1872 Family Register Law

Japan's first "law of the land"

By William Wetherall

First posted 1 April 2008
Last updated 1 May 2021

Family registers as boundaries of the nation People (jinmin) Nationals (kokumin) Subjects (shinmin)
Chronology of Meiji population registers A timeline of major political, legal, and administrative actions and reforms
1871 GCS Proclamation (No. 170) Dajō ruiten images Preamble Article 1: Subjects at large Article 32: Eta hinin etc.
1872 Jinshin register statistics Households by sex of heads, and persons by sex, by status
Meiji-era household registration handbooks Aoki & Takasaki 1877 Matsuura 1877 Noguchi 1893 Okamoto 1898 Mori & Endo 1898 Endo 1898

Related articles
The Interior: The legal cornerstone of the Empire of Japan
Minseki registers, 1868-1945: The nation defined as demographic territory
Belonging in Japan past and Present: Before and after "nationality" and "citizenship"
Affiliation and status in Korea: 1909 People's Register Law and enforcement regulations
Affiliation and status in Manchoukuo: 1940 Provisional People's Register Law and enforcement regulations

Family registers as boundaries of nation

Law has been an important means of social organization and control in Japan for the better part of a millennium and a half. Population registration has been the most effective way of shepherding local populations as part of the aggregate national population.

The first mission of the imperial order that replaced the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1868 was to nationalize the domains and their people into a nation. The second mission was to create a new system of laws with which the state could govern and protect the nation.

First the domains were replaced by prefectures. Then local polities were given a means of controlling their populations, for the sake of the nation as well as to facilitate their own governmental needs.

The Family Register Law of 1871, effective in 1872, became -- in many respects -- the new country's most fundamental law, which I regard as Japan's "law of the land" -- without which there would be no Japan as the world knows it. Fashioned on a variety of population registration practices known for over a millennium, the Family Register Law gave localities the means of harnessing their inhabitants to the wagon of the new state.

Family registers also served to define the nation. If the prefectures delimited Japan's geographical territory, municipal family registers marked the borders of its demographic territory.

Family registration is about families. Birth and death, and alliances and dissolutions of marriage and adoption, are about families, and therefore involve family registration. Hence Meiji laws concerning Japanese alliances of marriage and adoption with foreigners rested on the foundations of Japanese family law and family registration practices.

For an overview how family law, administered through family registration, was used to resolve issues that arose when a Japanese wished to marry or adopt a foreigner, see 1873 intermarriage proclamation: Family law and "the standing of being Japanese.

For a look at later developments in the Family Register Law, and at the development of the Civil Code, which embodies the family laws that govern the Family Register Law and the Nationality Law, see the Family Register Law section of The Interior: The legal cornerstone of imperialism.


Jinmin 人民 people

The graphic term 人民 -- a Chinese compound -- has been widely used in Japan over the centuries, with various readings, to mean "people" affiliated with a sovereign or local authority. The term was last used in Japan's status laws, to refer to people affiliated with Japan's population registers, in the late 19th century.

"Jinmin" in early Japan

Graphically, 人民 appears in early texts like Kojiki (712), the earliest surviving history -- Nihon shoki (720), the first of a series of official national histories -- Shinsen shōjiroku (815), a peerage of titled families -- and Wamyō ruiju shō (938), a dictionary of Japanese words written in Chinese graphs.

Two Yamato expressions are associated with the graphs 人民 as used in these early texts.

hitokusa ヒトクサ 比止久佐 (人草)
wohotakara ヲホタカラ 於保大加良 (御宝)

Kojiki uses 人民 several times, such as in "defeated the people (human grass) of the country" (kuni no hitokusa 到其國之人民). It also uses 人草 several times, as in "the human grass of your country" (汝國之人草).

For examples of earlier terms referring to the "people" of Japan, see Belonging in Japan past and present under "Nationality Laws" on this website.

1871 Family Register Law

The 1871 Family Register Law uses three terms to signify demographic belonging to Japan -- jinmin (人民), kokumin (国民), and shinmin (臣民) -- all of which use the word "min" (民), which means affiliate. Jinmin (affiliated people) and kokumin (nationals) are used in the prologue (see transcription and translations below). Shinmin (subjects) is used and defined in the Article 1 (see below).

"Jinmin" in 1876 Japan-Chosen treaty

The 1876 Kanghwa treaty between Japan and Chosen, for example, refers to the "people" of the party states as follows, citing the Chinese and English versions of the treaty. See transcriptions and translations of treaty in 1876 Kanghwa treaty between Japan and Chosen in the "Korea becomes Chosen" article under "The Sovereign Empire" in the "The Empires of Japan" section of this website.

朝鮮國人民 (Chōsen-koku jinmin) "subject of Chosen"
日本國人民 (Nihon-koku jinmin) "Japanese subject"

Usage has somewhat changed by the 1882 Yin-chuen (Shufeldt) treaty between United States and Chosen. What the English version variously calls "citizens" of the United States and "subjects" of Chosen are referred to as 朝鮮民人 (Chōsen minjin) and 美国民人 (Mikoku minjin) in the Chinese version. "Minjin" (民人) is used like "jinmin" (人民) to denote "affilated people". "Nationality" in the English version is reflected as 所屬 (affiliation) in the Chinese version, hence phrases like 所屬之國 (shozoku no kuni) or "country of affiliation". Here "sho" (所) is used with "zoku" (属), meaning to affiliate, to form a typical "所 + V" compound. As a nominalized passive construction, "shozoku" means "condition of being affilated [something]" "shozoku" (所属) means "(condition of) being affiliated (with a country or other entity)". See transcriptions and translations of treaty in 1882 Yin-chuen (Shufeldt) treaty between United States and Chosen (Korea) (ibid.) for details.

Keep in mind that, as of 1876 and 1878, Japan did not yet have a Constitution or Nationality Law. "Nationality" was not yet that widely used in English as a term for affiliation with a state, and this sense of the word would not come to be translated "kokuseki" (国籍) until later. "Shinmin" (臣民) was not fully established as the Japanese word for "subject" until the 1890 Constitution. The 1899 Nationality Law -- like the 1873 proclamation on alliances of marriage and adoption between Japanese and foreigners -- used "Nihonjin" (日本人) rather than either "shinmin" or "kokumin" (国民) to refer to people who possessed the "nationality" (国籍) of Japan.

Note that the English versions of both of the above treaties -- which were written in Chinese -- translated (transliterated) 朝鮮 as "Chosen".

"Jinmin" today

The Prologue of the 1871 Family Register Law speaks mainly of "jinmin". "Kokumin" (国民) or "national" appears only once, and the articles of the law use "shinmin" (臣民) or "subject". The 1890 Constitution uses "shinmin", and other laws use "shinmin" or "kokumin" depending on the purpose of the law. But the 1899 Nationality Law, which might have used "shinmin" (given the provisions for the law in the 1890 Constitution, speaks of "Japanese" (Nihonjin 日本人).

So by the 20th century, other terms had replaced "jinmin" in Japan's domestic legalese. Today the term appears mainly in the names of socialist counties like the People's Republic of China and the Democractic People's Republic of Korea (Chosen), which refer to their affiliates as "citizens" (kōmin 公民) rather than "nationals" (kokumin 国民), a term which they eschew as anti-communist.


Kokumin 国民 nationals

"Kokumin" (国民) or "national" is used only once in the 1871 Family Register Law, and only in the Prologue. It does not appear in the 1890 Constitution, which refers to people who owe allegiance to the sovereign as "shinmin" (臣民) meaning "loyal people" or "loyal affiliates". Even the 1899 Nationality Law does not use "national" but only "Japanese".

However, "kokumin" is the status term in many laws that stress affiliation with the state rather than imperial subjecthood. "Nationals" are essentially defined as people in household registers affiliated with Japan's sovereign dominion. However, "shinmin" (臣民) meaning "subjects" -- not "kokumin" -- was the term used in the articles of the 1871 Family Register Law to refer to registrants. While the terms differed metaphorically, they were generally synonymous as labels for people considered legally "Japanese".

The Allied Powers, when occupying Japan in 1945, immediately declared that the people of Japan were no longer "shinmin". They couldn't be, because the emperor was no longer a sovereign. From 2 September 1945, all people in Occupied Japan, beginning with the emperor, were subject to the authority of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP).

From the start of the Occupation of Japan, the people of Japan became just "kokumin". In debate over the term to be used in a new constitution, "jinmin" (人民) was rejected because, by then, it had acquired strongly socialist nuances. So the 1947 Constitution retained the term "kokumin". And the 1950 Nationality Law adopted the constitutional term "kokumin" in lieu of "Nihonjin".

Some people have argued that the use of "kokumin" the nationality law allowed the word "Nihonjin" to used to imply something racioethnic, unlike "kokumin", which was legally a purely civil status. This is not true. "Nihonjin" has always been available as both a civic and ethnoracial label. In no way does being a "kokumin" of Japan mean that one might not be "Japanese". As used by racialist speakers and writers, "Japanese" is a racioethnic label. In civil usage, "Japanese" means anyone who possesses Japan's nationality regardless of their putative race or ethnicity.


Shinmin 臣民 subjects

This term defined the essential status of the people of Japan from its use in the 1871 Family Register Law to its loss of legal standing in 1945, when the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers disallowed its use. It remained the 1890 Meiji Constitution (but was understood to mean "kokumin") until replaced by "kokumin" in the 1947 Shōwa Constitution. And "shinmin" was replaced by "kokumin" in all laws that had used it.

The Prologue speaks of "kokumin" only once but "jinmin" many times. And "jinmin" -- not "kokumin" or "shinmin" -- would be used in a number of early documents, including international treaters, to refer to the "people" of Japan and other countries.


Chronology of Meiji population registers

A timeline of major political, legal, and administrative actions and reforms

Family registers were established at a time when the new Meiji government was rapidly changing to deal with the challenges of defining and serving the needs of the people of Japan as a team of horses rather than as a herd -- as prefectures harnessed together and driven as one to pull a single load -- the emperor's realm -- rather than as a loose confederation of local domains that didn't share a common national banner and purpose -- to protect the realm and prosper. No institutions, and no individuals, were spared the imperatives of change and the difficulties that come with navigating through uncharted waters.

The many domains gave way to fewer prefectures. But still, there were too many territories, and many prefectures would be merged or their boundaries otherwise change.

Long-established social castes and classes were abolished with the stroke of a brush, in favor of newer statuses, in the interest of reducing the privilges of some and increasing the freedoms of others. Then some of the new statuses were modified and reduced in number, in the interest of creating a society of commoners and nobility overseen through uniform household population registers, and an imperial family it its own registers.

A millennium of collective bureaucratic experience, maintaining a semblance of order in an expanding realm that was often torn by succession wars within the imperial house, or territorial wars between rival domains and coalitions of domains, paid off. The new leaders came mainly from the ranks of the samurai who had led their domains, or factions within their domains, in rebellion against the Tokugawa domain -- which was finally pressured to give up its long dynastic rule in favor of restoring to the seat of symbolic power a teenage emperor whose sole reign name became Meiji.

Sporadic civil uprisings continued for a decade into the Meiji era, but the country quickly settled into a period of rapid learning and development, and by the 1890s it had established a legal system that convinced its unequal treaty partners to end their extraterritorial rights in Japan.

By the start of the 20th century, Japan had a national administrative system that, as bureaucracies go, actually worked pretty well. For the most part, the prefectural household registration system became more efficient as it accommodating the registration systems in the territories Japan acquired through cessions following wars and annexations. The new territories -- Taiwan, Karafuto, and Chōsen -- were from their start integral parts of Japan's sovereign dominion. And as years became decades, they lost their initial "colonial" qualities and became virtual extensions of the prefectural Interior. Karafuto even became a prefecture, and Taiwan and Chosen became increasingly integrated into the political, economic, legal, social, and cultural revolutions that affected the Interior.

The following chronology lists only the most prominent events, reforms, and bureaucratic actions and appointments that characterize the conditions surrounding the implementation and management of household registers pursuant to the Family Register Law, on which many later laws would depend.

3 January 1868 (Keiō 3-12-9)   Formal proclamation of abolishment of the consignment of the right to rule to a military house (Tokugawa domain) and the nominal restoration of absolute sovereignty to the emperor -- nominal because, while the emperor would have the authority to directly rule the country, his rule would be orchestrated and mediated by others.

23 October 1868 (Keiō 4-9-8) [Meiji 1-9-8]   Mutushito formally ascends the imperial throne under a new reign name -- Meiji. reign name Meiji, marking the official start of Meiji period and the restoration of the emperor to the de jure seat of power.

On 15 August 1869 (Meiji 2-7-8), as a result of revamping existing government offices, the "People's Ministry" (Minbushō 民部省) and "Treasury Ministry" (Ōkurashō 大蔵省) were established within the Great Coucil of State (Dajōkan 太政官). The People's Ministry was responsible for overseeing administration of affairs in all regions of the country, while the Treasury Ministry was responsible for collecting taxes throughout the country, so on 16 September 1869 (Meiji 2-8-11), a month later, the two ministries were merged. on 10 July 1870, however, the they were separated. Both ministries underwent change in the bureaucratic turf wars, with the result that, on 11 September 1871 (Meiji 4-7-27), the People's Ministry was merged into the Treasury Ministry and thereby abolished.

