Roju (member of shoguns council of elders) (老中)

Roju was a post in the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) and domains in the Edo period. Roju was a permanent post placed immediately under Shogun to control the national administration, and was not a fixed name for the post. The name originated in Toshiyori (literally, old persons), which was an important post in the Tokugawa clan when the Tokugawa family was a daimyo, and the use of Roju for the post was established in around the Kanei era (1624 - 1644). In domains, Karo (the chief retainer) was sometimes called Roju.


In the Edo bakufu, the post of Rokuninshu (literally, six persons; corresponding to the later Wakadoshiyori (literally, younger old persons) post) was established in 1634, and was abolished in 1649, with the job absorbed in that of Roju. However, in 1662, the Wakadoshiyori post was again established for housekeeping of the Shogun family, sharing the job with Roju. In "Tokugawa Jikki" (a collection of official records of the Edo bakufu), Roju was also recorded as Shukuro (literally, experienced old persons). Initially, Roju was called Toshiyorishu (literally, old persons), and the name of Toshiyorishu was generally used among Hatamoto (direct retainers of the bakufu, which was a form of Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun).

Roju of the Bakufu controlled Ometsuke (the post for watching the states of the domains and Imperial court), Machi-bugyo (town magistrate), Ongoku-bugyo (the collective name of the magistrates placed at important areas directly controlled by the government in the Edo period), and Sunpujodai (the person sent for administering the Shunpu castle), and was responsible for the affairs concerned with the imperial court, kuge (court nobles), daimyo (Japanese feudal lords), shrines and temples as well as for allotment of chigyo (a right of controlling a domain). The number of Roju was four to five, and one of them was in charge of daily affairs in monthly rotation. The room called Goyoubeya, placed in the Honmaru-goten palace of the Edo castle, was used as their office, and for important matters, they met there and conferred together. When they conferred on an important matter, they exchanged their opinions through writing on ash placed in the Goyobeya as the best measure to prevent their talks from being eavesdropped and not to leave any documentary evidences. Actually, the Roju other than the one in charge for the month also conferred on and dealt with important matters. In 1680, one of the Roju was assigned a job specialized in financial affairs as Katte-gakari (literally, kitchen-handling) Roju. This Roju was also called Roju-shuza (head Roju) and administered the affairs of the state as the chief of Roju.. In addition, Nishinomaru Roju (Roju at the western compound) was sometimes placed. Nishinomaru Roju was not engaged in the affairs of the bakufu but was solely responsible for housekeeping of Ogosho (leading or influential figure) or the heir of Shogun who resided in Nishinomaru. In the reformation of the shogunate government in 1867, at the end of the Edo period, the tsukibansei system (in which one of the Roju was in charge of daily affairs in monthly rotation) was abolished and a new system was established in which each of five presidents was exclusively responsible for domestic affairs, accounting, foreign affairs, the army, or the navy.

It was specified that ordinarily a Roju had to be Fudai daimyo (a daimyo who had belonged to the Tokugawa group before the Battle of Sekigahara) with 50,000 koku (approx. 180 liters/koku) rice yields. However, there were exceptions, and some daimyo with less then 30,000 koku rice yields became Roju from the Roju-kaku post (a post at the Roju level). Although no Tozama daimyo (a daimyo who did not belong to the Tokugawa group before the Battle of Sekigahara) could become Roju, it seems that some Tozama daimyo became 'Negai daimyo' (who was allowed to become a Fudai daimyo from a Tozama daimyo) and then became Roju. Most Roju came from posts under the immediate control of Shogun, such as Sobayonin (lord chamberlain), Kyoto-shoshidai (the Kyoto deputy), and Osaka-jodai (the person sent for administering the Osaka castle).

It was custom that the rank of the daimyo who was appointed to Osaka-jodai was promoted to Jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade) from Jugoi (Junior Fifth Rank). Furthermore, it was also custom that, when a person was appointed to Kyoto-shoshidai or Roju, the rank of the person was raised to Jushiinoge and jiju (a chamberlain). A person whose rank was Jushiinoge or higher was allowed to have an audience with Emperor.

When a Roju had an official title (for example, XX kami or XX taifu), use of the same title by other persons was voluntarily avoided. When a person was appointed to Roju, the daimyo and the hatamoto who possessed the same official title as that of the new Roju, except those whose shikoseki (waiting room) was Oroka (a big corridor), Ohiroma (a big hall), or Tamarinoma (literally, a gathering-together hall), changed their official titles voluntarily. When a Roju talked to another Roju, the name and title 'XX dono,' with the official name inserted into them, was used.

It is said that their working hours were around four hours. Ordinarily, Roju came to the Edo castle at around 10 AM and left there at around 2 PM.

Roju resided mostly around the Nishinomaru (the western compound of the Edo castle) (the present outer garden of the Imperial Palace).

Roju in domains

In domains, the post which was equivalent to Karo (the chief retainer) was sometimes called Roju. For example, when it is found that 'Roju' was written in an application form, it is necessary to conduct historical investigations to determine whether it indicated Karo under a lord or Roju at the bakufu.