Jito (manager and lord of manor) (地頭)

Jito was a post established by Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) and Muromachi bakufu to manage and control shoen (manor) and kokuga-ryo (koryo (duchy), or an Imperial demesne). It is called jitoshiki. It was established along with shugo (provincial constable).

It existed before the period of the Taira clan government, but it was established formally throughout the country by MINAMOTO no Yoritomo after approval by the Imperial Court. Jitos (land stewards) were chosen from among immediate vassals of the shogunate who lived in local territories in order to manage land and peasants directly by supervising the military affairs, police forces, tax collection and administration of manors and imperial territories. During the Edo period, feudal lords were also called jito.


(Signature by Yoritomo)
I hereby appoint Tadahisa KOREMUNE, third-ranked officer of the Left Division of Middle Palace Guards, as the jito of a manor in Ise Province. The territory has been ruled by the group led by TAIRA no Nobukane, former governor of Dewa Province. However, since Nobukane rose up in rebellion, an order was issued to hunt down and kill him. Therefore, in accordance with precedents, I hereby assign Tadahisa KOREMUNE as the new jito of the territory. Let him promptly perform his duty. That is an order.
June 15, 1185

The above is an official document written by MINAMOTO no Yoritomo in order to appoint Tadahisa KOREMUNE as the land steward of the Hase imperial territory in Ise Province.

The guarantee given by the bakufu to protect a hereditary territory ruled by its vassal was known as "honryo-ando" (assurance of territorial rights), while the allocation of a new territory by the government was called "shinon-kyuyo" (territory allocation). Both these procedures were put into effect by appointing vassals as land stewards. A vassal appointed as a land steward of a territory was not provided with the territory itself, but only the authority to control and rule the territory. Since vassals appointed as land stewards by the bakufu did not always have the authority to settle territorial disputes, they were also often appointed by manorial lords and imperial government officials as manorial officials ("shokan" in Japanese), local magistrates ("gunji"), local administrators ("goji") or governor of imperial territories ("hoji") to give them appropriate authority. In a certain sense, therefore, land stewards were ruled not only by the bakufu but also by manorial lords and imperial government officials. In fact, there was a provision in the code for samurai established by the bakufu (known as "Goseibai Shikimoku") that land stewards who failed to collect taxes for manorial lords should be dismissed. It is even possible to see samurai who were under the direct control of the bakufu as being hereditary retainers who served the Kamakura family and, at the same time, territorial governors who served imperial government officials and manorial lords by performing their duties to collect taxes, supervise police activities and preside over trials.

However, the bakufu alone had the right to appoint and discharge land stewards and neither manorial lords nor imperial government officials had any such right. Consequently, land stewards used their position to gradually seize the power to control and rule manors and imperial territories by various means, including promoting farming. For example, they refused to pay taxes to manorial lords and imperial officials or even misappropriated taxes on various pretexts, and when disputes arose between manorial lords and imperial officials, they contracted to provide them with fixed amounts of annual taxes and to manage manors. The subcontract system entailed the risk of having to make payments fixed by contracts to manorial lords and imperial officials even in poor crop years, but the amounts of crops exceeding fixed payments were treated as land stewards' private income, which often brought them considerable benefits. Taking advantage of this system, land stewards came to establish effective control of manors and imperial territories.

Since land stewards often failed to pay agreed amounts of taxes to manorial lords or imperial officials even under this subcontract system, some manors and imperial territories were divided between land stewards and manorial lords or imperial officials. Sometimes territories were divided based on mutual agreement (called "wayo chubun") and sometimes lines were drawn in manors and imperial territories to show boundaries (called "shitaji chubun").

Land steward possessed land under their direct management (called "horiuchi," etc.) around their residences. Since it was customary for residences to be exempted from taxation during the Heian and Kamakura periods, land stewards took advantage of this custom to place land around their residences under their direct management. These pieces of land under their direct management were called by different names, such as "tsukuda" (private land), "mitsukuri" (privately cultivated land), "shosaku" (privately owned land) or "kadota" (family land), and were cultivated by their servants called "genin" or "shoju" or by village farmers. Yields from these pieces of land were treated as land stewards' income.

