother.

The Sasagawa mansion (Niigata City, Niigata Prefecture)

The former Kurosawa family residence (Ueno-mura, Gunma Prefecture)

It is designated as an Important Cultural Property.