1872 Family Register Law

Japan's first "law of the land"

By William Wetherall

First posted 1 April 2008
Last updated 7 October 2020

Family registers as boundaries of nation People (jinmin) Nationals (kokumin) Subjects (shinmin)
1871 GCS Proclamation (No. 170) Dajō ruiten images Preamble Article 1: Subjects at large Article 32: Eta hinin etc.
1872 Jinshin register statistics Households by sex of heads, and persons by sex, by status
Minseki Meiji term later used in breakdowns of Japanese by territoriality -- Interior, Chosen, Taiwan, and Karafuto

Family registers as boundaries of nation

Law has been an important means of social organization and control in Japan for the better part of a millennium and a half. Population registration has been the most effective way of shepherding local populations as part of the aggregate national population.

The first mission of the imperial order that replaced the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1868 was to nationalize the domains and their people into a nation. The second mission was to create a new system of laws with which the state could govern and protect the nation.

First the domains were replaced by prefectures. Then local polities were given a means of controlling their populations, for the sake of the nation as well as to facilitate their own governmental needs.

The Family Register Law of 1871, effective in 1872, became the fundamental law of the new country. Fashioned on methods of population registration already in practice at the time, it gave localities the means of harnessing their inhabitants to the wagon of the new state.

Family registers also served to define the nation. If the prefectures delimited Japan's geographical territory, family registers marked the borders of its demographic territory.

Family registration is about families. Marriage and adoption are about families and therefore involve family registration. Hence Meiji laws concerning the marriage of Japanese with foreigners, and the adoption of foreigners by Japanese, rested on the foundations of family law and family registration practices.

For an overview how family law, administered through family registration, was used to resolve issues that arose when a Japanese wished to marry or adopt a foreigner, see 1873 intermarriage proclamation: Family law and "the standing of being Japanese.

For a look at later developments in the Family Register Law, and at the development of the Civil Code, which embodies the family laws that govern the Family Register Law and the Nationality Law, see the "Family Register Law" section of The Interior: The legal cornerstones of imperialism.


Jinmin 人民 people

The graphic term 人民 -- a Chinese compound -- has been widely used in Japan over the centuries, with various readings, to mean "people" affiliated with a sovereign or local authority. The term was last used in Japan's status laws, to refer to people affiliated with Japan's population registers, in the late 19th century.

"Jinmin" in early Japan

Graphically, 人民 appears in early texts like Kojiki (712), the earliest surviving history -- Nihon shoki (720), the first of a series of official national histories -- Shinsen shōjiroku (815), a peerage of titled families -- and Wamyō ruiju shō (938), a dictionary of Japanese words written in Chinese graphs.

Two Yamato expressions are associated with the graphs 人民 as used in these early texts.

hitokusa ヒトクサ 比止久佐 (人草)
wohotakara ヲホタカラ 於保大加良 (御宝)

Kojiki uses 人民 several times, such as in "defeated the people (human grass) of the country" (kuni no hitokusa 到其國之人民). It also uses 人草 several times, as in "the human grass of your country" (汝國之人草).

For examples of earlier terms referring to the "people" of Japan, see Belonging in Japan past and present under "Nationality Laws" on this website.

1871 Family Register Law

The 1871 Family Register Law uses three terms to signify demographic belonging to Japan -- jinmin (人民), kokumin (国民), and shinmin (臣民) -- all of which use the word "min" (民), which means affiliate. Jinmin (affiliated people) and kokumin (nationals) are used in the prologue (see transcription and translations below). Shinmin (subjects) is used and defined in the Article 1 (see below).

"Jinmin" in 1876 Japan-Chosen treaty

The 1876 Kanghwa treaty between Japan and Chosen, for example, refers to the "people" of the party states as follows, citing the Chinese and English versions of the treaty. See transcriptions and translations of treaty in 1876 Kanghwa treaty between Japan and Chosen in the "Korea becomes Chosen" article under "The Sovereign Empire" in the "The Empires of Japan" section of this website.