As promulgated on 22/23 May 1871 (Meiji 4-4-4/5), Japan's first Family Register Law called for household registers to be made by local registrars and results submitted to (initially) the People's Ministry. By 9 March 1872 (Meiji 5-2-1), when the Family Register Law came into force, the Treasury Ministry was responsible for the overseeing of household registers.

the two agencies were merged for which was responsible for administering domestic affairsin [Kanpō promulgation] 1871年5月23日(明治4年4月5日), which came into force in 1872, household registers were established within a nationwide grid of numbered regions called "ku" (区). From 1872-5-15 (Meiji 5月15日(明治5年4月9日)By , which were made up of several villages (mura 村), and towns (machi 町) and villages (mura 村). The heads (kochō 戸長 and sub-heads (fuku-kochō 副戸長) of such administrative entities were responsible for overseeing the establishment of registers within their jurisdictions., called within a nationwide grid of "ku" (区). -- according towere initially overseen by pursuant to the eFamily Register Law

1871-5-22 (Meiji 4-4-4) - 1872 "large ku" (dai-ku 大区), "small ku" (shō-ku 小区) 1872-6-10 (Meiji 5-4-9) 1878年から1889年まで都市部に設けられた地方区分。「郡区町村編制法」を参照。 1889年から1947年まで勅令で指定された東京市、京都市、大阪市に設けられた地方区分。前項の区を引き継ぎ、各市(1943年7月1日以降、東京市は東京都)の下位の地方自治体とされた

Chronology of Meiji population registers
A timeline of major political, legal, and administrative actions and reforms

Tokugawa-Meiji transition

10 January 1867
Keiō 2-12-5

Tokugawa Yoshinobu (徳川慶喜 1837-1913, s. 1867-1868) becomes the 15th shōgun in a dynastic succession of Tokugawa shōgun that began with Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康 1543-1616, s. 603-1605). Ieyasu received the title as an hereditary status from Emperor Go-Yōzei (後陽成 1571-1617, r. 1586-1611) on 24 March 1603 (Keichō 8-1-12). This date marks the formal start of the Tokugawa shogunate in Edo, where Ieyasu established a "tent government" (bakufu 幕府) -- hence the Tokugawa period is also called the Edo period, and its government is commonly referred to as the "Tokugawa bakufu". The Tokugawa clan became the dominant military family in Japan after Ieyasu's victory at the Battle of Sekigahara on 21 October 1600 (Keichō 5-9-15). The battle all but ended decades of civil unrest and wars. The relative peace for which the period was marred by the siege of Ōsaka Castle in 1614-1615 and the Shimabara Rebellion of 1637-1638. And such peace as was generally realized came at the expense of strictly enforced social policies within the country, restricted trade, and practically closed borders.

"Shōgun" is short for "Subdue-natives great-general" or "Great native-subduing general" (Sei-i tai-shōgun 征夷大将軍), a military title going back to the 8th century. As a title signifying that the bearer was the acting sovereign of the country, it goes back to the 12 century. As a title for a military commander who was ordered to actually subdue natives, it goes back to the reign of Emperor Kanmu (桓武 736-806, r. 781-806), who dispatched forces to conquer and govern the people who inhabited the northeastern reaches of Honshū. Subduing the frontier lands facilitated migrations of Yamato people to northeast, where they mixed with the local people, generally known as Emishi (蝦夷). I regard the term as a generic appellation for what seem to have been the descendants of migrations from the continent of Northeast Asia, which preceded the migrations of Yamato ancestors, who mixed with local peoples in the southwestern reaches of what later became Japan.

See Akihito's Korean roots for more about Emperor Kanmu.
See The journey to Kasasa and Reports from early records, and related articles, for more about early Yamato.

13 February 1867
(Keiō 3-1-9)

14-year-old prince Mutsuhito succeeds his father Osahito (Kōmei) as emperor. Keiō -- the last of the 7 imperial era names established during Osahito's reign -- changed to Meiji 20 months later, on 23 October 1868, a week after Mutsuhito's formal enthronment on 12 October 1868.

9 November 1867
Keiō 3-10-14

Shōgun Tokugawa Yoshinobu formally resigns his title as shōgun to emperor Mutsuhito, effective 10 days later on 19 November 1867 (Keiō 3-10-24).

3 January 1868
Keiō 3-12-9

Mutsuhito issues decree of restoration of imperial rule, in which he acknowledges that he has accepted the shōgun's resignation of title and authority and would himself govern the country. From that point, foreign powers were to refer to the sovereign as and that he himself would tissues edict in whicFormal start of restoration government.

27-30 January 1868
Keiō 4-1-3-6

A coalition of pro-imperial forces route Tokugawa armies at Toba and Fushimi, near Kyōto, in the first battle of the Bōshin War, which sporadically continued until 27 June 1869 (Meiji 2-5-18).

11 April 1868
Keiō 4-3-19

The Tokugawa government surrenders Edo castle to pro-imperial forces, which have surrounded the castle.

3 September 1868
Keiō 4-7-17

Edo was formally renamed Tōkyō (東京) or "eastern capital". Tokyo was then typically romanized "Tokio". For a while it was also called "Tōkei" and romanized "Tokei". It was also for a while written 東亰 rather than 東京, to distinguish it from the much older "eastern capital" of Vietnam known as "Tonkin" (東京 C. Tongking, Tonking, V. Dong Kinh, Đông Kinh), which later became Hanoi (河内 C. Hanoi, V. Ha Noi, Hà Nội).

12 October 1868
Keiō 4-8-27

Mutsuhito enthroned at Kyoto Imperial Palace. His succession is celebrated at Daijōgū in Tokyo on 28 December 1871 (Meiji 4-11-17).

23 October 1868
Keiō 4-9-8

Imperial era name changes from Keiō to Meiji.

9 February 1871
Meiji 3-12-20
16 February 1871 Meiji 3-12-27

Shinritsu kōryō (新律綱領) or "Outline of new codes" [New-measures main-parts (neck of main rope of fishing net)], a provisional penal code, was promulgated by Great Council of State Proclamation No. 94 of Meiji 3-12-27 (16 February 1871). The new codes were supplemented by Kaitei ritsurei (改定律例) or "Amended codes" [Revised-determinations measures-rules] by Great Council of State Proclamation No. 206 of 13 June 1873 (Meiji 6-6-13).

The 1871 law and its 1873 supplement were replaced from 1882 by Keihō (刑法), the first "Penal Code" by name. Promulgated by Great Council of State Proclamation No. 36 of 17 July 1880, this original Meiji law came into effect from 1 January 1882.

As a penal code, Shinritsu kōryō needed to distinguish status relationships between family members, hence it's inclusion of a chart showing 5 degrees of kinship relationships, including statuses of "wife" and "mistress" as 2nd-degree kin. These relationships became the basis of relationships defined in family and civil laws. See Five degrees of relationship in 1871 Shinritsu kōryō.

22/23 May 1871
Meiji 4-4-4/5

Family Register Law promulgated by GCS Proclamation No. 170. The law called for local authorities to establish registers within their village and town jurisdictions, and to submit enumerations to (initially) the People's Ministry (Minbushō 民部省). By 9 March 1872 (Meiji 5-2-1), when the law came into effect, the Treasury Ministry (Ōkurashō) was responsible for overseeing of household register matters.

12 October 1871
Meiji 4-8-28

Two back-to-back Great Council of State proclamations concerned the statuses and registrations of eta, hinin, and other sub-castes and sub-classes.

GCS No. 448 abolished the appellations of eta, hinin and such, and provided that their statuses and occupations were to be on a par with those of commoners (heimin).

GCS No. 449 reiterated the abolishment of appelations and parity of treatment of status and occupation as commoners. It went on, however, to say that the Treasury Ministry would be looking into the prospects of changing the customary practice of exempting them from land taxes et cetera.

See 1871 Eta and hinin integration (GCS Proclamations Nos. 448 and 449) for texts and translations.

Note that these proclamations were issued nearly 5 months after the promulgation of the Family Register Law (above) and nearly 4 months before its enforcement (below), during which time the competent ministry changed from the People's Ministry to the Treasury Ministry.

Note also that

28 December 1871
Meiji 4-11-17

Mutsu's succession (12 October 1868) is celebrated at Daijōgū in Tokyo.

8 March 1872
Meiji 5-1-29

The Family Register Law, which obliges the chiefs of local administrative divisions to create household registers pursuant to the law, comes into effect.

9 March 1872
Meiji 5-2-1

The Family Register Law, which obliges the chiefs of local administrative divisions to create household registers pursuant to the law, comes into effect.

15 May 1872
Meiji 5-4-9

Great Council of State Proclamation No. 115 provides that those who forfeit noble (kazoku) or gentry (shizoku) status may be enrolled in a general "people's register" (minseki). See 1872 Nobility and gentry migration to general registers.

31 December 1872
Meiji 5-12-2
1 January 1873
Meiji 6-1-1

Japanese government officially adopts the solar calendar by equating Meiji 5-12-3 (1 January 1873) on the lunar calendar with Meiji 6-1-1 (1 Janaury 1873) on the solar calendar. So the last official lunar calendar date was Meiji 5-12-2 (31 December 1872).

Japan has used several lunar-solar calendars since the 7th century in the Christian era. The calendar in use at the time the Meiji period began was the Tenpō calendar (Tenpōreki 天保歴), which was introduced from Tenpō 15-1-1 (18 February 1844). This calendar remained in private use for a while after the adoption of the solar calendar, especially in matters concerning religious and other events. Eventually, though, lunar dates of events were simply read as solar dates. Few lunar calendars are published in Japan today and most are sold as novelties. A few solar calendars show lunar dates in small print, but more likely they show only the names of the 6 days (rokuyō 六曜) which in Buddhist reckoning vary in auspiciousness from very lucky to very unlucky, as many organizations and individuals today continue to schedule important events, such as ground breaking ceremonies or weddings, on the most auspicious days. However, there is little general awareness today of the astronomical significance of the present (solar) dates of lunar-calendar-era festivals, events, and incidents. The celebration of Tanabata on 7-7 (7 July), and the observance of O-bon centering on 7-15 traditionally, or 8-15 (15 August) today, come to mind. And practically no one I have talked with feels the oddness of featuring re-runs of 47-rōnin vendetta films or staging bunraku performances of Kanadehon Chūshingura on or around 14-15 December (see

29 November 1873
Meiji 6-11-29

Interior Affairs Ministry (内務省) created under Dajōkan government. Ōkubo Toshimichi becomes its first minister. The next 6 ministers -- 4 in quick succession -- were as follows.

2. 14 Feb 1874 - Kido Takayoshi (木戸孝允 1833-1877 Chōshū faction)
3. 27 Apr 1874 - Ōkubo Toshimichi (Satsuma)
4.  2 Aug 1874 - Ito Hirobumi (伊藤博文 1841-1909 Chōshū)
5. 28 Nov 1874 - Ōkubo Toshimichi (Satsuma)
6. 15 May 1878 - Ito Hirobumi (Chōshū)
7. 28 Feb 1880 - Matsukata Masayoshi (Satsuma)

14 March 1873
Meiji 6-3-14

"Provisions permitting marriage with an alien person" (Gaikoku jinmin to kon'in sakyo jōki 外国人民卜婚姻差許条規) promulgated by Great Council of State Proclamation No. 103. See 1873 intermarriage proclamation: Family law and "the standing of being Japanese".


1871 Kosekihō in Dajō ruiten

Cover of Dajō ruiten
Dai 1 hen, Dai 79 kan

自慶応三年 / 至明治四年七月
Daijō ruiten Dai-ichi-hen
From Keiō 3 to Meiji 4-7
[From 1867-02-05 to 1871-09-14]
Number 79

第六類 // 保民 / 戸籍二
Dai 6 rui [6th class (of records)]
Hōmin [Care of affiliates (people)]
Koseki ni [Family registers (2)]

First 5 pages of 1871 Family Registration Law

Copped and cropped from
National Archives Digital Archive

Dajo ruiten
Dajo ruiten

RightLast page of official notices (pages 1-8) listed before Family Register Law
Last three items concern restoration of register (fukuseki 復籍) [registration, reenrollment]
of person who has left register (dasseki-sha 脱籍者)
such as some "shizoku" (士族) former-samurai in Kashiwazaki and Morioka prefectures
Note use of "minseki" (民籍) in notice about
enrollment of former "shizoku" Oyamada Jiroku as a "shomin" (庶民) [commoner].

LeftPromulgation and introduction to Family Register Law of Meiji 4-4-5 [1871-5-23]
今般府藩縣一般戸籍ノ法別紙之通改正被 仰出候條管内普ク布告致可申事
Structural translation Now (At this time) (Konpan 今般),
[regarding] the laws of general household registers (ippan koseki no hō 一般戸籍ノ法)
[of] the government prefectures (fu 府), domains (han 藩), and general prefectures (ken 縣),
the reforms as in the separate (attached) document (besshi no toori [no] kaisei 別紙之通改正)
are ordered, and [the ordered] articles (kaisei oose idasareshi sōrō (soro) jō 改正被仰出候條)
are to be proclaimed (fukoku itashimōsu beku koto 布告致可申事)
broadly (amaneku 普ク) within [our] judisdiction (kannai 管内)

Dajo ruiten

Pages 9-10 showing last of introduction to Family Register Law
and separate (attached) document (besshi 別紙)

The attachment begins with a prologue (see transicription and translations below)
Note that Article 1 (following the prologue) refers to "clan (family) affiliation" (zokuzoku 族属)
This in effect recognized the "family" (ie 家) as a lineage group" (zoku) hence "family" (kazoku 家族)
The of "kazoku" (z) The prologue is followed by the beginning of Article 1

Dajo ruiten

Pages 11-12 showing the rest of Article 1, Articles 2 and 3, and the start of Article 4
Note the definition of "subjects in general" (臣民一般) in Article 1
華族士族率祠官僧侶 / 平民迄ヲ云以下準之
Kazoku, shizoku, sotsu, shikan, sōryo, heimin wo ifu. Ika kore ni junsu (nazoraeru)
Refers to Nobility, gentry (former samurai), soldiers, (Shintō) priests, (Buddhist) monks, and commoners. Hereafter like this.
Note also that Article 1 requires that subjects be registered
"in their place of residence" (sono jūkyo no chi 其住居ノ地)

1871 GCS Proclamation No. 170

Several proclamations were made during the early years of the Meiji period relating to social status, some concerning surveys, others about change. The first family registration law addressed the need to record data on people according to their status, and to compile and report local registration data.

Promulgated by Great Council of State Proclamation No. 170 of Meiji 4-4-4 (22 May 1871), the register law was enforced from Meiji 5-2-1 (9 March 1872).


Promulgated Meiji 4-4-4 (22 May 1871) by
Great Council of State Proclamation No. 170

Enforced from Meiji 5-2-1 (9 March 1872)


法令全書 [第6冊] 明治4年
コマ94-106 (頁114-138)
Hōrei zensho
[Complete book of laws and ordinances]
[Volume 6] Meiji 4
Frames 94-106 (pages 114-138)

This first full version of various earlier drafts includes thirty-three articles stipulating rules for registering households and tabulating demographic (census) information. The rules are followed by examples of forms and tables that were to be used by local authorities when implementing the provisions of the proclamation and reporting census information to prefectural governments.

自慶応三年 / 至明治四年七月
第六類 // 保民 / 戸籍二

Daijō ruiten Dai-ichi-hen
From Keiō 3 to Meiji 4-7
[From 1867-02-05 to 1871-09-14]
Number 79
Dai 6 rui [6th class (of records)]
Hōmin [Care of affiliates (people)]
Koseki ni [Family registers (2)]

Some writers give the promulgation date as Meiji 4-4-5 (23 May 1871). This is the date given for the establishment (seitei 制定) of the Family Register Law in the Dajō ruiten version of Proclamation 170 shown to the right.


