Naishi no suke (a court lady of the first rank) (典侍)

Naishi no suke was a government post in the ritsuryo system (a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo code) and an undersecretary (a court lady) of Naishi no tsukasa (female palace attendants in kokyu [empress's residence.])

The director was Naishi no tsukasa, but later, Naishi no tsukasa became the empress, so that no one was appointed to that position and Naishi no suke practically served as the director.

In the kanisoto sei (the ranks of the bureaucracy system of the ritsuryo system), Naishi no suke ranked at Jushiijo (Junior Fourth Rank) (or Jushiinoge [Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade]), but often promoted to the second or the third ranks.

It is also read as 'suke' or 'tenji.'
Many of them were called themselves by adding their family names or the government posts of their fathers before the post name, such as To no Naishi no suke, or Dainagon Naishi no suke (Secretary of major councilor).

Naishi no suke until the end of Edo period

Naishi no suke was the highest rank of the high-quality court ladies in the palace at the end of Edo period.
The person who was placed in the most highest position among the Naishi no suke and controlled the court ladies was called osuke, and controlled all of the various matters of Otsune Goten Palace in Gosho (imperial palace) along with the Koto naishi no jo (clerical worker at government offices, also called nagahashi no tsubone since lived in a corridor from Seiryoden to Shishinden.)
Some Naishi no suke served as the secretary in the daily life of the Emperor (vestal court ladies), others served as the concubines who receive the total favor of the Emperor and bear princes and princesses. (Almost all of the real mothers of the Emperors who were enthroned in the Edo period were Naishi no suke.
In the Imperial Families of the recent period, the biological child of seishitsu (legal wife) became the heir in the first time ever in the generations of Empress Teimei and Empress Kojun.)
Therefore, only daughters of kuge (a court noble) having the certain family status could be Naishi no suke, and the daughters of higher ranked kuge among Urinke and Meike became Naishi no suke.

On the other hand, daughters of kuge having the most highest family status such as Sekke (line of regents and advisers), Seiga, and daijinke (the third highest status for court nobles) supposedly became the lawful wife, and were given the position upper than nyogo (Jusango), so that they were supposed not to be Naishi no suke.

Naishi no suke in the Meiji period and later

The court ladies including Naishi no suke were occupied by daughters of kuge until the end of the Edo period and they had the immeasurable power in the court by serving close to the Emperor, however, drastic reform was executed by the new Meiji government.
Fist, Naishi no suke Shizuko HIROHASHI and Naishi no suke Fusako TAKANO, who had the biggest power in the imperial court as the Naishi no suke of the Emperor Komei, were dismissed from their positions because 'they overwhelmed the kokyu (empress's residence) by their power and didn't frequently obey even the order of the empress.'
Next, all the court ladies under the rank of Naishi no suke who were placed under the Emperor were integrated and moved under the empress, and daughters of samurai families and the peerage could be adopted.

Further, the government posts of the Empress and court ladies were arranged, and Naishi no Kami (Principal Handmaid) was again placed above Naishi no suke, however, it practically remained vacancy. Naruko YANAGIHARA, the mother of Emperor Taisho was the last Naishi no suke who was the real mother of the Emperor in the imperial palace. Thereafter, Naishi no suke played a role only as the court lady for clerical work in the modern age, however, its recruitment standard depended on the caste system until the end of Edo period. In 'Employment bylaw of Kyujo nyokan (court lady in the place where Emperor lives)' in the early Taisho period, it was described that when higher ranked court ladies such as Naishi no suke and Gon no naishi no suke are adopted, 'they should be selected from daughters of former tosho, former lords among peerage', so they were selected from kuge and Daimyo family (feudal lord family) before the Meiji restoration among the peerage (however, for the lower ranked court lady, woman who was not from the peerage was allowed to work in the palace only in her generation depending on her ability). The examples of such court ladies were Toshiko Kishida and Utako Shimada. The salary of Naishi no suke was 250 yen (the first salary of a teacher of an elementary school at that time was 8 yen), and the salary of Gon no naishi no suke was 200 yen in the Meiji era.

Duty of Naishi no suke

In 'Document about acquaintanceship of Kyujo nyokan,' the duties of Naishi no suke and Gon no naishi no suke until the Taisho era were specified.
According to the document, the duties of Naishi no suke and Gon no naishi no suke were:

To stand by the Emperor and the Empress to control everything in front of them;
To take charge of the costume above the waist of the Emperor and the Empress, tray services, and bathing.

To supervise the court ladies;
To hold Kenji (the Sacred Sword and the Sacred Jewel) and hand them to the chokunin jiju (chamberlain appointed by the royal command) at the Kenji togyo (ceremony for imperial succession);
To attend the pray in the shinden (shrine sanctuary) such as kashikodokoro (a palace sanctuary) and Koreiden (a palace enshrines the sprits of ancestor) as the proxy for the Empress when she cannot attend;
To manage a grant and a gift;
To mediate the visit from the Imperial family to the Emperor and the Empress;
To manage the stored money;
And others.

Abolition of Naishi no suke

Abolition of the post of Naishi no suke was triggered by the establishment of the Togu-shiki (the Board of the Crown Prince's Affairs) court lady system in the end of Taisho era, and was determined by the reform of the court ladies led by crown prince at the time, Prince Hirohito (Emperor Showa). When Prince Hirohito became the emperor, the Togu-shiki court lady system changed over to Kogogushiki (the Queen-consort's Household Agency) court laday, and Naishi no suke naturally disappeared, so that Otsubone system (court lady system), which continued from the ritsuryo system, was abolished.