朝鮮國人民 (Chōsen-koku jinmin) "subject of Chosen"
日本國人民 (Nihon-koku jinmin) "Japanese subject"

Usage has somewhat changed by the 1882 Yin-chuen (Shufeldt) treaty between United States and Chosen. What the English version variously calls "citizens" of the United States and "subjects" of Chosen are referred to as 朝鮮民人 (Chōsen minjin) and 美国民人 (Mikoku minjin) in the Chinese version. "Minjin" (民人) is used like "jinmin" (人民) to denote "affilated people". "Nationality" in the English version is reflected as 所屬 (affiliation) in the Chinese version, hence phrases like 所屬之國 (shozoku no kuni) or "country of affiliation". Here "sho" (所) is used with "zoku" (属), meaning to affiliate, to form a typical "所 + V" compound. As a nominalized passive construction, "shozoku" means "condition of being affilated [something]" "shozoku" (所属) means "(condition of) being affiliated (with a country or other entity)". See transcriptions and translations of treaty in 1882 Yin-chuen (Shufeldt) treaty between United States and Chosen (Korea) (ibid.) for details.

Keep in mind that, as of 1876 and 1878, Japan did not yet have a Constitution or Nationality Law. "Nationality" was not yet that widely used in English as a term for affiliation with a state, and this sense of the word would not come to be translated "kokuseki" (国籍) until later. "Shinmin" (臣民) was not fully established as the Japanese word for "subject" until the 1890 Constitution. The 1899 Nationality Law -- like the 1873 proclamation on alliances of marriage and adoption between Japanese and foreigners -- used "Nihonjin" (日本人) rather than either "shinmin" or "kokumin" (国民) to refer to people who possessed the "nationality" (国籍) of Japan.

Note that the English versions of both of the above treaties -- which were written in Chinese -- translated (transliterated) 朝鮮 as "Chosen".

"Jinmin" today

The Prologue of the 1871 Family Register Law speaks mainly of "jinmin". "Kokumin" (国民) or "national" appears only once, and the articles of the law use "shinmin" (臣民) or "subject". The 1890 Constitution uses "shinmin", and other laws use "shinmin" or "kokumin" depending on the purpose of the law. But the 1899 Nationality Law, which might have used "shinmin" (given the provisions for the law in the 1890 Constitution, speaks of "Japanese" (Nihonjin 日本人).

So by the 20th century, other terms had replaced "jinmin" in Japan's domestic legalese. Today the term appears mainly in the names of socialist counties like the People's Republic of China and the Democractic People's Republic of Korea (Chosen), which refer to their affiliates as "citizens" (kōmin 公民) rather than "nationals" (kokumin 国民), a term which they eschew as anti-communist.



"Kokumin" (国民) or "national" is used only once in the 1871 Family Register Law, and only in the Prologue. It does not appear in the 1890 Constitution, which refers to people who owe allegiance to the sovereign as "shinmin" (臣民) meaning "loyal people" or "loyal affiliates". Even the 1899 Nationality Law does not use "national" but only "Japanese".

However, "kokumin" is the status term in many laws that stress affiliation with the state rather than imperial subjecthood. "Nationals" are essentially defined as people in household registers affiliated with Japan's sovereign dominion. However, "shinmin" (臣民) meaning "subjects" -- not "kokumin" -- was the term used in the articles of the 1871 Family Register Law to refer to registrants. While the terms differed metaphorically, they were generally synonymous as labels for people considered legally "Japanese".

The Allied Powers, when occupying Japan in 1945, immediately declared that the people of Japan were no longer "shinmin". They couldn't be, because the emperor was no longer a sovereign. From 2 September 1945, all people in Occupied Japan, beginning with the emperor, were subject to the authority of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP).

From the start of the Occupation of Japan, the people of Japan became just "kokumin". In debate over the term to be used in a new constitution, "jinmin" (人民) was rejected because, by then, it had acquired strongly socialist nuances. So the 1947 Constitution retained the term "kokumin". And the 1950 Nationality Law adopted the constitutional term "kokumin" in lieu of "Nihonjin".