1871 Kosekihō

Dajō ruiten images

The inability of a government to account for all individuals subject to its authority signifies ineffectiveness -- i.e., a failure of the government's authority to reach and affect the individuals. The government cannot protect, police, or tax, conscript for labor or military service, or protect, educate, or otherwise serve, people it does not know about.

The last of the notices concerning restoration to registers (fukuseki 復籍) of people who have left or been omitted from registers (dasseki-sha 脱籍者) is of interest in that it refers to the general register as an "[affiliated] population register" (minseki 民籍). The notice reports that a certian "shizoku" (士族) or "(lower-ranking) (former) samurai" or "gentry" who left his [shizoku] register lowered to "shomin" (庶民) or "commoner" status and enrolled in a "minseki".

The "shizoku" caste was created by Great Council of State (Dajōkan 太政官) Proclamation No. 576 of Meiji 2-6-25 (1869-8-2). The 1871 Family Register Law recognized "shizoku" as a register status, but the status had no privileges. The recording of "shizoku" as a register status in new registers ended with with 1914 revisions in the Family Register Law effective from 1915. And 1947 revisions effective from 1948 provided that "shizoku" be struck from active registers.

"Shizoku" register leaver registered as "shomin"

Settled people are more easily registered or counted by registrars and census takers than itinerants and migrants.

Morioka-ken shizoku Oyamada Jiroku dasseki ni tsuki shomin in kashi (oroshi) minseki ni hennyū
Morioka-prefecture shizoku Oyamada Jiroku, on account of leaving (dropping from) the [shizoku] register, was lowered to [the status of] commoner and enrolled in the people's register.


Preamble to 1872 Family Register Law

The preamble to the 1872 Family Register Law is a remarkable statement. Japan's family registration system is often associated with social control. However, the preamble shows the importance given to domicile registration, both as a means of social control, and as a way to insure that subjects were able to benefit from the services of their government.

The Family Register Law continues to be, in many ways, the "law of land" -- upon which rest the principles of family law set down later in the Civil Code and reflected in the Nationality Law.

The following tables show transcriptions of both the 1871 preamble and a 1900 English translation, followed by my own partial structural translation, then commentary.

Preamble to 1871 Family Register Law
(Dajokan Proclamation 170)

Requiring local governments to register affiliated residents and
compile and report demographic statistics to national government


1871 Japanese text

法令全書 [第6冊] 明治4年
コマ94-106 (頁114-138)
Hōrei zensho
[Complete book of laws and ordinances]
[Volume 6] Meiji 4
Frames 94-106 (pages 114-138)
Preamble: page 115

太政類典第一編 Dajō ruiten, Section 1
自慶応三年 From Keiō 3 [February 1867 - January 1868]
至明治四年七月 to Meiji 4-7 [August-September 1871]
第七十九巻 Volume 79
保民・戸籍二 Homin, Koseki 2

Kokuritsu Kōbunshokan Dejitaru Aakaibu
National Archives of Japan Digital Archive

Digitalized Japanese text

A digitalized transcription has been made available by the Shibusawa Eiichi Memorial Foundation (渋沢栄一記念財団), Digital edition "Shibusawa Eiichi historical materials" (デジタル版『渋沢栄一伝記資料』).

1900 English translation

The Department of Agriculture and Commerce, Japan
[農商務省御編纂 Nōshōmushō go-hensan]
Japan in the Beginning of the 20th Century
Tokyo: Tokyo-Shoin 東京書院, 1904
viii, 828 pages, plus 14 pages of ads in back
Printed at the "Japan Times" Office [ジャパン、タイムス社]
Preamble: pages 48-49

Japanese texts

Top text  My (Yosha Bunko) transcription of the Dajō ruiten scan from National Archives Digital Archive. The received text is totally unpunctuated, in accordance with the convention of writing at the time, and voicing was not marked. I have added (periods) after terminal conjugations. I have also inserted コト (koto) where it was abbreviated with a mark which looks like in the received text.

Bottom text   This text is a straight copy-and-paste from a transcription provided by Shibusawa Eiichi Memorial Foundation (渋沢栄一記念財団), Digital edition "Shibusawa Eiichi historical materials" (デジタル版『渋沢栄一伝記資料』). This version (1) does not show the title "Besshi" (別紙), (2) uses present-day kanji, (3) preserves the katakana usage of the original text, but (4) adds "koto" (コト) where it was abbreviated with a mark which looks like "┐", and (5) marks junctures with commas (、).

English translations

The 1904 English translation is my transcription from the 1904 yearbook. The structural translation, which endeavors to cut as close as possible to the phrasal and metaphorical bone of the original, is mine. I have shown both a polished version, and a version which leaves all the construction marks.

Highlighting and commentary

I have highlighted selected terms to faciliate their discussion.

1871 Japanese text

1904 English translation

Yosha Bunko transcription of Dajō ruiten scan


戸數人員ヲ詳ニシテ猥リナラサラシムルハ政務ノ最モ先シ重スル所ナリ 夫レ全國人民ノ保護大政本務ナルコト素ヨリ云フヲ待タス 然ルニ其保護スヘキ人民ヲ詳ニセス何ヲ以テ其保護スヘキコト ヲ施スヲ得ンヤ是レ政府戸籍ヲ詳ニセサルヘカラサル儀ナリ人民ノ各安康ヲ得テ其生ヲ遂ル所以ノモノハ政府保護ノ庇蔭ニヨラサルハナシ去レハ其ヲ逃レ其數ニ漏ルヽモノハ其保護ヲ受ケサル理ニテ自ラ國民ノ外タルニ近シ 此レ人民戸籍ヲ納メサルヲ得サルノ儀ナリ《Break in English》中古以來各方民治趣ヲ異ニセシヨリ僅ニ東西ヲ隔ツレハ忽チ情態ヲ殊ニシ聊カ遠近アレハ志行ヲ同フセス隨テ戸籍ノ法モ終ニ錯雑ノ弊ヲ免レス 或ハ此ヲ逃レ或ハ彼ヲ欺キ去就心ニ任セ往來規ニヨラス 沿襲ノ習人々自ラ度外ニ附スルニ至ル 故ニ今般全國總體ノ戸籍法ヲ定メラルヽヲ以テ普ク上下ノ通義ヲ辨ヘ宜シク粗略ノコトナカルヘシ

Shibusawa transcription

戸数人員ヲ詳ニシテ猥リナラサラシムルハ、政務ノ最モ先シ重スル所ナリ、夫レ全国人民ノ保護ハ大政ノ本務ナルコト素ヨリ云フヲ待タス然ルニ其保護スヘキ人民ヲ詳ニセス、何ヲ以テ其保護スヘキコトヲ施スヲ得ンヤ、是レ政府戸籍ヲ詳ニセサルヘカラサル儀ナリ、又人民ノ各安康ヲ得テ其生ヲ遂ル所以ノモノハ、政府保護ノ庇蔭ニヨラサルハナシ、去レハ其籍ヲ逃レ、其数ニ漏ルヽモノハ其保護ヲ受ケサル理ニテ、自ラ国民ノ外タルニ近シ、此レ人民戸籍ヲ納メサルヲ得サルノ儀ナリ、《Break in English》中古以来各方民治趣ヲ異ニセシヨリ僅ニ東西ヲ隔ツレハ忽チ情態ヲ殊ニシ、聊カ遠近アレハ即チ志行ヲ同フセス、随テ戸籍ノ法モ終ニ錯雑ノ弊ヲ免レス、或ハ此籍ヲ逃レ、或ハ彼籍ヲ欺キ、去就心ニ任セ、往来規ニヨラス、沿襲ノ習人々自ラ度外ニ附スルニ至ル、故ニ今般全国総体ノ戸籍法ヲ定メラルヽヲ以テ、普ク上下ノ通義ヲ弁ヘ、宜シク粗略ノコトナカルヘシ

1904 yearbook representation

[ Prologue ]

It is the utmost importance in the administration affairs of a country (政務) to keep accurate account of the number of its families and individuals (戸數人員), for, unless this number is accurately known, the state (大政) can hardly attend to its primary duty (本務) of extending protection to its subjects (全國人民ノ保護). The subjects (人民) will also, on their part, enjoy peace and prosperity and can pursue their business unmolested only when they are under the protection of their government, so that should it ever happen that their domicile is absent from the official record, owing either to their own negligence or evasion or from an oversight on the part of the government officials, those people will be practically non-existent in the eyes of the government and will therefore be excluded from the enjoyment of the protection universally extended by the government to its people.

Lack of uniformity in the local administration from about the time of the Middle Ages has, among other irregularities for which it is accountable, reduced the business of keeping personal register [sic = registers] to a state of disorder; people were allowed to remove their abodes without giving notice to the authorities, and even to evade with impunity the duty of registering themselves in the census record. Accustomed for ages to these irregular practices, people are prone to regard the duty of registration with perfect indifference. It was in view of this circumstance that the rules of keeping census records throughout the country have now been provided, and that the local authorities and the people are hereby enjoined to duly regard the points herein set forth and to carefully attend to them.

Yosha Bunko translation (polished)

Ascertaining the count of households and the number of people, and not allowing the figures to be disorderly, is the most important aspect of Government work. Needless to say the primary work of the Government is the protection of all the people in the country. If the Government does not ascertain the people it is to protect, how can it perform its work of protection? . . .

To be continued.

Structural translation (Yosha Bunko)

Clarifying [ascertaining] the count of households (戸數) and the number of persons (人員) and not allowing [these figures] to be disorderly [corrupt] is [the] most prior and weighty [== first and most important] place [part, aspect] of government work (政務). That the protection of the people of the entire country (全國人民ノ保護) is the primary work of the Great [Imperial] Government [of Japan] (大政ノ本務) from the start does not wait to be said [== of course does not need to be said] [== Needless to say the primary work of the Government is the protection of all the people in the country]. 然ルニ其保護スヘキ人民ヲ詳ニセス何ヲ以テ其保護スヘキコトヲ施スヲ得ンヤ Whereas by not clarifying the people who [it = the government] is to do this protection, with what [how] can [it] not not perform the doing of this protection? [== If the government does not ascertain the people who it is to protect, how can it perform its work of protection?]

To be continued.

Notes and commentary

Quality of 1904 translation

Readers of both the 1871 Japanese and 1904 English texts will observe that the English version, published over a century ago as of this writing, reflects the spirit of the Japanese version -- but also manifests the common practice then (and at times even today) to inflate and embellish lean, lucid, well constructed Japanese phrases -- in the interest of placating a god shelf laden with verbose and even pompous English deities. Note that none of the keywords or phrases in the original text are accurately reflected in the 1904 English version.

Japan in the Beginning of the 20th Century is actually a very interesting and important publication. Its chapter on Population (pages 47-70) begins with rather detailed "History Relating to Census Returns" (pages 47-49).

The census overview gives special attention to the preamble of "Notification No. 170 issued in April of 1871 by the then Dajokan, now corresponding to the Cabinet, by which notification thirty three rules were provided for making census returns" (page 48).

The chapter also includes year-by-year population figures for 1872-1899 (pages 50-51), and breakdowns by social classes (peers, shizoku, heimin) for 1879, 1882, 1887, 1892, 1897, and 1898 (pages 57-58), and many other statistics on Meiji demographics not readily available in a single volume elsewhere, in either Japanese or English.


door (dwelling) register

Village population records were generally linked with land records. People who had settled in a village resided in a dwelling located on land associated with the village. And it made administrative sense to treat the land and the dwelling as the unit for counting heads as well as recording personal information that allowed authorities to determine tax and labor obligations. Thus registers (seki 籍) generally recorded people who resided in the same dwelling as a household or family. The term "kokō" (戸?) was used to signify both the number of dwellings (doors 戸 to) and population (mouths 口 kuchi) of a village. "Household" is probably the more accurate English dub for "ko" (戸) than "family", because the inhabitants of a dwelling might include people who were not members of the biological or corporate family, but were live-in servants or employees, or boarders (lodgers), or even mistresses.

zenkoku jinmin no hogo
protection of the people of the entire country

The writers of the preamble of Japan's first population registration law understood that the primary rationale for the existence of any state is the protection of its people. A state incapable of protecting its people is practically by definition not a state. A state that delegates its foreign affairs and defense to another state becomes a dependency of the other state, and ceases to be a state in its own right. Here, of course, we are talking about "protection" in the form of administration of governmental policies related to the social organization and lives of the people, as well as policies related to the rights and duties of subjecthood.

person (people) [as affiliate(s) of a country]

The term "jinmin" was not widely used in later Japanese laws to refer to the people of Japan either collectively or individually. Later it was used -- and today it continues to be used -- mainly in treaties between Japan and another country, in which reference is made to "the people" or "a person" of Japan or the other country. In other words, it came to be used as a "generic" term in "international" contexts in which it was necessary to conflate terms in domestic laws like "subject" (臣民 shinmin) and "national" (国民 kokumin) or "citizen" (公民 kōmin, 市民 shimin). In the 1876 Kanghwa treaty between Japan and Chosen, the official Japanese and Chinese versions speak of "a person of the country of Chosen" (朝鮮國人民 Chōsen-koku jinmin) and "a person of the country of Japan" (日本國人民 Nippon-koku jinmin), whereas the unofficial English version has respectively "a subject of Chosen" and "a Japanese subject". See 1876 Kanghwa treaty between Japan and Chosen for the texts of the treaty and commentary.

country [state] affiliate]
national [as individual]
nation [as collectivity of nationals]

Literally a "person" or "affiliate" of a country. This would become the most general reference in Japanese domestic laws, when referring to the people of Japan as affiliates of the state as opposed to "loyal people" or "subjects" (臣民 shinmin) of the emperor. And "national" would become the only term for the "people" of Japan after 1945, when SCAP forbade the use of "shinmin" -- the term used in the 1890 Constitution. The 1947 Constitution used "kokumin".

loyal affiliate [of sovereign]
subject [of sovereign]

Shinmin was introduced as term for status as an affiliate of Japan, as a state, no later than the 1871 Family Register Law. It then became the term for state affiliation in the 1890 Constitution.

Though the 1899 Nationality Law was predicated on the Constitution, it spoke only of being "Nihonjin" (Japanese). Other laws spoke of "shinmin" or "kokumin" (nationals) according to the needs of the law.

"Shinmin" was banned in 1945 by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, in favor of "kokumin", which became the term for state affiliation in 1947 Constitution and in all postwar laws, including the 1950 Nationality Law, which was predicated on the 1947 Constitution.


Article 1 of 1872 Family Register Law

Subjects at large by status

Article 1 (第一則) reads as follows.