The spread of subcontracting practices, boundary drawing and increase in directly managed land show the establishment of land stewards' right to control land (right to appropriate land) in manors and imperial territories. Despite the opposition by manorial lords against their encroachment, land stewards generally gained greater power as time went on. The encroachment by land stewards gradually resulted in their monopolization of land and led to the dissolution of the system of manors and imperial territories.

The word "jito" originally meant "field workers" who were in charge of the on-site management and security enforcement of manors and imperial territories. Many land stewards lived in the territories to which they were assigned to manage local affairs on the ground. However, powerful vassals of the Kamakura family who were appointed as land stewards also held important government posts, and since they had to serve the shogun in person, many of them continued to live in Kamakura. These powerful vassals sent their relatives or retainers to local territories so as to have them manage local affairs on the ground. Territories left in the hands of relatives often caused disputes between vassals (legitimate heirs) and these relatives (illegitimate children) over these territories, and in such cases, relatives were sometimes allowed to succeed as land stewards.

Land stewards differed from manorial lords in the way they managed local affairs. Being warriors, land stewards often resorted to arms when settling disputes. The well-known petition of peasants of the Ategawa manor in Kii Province is a document written by peasants to complain to their manorial lord about the delay in the payment of annual taxes (lumber) caused by wrongful actions by the land steward of their territory. The document describes how the land steward conscripted peasants for forced labor by threatening to "cut off the ears and noses" of resistant peasants and to "cut the hair of their wives to make them nuns." There is also a Japanese saying that jito and whining children are the hardest people in the world to reason with.


The word "jito," which began to be used around the mid-Heian period as a word meaning "boundaries" or "territories," came to mean influential people that ruled territories, officials that managed manors, or local government officials (variously called "gunji," "goji" or "hoshi") that managed imperial territories on the ground. During the reign of the Taira clan in the late Heian period, there were a few cases where samurai retainers of the Taira clan were appointed as jito for the on-site management of territories, but the actual situations and duties of these jito are not known.

The samurai government of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo (latter-day Kamakura bakufu), which established its rule in the Kanto region in opposition to the Taira clan, appointed its direct vassals (called "gokenin") as land stewards in order to strengthen its control. Many of the vassals of the Kamakura family were officials of manors and imperial territories called "gunji," "goji" or "hoshi" who had been given status merely as servants or subordinates of manorial lords (called "honjo" (master) in Japanese) and imperial officials (more specifically, head official called "zuryo"). However, by being appointed as land stewards by the government of Yoritomo which ruled the Kanto region, they were recognized as independent territorial rulers.

Although the Yoritomo government was initially a private political and military group in the Kanto region, it gradually gained recognition of the official authority (the imperial court), including Emperor Goshirakawa, as the ruler of eastern Japan and established its legitimacy as a government through its war with the Taira clan (Jisho-Juei War) in the late 12th century. In 1185, when MINAMOTO no Yoshiie and MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune, who were members of the Yoritomo government, began to oppose Yoritomo immediately after his government defeated the Taira clan, Tokimasa HOJO, Yoritomo's father-in-law, visited Kyoto to negotiate with Emperor Goshirakawa's group in order to obtain imperial permission (the Bunji imperial permission) to create positions ("jito" (land steward) and "shugo" (provincial military governor)) and to collect supplies of rice for soldiers from manors and imperial territories for the purpose of hunting down and killing Yoshiie and Yoshitsune. These incidents are recorded in "Azuma Kagami" (official history of the Kamakura bakufu) and "Gyokuyo" (diary of Kanezane KUJO, an inspector of documents for the emperor). However, due to the fragmentary nature of the descriptions and differences between the descriptions in the two documents, opinions differ as to the officially recognized definition of the duties of these newly created positions. Of the several theories that have been proposed about when the Kamakura bakufu was established, the one that emphasizes the importance of the creation of the positions of jito (land steward) and shugo (provincial military governor) as an epoch-making development showing the nationwide establishment of the Kamakura bakufu rule is supported by the majority of scholars in Japan.

Needless to say, manorial lords and imperial officials (court nobles) were opposed to the authorization of land stewards and military governors appointed by Yoritomo, and the appointment of land stewards was limited to imperial territories confiscated from the Taira clan (former territories of the Taira clan) (opinions also differ as to how the appointment of land stewards came to be limited to these territories). However, after the Retired Emperor Goshirakawa died in 1192, the practice of appointing land stewards gradually spread to other territories as well.