Some people have argued that the use of "kokumin" the nationality law allowed the word "Nihonjin" to used to imply something racioethnic, unlike "kokumin", which was legally a purely civil status. This is not true. "Nihonjin" has always been available as both a civic and ethnoracial label. In no way does being a "kokumin" of Japan mean that one might not be "Japanese". As used by racialist speakers and writers, "Japanese" is a racioethnic label. In civil usage, "Japanese" means anyone who possesses Japan's nationality regardless of their putative race or ethnicity.



This term defined the essential status of the people of Japan from its use in the 1871 Family Register Law to its loss of legal standing in 1945, when the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers disallowed its use. It remained the 1890 Meiji Constitution (but was understood to mean "kokumin") until replaced by "kokumin" in the 1947 Shōwa Constitution. And "shinmin" was replaced by "kokumin" in all laws that had used it.

The Prologue speaks of "kokumin" only once but "jinmin" many times. And "jinmin" -- not "kokumin" or "shinmin" -- would be used in a number of early documents, including international treaters, to refer to the "people" of Japan and other countries.


1871 Kosekihō in Dajō ruiten

Cover of Dajō ruiten
Dai 1 hen, Dai 79 kan

自慶応三年 / 至明治四年七月
Daijō ruiten Dai-ichi-hen
From Keiō 3 to Meiji 4-7
[From 1867-02-05 to 1871-09-14]
Number 79

第六類 // 保民 / 戸籍二
Dai 6 rui [6th class (of records)]
Hōmin [Care of affiliates (people)]
Koseki ni [Family registers (2)]

First 5 pages of 1871 Family Registration Law

Copped and cropped from
National Archives Digital Archive

Dajo ruiten
Dajo ruiten

RightLast page of official notices (pages 1-8) listed before Family Register Law
Last three items concern restoration of register (fukuseki 復籍) [registration, reenrollment]
of person who has left register (dasseki-sha 脱籍者)
such as some "shizoku" (士族) former-samurai in Kashiwazaki and Morioka prefectures
Note use of "minseki" (民籍) in notice about
enrollment of former "shizoku" Oyamada Jiroku as a "shomin" (庶民) [commoner].

LeftPromulgation and introduction to Family Register Law of Meiji 4-4-5 [1871-5-23]
今般府藩縣一般戸籍ノ法別紙之通改正被 仰出候條管内普ク布告致可申事
Structural translation Now (At this time) (Konpan 今般),
[regarding] the laws of general household registers (ippan koseki no hō 一般戸籍ノ法)
[of] the government prefectures (fu 府), domains (han 藩), and general prefectures (ken 縣),
the reforms as in the separate (attached) document (besshi no toori [no] kaisei 別紙之通改正)
are ordered, and [the ordered] articles (kaisei oose idasareshi sōrō (soro) jō 改正被仰出候條)
are to be proclaimed (fukoku itashimōsu beku koto 布告致可申事)
broadly (amaneku 普ク) within [our] judisdiction (kannai 管内)

Dajo ruiten

Pages 9-10 showing last of introduction to Family Register Law
and separate (attached) document (besshi 別紙)

The attachment begins with a prologue (see transicription and translations below)
Note that Article 1 (following the prologue) refers to "clan (family) affiliation" (zokuzoku 族属)
This in effect recognized the "family" (ie 家) as a lineage group" (zoku) hence "family" (kazoku 家族)
The of "kazoku" (z) The prologue is followed by the beginning of Article 1

Dajo ruiten

Pages 11-12 showing the rest of Article 1, Articles 2 and 3, and the start of Article 4
Note the definition of "subjects in general" (臣民一般) in Article 1
華族士族率祠官僧侶 / 平民迄ヲ云以下準之
Kazoku, shizoku, sotsu, shikan, sōryo, heimin wo ifu. Ika kore ni junsu (nazoraeru)
Refers to Nobility, gentry (former samurai), soldiers, (Shintō) priests, (Buddhist) monks, and commoners. Hereafter like this.
Note also that Article 1 requires that subjects be registered
"in their place of residence" (sono jūkyo no chi 其住居ノ地)

1871 GCS Proclamation No. 170

Several proclamations were made during the early years of the Meiji period relating to social status, some concerning surveys, others about change. The first family registration law addressed the need to record data on people according to their status, and to compile and report local registration data.