Note and source
The commas are not in the original text. They are shown here as received in the transcription provided by Shibusawa Eiichi Memorial Foundation (渋沢栄一記念財団), Digital edition "Shibusawa Eiichi historical materials" (デジタル版『渋沢栄一伝記資料』).

The article stipulates that "subjects at large" (shinmin ippan 臣民一般) were to be registered under one of six statuses.

  1. 華族 kazoku "nobility", "peerage"
    Higher ranking court officials and aristocrats not including members of the imperial family, and former domain lords and such, who in 1884 received titles of nobility modeled on those used in the British Empire. Titles were confered on the male heads of household and were hereditary. An adopted son also qualified as a titular heir. Titles came with legal privileges, and as a caste, title holders constitute the "peerage" from which members of the House of Peers were appointed by the emperor. All titles of nobility were forbidden by the 1947 Constitution and struck from household registers.
  2. 士族 shizoku "gentry"
    Former higher (retainer) samurai who served as administrators in domains. Received a one-time only stipend when domains were disbanded. Title brought some social status but no legal privileges. Title later invited derision as many shizoku squandered their stipend and failed in their endeavors to start buisnesses. By the early 20 century the titles were no longer being copied in new registers. After the Pacific War (1941-1945), titles remaining in registers were deleted.
  3. 卒 sotsu "soldier"
    Rank and file lower samurai who merely lost their jobs. All were later folded into "commoner" (heimin) status.
  4. 祠官 shikan "shinto priest"
    An official who presided over a Shinto shrine or ceremonies. Later folded into "commoner" (heimin) status.
  5. 僧侶 soryo "buddhist monk"
    Those who had left their secular homes and devoted themselves to a Buddhist life. Later folded into "commoner" (heimin) status.
  6. 平民 heimin "commoner"
    All other "subjects at large". Status abrogated in 1947, since which there have been only two statuses -- people registered in ordinary registers governed by the Family Register Law and the Civil Code -- and people in imperial family registers, pursuant to different laws. Though there have been a few female tennō in history, the present imperial family is legally a patrilineal caste. Lack of a male heir may someday force the government to revise the law to permit female succession and allow a commoner male to enter the imperial family as the husband to a princess of the blood.

Imperial family members were not "subjects at large" as they were recorded in imperial family registers. As defined by such registers, the imperial family at the end of the Pacific War (1941-1945) was a large extended caste composed of 14 princely houses (families). In May 1946, early in the Occupation of Japan, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers abrogated economic and other privileges of the imperial family. Thus pressured to reconsider its membership, a family conference on 13 October 1947 resulted in reducing the family by 11 houses, leaving only 3 houses consisting of the male descendants of Yoshihito (Taishō) -- namely Hirohito and his siblings -- and their families. At the time of this writing (October 2020), there are 6 very small houses totalling 18 members, 13 of them women.


Article 32 of 1872 Family Register Law

Eta, hinin and such

Article 32 (第三十二則) reads as follows.


Notes and source

  1. The commas are not in the original text. They are shown here as received in the transcription provided by Shibusawa Eiichi Memorial Foundation (渋沢栄一記念財団), Digital edition "Shibusawa Eiichi historical materials" (デジタル版『渋沢栄一伝記資料』).
  2. 穢多 is my restoration of the graphs for "eta", which were shown as ☐☐ (ellipses) on the Shibusawa version. While the graphs may have been missing or obscure on the paper copy, I suspect they were redacted by the transcriber or editor, either as a gesture of political correctness, or out of concern that webpage could be blocked by a discriminatory-word filter.
  3. The 《angle brackets》 are mine. They mark a phrase which is embedded in the main text as two columns within the width of the main text.

Article 32 follows articles which have described how people are to be registered, beginning with Article 1, which stipulates the 6 statuses in which people are to be classified on registers, from kazoku (nobels) to heimin (commoners). Heimin are essentionally farmers, craftsmen, and merchants -- in other words, everyone who does not qualify for one of the 5 higher statuses -- the 1st for the nobility, the 2nd and 3rd for former warriors, and the 4th and 5th for active clergy.

But the heimin status also embraces people who were lower than farmers, craftsmen, and merchants -- such as eta and hinin, who were collectively regarded as "senmin" (賤民) -- "base" or "mean" people (outcastes) -- as opposed to "ryōmin" (良民) -- "good" or "proper" people (incastes).

By Article 32, eta, hinin and such who had been co-residing and working with or as farmers, craftsmen, or merchants would already have been registered as heimin. The problem now is how to register the itinerants and others living on the fringes of villages and other settlements, who might not have fixed addresses, or known family ties, dates of birth, or even names.

Article 32 is intended to pick up the rootless remainders, and hence begins like this.


The likes of an eta or hinin or such, who does not have (does not share, is not in) the same household register with a heimin [and would thus already be registered as a heimin] . . .

"Eta, nihin and such" emancipation proclamations

Other proclamations had recently provided for emancipating "eta, hinin and such" (穢多非人等) from their status appellations and treating them as "heimin".

Great Council of State proclamation No. 448 of Meiji 4-8-28 (12 October 1871) provided as follows.


Article abolishing the appellations of eta, hinin and such: From now it shall be possible for both the statuses and occupations [of eta, hinin and such] to be [treated] the same as [those of] commoners (heimin).

Proclamation No. 449, of the same date, provided as follows.


Article abolishing the appellations of eta, hinin and such: [Eta, hinin and such] shall be enrolled in general people's [affiliated population] registers (ippan minseki 一般民籍). It shall be possible to treat both [their] statuses and occupations entirely the same [as others in such registers]. However, because there is the convention of exemption from land taxes et cetera [for those who have been regarded as eta, hinin and such], the Treasury Ministry will be asked to examine the prospects of how to revise [this convention].

These proclamations were issued nearly 5 months after the promulgation of the Family Register Law by Proclamation No. 170 of of Meiji 4-4-4 (22 May 1871), and nearly 4 months before its enforcement from Meiji 5-2-1 (9 March 1872).


1872 Jinshin register statistics

Households by sex of heads, and persons by sex, by status

The following data were adopted from kosekinorekisi (戸籍の歴史) [history of koseki]. ← Website no longer exists
The table design, translated headings, and comments are mine.

Similar data, with slightly different headings, and many other tables of early Meiji family register statistics broken down by status and sex, and prefecture, are now posted on Wikipedia's 壬申戸籍 (Jinshin koseki) page.

These data dramatize the variety of status categories used to classify people who were subject to registration under the 1871 Family Register Law proclamation effective in 1872.

壬申戸籍  明治5年1月29日現在の調査
身分別  戸数 (戸主の性別)  人員 (性別)

Jinshin [1872] household registers  Survey as of 8 March 1872
Numbers of households (by sex of head of houshold) and people (by sex), by status

身分 戸主男 戸主女 戸数 人員数 %計
Household heads by sex Households People by sex People Prcnt of
Status Male Female Total Male Female Total Total
Imperial family皇族 7 4 11 14 15 29 0.0001
Nobility 華族 459 0 459 1,300 1,366 2,666 0.0081
Gentry (former) samurai 士族 258,939 13 258,952 634,701 647,466 1,282,167 3.87
Soldier (former) samurai 卒 166,873 2 166,875 334,407 324,667 659,074 1.99
Landed (former) samurai 地士 646 0 646 1,715 1,601 3,316 0.0100
Monks 僧 75,925 0 75,925 151,677 60,169 211,846 0.64
Shinto priests 旧神官 20,895 4 320,938 52,141 50,336 102,477 0.31
Nuns 尼 - 6,068 6,068 0 9,621 9,621 0.0290
Commoners 平民 6,326,571 170,752 6,497,323 15,619,048 15,218,223 30,837,271 93.13
Karafutoans 樺太人員 - - - 1,155 1,203 2,358 0.0071
Total 計 6,850,315 176,882 7,027,197 16,796,158 16,314,667 33,110,825 100.00
  1. The numerical data Total population of as of 8 March 1872 (Meiji 5-1-29). in the table are from one of several tables of data presented on a Wikipedia overview of the Jinshin registers and several censuses based on them. The subgroupings of the statuses into related classes, the English titling, and the percents are mine.
    1. Other tables show fuller breakdowns of data by domain and occupation. The Jinshin registers were used from 1872-1885, after which they were replaced by registers of a different design. One table shows status breakdowns for annual counts for all years from 1872 through 1885, except 1877-1878.
  2. 戸數人員 are the very first terms of the preamble to the 1872 Household Register Law and are the most important objects of the measure -- the objects to be enumerated for the purpose of protecting and serving the people of Japan, according to the preamble of the law. 戸數 (戸数 kosū) means "count of households" and 人員 (jin'in) means "number of people". The structure of the phrase exemplifies the "balance" or "parallelism" of good Chinese. 戸 (ko) and 人 (jin) are objects to be counted, and 数 (sū) and 員 (in) are counters.
    1. The heading 人員数 is shown as received. Since "jin'in" (人員) itself means "number of people", adding "-su" (-数) to make "jin'in-sū" (人員数) would result in "number of number of people" -- which would seem to be redundant. Today, however, "jin'in" is commonly used to mean "people/members/personnel" -- which are plural. So "jin'in-sū" appears to mean "number of people".
  3. The imperial family (皇族 kōzoku) and nobility (華族 kazoku) were closely related through blood). These two castes would continue to be legal statuses until shortly after the Pacific War (1941-1945). The imperial family was reduced from a large extended family consisting of 14 princely houses (families) to the 3 houses of the male descendants of Yoshihito (Taishō). The members of the 11 other houses were re-registered in general local municipal household registers.

    Paragraph 2 of Article 14 of the 1947 Constitution held that "Peers and peerage shall not be recognized" (華族その他の貴族の制度は、これを認めない "Noble families and other aristocratic families shall not be recognized"). Those who held titles of nobility, which were inherited, lost their titles, and the statuses were struck from their household registers.

    Today, only the imperial family, with its own register system and family laws, continues to constitute a caste apart from the general Japanese population. Imperial family family laws preserve the sort of patriarchy and primogeniture that the 1947 Constitution abolished for the general population.

  4. "Shizoku" (士族) were former samurai or "gentry", a class that would continue to be recorded on registers until the early 20th century but which came with no legal privileges and would eventually have little social meaning either. "Soldier samurai" (sotsuzoku 卒族) and "Local samurai" (jizamrai 地士) [village samurai (gōshi 郷士) in Sanuki only] would be abrogated later in 1872, and most would commoners though some became shizoku.
  5. "Monks" (僧) and "nuns" (尼) were classified as such. The social class of "shrine house" (社家 shake), referring to the priest of a shrine, was abolished shortly before the Jinshin register system was established. However, as Shinto priests had not yet been made commoners, and were not members of any of the other classes, they were classified as "former Shinto priests" (旧神官) for the purpose of registration.
  6. Commoner (heimin 平民) counts do not include abandoned children [foundlings] (kiji 棄兒、sutego 捨児), persons in confinement [prisoners] who have no registers (museki zaikanjin 無籍在監人). Abandoned children are included as a distinct category from 1878. Registerless confinees are included as a distinct category from 1883.
    1. Today, people legally exist in Japan only if they are somehow registered -- either in koseki (if qualified as Japanese), or as aliens (if not Japanese).
    2. From 1947 to 2012, aliens permitted to reside in Japan were registered in alien registers that existed alongside koseki. Today, resident aliens are registered with the Exit-enter-country Control Bureau ("Immigration Bureau") nationally, while locally they are treated like Japanese for purposes of municipal resident registration -- which is different from family or alien registration).
    3. A number of people are born in Japan but go unregistered. At which point their unregistered existence comes to the attention of authorities, the conditions of their birth and upbringing are investigated to determine their qualification as Japanese. If a family court rules that they qualify for Japanese nationality, then they are enrolled in honseki (koseki). Otherwise, they classified as stateless aliens, and remain stateless until which time they acquire a nationality -- possibly Japanese nationality through naturalization.
    4. Foundlings came to be enrolled as Japanese, hence the invocation of jus soli (right of soil) for children whose parents are unknown. Prisoners also came to be registered.
  7. Registrants in Karafuto (樺太) are shown only for the 4 years from 1872-1875, for in 1875 Japan traded its claim to and interests in Karafuto (Southern Saghalin) to Russia for the Northern Kuriles (Northern Chishimas). Karafutonans would begin to be counted again from 1906, the year after Russia ceded the southern half of Saghalin (Karafuto) to Japan following Japan's victory in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905.
    1. Karafuto became Japan's 48th prefecture in 1943. In August 1945, the last month of the Pacific War (1941-1945), Karafuto was invaded and captured by the Soviet Union. And under the terms of surrender signed on 2 September 1945, confirmed by the San Francisco Peace Treaty effective from 28 April 1952, Karafuto abandoned its claims to Karafuto, which became part of Sakhalin in the Soviet Union, now again Russia. Karafuto's registers, however, were evacuated, and their registrants were reregistered in Hokkaidō or wherever they resettled.

See The Interior: The legal cornerstone of the Empire of Japan for an overview of status and other laws in Japan's prefectural Interior from the 1872 Family Register Law to the present.


Meiji-era household registration handbooks

For officials and other family law facilitators

As I write this in 2021, about 124 million people in the world are Japanese. By this I mean they possess Japan's nationality -- an artifact of having a primary domicile register (honseki 本籍) affiliated with a municipality in Japan. This writer has such a register, and therefore I am Japanese.

It's that simple. But not so simple for municipal registrars, who are busy creating new registers for everyone who is recognized as Japanese at time of birth or later in life, and confirms the identities of their parents, and keeps track of all vital events in the person's life -- marriage, births or adoptions of children, divorce, changes of name or primary address, closing the register when one dies, or before one dies if one becomes an alien.

The registers are called "honseki" or "primary registers" when referring to their function as signifying that a person belongs to the locality designated on the register -- the municipality having juisdiction over the address on the register -- and belongs, in turn, to the prefecture having jurisdiction over the village, town, city, or ward -- and belongs, again in turn, to the country or state -- in this case Japan -- having jurisdiction over the prefecture.

Japan attributes its nationality only to people in registers affiliated with local polities within its sovereign dominion. This makes its nationality not only territorial but derivative of local territoriality.

To put it somewhat differently -- territorial affiliations are nested. I am not Japanese because my register is affiliated with Japan. I am Japanese because my register is affiliated with a local territory that is affiliated with provincial territory that is affiliated with Japan.