As a result of the victory in the Jokyu War in 1221, the Kamakura bakufu forfeited about 3,000 territories from the imperial court. These territories were located in the western part of Japan, and many gokenin moved to the forfeited territories in Western Japan as new jito. These newly appointed land stewards were called "shinpo jito" (new land stewards), while the existing ones were called "honpo jito" (hereditary land stewards).
Likewise, rules regarding the tax shares of newly appointed land stewards were called "shinpo rippo" (new taxation rules) and their details were as follows:

One cho (approximately one hectare) out of every eleven cho of farmland was given to land stewards as their property exempted from annual taxes paid to manorial lords or imperial officials.

The right to collect five sho (approximately 0.25 bushels) of rice per tan (approximately 10 ares) of farmland was given to newly appointed land stewards.

Profits from mountains, fields, rivers and seas were split between land stewards, manorial lords and imperial officials.

One-third of the property of a criminal arrested by a land steward was given to the latter.

It was like that. However, local customs and precedents were given priority over these newly adopted rules. Some of the hereditary land stewards who were also appointed as new land stewards subsequently tried to apply newly adopted rules to their old tax shares, thereby causing problems. The Kamakura family's vassal clans that were appointed as new land stewards in western Japan included the Mori and Kumagaya clans of Aki Province, the Otomo clan of Bungo Province and the Chiba and Shibuya clans of Satsuma Province, and these great waves of migration are called by some the "Great Barbarian Invasion" in the history of Japan.

Muromachi period

The main duty of provincial military governor during the Kamakura period was to exercise military and police power, and they were not given the authority to manage economic affairs. This was the reason why local land stewards were able to expand their influence to manors and imperial territories.

However, provincial military governors were accorded the right to collect half of annual taxes and to settle disputes over property during the Muromachi period, which greatly increased their economic authority. Based on newly gained economic power, provincial military governors strengthened their influence within their territories in order to subjugate land stewards, soldiers, village headmen and other influential people and to place them under their own control. As a result, the status of land steward established during the Kamakura period declined in importance, causing land stewards to become beings similar to local samurai just like other warriors and influential village headmen and to finally disappear from history both in name and in reality by the mid-Muromachi period.

Land stewards during the Edo period

The title "jito" continued to be used in the Satsuma territories ruled by the Shimazu clan as well as territories in Hyuga Province ruled by the Ito clan and remained even in the Edo period, when these territories became, respectively, the Satsuma and Obi Domains. However, land stewards in these later periods are different in nature from those in previous periods.


During the Sengoku period (period of Warring States), the title "jito" continued to be used in Satsuma and Osumi Provinces, which were ruled by the Shimazu and Kimotsuki clans. Names with "jito" titles, such as Kanemasa YAKUMARU, Uchinoura Jito in the territories ruled by the Kimotsuki clan, and Narahara Nagato no kami, jito of Kawabe-gun (present-day Kagoshima Prefecture) ruled by Tadayoshi SHIMAZU, appear in 'Shogo Jito Keizu' (genealogy of land stewards in various villages). The title continued to be used in these areas even in the Edo period, when they became part of the Satsuma Domain.

Initially, land stewards moved to live in local communities that they were assigned to. This type of steward system is known as "full-time (or live-in) steward" system ("kyo jito" in Japanese). From the Kanei era (early 17th century) onward, it became common for executives of the Satsuma Domain to be concurrently appointed as land stewards, and these executives continued to live in areas around Kagoshima-jo Castle even during their tenure of office as land stewards. These land stewards were called "part-time stewards" ("kakemochi jito" in Japanese).

The title continued to be used even in the early Meiji period. For example, after the Hongo clan that had ruled Miyakonojo City of Hyuga Province for a long period of time was transferred to Kagoshima City, Michitsune MISHIMA was sent out to Miyakonojo City as the land steward and efficiently managed to appease the discontented samurai, fulfilling his duty until the abolition of feudal domains and the establishment of prefectures. It is also known that an indigenous samurai (called "goshi" in Japanese) was hired as the land steward of Ijuin Village during the Meiji period.