Promulgated by Great Council of State Proclamation No. 170 of Meiji 4-4-4 (22 May 1871), the register law was enforced from Meiji 5-2-1 (9 March 1872).


Promulgated Meiji 4-4-4 (22 May 1871) by
Great Council of State Proclamation No. 170

Enforced from Meiji 5-2-1 (9 March 1872)


法令全書 [第6冊] 明治4年
コマ94-106 (頁114-138)
Hōrei zensho
[Complete book of laws and ordinances]
[Volume 6] Meiji 4
Frames 94-106 (pages 114-138)

This first full version of various earlier drafts includes thirty-three articles stipulating rules for registering households and tabulating demographic (census) information, followed by examples of forms and tables that were to be used by local authorities when implementing the provisions of the proclamation and reporting census information to prefectural governments.


1871 Kosekihō

Dajō ruiten images

The inability of a government to account for all individuals subject to its authority signifies ineffectiveness -- i.e., a failure of the government's authority to reach and affect the individuals. The government cannot protect, police, or tax, conscript for labor or military service, or protect, educate, or otherwise serve, people it does not know about.

The last of the notices concerning restoration to registers (fukuseki 復籍) of people who have left or been omitted from registers (dasseki-sha 脱籍者) is of interest in that it refers to the general register as an "[affiliated] population register" (minseki 民籍). The notice reports that a certian "shizoku" (士族) or "(lower-ranking) (former) samurai" or "gentry" who left his [shizoku] register lowered to "shomin" (庶民) or "commoner" status and enrolled in a "minseki".

The "shizoku" caste was created by Great Council of State (Dajōkan 太政官) Proclamation No. 576 of Meiji 2-6-25 (1869-8-2). The 1871 Family Register Law recognized "shizoku" as a register status, but the status had no privileges. The recording of "shizoku" as a register status in new registers ended with with 1914 revisions in the Family Register Law effective from 1915. And 1947 revisions effective from 1948 provided that "shizoku" be struck from active registers.

"Shizoku" register leaver registered as "shomin"

Settled people are more easily registered or counted by registrars and census takers than itinerants and migrants.

Morioka-ken shizoku Oyamada Jiroku dasseki ni tsuki shomin in kashi (oroshi) minseki ni hennyū
Morioka-prefecture shizoku Oyamada Jiroku, on account of leaving (dropping from) his [shizoku] register, was lowered to [the status of] commoner and enrolled in a [general, ordinary] population register.


Preamble to 1872 Family Register Law

The preamble to the 1872 Family Register Law is a remarkable statement. Japan's family registration system is often associated with social control. However, the preamble shows the importance given to domicile registration, both as a means of social control, and as a way to insure that subjects were able to benefit from the services of their government.

The Family Register Law continues to be, in many ways, the "law of land" -- upon which rest the principles of family law set down later in the Civil Code and reflected in the Nationality Law.

The following tables show transcriptions of both the 1871 preamble and a 1900 English translation, followed by my own partial structural translation, then commentary.

Preamble to 1871 Family Register Law
(Dajokan Proclamation 170)

Requiring local governments to register affiliated residents and
compile and report demographic statistics to national government


1871 Japanese text

法令全書 [第6冊] 明治4年
コマ94-106 (頁114-138)
Hōrei zensho
[Complete book of laws and ordinances]
[Volume 6] Meiji 4
Frames 94-106 (pages 114-138)
Preamble: page 115

太政類典第一編 Dajō ruiten, Section 1
自慶応三年 From Keiō 3 [February 1867 - January 1868]
至明治四年七月 to Meiji 4-7 [August-September 1871]
第七十九巻 Volume 79
保民・戸籍二 Homin, Koseki 2

Kokuritsu Kōbunshokan Dejitaru Aakaibu
National Archives of Japan Digital Archive

