Sachiko Kawai: Was Medieval Estate Management Gendered? Nyoin and In as 
Proprietors in the Heian and Kamakura Periods

Was Medieval Estate Management Gendered? Nyoin and In as Proprietors in the Heian and Kamakura Periods
Sachiko Kawai, Doctoral Candidate in History, USC

Late twelfth- and thirteenth-century retired queen consorts (nyoin) inherited and accumulated many estates, which gave them opportunities to wield economic, religio-political, and military power. Although scholarship concerning nyoin and their property has advanced recently, it rarely examines how being a woman influenced methods of proprietary estate management. So in this presentation I want to explore how gender shaped nyoin strategies in collecting dues and maintaining their estates. Based on the premise that not all royal women’s actions were gendered as “female,” I carefully investigate overall nyoin strategies while examining other intersecting factors such as socio-political privileges, inheritance patterns, and religious practices. Through a close analysis of royal orders, entries in courtier journals, wills, and Buddhist prayers, I argue that late-Heian and Kamakura nyoin enhanced their ability to control their estates by acquiring letters of support from senior retired monarchs who held decision- making power at court. They also often used strategies that conformed to the non-reproductive roles of unmarried daughters, such as adopting royal offspring and memorializing deceased family members. Ironically, however, the endeavors of individual women sometimes supported the existing institutional practices that ultimately curtailed royal women’s inheritance. By examining the eventual disappearance of large female landholders toward the end of the Kamakura Period, I argue that decisions about management and inheritance by several nyoin were driven by larger institutional forces. Those decisions ultimately sustained gender disparity within premodern monarchical and familial power structures.