So Japanese nationality is about locality -- or, more precisely, about being duly registered as belonging to a locality that belongs to Japan. Japan's Nationality Law does not make such stipulations because the equation of nationality with municipal (local) registration is taken for granted. The purpose of the 1871 Family Register Law was to account for the people (jinmin), nationals (kokumin), and subjects (shinmin) of Japan defined as the aggregate of its local communities, broken down and numbered to facilitate the initial registration in 1872. The inhabitants of new territories became Japanese through the agency of acession, and inhabitants of lost territories ceased being Japanese through the agency of secession. The territorial imperative of Japan's nationality is clearly seen in the manner in which people gained Japan's nationality during the years of territorial expansion prior to the Pacific War, and lost Japan's nationality as a result of postwar territorial reductions.

Japan's Ministry of Justice legalists are not in the habit of reducing Japan's nationality to a matter of territorial affiliation. Yet nothing casts the territorial imperative of Japan's nationality in sharper relief than Civil Affairs A No. 438, the notification issued on 19 April 1952 by the Director-General, Civil Affairs Bureau, Attorney General's Office, concerning the disposition of Japanese nationality upon the effectuation of territorial terms of the San Francisco Peace Treaty on 28 April 1952. The notification reported that, upon the separation of Chōsen and Taiwan from Japanese territory, Chosenese and Taiwanese would be separated from Japanese nationality. That was, in effect, a reversal of the attribution of Japanese nationality to people in Taiwan registers and Chōsen registers when Japan gained territories it called Taiwan and Chōsen in 1895 and 1910.

In a nutshell, then, Japanese nationality is primarily an artifact of territory affiliation. It has been acquired at time of birth mainly through family ties (blood) but in some cases through place of birth, and it is acquried later in life through naturalization. Until 1950, nationality later in life could also be acquired through marriage or adoption.

Honseki registers are physically known as "household registers" or "family registers" (koseki 戸籍), on account of their more basic function as records of formal family ties. Registers today may include only 1 person, as in my case and my son's case, or several individuals, as in my daughter's case. I am "Wezarooru", my son in "Sugiyama", and my daughter and her husband, and their daughter and son, are "Kasubushi" -- reflecting the rule that members who share a register must (1) be related through birth, marriage, or adoption, and (2) must share the same family name and register address. Whether people who share a register actually reside together, or whether anyone in the register actually resides at the address on the register, is another matter, as all Japanese who reside in Japan have, in addition to a family register, a residential registration status, which governs their political rights, tax obligations, and all manner of social services that are administered through local governments.

The double-tier of legal existence in Japan as a Japanese -- the possession of a family register, and a residence at an address other than the address on the register -- doesn't double the work for registrars, but it does add to the list of things which people in Japan need to do in order to comply with laws and regulations concerning their legal existence -- which, for most, begins with registration within 14 days of their birth. From this point, every change of status -- becoming an adoptee, an alliance of marriage, becoming a biological or adoptive parent, a divorce or dissolution of an adoption, and finally death -- and every reportable change of address between birth and death -- become family register matters -- work for the people concerned, the clerks and registrars at municipal halls, and the scriveners and attorneys who may at times be called upon to help prepare notifications and other documents in difficult cases.

All the above creates a huge market for legal information about registration laws and regulations, and the bureaucratic forms that need to be completed and filed, sometimes with supporting documents, at times with formal family court permissions.

Japan's honseki population (本籍人口) as of Meiji 5-1-29 (8 March 1872) was 33,110,796. By Meiji 27-12-31 (31 December 1895) it was 42,270,620. Counts and estimates of resident populations were slightly but not very different.


Aoki Okashi and Takasaki Shūsuke 1877

Jinmin hitsuyō / Koseki no kokoroe

[ People's essential / Guide to household registers ]

Yosha Bunko scans

Click on text images to enlarge

Portable guide to household registration

The book shown here is one of many palm-sized "bean book" (mamebon 豆本) publications that met the demand for portable reading and reference material -- from illustrated stories to, in this case, a guide to the essentials of the Family Register Law, which was then only 8 years old and accessible only to people who were both literate and familiar with legal and bureaucratic language. This book broke the Family Register Law down by topic and cited sources, by way of describing the scope of the law and clarifying what it required and permitted.

The book is printed and bound in the conventional "Japanese book" (wabon 和本) style. Its 8.5cm x 12.0cm x 2.0cm size would have slipped into the sleeve of a contemporary garment, and would fit in a shirt pocket today. Its 100 folio (double) pages, printed from copper plates, are secured by paper fasteners and stitched between soft covers with a white silk thread in a conventional 4-hole binding (yotsume toji 四つ目綴じ).

Double glossing

The text shows lots of furigana to aid reading kanji, but also numerous examples of what I call "double glossing" -- in which kanji are shown with kana glosses on both their right (reading) and left (meaning) sides. Some very interesting examples are shown on page 30b (right side of "Removal from zoku" image).

Pages read right-to-left, entries read top-to-bottom, right-to-left
Transliterations, literations, and translations are mine

Aoki Takasaki 1877
Aoki Takasaki 1877

Colophon and (perhaps) previous owner's signature

Aoki Takasaki 1877

Title page and block (plate) owner's seal

Aoki Takasaki 1877

End of preface and start of foreword

Aoki Takasaki 1877

Start of Aoki's kanbun preface

Aoki Takasaki 1877

2nd and 3rd pages of introduction

Aoki Takasaki 1877

End of contents and start of Takasaki's introduction

Aoki Takasaki 1877

Rest of register member relationship hierarchy

Aoki Takasaki 1877

End of introduction, start of register member hierarchy

Aoki Takasaki 1877

Continuation of "shuzoku" statuses

Aoki Takasaki 1877

Start of "shuzoku" (lineage clan) statuses

Aoki Takasaki 1877

"Marriage with foreigners", start of "Divorce"

Aoki Takasaki 1877

"Leaving" and "Removal from" zoku statuses

Aoki Takasaki 1877

End of "5 degree kinship chart"

Aoki Takasaki 1877

Start of "5 degree kinship chart"

Aoki and Takasaki 1877

Family registration for (literate) dummies

This very detailed handbook, printed with copper plates in 1877, in a small book (shōhon 小本) edition measuring 11.0 x 15.0 centimeters, with 100 numbered folios (200 pages) in a conventional 4-hole folio binding.

青木可笑 閲
高崎侑助 編
人民必要 / 戸籍之心得
版権許可 明治十年六月十九日
出版 仝年七月廿三日

Aoki Okashi (vetter)
Takasaki Shūsuke (compiler)
Jinmin hitsuyō / Koseki no kokoroe Zen
[ People's essential / Guide to family registers (Complete)]
Haruka Shooku zōhan
[ Haruka Bookshop block/plate owner ]
Jūdō Sanjin Aoki Okashi, editor
Compiler and publisher: Takasaki Shūsuke
Publishing rights permission: 19 June 1877
Publication: 23 July 1877
Printing bookshop: Nakamura Kumajirō, Yūzandō Kanae
Preface (1 folio), Foreword (2 folios), Contents (4 folios), main text (93 folios)
Copper plates, 4-hole folio binding

Title page

The title page, pasted to the back of the front cover, attributes the publication to "Aoki Okashi" as the "checker" or "vetter" (etsu 閲) and Takasaki Shūsuke as the "compiler" (hen 編). The title page also states that the "right-to-publish permit" (hanken menkyo 版権免許) was issued in June 1877, and the "owner of the blocks/plates" (zōhan 蔵板) was "Haruka Bookshop" (Haruka Shooku 春香書屋). Facing the title page, on what amounts to the front free fly page, is Haruka Shooku's block/plate-right's seal.

Aoki Okashi (1825-1881 青木可笑) was also known as Aoki Judō (青木樹堂) among several other names he used as a student of Chinese texts, a poet, and a government official. He was born in Nagoya and grew up in the service of Owari domain (Owari-han 尾張藩), which is now the western part of Aichi prefecture. He studied and worked in other parts of Japan during the years before and after the arrival of Commodore Perry in 1853 and the start of the Meiji Restoration in 1868. From about 1870 to 1872, he was posted to Karafuto (樺太), which Japan then claimed but soon traded to Russia for the northern Chishima islands (see 1875 Treaty of St. Petersburg). From 1875 and until his death in 1881 -- hence during the time he vetted Takasaki Sensuke's publication -- Aoki worked in the Treasury Ministry (Ōkurashō 大蔵省) in Tokyo. During his life, he compiled and edited a number of other works, some of them also published by Yūzandō Kanae.

Takasaki Shūsuke (高崎侑助) remains unknown to me at the time of this writing (2021).

Aoki's preface

The 1-folio (2-page) preface, dated Meiji 10-07 (July 1877), is signed "Judō Sanjin Aoki Okashi" (樹堂散人青木可笑) as the "editor" (sen 撰) and sealed "Judō" (樹堂). It's Japanized Chinese (kanbun 漢文) text begins as as follows.


To be continued.


The 2-folio (4-page) foreward (reigon 例言) was "written by the compiler" (編者誌) and dated July 1877. It describes the purpose of the book and explains its notations in the manner of a legend.

Takasaki's introduction

The 4-page introduction, by editor Takasaki Shūsuke, is titled "Synopsis of compilation" (Henshū no taii 編輯の大意). It reiterates the purpose of the Family Register Law, much as was stated in its prologue -- namely, in order to provide for the safety and wellbeing of "people throughout the country" (zenkoku jinmin 全國人民) -- everyone who belonged to the imperial state, the "emperor's country" (kōkoku 皇國) -- the people (jinmin 人民), all nationals (kokumin 國民) -- had to be enumerated and accounted for in "peoples household registers" (jinmin koseki 人民戸籍).


The colophon says the compiler and publisher was Takasaki Sensuke of Tokyo, while the "printing bookshop" (hatsuda shoshi 発兌書肆) agents were Nakamura Kumajirō, a hanmoto printer, and Yūzandō Kanae, a bookshop proprietor.


Order of members in the same register
by relationship to head of household

The 1st item in the main section, immediately following Takasaki's introduction, is titled "Koseki dōseki retsuji no jun (戸籍同戸列次の順)), which means "Order of sequencing [of family members entered in] the same household register".

The title is paraphrased in hiragana which appears to read "Ninbetsuteu (Ninbetsuchō) ni kaki no sukanai no jun" (にんべつてうにかきのするかないのじゅん), which means "Order of [members in] the family to be written in the population ledger (register)" and would be graphed 人別帳に書きのする家内の順.

The list begins with the head of the household (page 3a), followed by the oldest to the youngest direct ancestors and descendants relative to the head (pages 3a-3b), then the oldest to youngest collateral relatives by closeness to the head (pages 3b-4a), and ends with the spouses of cousins and below (page 4b).

Note that the list is attributed to the Family Register Law, a Great Council of State proclamation promulgated in the 4th month of the 4th year of Meiji (late May 1871). The proclamation is denoted by 令, which is doubled glossed -- (1) "rei" (れい) on the right, the Sino-Japanese reading -- and (2) "ofure" (おふれ) on the left, which alludes to a proclamation. The legend in the Foreword explains 令 as signifying 御布告達 (o-fukokutatsu), which means "proclamations" (fukoku 布告) and "notifications" (futatsu 布達) of the Great Council of State. Contemporary publications graph "o-fure" as 御布令 or 御触れ.

 0. household head (aruji 戸主 koshu)
 1. great great grandfather (oho-jii 高祖父 ō-jii, kō-sofu)
   great grandmother (oho-baba 高祖母 ō-baba, kō-sobo)
 2. great grandfather (hii-chii 曽祖父 sō-sofu)
   great grandmother (hii-baba 曽祖母 sō-sobo)
 3. grandfather (jiji 祖父 sofu)
   grandmother (baba 祖父 sobo)
 4. father (chichi 父)
   mother (haha 母)
 5. wife (tsuma 妻)
 6. child (ko 子)
 7. daughter-in-law (yome 嫁)
 8. grandchild (mago 孫)
 9. great grandchild (hiko 曽孫 sō-son)
10. great-great grandchild (yashihago 玄孫 gen-son) [yashago]
11. brothers (keudai 兄弟 kyōdai)
12. great-great uncle (oho-woji 大伯叔父 ō-oji, ta-hakushakufu)
   great-great aunt (oho-woba 大伯叔母 ō-oba, ta-hakushakubo)
13. great uncle (woji 伯叔父 oji, hakushakufu) [ō-oji 大叔父]
   great aunt (woba 伯叔母 oba, hakushakubo) [ō-oba 大叔母]
14. nephew (woi 甥 oi)
   niece (mei 姪)
15. 1st cousin (itoko 従弟)
16. 1st cousin once removed (itoko-chigahi 従弟違 itoko-chigai)
   [(1st) cousin of one's parents]. child of one's (1st) cousin
17. 2nd cousin (mata-itoko 又従弟) [iya-itoko, futa-itoko, hatoko]
   [child of (1st) cousins of parents]
18. husbands / wives of brothers (siblings) (kiyoudai no otsuto tsuma
   兄弟姉妹夫妻 kyōdai shimai otto tsuma)
19. husbands / wives of (kiyoudai no otsuto tsuma
   大迫父母夫妻 kyōdai shimai otto tsuma)
20. husbands / wives of aunts and uncles (woji woba no otsuto tsuma
   伯叔父母夫妻 oji oba no otto tsuma)
21. husbands / wives of cousins and below (itoko ika no otsuto tsuma
   従弟以下夫妻 itoko ika no otto tsuma

List spans 9 generations

The list spans 4 generations of ancestors and 4 generations of descendants on either side of the head, counted as the 0 generation. My guess is that most extended families spanned only 5 or 6 generations, some 7, a small few 8, and very rarely would a register have included 9 generations.

List incompete

The list omits some possible members.

For example, it does not include "son-in-law" (muko 婿). So long as the head had a son who was able and willing to succeed him (her), a daughter would marry out -- migrate to the register of her husband and adopt his family name. But having only a daughter, or perhaps no heir, he (she) would adopt a son who would then marry the daughter, or adopt the man the daughter married as an incoming husband.

A long note following the list (which continues on page 4b) talks about positioning a mistress (mekake 妾) of the father after the mother, and a mistress of the grandfather after the grandmother (page 4b).


"Shuzoku" lineage clans

"Shu" (種 tane) means "seed" or a "variety" defined by a seed. "Zoku" (族 yakara) means "family" or a "clan" of related families. Here "shu" is probably best understood as a "seed line" or "lineage" in a (typically) patrilineal succession of families going back to a male progenitor, whose standing the "zoku" or family inherit.