1900 English translation

The Department of Agriculture and Commerce, Japan
[農商務省御編纂 Nōshōmushō go-hensan]
Japan in the Beginning of the 20th Century
Tokyo: Tokyo-Shoin 東京書院, 1904
viii, 828 pages, plus 14 pages of ads in back
Printed at the "Japan Times" Office [ジャパン、タイムス社]
Preamble: pages 48-49

Japanese text

The transcription of the received Japanese text is mine. The received text was totally unpunctuated, as was the convention of writing at the time. I have added (periods) after terminal conjugations. I have also inserted コト (koto) where it was abbreviated with a mark which looks like in the received text.

English translations

The 1904 English translation my transcription. The structural translation, which endeavors to cut as close as possible to the phrasal and metaphorical bone of the original, is mine. As usual, I have chosen to leave the construction marks rather than erase them in a polished translation.

Highlighting and commentary

I have highlighted selected terms to faciliate their discussion.

1871 Japanese text

1904 English translation


戸數人員ヲ詳ニシテ猥リナラサラシムルハ政務ノ最モ先シ重スル所ナリ 夫レ全國人民ノ保護大政本務ナルコト素ヨリ云フヲ待タス 然ルニ其保護スヘキ人民ヲ詳ニセス何ヲ以テ其保護スヘキコト ヲ施スヲ得ンヤ是レ政府戸籍ヲ詳ニセサルヘカラサル儀ナリ人民ノ各安康ヲ得テ其生ヲ遂ル所以ノモノハ政府保護ノ庇蔭ニヨラサルハナシ去レハ其ヲ逃レ其數ニ漏ルヽモノハ其保護ヲ受ケサル理ニテ自ラ國民ノ外タルニ近シ 此レ人民戸籍ヲ納メサルヲ得サルノ儀ナリ《Break in English》中古以來各方民治趣ヲ異ニセシヨリ僅ニ東西ヲ隔ツレハ忽チ情態ヲ殊ニシ聊カ遠近アレハ志行ヲ同フセステキ隨テ戸籍ノ法モ終ニ錯雑ノ弊ヲ免レス 或ハ此ヲ逃レ或ハ彼ヲ欺キ去就心ニ任セ往來規ニヨラス 沿襲ノ習人々自ラ度外ニ附スルニ至ル 故ニ今般全國總體ノ戸籍法ヲ定メラルヽヲ以テ普ク上下ノ通義ヲ辨ヘ宜シク粗略ノコトナカルヘシ

[ Prologue ]

It is the utmost importance in the administration affairs of a country (政務) to keep accurate account of the number of its families and individuals (戸數人員), for, unless this number is accurately known, the state (大政) can hardly attend to its primary duty (本務) of extending protection to its subjects (全國人民ノ保護). The subjects (人民) will also, on their part, enjoy peace and prosperity and can pursue their business unmolested only when they are under the protection of their government, so that should it ever happen that their domicile is absent from the official record, owing either to their own negligence or evasion or from an oversight on the part of the government officials, those people will be practically non-existent in the eyes of the government and will therefore be excluded from the enjoyment of the protection universally extended by the government to its people.

Lack of uniformity in the local administration from about the time of the Middle Ages has, among other irregularities for which it is accountable, reduced the business of keeping personal register [sic = registers] to a state of disorder; people were allowed to remove their abodes without giving notice to the authorities, and even to evade with impunity the duty of registering themselves in the census record. Accustomed for ages to these irregular practices, people are prone to regard the duty of registration with perfect indifference. It was in view of this circumstance that the rules of keeping census records throughout the country have now been provided, and that the local authorities and the people are hereby enjoined to duly regard the points herein set forth and to carefully attend to them.

