Toshi choja (藤氏長者)

Toshi choja indicates ujichoja (the head) of the Fujiwara clan.

Choja' of a clan indicates in the ancient and medieval times, the representative of the clan, who controlled them. As the representative of the Fujiwara clan, the Toshi choja handled all matters concerned with the clan, including its politics, finance and religion. Principal jobs of a Toshi choja were to establish the political base of his clan, to manage the shoen (manor in medieval Japan) in the territories of the clan and movable properties, to manage Kofuku-ji Temple, the family temple of the clan, and to manage Kasuga-taisha Shrine and Oharano-jinja Shrine, both shrines of the clan.

Its origin
Concerning who was the first choja, there are the theories that FUJIWARA no Fuhito, who established the base of the Fujiwara clan, was the person (in "Sonpi Bunmyaku" (a text compiled in the 14th century that records the lineages of the aristocracy)), FUJIWARA no Otsugu was the person (in "Nichureki (a kind of encyclopedia)," or FUJIWARA no Yoshiyo was the person (in "Kugyo bunin" (directory of the successive Imperial officials)), but in the present academic world, the most strongly supported theory is that it originated in FUJIWARA no Fuyutsugu, FUJIWARA no Yoshifusa, or FUJIWARA no Mototsune. As a political activity, he was asked to raise the court ranks of persons in his clan in order to send them into the imperial court, and it was vital for him to make persons in his clan marry those in the imperial family in order to raise the toshi choja's position in the political world.

Other activities
In addition, to maintain the position of his clan in the imperial court, toshi choja sometimes had the obligation to present opinions of his clan members to the imperial court. It is well known that FUJIWARA no Yorimichi and FUJIWARA no Norimichi confronted the imperial familiy, and this clearly shows that they, as the representative of the clan, confronted the imperial family trying to suppress the power of the Fujiwara clan. After handing over the positions of kanpaku (chief adviser to the Emperor) and toshi choja to FUJIWARA no Tadamichi, his heir son, FUJIWARA no Tadazane, who loved FUJIWARA no Yorinaga, Tadamichi's younger brother, tried to deprive FUJIWARA no Tadamichi of the positions of kanpaku and toshi choja, but since Cloistered Emperor Toba, who still effectively controlled the imperial court, ordered that the postion of kanpaku could not be freely changed, setting the problem of toshi choja aside, Tadazane and Yorinaga ordered their warriors to deprive them of Shuki-daiban (vermilion-lacquered mounted bowl), a symbol of toshi choja, declaring that Yorinaga was toshi choja. This was a cause of the Hogen War (the war in the Hogen era).

As the Emperor inherits three sacred imperial treasures and Crown Prince does Tsubokiri no Mitsurugi (the sword Tsubokiri) from one generation to the next, there is the treasure of the clan that each toshi choja inherits from generation to generation.

Choja no kan no watarishoken: the certificate for the territory called denka no watari-ryo.
Shuki: vermillion-lacqured tableware
Daiban: dishes
Kenko: a leathe scale

In addition, the maintenance and management of Kangakuin (dormitory for students) was under the control of toshi choja.

In the later eras
Generally, clans in ancient times dispersed gradually corresponding to the establishements of family lines during the Heian period (however, it does not mean that the clans were dismantled). For the gosekke (five top Fujiwara families whose members were eligible for the positions of Sessho and Kanpaku), the postion of toshi choja was inherited by the familiy of shippei (Chinese name for sekkan, regents and advisers); however, this does not mean that this family possessed the position to protect persons in his clan. The roles of toshi choja became increasingly more religious, and were also deconcentrated to Kofuku-ji Temple, Kasuga-sha Shrine and so on.

The roles of toshi Choja ended at Meiji Restoration, with Michitaka KUJO as the last.