Sachiko Kawai: A Woman's Power of the Purse: Royal Lady Hachijô and Her Estates

A Woman's Power of the Purse: Royal Lady Hachijô and Her Estates

by Sachiko Kawai
Talk given at the Dec. 8-9, 2010 Conference

I will discuss three estates that belonged to the royal lady Hachijo In. I argued in my Master’s Thesis that this twelfth-century Japanese princess wielded significant political, economic, and politicalpower. Her case serves to correct previous scholarshipthat has underscored the power of royal consorts and mothers as Fujiwara daughters while failing to examine the roles and influence of royal daughters. In my thesis I pay particular attention to Hachijō In’s economic power derived from her estates (shōen). She inherited a number of properties and had a great control over them; she chose close followers as her estate custodians (azukaridokoro); she solved disputes by using her judicial powers; and she authorized expenditure of rents and dues from her estates. Hachijô In received the title of “retired queen-consort” and established alarge administrative headquarters that enhanced her control over her properties. Nevertheless the statement that “she was very powerful”oversimplifies a complex reality. In fact one of Hachijō In’s female attendants complained about the state of Hachijō In’s storehouse. According to the attendant, whenever the princess heldspecial ceremonies, she had to levy ad hoc taxes on her estates due to thelack of reserves in her storehouse. This puzzling situation―the contradiction between her enormous land holdings and her strained resources—is an unsolved question for my research. In this paper I will look at Tawara Estate, Arakawa Estate, and her Ippon Royal GrantFields to consider different types of challenges faced by Hachijō In as she tried to manage her landed properties.