The architects of the Family Register Law inherited a long history of statuses, some passed down through generations, others recently acquired. Meiji reformers reduced the formal statuses that existed at the end of the Tokugawa period to 5 -- 4 non-commoner "shuzoku" castes and 1 commoner "heimin" class.

The shuzoku or "lineage" castes were (1) "imperial family" (kōzoku 皇族), (2) or "peers" or "nobles" (kazoku 華族), consisting of former court nobles (公卿 kugyō, 公家 kuge) and domain lords (諸侯 shokō, 大名 daimyō), (3) former higher-ranking samurai "gentry" (shizoku 士族), and (4) former lower-ranking samurai "soldiers" (sotsu 卒, sotsuzoku 卒族). Shizoku received a one-time-only stipend to compensate for the loss of their hereditary stipends as samurai. Sotsu were generally foot soldiers or other such samurai underlings who had little standing and no hereditary stipends.

The shizoku status was a source of family pride for those who used their samurai educations and "severance pay" wisely in business and other ventures. Unlike kazoku status, however, the shizoku status came with no social or political privileges. And it was a cause of ridicule for those who flaunted their ex-samurai pride but squandered their opportunities.

The sotsu status, intended to give lower ranking samurai a distinct identity, proved to be an empty gesture. The sotsu status ended in 1872, and by 1875 such former samurai were reenrolled in commoner registers.

The Family Register Law allowed changes of status, mostly from kazoku and shizoku to heimin, but occasionally there was cause to a commoner or gentry a member of the nobility. And apparently a few sotsu and heimin were redesignated shizoku.

The term "zokushō" (族称) or "zoku appellation" came to be used to refer to the status of the head of a register. And later registers had place for the "zokushō" status to be written or selected.

During the early Meiji years, English "race" was being translated into Japanese as "jinshu" (人種) meaning a "variety of people" presumably related by a common biological history. This could mean "race" in its broader anthropological sense or in its narrower "skin color" sense.

Also during the early Meiji period, "shuzoku" (種族) was being used to translate "caste" as a matter of "chisuji" (血筋) or "bloodline" -- an older and widely used metaphor for biological lineage.

Later in the Meiji period, "shuzoku" (種族) was officially used -- in its broader anthropological sense in reference to a distinct "ethnos" or "people" or "tribe" or "race" -- to classify the various lineage groups in Taiwan, including different Chinese clans and the several recognized aboriginal tribes. Japan inherited the "shuzoku" nomenclature from China when China ceded Taiwan to Japan in 1895 as partial settlement in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895).

About this time, the term "minzoku" (民族) was coined to translate "ethnos" and "nation" in their broader racial senses, and eventually "minzoku" also came to be used to translate "people" in its racioethnic sense. Today there is some tendency to reserve "jinshu" for "race" in its narrow skin-color sense and use "minzoku" to refer to a racioethnic "nation" or an "ethnic" entity or "people" regarded as an ethnic entity, while "shuzoku" is now most likely used to mean (1) "clan" or "tribe" defined mainly by lineage, habitat, language, and customs; or (2) "race" in a "tribal" or "clannish" rather than "national" sense. In reality, all these terms are likely to be conflated in carefree usage.


Leaving and removal from "zoku" statuses

Members of the nobility (kazoku), and former samurai gentry (shizoku) were allowed to leave their lineage statuses and become commoners (heimin), as this handbook explains in a section titled "Mizukara zoku o saru" (自ら族を去る) or "Personally leaving [one's] zoku" (pages 30a-30b). The next section, titled "Jozoku" (除族) or "Removal from zoku", deals how "kashizoku" (華士族) who committed crimes were stripped of their lineage statuses and enrolled as heimin (pages 30b-32a).

By the time this book was published in 1877, there were only 2 "zoku" (族) or "shuzoku" (種族) statuses -- kazoku and shizoku -- for sotsu had become either shizoku or heimin. While shizoku were generally proud of their status, some found it a barrier when trying to break into the world of commoners as farmers or merchants, while others committed crimes or otherwise behaved in a manner unbecoming of the status.

"Minseki" and "heimin"

2 double glossings on page 30b are of special linguistic interest.

The 1st interesting double glossing concerns the graphs 民籍編入, which on the right are glossed to be read ミんせきへんにう (minseki henniu [hennyō]) or "enrolled in a [commoner] population register" -- but on the right are glossed to be understood as へいミんになる (heimin ni naru 平民になる) or "become a commoner".

This double glossing appears in an example of a Shimane prefecture shizoku named Nitto Shin'ichirō (新田新一朗), who in February 1873 petitioned to be enrolled in a heimin register, for the reason that having a "zoku register" (zokuseki 族籍) was an inconvenience in his social relations with merchants when engaging in his own business.

The 2nd interesting double glossing concerns the graphs 庶人 glossed to be read しょじん (shojin) or "ordinary person" meaning へいみん (heimin 平民) or "commoner". This phrase appears in a sentence which states that, ordinarily, a "kashizoku" who commits an offense will be made a commoner. A note states that the punishment would apply only to the offender, not his descendants. An offence could be anything that constituted "shameless flagrancies" (harenchijin 破廉恥甚) unbecoming of kashizoku, including the four crimes of "kanji tōzoku fukō tobaku" (姦事盗賊不孝賭博) -- wickedness, banditry, unfilialty, and gambling".

Shizoku guilty of inciting or joining insurrections were stripped of their status to allow them to be punished as commoners, including beheading and public exposure of their head. Several shizoku who participated in the 1874 Saga Rebellion met such fates, including Etō Shinpei (江藤新平 1834-1874), whose case was the subject of a Tōkyō Nichinichi Shinbun nishikie story. See TNS 656 on "News Nishikie" website for details.


Marriage with foreigner

What is most important when observing the numerous guides to household registration that were published during the Meiji period -- punctuated by spurts of of new editions every time the Family Register Law and related laws were heavily revised -- is the inclusion in of the 1873 ordinance on alliances of marriage and adoptions between Japanese and foreigners. Every compiler of such handbooks had of course to be abreast of the law, and the purpose of such handbooks was to facilitate wider knowledge about the law.

While the vast majority of the users of such handbooks doubtlessly went through life without ever needing to know of the existence much less purpose of the 1873 proclamation or it's 1898 revision, information was easily available in popular handbooks, which typically listed something like "Gaikokujin to kekkon" (外國人と結婚) in the table of contents for quick finding, as this 1877 handbook did at the end of Part 13 "Marriage matters" (Kon'in no koto 婚姻の事) -- immediately before the start of Part 14 "Divorce" (Rikon 離婚).

The title of the entry double glosses 結婚 as "kekkon けっこん" its reading, and "konrei こんれい" (婚礼) its meaning. It merely states that permission to marry (kon'in 婚姻) a foreigner (gwaikokujin 外國人) is to obtained according to the stipulations to the left, then notes that the stipulations have been omitted (page 46b). Other handbooks describe the effects of alliances of marriage or adoption with foreigners on the legal statuses of the concerned parties.


5 degree kinship chart

Japanese family law -- as does family law in other countries -- takes into consideration the proximity of kinship -- the closeness between two people in terms of their blood or in-law relationship. Part 23, the penultimate chapter of this handbook, is titled "Gotōshin-dzu" (五等親圖) or "5 degree kinship chart" (pages 91a-92b).

The chart lists relationships, pretty much in the same order as family members are supposed to be listed in a household register (see above), but broken down into 5 degrees of kinship.

The source stated at the top of Part 23 is "Shintsu kōryō 新律綱領) or "Outline of new codes", a penal code promulgated on Meiji 3-12-20 (9 February 1871), about 4 months before the promulgation of the Family Register Law on Meiji 4-4-5 (23 May 1871). I have introduced this code, and shown the first 2 of the 5 degrees of kinship, in Five degrees of relationship in 1871 Shinritsu kōryō in the article on Social status laws in Japan in the "Anthropology" section of this website, which see for details.

For purposes of discussion here, I will repeat the list of 1st-degree and 2nd-degree kin.

Five degrees of relationship in 1871 Shinritsu kōryō
Wife and concubines share same status as second degree relatives

法令全書 (明治3年第944号)

Outline of new codes
Meiji 3-12-20 (9 February 1871)
Hōrei zensho (Meiji 3, No. 944)

3rd-5th degree relatives omitted


1st degree relatives


2nd degree relatives



Father, mother (Note 1)
Adoptive father, mother (Note 2)
Adopted child

伯叔父姑 (ヲ / ヂヲバ)
姪 (アニオトウトノコ)


Grandfather, grandmother
Biological [legitimate] mother (Note 1)
Step [legitimate] mother (Note 2)
Uncle, aunt (Note 3)
Brother, sister
Husband's father, mother
Wife, mistress
Nephew, niece (Note 4)
Wife of son

Note 1   Recognizing biological father, and biological mother as father's principal wife.

Note 2   Non-biological parents.

Note 1   As a woman, other than father's principal wife, and other than adoptive mother, to whom one was born out of wedlock, but who has been recognized by father.

Note 2   As father's principal wife who is not biological mother or adoptive mother.

Note 3   Parenthetic gloss gives reading of characters as "wo / dziwoba" -- i.e., "oji / oba" -- meaning "uncle / aunt" but possibly referring only to father's siblings.

Note 4   Parenthetic gloss translates "Children of older and younger brothers" hence apparently these are only fraternal nephews and nieces.

Wife, mistress

Arai and Takasaki mentioned mistresses but did not directly integrate them into the list of family members in the order they were to be shown in a household register (see above). However, they list "mistress" after "wife" in the 5 degree kinship chart.

The 1871 Shinritsu kōryō classifies a "wife" and a "mistress" side by side as 2nd-degree relatives in the 5 degree kinship scheme. Whether the wife or mistress had more privileges or pulled more weight in the family is another matter. The children of a mistress generally had less if any claim to inheritance -- and the unequal treatment of out-of-wedlock children today continues to be a contentious issue in family law litigation. When it came to succession, however, the son of a mistress might be groomed to be the next head of household, or a daughter of a mistress might be groomed to be the wife of an adopted son -- if the wife had no children, or if none of her children were willing or able to succeed to the headship.

Mekake were not a subject of the 1880 Penal Code enforced from 1882. And the 1898 Family Register law provided that "mekake" was no longer a valid status.

See Wives and mistresses in the "Social status laws in Japan" article for details.


Matsuura Hiroshi 1877

Jinmin koseki shōgyō binran

[ Peoples household registers and
businesses and trades handbook ]

Yosha Bunko scans

Click on text images to enlarge

Matsuura 1877

Title page facing publisher's seal on free fly

Matsuura 1877

Front cover with title slip and back cover

Matsuura 1877

Folio 11

Matsuura 1877

Folio 10

Folios 10-11 showing 1873 "Marriage with foreigner" proclamation
Preceded by "Receiving [queries about] widows in families" (9b-10a)
Followed by "dissolving alliance [of marriage] (divorce) (11a-13a)

Matsuura 1877

松浦宏編纂 (表紙、扉)
官令規則 / 伺㨋令 // 全 (表紙)
眠票規則便覧三篇 (本文、裏付)
編集及出版人:松浦宏 (裏付)
聞官 明治十年三月二十一日 (裏付)
明治十年九月 (扉)
一丁 (扉)、 三丁 (目録)、三十丁 (本文、裏付け)、二丁 (広告)

Matsuura Hiroshi compiler (cover, title page)
Jinmin koseki shōgyō binran
[ Peoples household registers and businesses and trades handbook ]
Kanrei kisoku / Ukagai shirei // Zen (cover)
[ Goverment orders and regulations / Queries and directives // Complete (cover) ]
Minpyō kisoku binran 3-hen (main text, colophon)
[ Peoples rolls regulations handbook 3rd edition ] (main text, colophon)
Monkan Meiji 10-nen 3-gatsu 21-nichi (colophon)
[ Government vetting 21 March 1877 ] (colophon)
Meiji 10-nen 9-gatsu (title page)
[ September 1877 ] (title page)
1 folio (title and seal), 3 folios (contents), 30 folios (main text, colophon), 2 folios (Matsuura's publications catalog)

This book is small enough to fit in the sleeve of a kimono or a garment pocket. It measures 8cm wide, 17cm tall, and 1cm thick and is manufactured as a "folding book" (orihon 折本). Some 66 pages were printed on one side of several sheets of paper that were spliced together to make a single long sheet. The long sheet was then folded accordian style to make 33 folios (chō 丁) 30 of which -- the main text of the booklet -- are numbered. The backs of the two end pages were then pasted to semi-hard paper boards as shown in the images to the right.

The contents are organized into independent upper and lower bands, which are separately described in upper and lower bands of the "mokuroku" (目録) or "contents". The part on "Marriage with foreigner" (Gaikokujin to kekkon 外國人ト結婚), for example, spans the lower band of 2 pages (see image).

The cover, title, and colophon attribute Matsuura somewhat differently -- "henshū" (編集) and "henshū" (編集), both meaning "compiler" -- and "henshū oyobi shuppanjin" (編集及出版人), meaning "compiler and publisher".


The colophon identifies the compiler, Matsuura Hiroshi (松浦博), as a "commoner" (heimin 平民) residing at 16-banchi in 2-chome of Matsuzaka-chō (松坂町) in the Honjo (本所) quarter of the 6th minor-ward (小区) in the 6th major-ward (大区) of Tōkyō-fu (東京府). Tokyo was one of 10 urban prefectures (fu 府) in Japan at the time. The major-minor-ward (dai-shō ku 大小区) system was created throughout Japan in 1871 to accommodate the creation of household registers. Tokyo had 97 minor wards divided into 6 major wards. This administration system was replaced in 1878 by the county-ward-town-village (gun-ku-chō-son 郡区町村) system, under which Tokyo prefecture had 15 wards with names rather than numbers. The neighborhood of Matsuura's residence is in the Ryōgoku (両国) area of today's Sumida ward (墨田区).

The colophon also states that the handbook was approved by officials (monkan 聞官) on 21 March 1877 -- whereas the title page states that the booklet was published by the copper-plate department of Matsuura's publishing company in September 1877.

Catalog of other publications in back

The last 2 folios consist of a catalog of other publications by Matsuura. It was common then, and still common today, for a publisher to advertise other titles in the back of a book. The titles publicized in this booklet were printed and sold by a bookshop (hatsuda shoren 発兌書林) in front of Shibadai Jinja (芝太神宮). There is a shrine by this name in the Shibadaimon (芝大門) neighborhood of today's Minato ward.

The bookshop was owned by and possibly also named Yamanaka Ichibee (山中市兵衛). Presumably Matsuura produced the copper plates used to print the booklet, which Yamamoto Ichibee printed and distributed as Matsuura's agent. Yamamoto appears to have been a woodblock publisher (hanmoto 版元) who produced all manner of printed matter using conventional methods while adopting newer copperplate, lithograph, and metal-type technologies.

