Otoshiyori (御年寄)

Otoshiyori was a female servant post (or also indicated the servant herself) in O-oku (the inner halls of Edo Castle where the wife of the Shogun and her servants resided) in the Edo period, and was often called Rojo as well. The post was placed in a rank of 'Omemie-ijo' which was allowed to see Shogun and his wife in person. There was a similar post for female servants working in inner halls of a samurai residence. However, descriptions here are made only for Otoshiyori in O-oku.

The job and position

The Otoshiyo post was the second-highest one of those of female servants in O-oku, but the persons in this post were the most powerful in O-oku, controlling everything in inner halls, being equivalent to Roju in Omotemuki (literally, the front halls: indicating governmental operations). Basically, there were Otoshiyori to Seii taishogun (literally, "the great general who was to subdue the barbarians") and Otoshiyori to his wife. However, depending on the era, there was Otoshiyori to a princess of the shogun family or Otoshiyori to shogun's real mother. For example, Otoshiyori Egima in the Ejima-Ikushima incident was Otoshiyori to Gekko-in, the real mother of Ietsugu TOKUGAWA, the seventh shogun. The power and social status of Otoshiyori was dependent on the era, but it is said that the rank of Otoshiyori to Shogun was basically placed above those of other Otoshiyori.

The jobs were done in a yearly rotation and in a monthly rotation. When an Otoshiyori served for a month in the monthly rotation, she entered 'Chidorino-ma' (literally, plover room) in the Gotenmuki area around 10 AM, and summoned female servants, directing everything there without going out of the room. The Otoshiyori is said to have exited from the room around four PM. By the way, the Otoshiyori to shogun's wife did her job not in the 'Chidorino-ma' room but in 'Rojoshu-tsumesho' (literally, the room for female servants) near to the wife's residence. In the latter half of the Edo period, a post named "Goyogakari" was established to handle, for example, private talks with governmental officers working in the Chu-oku area.

One of female servants' duties in the inner halls was yotogi for shogun (to sleep with shogun). When shogun selected one of Shogun's Ochuro (female servants in waiting for Shogun) for yotogi, and informed the Otoshiyori of the name of the Ochuro, the Otoshiyori ordered the selected Ochuro to wait in shogun's bed. When shogun selected one of his wife's Ochuro, it was customary that the Otoshiyori to shogun negotiated with the Otoshityori to shogun's wife. When an Ochuro, a subordinate of an Otoshiyori, was selected for yotogi, became pregnant, and the son became the heir to the shogun and was proclaimed Shogun later, the Otoshiyori could become quite powerful in O-oku.

In the later Edo period, some concubines of shogun were given 'Otoshiyori-kamizakaku' (literally, the head Otoshiyori level). However, this did not mean that such females were appointed to the Otoshiyori post. As described above, the person to sleep with shogun was selected from Ochuro servants. When the servant became pregnant after sleeping with shogun, she came to be considered a 'concubine,' but her rank status remained Ochuro. It is sad that 'Otoshiyori-kamizakaku' was given to the servant for making her treatment equivalent to that of Otoshiyori or Joro-Otoshiyori (the highest female servant post in O-oku) in salary and rank status.

Rank status

Ichinosoku,' the place with the highest status of 'Nagatsubone' (attendants' quarters), where female servants in O-oku resided, was allocated to Otoshiyori. It is said that "Ichinosoku" was provided with a space of around 70 tatami mats. It is also said that the place was divided into around ten tatami-mat rooms, with a lavatory, bath room and kitchen as well. Salary was mostly supplied as 'koryoku-kin' (money for buying clothes), 'kirimai' (an amount of rice crop), 'charcoal,' and 'gosai-gin' (silver coins to buy miso paste and salt), and in addition, it is also said that, after an Otoshiyori retired from her post, a residence, land, and land rent were given to her as well. It is said that the status in going out of the castle was equivalent to that of a person with a 100,000 koku of rice crop. It is said that a high-class female servant employed persons called 'Heyakata,' and chore-men called 'gosai' who did her private chores, such as shopping outside the castle instead of her. It is said that an Otoshiyori mostly employed more than ten 'heyakata' persons.

Relationships with Joro-otoshiyori

Female servants from a kuge (court noble) family, accompanying a female who was from a kuge family and married to shogun, were appointed to the Joro-otoshiyori post, the highest post for female servants in O-oku. The Joro-toshiyori servants played the role of advisers to shogun or shogun's wife, and managed ceremonies and rituals in O-oku. Coming form kuge families, they were provided with no political power, and it is said that they confronted Otoshiyori servants who were from hatamoto (a direct retainer of the bakufu) samurai families. However, it is said that the O-oku female servant system became disorganized towards the end of the bakufu period, and that Anekoji in the era of Ieyoshi TOKUGAWA, the twelfth shogun, was largely involved in governmental operations of the bakufu as well.

However, there are various theories concerning Joro-otoshiyori as in the following: One theory is that the female servants who were positioned in the highest post of the female servants in O-oku, or the Joro-otoshiyori post described above, were simply called Joro, and of those in the Joro post, the persons who were also appointed to the Toshiyori post were called Joro-otoshiyori, and the other theory is that the persons in the Joro-otoshiyori post, in the Ko-joro (female servants training to become Joro servants) post, and in the Otoshiyori post were totally called Rojo.

Major Otoshiyori

Yajima no tubone