Sangi (参議) was an associate counselor in the Imperial court of Japan from the 8th century until the Meiji period in the 19th century.[1]

Premodern Japan
Imperial seal of Japan
Part of a series on the politics and
government of Japan during the
Nara and Heian periods

Chancellor / Chief Minister
Minister of the LeftSadaijin
Minister of the RightUdaijin
Minister of the CenterNaidaijin
Major CounselorDainagon
Middle CounselorChūnagon
Minor CounselorShōnagon
Eight Ministries
Civil AdministrationJibu-shō
Popular AffairsMinbu-shō
Imperial HouseholdKunai-shō

This was a position in the daijō-kan, or early feudal Japanese government. It was established in 702 by the Code of Taihō.

In the ranks of the Imperial bureaucracy, the Sangi came between the Shōnagon (minor councillors) and those with more narrowly defined roles, such as the Sadaiben and Udaiben who were the administrators charged with oversight of the eight ministries of the government.[2]

In an early review of the Imperial hierarchy, Julius Klaproth's 1834 supplement to Nihon Odai Ichiran conflated the hierarchical position with a functional role as the director of palace affairs.[2]

Prominent among those holding this office were three brothers:

The position was eliminated in 1885.[1] The House of Councillors (参議院 Sangi'in) and its members were named after it.

Sangi in contextEdit

Any exercise of meaningful powers of court officials in the pre-Meiji period reached its nadir during the years of the Tokugawa shogunate, and yet the core structures of ritsuryō government did manage to endure for centuries.[4]

In order to appreciate the office of Sangi, it is necessary to evaluate its role in the traditional Japanese context of a durable yet flexible framework. This was a bureaucratic network and a hierarchy of functionaries. The role of Sangi was an important element in the Daijō-kan (Council of State). The Daijō-kan schema proved to be adaptable in the creation of constitutional government in the modern period.[5]

Highest Daijō-kan officialsEdit

The highest positions in the court hierarchy can be cataloged.[6] A dry list provides a superficial glimpse inside the complexity and inter-connected relationships of the Imperial court structure.

The next highest tier of officials were:

Other high-ranking bureaucrats who function somewhat flexibly within the Daijō-kan were;

  • Sangi (Associate counselor).[1] This office functions as a manager of Daijō-kan activities within the palace.[2]
  • Geki (外記) (Secretariat). These are specifically named men who act at the sole discretion of the emperor.[2] Among the duties of the Geki include writing out the patents and titles conferred by the emperor. In cases of dispute between high officers, the Geki draft a statement of the case for both sides. Also, they look after any newly introduced business.[9]

The Eight MinistriesEdit

The government ministries were eight semi-independent bureaucracies. A list alone cannot reveal much about the actual functioning of the Daijō-kan, but the broad hierarchical categories do suggest the way in which governmental functions were parsed:


The specific ministries above are not grouped arbitrarily. The two court officials below had responsibility for them as follows:

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric. (2005). "Sangi" in Japan Encyclopedia, p. 817, p. 817, at Google Books.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Annales des empereurs du japon, p. 426., p. 426, at Google Books
  3. ^ a b c Titsingh, p. 69., p. 69, at Google Books
  4. ^ Dickson, Walter G. et al. (1898). "The Eight Boards of Government" in Japan, pp. 55-78., p. 56, at Google Books; excerpt at p. 56, "Klaproth has given in his "Annals of the Emperors" a sketch of these eight boards, with the offices under each. It is ... a concise account of the government of Japan. The study of such a subject is rather dry and uninteresting, but it is necessary for any one who wishes to make himself acquainted with Japanese history, either of the past or of the present day...."
  5. ^ Ozaki, Yukio. (2001). The Autobiography of Ozaki Yukio: The Struggle for Constitutional Government in Japan pp. 10–11., p. 10, at Google Books
  6. ^ Titsingh, pp. 425-426., p. 425, at Google Books
  7. ^ a b c d e f Titsingh, p. 425, p. 425, at Google Books; Varley, H. Paul. (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki, p.272.
  8. ^ Unterstein (in German): Ranks in Ancient and Meiji Japan (in English and French), p. 6.
  9. ^ a b Dickson, p. 60., p. 60, at Google Books
  10. ^ a b Titsingh, pp. 427., p. 427, at Google Books
  11. ^ Titsingh, pp. 429., p. 429, at Google Books
  12. ^ a b Titsingh, pp. 430., p. 430, at Google Books
  13. ^ Titsingh, pp. 431., p. 431, at Google Books
  14. ^ Titsingh, pp. 432., p. 432, at Google Books
  15. ^ Titsingh, pp. 433., p. 433, at Google Books
  16. ^ a b Varley, p. 272.


  • Dickson, Walter G. and Mayo Williamson Hazeltine. (1898). "The Eight Boards of Government" in Japan. New York: P.F. Collier. OCLC 285881
  • Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric and Käthe Roth. (2005). Japan encyclopedia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-01753-5; OCLC 58053128
  • Ozaki, Yukio. (2001). The Autobiography of Ozaki Yukio: The Struggle for Constitutional Government in Japan, translated by Fujiko Hara. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691050959; OCLC 123043741
  • Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Annales des empereurs du Japon (Nihon Odai Ichiran). Paris: Royal Asiatic Society, Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland. OCLC 5850691
  • Varley, H. Paul. (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki: A Chronicle of Gods and Sovereigns. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-04940-5; OCLC 59145842