Marriage with foreigners

Marriages between Japanese and foreigners, while legally permitted, were rare, and of all the legal matters that might involve a Japanese at the time, the the topic of marriage with a foreigner was probably the least. Everyone was affected someway by family registration, and even matters involving, say, slaughter houses or archery ranges would have been more relevant to the daily lives of the people than a marriage between a Japanese and a foreigner who didn't have the common sense to marry their own kind.

Yet contemporary household registration handbooks and other guides to civil matter s would not be complete without some reference to the 1873 proclamation that facilitated marriages with foreigners. It was, after all, a brick in the wall of family law.

"Marriage with foreigners" is listed as a distinct topic on the title page and on the contents pages. As shown in the image to the right, about half a page is given to the subject.

The handbook cites the 1873 proclamation on alliances of marriage and adoption with foreigners verbatim with furigana. Compare the text in the images to the right with the text shown and translated in 1873 intermarriage proclamation: Family law and "the standing of being Japanese" under "Nationality" on this website.

Only the proclamation is shown. There are no remarks about procedures and forms, and no examples of cases to show how the proclamation applies., in the form of queries and replieshow the rules question and answers of the kind

Note on the text to the right of "Marriage to foreigner" text on the image to the right. This is part of the "Receiving [queries about] widows in families" section, which is partly translated under "haigū (配偶) spouse".


Title page

The title page lists the following matters addressed by the handbook. Practically all are familiar to family registration public officials and private facilitators today. Keep in mind that these are topics of interest at the time the booklet was approved in March and published in September 1877 -- during the Seinan War (Seinan Sensō 西南戦争), sometimes called the Satsuma Rebellion, though the war came in the wake of numerous early skirmishes elsewhere, and embroiled more than Satsuma (see Seinan war on the "News Nishikie" website).

The comments in the following table should not be taken as definitive. The topics are all more complicated than may seem. The laws were evolving and their enforcement varied. Some registration practices significantly changed or were discontinued over the next few decades. The most fundamental practices remain familiar today although bureaucratic procedures have changed with technology. The most important change, however, was the shifting the nationality overseeing of family registers, which are administered by municipal governments, from the Interior Ministry to the who now have jurisdiction over household registers and resident registration within their jurisdictions.

Topics listed on title page of Matsuura's 1877 Jinmin koseki shōgyō binran
Baiting readers with preview of subjects including "Marriage with foreigner"

復籍 fukuseki

re-enrollment in register   An alliance of marriage or adoption between families requires that one party migrate to the other party's register. If the alliance is dissolved, the party who migrated is restored to his or her original register. Today, a person leaving a register because of a divorce or termination of an adoption may have the option of creating a new register.

転移 ten'i

moving   "Moving" defined as changing one's residental address from one jurisdiction to another requires notification. Today, one files either a "leaving notification" (tenshutsu-todoke 転出届) in the municpality from which one is moving, or an "entering notification" (tennyū-todoke 転入届) in the municipality to which one has moved. If moving to another address within the same jurisdiction, one files a "change of residence notification" (tenkyo-todoke 転居届).

寄留 kiryū

temporary residence   "Kiryuണ" (yoridome) refers to "visiting" (yoru 寄る) and "staying" (tomeru 留める). If one lived or sojourned someplace other than at the address on one's family register, for 90 or more days, one was supposed to register the address of one's different residence at the local police registrar. The "kiryū" system was abolished by the Resident Registration Law (住民登録法) of 1952, which was replaced by the Residents Basic Registry Law (住民基本台帳法) in 1967. While somewhat different in their administration, all these registration systems have facilitated the maintenance of both (1) a "permanent addresses" (honseki) -- a family register addresses, which may be real, or may be historical and sentimental) -- and (2) a "resident address" (jūsho 住所) -- the address of the place where one actually lives. All have served the purpose of establishing who actually lives where in order to efficiently administer of rights and duties of citizenship, which begins with legal existence in the form of affiliation with a municipality (resident registration). Today, residents are supposed to notify the registrar at their local municipal hall of their move to an address in the municipality from another municipality, or to a new address within the same municipality, within 14 days of moving.

旅行 ryokō

travel   "Travel defined as short-term movement was restricted during the Tokugawa period. One needed permits to pass through checkpoints on major roads. In 1869, the 2nd year of the Meiji period, checkpoints were abolished, and people were free to travel within the country -- to a point. There were still uprisings related to the civil war that brought about the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate and the restoration of the emperor to the seat of authority that had been delegated to the shōgun. Local authorities still wanted to be able to know the identities of strangers, and to provide them a means of keeping tabs of whose living where, the 1871 Family Register Law required travelers obtain permits showing their name, address, and occupation, from local police, who maintained household registers. Heads of households were responsible for filing a "travel notification" for family members who needed such permits, which travelers had to carry and show when required. Sojouring for 90 days or longer in another locality required filing a "temporary residence notification" (see above). Permission to travel overseas had to be obtained from a local police office before applying for a passport.

Travel outside Japan entailed crossing a border between Japan and a foreign country. Japan's national border encompassed all its sovereign territory, including the prefectural Interior, Chōsen, Taiwan, and Karafuto. Movement between Japan's legal territories -- i.e., between the Interior, Chōsen, Taiwan, and Karafuto -- did not constitute "travel" though in some cases transit permit might be needed at interritorial ports.

附籍 fuseki

attached registration

The honseki of someone who did not qualify as a blood or adopted or in-law relative of a family, who lived with the family for fostering purposes, or as a servant or lodger, could be attached to the family's honseki, which made the person a quasi family member. This system was discontinued from 1886 after critics argued that it didn't accord with the emerging corporate family system. From that point on, the honseki (koseki) of co-residing non-relatives remainined separate entities.

改名 kaimei

changing peronsal name

Because everyone who shared the same household register shared the family name at the head of the register, a person's family name (shi 氏, shō 姓, myōji 苗字) changed whenever entering another family register through marriage or adoption. The family name would change again if a married or adopted person was restored to his or her former register following the dissolution of a marriage or adoption. A personal name (na, mei 名, namae 名前), however, could be changed anytime with the permission of the head of household.

Today, family names change -- as they did in the past -- through automatic application of the law in cases of register migration following marriage or adoption. Individuals who divorce, who had changed their names, have the option of keeping the name aquired through marriage or reverting to the name they had before marrying. Changing family or personal names for other reasons have required special permission. Today, changes of either the family name on a register (very rare) or a personal name (rare but relatively easy), require permission from a family court based on a petition stating reasons the court finds acceptable, and paying of a small filing fee.

There is a lot of confusion about the family and personal name changes in Imperial Japan, such as in Chō, a legal territory with its own family law and household register system. In the prefectural Interior, family names (氏 shi) were the same for all members of a register and natal family names changed when migrating to another family through marriage or adoption. In Chōsen, natal surnames (shō 姓) did not change through marriage or adoption, hence a husband and wife in a Chōsen family register would keep their natal names for both legal and social purposes. Chōsen registration laws were gradually Interiorized to faciliate interterritorial compatibility, but the different family name / surname standards in the two territories was an obstacle to the integrationist "Interior-Chōn one-body" (Nai-Sen ittai 内鮮一体) policy. The Government General of Chōsen attempted to resolve the difference in naming standards by promulgating the so-called "Create family name, change personal name" (Sōshi kaimei 創氏改名) directives and ordinances in 1939, enforced from 1940. See Sōshi kaimei myths: Confusion then, misunderstanding now for details.

家督 katoku

family headship   This term referred to the role of heading a family as its leader or chief. The person who succeeded to the headship, typically the first-born son, became the "head of household" (see below) of the "honke" (本家) or "principal (main, head, stem) family". A 2nd or 3rd son, if establishing a "bunke" (分家) branch family, became the head of household of the branch family, his 1st born son stood to inherit or succeed to the headship of the branch family. Depending on the closeness of branch families to the main family, branch family heads might defer to the wishes of the head of the main family. "Family councils" might include the heads or representatives of several families in the extended family.

相続 sōzoku

succession, inheritance   Succession involved inheritance of personal and family assets and debts, titles, and family headship. Imperial-era family law was followed primogeniture, according to which the oldest son of a head-of-household would succeed so long as his father regarded him as the most suitable successor. Generally, a 1st-born son was immediately groomed for successorship, but at times the 1st son died or disappeared, or he abandoned his birthright or was disowned and severed from the family register, in which case a younger son would succeed -- or heir would adopted. And occasionally, lacking a male heir, a wife or daughter might succeed.

Primogeniture ended with the coming into force of the 1947 revision of the Civil Code effective from 1948. Under Japan's current inheritance laws, which apply to Japanese, and to alien residents of Japan whose home country laws defer to Japan, unless a head of household leaves a valid will testifying otherwise, a surviving spouse will receive half, and surviving legitimate children will equally share the remaining half, of the decedent's legacy, both assets and debts.

戸主 koshu

head of household   A formal position of authority over the affairs of a household under the "corporate family" (ie 家) system that evolved over the centuries, became increasingly codified in nationwide laws after the nationalization of Japan's local domains as prefectures from 1868, and was fully instituted in family law from 1915. The head of household had the authority to permit or not permit membership in a register, and alliances of marriage or adoption of register members. The head was the first listed in the register, and was usually succeeded by a first son -- possibly another son -- possibly by an adopted heir not necessarily related by blood. A wife or daughter might succeed to the headship (katoku 家督) in the absence of a suitable male heir. A female head of household (jokoshu 女戸主) might marry and, rather than migrate to her husband's register, he would enter her regester as an "incoming husband" (nyūfu 入夫) who, with her consent, might become the head of household.

養子 yōshi

adopted person   A minor child or adult could be adopted for any number of reasons. A female could be adopted as the prospective wife of a blood or adopted son (enjo 縁女). A male could be adopted as the prospective husband of a blood or adopted daughter (endan 縁男).

The simultaneous translator Nishiyama Sen (西山千 1911-2007), born and raised in Utah, the son of immigrant Japanese parents, who did not register him in their family register in Japan, was adopted by his mother into his deceased father's register, which had become her, when he accompanied her to Japan with his father's ashes in the late 1930s (personal communication). The 1899 Nationality Law provided that a foreigner who was adopted into a family stood to acquire "the standing of being Japanese (Nihonjin taru no bungen 日本人タルノ分限). All forms of derivative nationality -- nationality acquired through an alliance of marriage or adoption -- was dropped from the 1950 Nationality Law. Since 1950, nationality later in life -- i.e., other than at time of birth -- can be acquired only through naturalization, which is permitted by discretionary authority upon application, rather than by automatic operation of the law upon notification.

婚姻 kon'in

marriage   Legal term for relationship more commonly called "kekkon" (結婚). In Japan, a marriage is legal at which point a "marriage notification" (kon'in todoke 婚姻届) is submitted to, vetted, and accepted by a municipal registrar. There is no licensing, and no religious or civil ceremonies are required. Notification forms require only the identifications and seals (signatures) of the parties who marry and two witnesses.

Customarily, a marriage is socially sanctioned by ceremonies that make a couple husband and wife in the eyes of their families and community. In the past, a marriage might not be registered until after the birth of a child, preferably a son. If the couple proved to be incompatible, or if the wife appeared to be infertile, the socially-sanctioned alliance could then be annulled by agreement between the families who had agreed to the alliance. While couples today generally register their marriage shortly after (if not before) a wedding ceremony, not only are ceremonies not required, but no religious or civil rite of any kind has any legal significance -- other than as evidence in a lawsuit alleging fraud in the event one party reneges on a promise legalize the marriage with a notification.

妻妾 saishō

wife / mistress   "Saishō" (妻妾) refers to a legitimate "wife" (tsuma 妻) and a legimate "mistress" (mekake 妾), who until the 1898 Civil Code and Family Register Law could co-reside (saishō dōkyo 妻妾同居) within the same household. Since 1898, "mistress" was no longer recognized as a legal status.

嫁娶 kashu

bride taking   This breaks down as "bride" (yome 嫁) and "taking a woman [as a wife]" (metoru 娶る). It is also read "yometori" (嫁取り) or "taking a wife", and means "yomeiri" (嫁入り、娵入り) or "bride entering" as when a woman becomes a bride and enters her husbands register. In other words, "marriage" in the more common "patrilocal" case in which a wife migrates to her husband's family. This has never been the universal practice in Japan, where even today about 5 percent of all marriages involve so-called "muko yōshi" migrations of the groom to the bride's home and his assumption of her family's name and identity. The Fujiwara family in Japanese history preferred to raise children born to Fujiwara daughters as consorts of imperial princes, in Fujiwara families. They meant that such children, when court a official or possibly even an emperor (if not an empress), would favor their Fujiwara relatives.

離縁 rien

dissolution of alliance   "Ri" (separation) plus "en" (alliance, bond) usually refers to the discontinuation of an alliance of adoption. It might, however, also refer to a notified and arbitrated discontinuation of an alliance of marriage, though marriage dissolution is generally called "rikon" (離婚) or "divorce".

再縁 saien

realliance   "Saien" might refer to the resumption of an alliance of adoption or a new alliance following the end of an earlier alliance, but is more likely used to mean a remarriage, more commonly called "saikon" (再婚) -- possibly with the same man, though most likely not.

The rakugo story teller San'yūtei Kyūto (三遊亭究斗 b1963) has a routine he calls "Miss Saikon" (ミス・サイコン). Kyūto, who had been a musical actor before becoming a raconteur, auditioned for and won the role for Thénardier in the 2003-2004 Tōhō production of Les Misérables. He parlayed this experience into a career as a "musicial rakugoka" who mixes his serious singing (such as of "Bring Him Home") with humor.

入夫 nyūfu

entering husband   A husband of a female head of household who enters her household at the time of marriage as her husband, at which time -- with her consent -- he might become the head. A male head of household might adopt a daughter's husband at the time of their marriage as an "adopted son-in-law" (muko yōshi 婿養子), who might stand to be his successor. The English distinctions "entering husband" and "adopted son-in-law" are sometimes conflated as "adopted husband". Such terms vanished from the 1948 revisions of Japan's family laws. Most people in Japan today, hearing "nūfu" out of the blue, would not understand what it means, but "muko yōshi" remains in circulation.

