駒込名主屋敷・Residence of the Komagome Village Headman
駒込名主屋敷・Residence of the Komagome Headman

(Signpost)

名主nanushi (village headman) was an administrative post in Pre-Meiji Japan. The Tokugawa Shōgunate gave villages a certain amount of autonomy in regards to how they governed themselves. Some headmen were elected by the villagers, others had been elected or appointed and the post was hereditary. As far as I know the shōgunate and various daimyō didn’t have consistent policies on this. In the case of 駒込村 Komagome Mura (Komagome Village), the position was hereditary and it was held by the 高木家 Takagi-ke (Takagi family) who were 武家 buke (a family of samurai rank). When I visited today I was surprised to find out that the Takagi still live on the property. This was pretty exciting and at the same time it was a little disappointing because the property is fenced in and you can only view it from the outside.

After the 大阪夏の陣 Ōsaka Natsu no Jin (Ōsaka Summer Campaign in 1615), many families of various ranks and samurai retainers of the short lived 豊臣氏 Toyotomi-shi (Toyotomi clan) fled the city or straight up defected to the Tokugawa side. The Takagi sought refuge in the shōgun’s capital of Edo and were granted a fief on the 山手 yamanote (high ground) of Komagome. The family was also appointed to the post of 名主 nanushi (village head) as a hereditary title. The family has held on to this little piece of real estate gold for about 400 years. Tokyo is a city with few trees outside of parks and shrines, but this residence boasts a large yard befitting the family’s former status. There is even a 2 story Edo Period 蔵 kura (warehouse) on the property. It’s my understanding that the gate and warehouse date from 1717.

The village headman’s main job was to listen to and settle disputes among the local 町人 chōnin (commoners). His house would have had a unique architectural feature that is often lost to the modern eye, the 式台 shikidai (a raised floor). Shikidai were reserved for the samurai class. This platform allowed a samurai to remain in his own home and on an elevated platform when he received guests of lower status. The Takagi would have heard the complaints of the commoners in this way.

This brings me to my big question… What was the Takagi family’s status? It seems like they were a samurai family because they had a large 屋敷 yashiki (residence, but this word is usually used for samurai families). They had hereditary status, though this is ambiguous. The home had (and may still have) a shikidai – a raised floor for receiving guests. This all points to samurai status, however the present resident has a 蔵 kura (warehouse) on the property. A warehouse is something that I can’t imagine being on a samurai residence. The only samurai families that would need warehouses would have been daimyō on 参勤交代 sankin-kōtai duty (alternate attendance).

I’m going to try to follow up this photo essay with more information. Watch this space.
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