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Metsuke

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  • Japanese: 目付 (Metsuke)

During the Edo period, roughly ten metsuke, or "inspectors," acted as auditors in an "internal affairs" capacity, monitoring other officials in the shogunate administration and investigating various legal or judicial matters. They were tasked with observing the operations of the various departments, as well as seeking out criminal acts, corruptions, and inefficiencies. Later in the Edo period, metsuke came to play a role in suggesting policy reforms; in the Bakumatsu period, they came to make recommendations on foreign policy as well, and to investigate related matters.

The metsuke were overseen by the wakadoshiyori, but had the right to report directly to the rôjû or even the shogun if the situation merited it. The metsuke in turn supervised a staff of roughly fifty kachi metsuke and roughly one hundred kobito metsuke, low-ranking investigators without rights of shogunal audience.

Appointment

Metsuke were generally chosen from the ranks of tsukaiban, kachigashira, and kojûnin gashira, however the shogun could also appoint metsuke from the ranks of koshô and konandô, all rather low-ranking origins. Existing metsuke would vote on new appointments, and were also tasked with background checks on potential new additions to their ranks. However, shogunal appointments from the konandô and koshô were not typically challenged.

The position was terminated along with the fall of the shogunate in the Meiji Restoration.

Notable Metsuke

References

  • Anna Beerens, "Interview with a Bakumatsu Official: A Translation from Kyuji Shimonroku," Monumenta Nipponica 55:3 (Autumn 2000), 369-398.
  • Mitani Hiroshi, David Noble (trans.), Escape from Impasse, International House of Japan (2006), xxix-xxx.
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