The duties of land stewards during the Edo period were almost the same as those of local governors in the Kanto region appointed by the Edo bakufu. In the Satsuma Domain, land was divided into two categories - i.e. private land owned by the retainers of the domain and land directly managed by the lord of the domain - and land stewards were allocated to the latter category of land. The biggest difference with local governors appointed by the Edo bakufu was that most of the village land stewards in the Satsuma Domain were executives of the domain, including chief retainers, lord chamberlains, commissioners of finance and town magistrates, who were concurrently appointed as jito. Also, land stewards were chosen from among retainers living in areas around the castle, including high ranking retainers who had large private estates (called "isshomochi") as well as low ranking retainers called "ichidai koban" (non-hereditary lackeys and servants who were appointed as officials with incomes to support 10 persons or more).

The actual administration of village affairs was delegated to the upper-class indigenous samurai. Deputy land stewards were sent out to some of the villages. After the part-time land steward system was introduced, land stewards normally stayed in areas around the castle, delegating administrative authority to indigenous samurai living in local communities, but they were obligated to inspect their territories within four to five years after their appointment as land stewards. Executives of the domain included owners of private estates, who were also concurrently appointed as the land stewards of their estates, as shown by the example of Kiyomoto KOMATSU, the owner of the estate of Yoshitoshi (present-day Yoshitoshi, Hiyoshi-cho, Hioki City), who was appointed as the land steward of Kiyomizu-go (present-day Kokubunkiyomizu-cho and other areas in Kirishima City). However, on Nagashima (Kagoshima Prefecture) and Koshiki-jima islands where the old land steward system remained, land stewardship was a full-time position known as a "job without other duties," and it was ranked between ship marshal and military commander.

According to 'Sanshu Gochisei Yoran' (Summary History of Satsuma, Osumi and Hyuga Provinces), low ranking samurai who served as lackeys and servants were given the privilege of being promoted to the rank of hereditary guard if they were appointed as land stewards. Samurai retainers who assumed a position with an income to support 10 persons or more were promoted to the rank of guard, which, however, was non-hereditary rank, so that their descendants remained in the previous family rank. In order to be promoted to the rank of hereditary guard, it was necessary to hold a post higher than secretary or assume a position with an income to support 10 persons or more for three successive generations. However, being concurrently appointed as a land steward gave the privilege of being promoted to the rank of hereditary guard in a single generation. Also, a territory with no successive jito was called 'meisho' (明所), and it was put under the control of oban gashira (captains of the great guards). However, if there was no person appointed to succeed the current land steward of an important local territory, such as Izumi-gun, Shibushi town and Ijuin town, a land steward of other territory was appointed to govern the territory in order to avoid making it a vacant territory. For example, Hisakaze SHIMAZU was concurrently appointed as the land steward of Izumi Village twice while he was serving also as the land steward of Kaseda Village. In this case, Hisakaze SHIMAZU's official title was not "land steward of Kaseda and Izumi Villages" but "land steward of Kaseda Village, who was also in charge of Izumi Village" (sometimes also called "sashihiki" (person in charge)).

Obi Domain

The tile "jitoshiki" continued to be used in the Obi Domain as well. The land steward of Kiyotake town, who represented the lord of the domain in Kiyotake, a pivotal territory in the north-eastern part of the Obi Domain, was of particularly importance. In addition Kiyotake jito (Kiyotake land steward), titles such as Sakatani jito, Kitagawachi jito, Aburatsu-ko Port jito and Odotsu jito are found in the Obi Domain's register of vassals recorded in 1842. In the Obi Domain, land stewards were chosen from among samurai retainers living in areas around the castle as in the Satsuma Domain. However, the land steward of Kiyotake was chosen from among horse guards (called "umamawari" in Japanese), while land stewards of other territories were chosen from among middle ranking retainers who served as servants or low ranking foot soldiers.

Initially, the land steward of Kiyotake was almost always chosen from the members of the Kawasaki clan, except for ITO Oribe Yuzen, who served as the steward from 1705 until 1713, but after Zenzaemon NAGAKURA assumed the position in June 1724, retainers other than members of the Kawasaki clan were appointed for the position.