Practices like "entering husband" and "adopted son-in-law" were known in most if not all localities in pre-Meiji Japan, which was not yet a nation subject to a country-wide body of family laws. They were stipulated in the 1871 Family Register Law enforced from 1872, and were enabled for foreigners by the 1873 proclamation on alliances of marriage and adoption with foreigners. According to the 1873 proclamation, a foreign woman who married a Japanese became Japanese through registration in his household as his wife, and a foreign man became Japanese through entering the household of a Japanese woman as her entering husband or as her father's adopted son-in-law. They were then clearly provisioned by Articles 736 and 788 of the 1898 Civil Code, and continued to be facilitated by the 1898 Family Register Law and an 1898 revision of the 1873 proclamation, as well as by the 1899 Nationality Law promulgated and enforced the following year.

配偶 haigū

spouse  This expression refers to coupling, consorting, and mating. It is widely used in biological terms signifying something related to reproduction such as "gamete" (haigūshi 配偶子) and "gametophyte" (haigūtai 配偶体). In reference to humans, it is most commonly used today in expressions like "haigūsha" (配偶者) meaning "spouse" or "partner [in marriage]", and "haigū kankei" (配偶関係) meaning a "spousal (marital) relationship" in the eyes of the law.

The handbook uses "haigū" both as a standalone noun with an attributive, and as an nominal attributive to a noun, in the section concerning the succession of a widow, which comes immediately before the section on "Marriage with foreigner" (see image). The handbook raises the following query dated June 1873 (folios 9b-10a, bottom).

ル寡婦 [クワフ / ヤモメ]へ偶養子貰受不苦哉

Yōshō no tōshu inkyo shi arui wa byōshi
sono kashishi [ie no atotsugi] naki
mata haigū subeki joshi naki ni atatte
sono haha taru kwafu / yamome [kafu / yamome] e
haigū yōshi murahiuke [muraiuke] kurushikarazu ya

A young (child) incumbant head of household retires and dies of illness [and] there is no [male] house (family) heir and no woman who is his spouse [and would thus be his successor], in which case, [if] the widow who is the mother of the [deceased head of household] were to receive (accept) a spouse adoptee [an incoming husband], [would that] not be a problem?

The reply was that it would "not be a problem" (kurushikarazaru koto 不苦事).

gaikokujin to kekkon

marriage with foreigner   A Japanese was permitted to marry a foreigner through petition for such permission by the head of the prospective Japanese groom's or bride's household. A foreign bride became Japanese upon registration in the household. A foreign man became Japanese upon registration as an "entering husband" (nyūfu 入夫) or adopted son-in-law (muko yōshi 婿養子). Under older laws in Japan, the head of a household had to approve of all alliances and dissolutions of alliances of marriage and adoption, whether or not they involved a foreigner. Under the 1947 Constitution and revisions in other laws following the Pacific War (1941-1945), individuals of legal age were free to decide for themselves and initiate appropriate status actions in their family registers without the permission of the nominal head of household. See 1873 intermarriage proclamation: Family law and "the standing of being Japanese" for details.

sho shōgyō

sundry businesses and trades   Matters concerning various commercial operations take up the lower band beginning from folio 15 hence about 1/4th of the book. They include dealing with patent medicines or poisons and strong drugs, running lodging facilities for travelers, archery ranges (yōkyūten 楊弓店), entertainment halls (yoseseki 寄せ席), importers, money and grain depositories (akazuke kinkoku 預ケ金穀), and slaughter houses.

chōhei rei

military conscription orders   Males were subject to military conscription. A head of household could file a petition to seek relief from the order, or change the date from which a conscriptee was supposed to report for duty.

sonota sūken

several other matters   This catch-all category covers all manner of things in addition to military conscription -- including regulations concerning land and buildings, dealings with various courts, civil and penal matters, and bail (hoshaku 保釋). Such topics consume roughly the last half of the upper band of Matsuura's handbook.


Noguchi Sadahiro 1893

Koseki sho todoke shoshiki

Yosha Bunko scans

Click on text images to enlarge

Portable guide to household registration

The book shown here is one of many palm-sized "bean book" (mamebon 豆本) publications that met the demand for portable reading and reference material -- from illustrated stories to, in this case, a guide to the essentials of the Family Register Law, which was then only 8 years old and accessible only to people who were both literate and familiar with legal and bureaucratic language. This book broke the Family Register Law down by topic and cited sources, by way of describing the scope of the law and clarifying what it required and permitted.

The book is printed and bound in the conventional "Japanese book" (wabon 和本) style. Its 8.5cm x 12.0cm x 2.0cm size would have slipped into the sleeve of a contemporary garment, and would fit in a shirt pocket today. Its 100 folio (double) pages, printed from copper plates, are secured by paper fasteners and stitched between soft covers with a white silk thread in a conventional 4-hole binding (yotsume toji 四つ目綴じ).

Double glossing

The text shows lots of furigana to aid reading kanji, but also numerous examples of what I call "double glossing" -- in which kanji are shown with kana glosses on both their right (reading) and left (meaning) sides. Some very interesting examples are shown on page 30b (right side of "Removal from zoku" image).

Pages read right-to-left, entries read top-to-bottom, right-to-left
Transliterations, literations, and translations are mine

Noguchi 1893
Noguchi 1893

Noguchi 1893

Noguchi 1893

Noguchi 1893

Noguchi 1893

Noguchi 1893

Noguchi 1893

Noguchi 1893

Noguchi 1893

Noguchi 1893

Noguchi 1893

Noguchi 1893

Noguchi 1893

野口貞造 編輯者
印刷兼發行者:(新潟県) 樋口源吉
印刷所:(新潟県) 日ノ出印刷所
發売所:(新潟県) 樋口書舗

Noguchi Sadahiro (compiler)
Koseki sho todoke shoshiki Zen
[ Family register sundry notification forms (complete) ]
Hokuetsu Sanjō: Hinode Insatsujo zōhan
Printer and publisher: (Niigata) Higuchi Genkichi
Printer: (Niigata) Hinode Printing
Seller: (Niigata) Higuchi Shoho [Higuchi Bookstore]
15 April 1893 printed
17 April 1893 published
1 folio (preface), 2 folios (contents), 54 folios (part 1), 39 folios (part 2), 1 folio (colophon)
Standard price 35 sen

The copy of this book in Yosha Bunko has been well thumbed and is a candidate for rebinding. The table of contents shows 2 parts -- "Koseki sho todoke shoshiki" (the title) and "Sho todoke shoshiki furoku" (Sundry notification forms supplement). The 1st part concerns family register matters. The 2nd part concerns other matters, beginning with military conscription. In the main body of the book, the 2 parts are not separately titled, but they are separately paginated. And the last page of the 2nd (supplementary) part states that it is the end of the part.

Catalog on back of front cover

Evidence that the book was probably repaired and rebound at some point is seen inside the front cover. Ordinarily in such wabon publications, the title page or folio is pasted to the back of the front cover. And the title pagewhere a "Koseki sho todoke shoshiki mokuroku" (戸籍諸届書式目録) or "Family register sundry notification forms catalog) has been pasted -- upside down. The catalog is identified as "Dai-1 / Kaseki no bu" (第一 加籍ノ部) or "No. 1 / Creating (supplementing, adding to, enrollment in) register part". I would guess that, pursuant to 1886 Interior Ministry orders concerning revisions in family registration procedures and forms, there were also "No. 2" and "No. 3" catalogs of forms titled "Joseki no bu" (除籍ノ部) and "Idō no bu" (異動ノ部) -- "Removal (Striking) from register part" and or "Movement (migration) part". In other words, registration actions involved adding registers, striking registers, or moving registers. My impression is that the title page was that the foil on which the title page was printed was originally pasted to the back of the front cover -- which was the usual practice. The title page shows a flap that appears to have been part of the side of the foil that was pasted to the cover. Apparently it was torn from the cover, and the title side of the foil was left free, and a sheet of paper -- the No. 1 forms catalog -- was pasted upside down to the inside of the cover in order to repair it. The catalog sheet was probably recycled scrap paper.


Okamoto Sensuke 1898

Minpō · Kosekihō oyobi fuzoku sho hōritsu kiseki

[ Civil Code, Family Register Law /
and related sundry laws and regulations ]

Yosha Bunko scans

Click on text images to enlarge

Okamoto 1898

Colophon showing odd "4th edition" date

Okamoto 1898

Cover and Okamoto's Minpō · Kosekiho

Okamoto 1898

Family Register Law, p37
Nationality acquisition and loss (Section 19)

Okamoto 1898

Supplementary sundry laws and orders, p1
1898 Law No. 21 revising 1873 proclamation

Okamoto 1898

Family Register Law, p40
Nationality acquisition and loss (Section 19)

Okamoto 1898

Family Register Law, pp38-39
Nationality acquisition and loss (Section 19)

Okamoto 1898

Civil Code, pp228-229
First pages of 30-article Rules of Laws (Law No. 10 of 1898)

Okamoto 1898

民法・戸籍法 / 及附属諸法律規則
明治三十一年七月廿七日 (sic) 四版發行
393 ページ [2(目録)、233(民法、法例)、25(民法施行)、54(戸籍法)、16(人事訴訟手続法)、2+45(非訟事件手続法)、12(競売法)、4(附属諸法令)]

Okamoto Sensuke
Minpō · Kosekihō / oyobi fuzoku sho hōritsu kisoku
[ Civil Code, Family Register Law / and related sundry laws and regulations ]
Shinpōten / Zen
[ New law guide / Complete ]
Osaka: Okamoto Igyōkan [ great-feats-palace ]
25 July 1898 printed
28 July 1898 published
27 July 1898 (sic) 4th edition (printing) published
393 pages [2 (Contents), 233 (Civil code, Rules of laws), 25 (Civil code enforcement law), 54 (Family register law), 16 (Personal matter litigation procedures law), 2+45 (Non-contentious cases procedures law), 12 (Auction law), 4 Supplementary sundry laws and orders)


The cover highlights the following laws.

Main titles (middle)

New law guide 新法典
Civil Law / Family Register Law 民法戸籍法
and supplementary sundry laws and regulations 及附属諸法律規則

Other titles (right)

Rules of Law 法例
Civil code enforcement law 民法施行法
Personal matter litigaion procedures law 人事訴訟手続法
Non-contentious cases procedures law 非訟事件手続法
Auction law 競売法
Other sundry regulations 其他諸規則

While some of the laws originated before 1898, most were revised and promulgated in conjunction with their collective enforcement in a promulgated on 21 June 1888 -- nearly a year before the promulgation and enforcement of the Nationality Law on 16 March and 1 April 1899. However, provisions were made in the new 1898 Family Register Law for procedures related to acquisition and loss of nationality pursuant to especially the 1873 proclamation on alliances of marriage and adoption with foreigners, which was revised by a law promulgated on 9 July 1898 (see 1873 intermarriage proclamation for details). The every important Rules of Laws (Hōrei 法例), first promulgated in 1890, was revamped as a new law in 1898 with nationality (kokuseki 国籍) stipulations (see Status and applicable law for details).


Mori Masataka and Endō Toshizō 1898

Shin Kosekihō chūkai

[ New Family Register Law annotated ]

Yosha Bunko scans

Click on text images to enlarge

Endo 1896


Endo 1896


Portable guide to household registration

The book shown here is one of many palm-sized "bean book" (mamebon 豆本) publications that met the demand for portable reading and reference material -- from illustrated stories to, in this case, a guide to the essentials of the Family Register Law, which was then only 8 years old and accessible only to people who were both literate and familiar with legal and bureaucratic language. This book broke the Family Register Law down by topic and cited sources, by way of describing the scope of the law and clarifying what it required and permitted.

The book is printed and bound in the conventional "Japanese book" (wabon 和本) style. Its 8.5cm x 12.0cm x 2.0cm size would have slipped into the sleeve of a contemporary garment, and would fit in a shirt pocket today. Its 100 folio (double) pages, printed from copper plates, are secured by paper fasteners and stitched between soft covers with a white silk thread in a conventional 4-hole binding (yotsume toji 四つ目綴じ).

Double glossing

The text shows lots of furigana to aid reading kanji, but also numerous examples of what I call "double glossing" -- in which kanji are shown with kana glosses on both their right (reading) and left (meaning) sides. Some very interesting examples are shown on page 30b (right side of "Removal from zoku" image).

Pages read right-to-left, entries read top-to-bottom, right-to-left
Transliterations, literations, and translations are mine

Endo 1896

Shin Kosekihō advertisement

Endo 1896

Endo 1896

Endo 1896

Endo 1896

Mori and Endo 1898


Endō Toshizō 1898

Koseki-ri hikkei

[ Household register officials manual ]

Yosha Bunko scans

Click on text images to enlarge

Endo 1896


Endo 1896


Portable guide to household registration

The book shown here is one of many palm-sized "bean book" (mamebon 豆本) publications that met the demand for portable reading and reference material -- from illustrated stories to, in this case, a guide to the essentials of the Family Register Law, which was then only 8 years old and accessible only to people who were both literate and familiar with legal and bureaucratic language. This book broke the Family Register Law down by topic and cited sources, by way of describing the scope of the law and clarifying what it required and permitted.

The book is printed and bound in the conventional "Japanese book" (wabon 和本) style. Its 8.5cm x 12.0cm x 2.0cm size would have slipped into the sleeve of a contemporary garment, and would fit in a shirt pocket today. Its 100 folio (double) pages, printed from copper plates, are secured by paper fasteners and stitched between soft covers with a white silk thread in a conventional 4-hole binding (yotsume toji 四つ目綴じ).

Double glossing

The text shows lots of furigana to aid reading kanji, but also numerous examples of what I call "double glossing" -- in which kanji are shown with kana glosses on both their right (reading) and left (meaning) sides. Some very interesting examples are shown on page 30b (right side of "Removal from zoku" image).

Pages read right-to-left, entries read top-to-bottom, right-to-left
Transliterations, literations, and translations are mine

Endo 1896

Shin Kosekihō advertisement

Endo 1896

Endo 1896

Endo 1896

Endo 1896

Endo 1898

遠藤利造 編
戸籍吏必携 (全)
同   年同月三十日發行
2頁 (序言)、6 (目次)、198 (本文)

Endō Toshizō (compiler)
Koseki-ri hikkei (Complete)
[ Family register officials essential carry ]
[ Family register officials manual (vade mecum) ]
Niigata: Seikadō
25 July 1898 printed
30 same month same year published
1 (preface), 6 (contents), 198 (main text) pages
Standard price 25 sen

新潟鼎属遠藤利造君編輯 戸籍吏必携 完 精華堂發行 Nationality acquisition notification (Kokuseki shutoku todoke 国籍取得届), pages 157-159 Nationality loss notification (Kokuseki sōshitsu todoke 国籍喪失届), pages 159-160