Structural translation

Clarifying [ascertaining] the count of households (戸數) and the number of persons (人員) and not allowing [these figures] to be disorderly [corrupt] is [the] most prior and weighty [== first and most important] place [part, aspect] of government work (政務). That the protection of the people of the entire country (全國人民ノ保護) is the primary work of the Great [Imperial] Government [of Japan] (大政ノ本務) from the start does not wait to be said [== of course does not need to be said] [== Needless to say the primary work of the Government is the protection of all the people in the country]. 然ルニ其保護スヘキ人民ヲ詳ニセス何ヲ以テ其保護スヘキコトヲ施スヲ得ンヤ Whereas by not clarifying the people who [it = the government] is to do this protection, with what [how] can [it] not not perform the doing of this protection? [== If the government does not ascertain the people who it is to protect, how can it perform its work of protection?]

To be continued.

Notes and commentary

Quality of 1904 translation

Readers of both the 1871 Japanese and 1904 English texts will observe that the English version, published over a century ago as of this writing, reflects the spirit of the Japanese version -- but also manifests the common practice then (and at times even today) to inflate and embellish lean, lucid, well constructed Japanese phrases -- in the interest of placating a god shelf laden with verbose and even pompous English deities. Note that none of the keywords or phrases in the original text are accurately reflected in the 1904 English version.

Japan in the Beginning of the 20th Century is actually a very interesting and important publication. Its chapter on Population (pages 47-70) begins with rather detailed "History Relating to Census Returns" (pages 47-49).

The census overview gives special attention to the preamble of "Notification No. 170 issued in April of 1871 by the then Dajokan, now corresponding to the Cabinet, by which notification thirty three rules were provided for making census returns" (page 48).

The chapter also includes year-by-year population figures for 1872-1899 (pages 50-51), and breakdowns by social classes (peers, shizoku, heimin) for 1879, 1882, 1887, 1892, 1897, and 1898 (pages 57-58), and many other statistics on Meiji demographics not readily available in a single volume elsewhere, in either Japanese or English.


door (dwelling) register

Village population records were generally linked with land records. People who had settled in a village resided in a dwelling located on land associated with the village. And it made administrative sense to treat the land and the dwelling as the unit for counting heads as well as recording personal information that allowed authorities to determine tax and labor obligations. Thus registers (seki 籍) generally recorded people who resided in the same dwelling as a household or family. The term "kokō" (戸口) was used to signify both the number of dwellings (doors 戸 to) and population (mouths 口 kuchi) of a village. "Household" is probably the more accurate English dub for "ko" (戸) than "family", because the inhabitants of a dwelling might include people who were not members of the biological or corporate family, but were live-in servants or employees, or boarders (lodgers), or even mistresses.

zenkoku jinmin no hogo
protection of the people of the entire country

The writers of the preamble of Japan's first population registration law understood that the primary rationale for the existence of any state is the protection of its people. A state incapable of protecting its people is practically by definition not a state. A state that delegates its foreign affairs and defense to another state becomes a dependency of the other state, and ceases to be a state in its own right. Here, of course, we are talking about "protection" in the form of administration of governmental policies related to the social organization and lives of the people, as well as policies related to the rights and duties of subjecthood.

person (people) [as affiliate(s) of a country]

The term "jinmin" was not widely used in later Japanese laws to refer to the people of Japan either collectively or individually. Later it was used -- and today it continues to be used -- mainly in treaties between Japan and another country, in which reference is made to "the people" or "a person" of Japan or the other country. In other words, it came to be used as a "generic" term in "international" contexts in which it was necessary to conflate terms in domestic laws like "subject" (臣民 shinmin) and "national" (国民 kokumin) or "citizen" (公民 kōmin, 市民 shimin). In the 1876 Kanghwa treaty between Japan and Chosen, the official Japanese and Chinese versions speak of "a person of the country of Chosen" (朝鮮國人民 Chōsen-koku jinmin) and "a person of the country of Japan" (日本國人民 Nippon-koku jinmin), whereas the unofficial English version has respectively "a subject of Chosen" and "a Japanese subject". See 1876 Kanghwa treaty between Japan and Chosen for the texts of the treaty and commentary.

country [state] affiliate]
national [as individual]
nation [as collectivity of nationals]

Literally a "person" or "affiliate" of a country. This would become the most general reference in Japanese domestic laws, when referring to the people of Japan as affiliates of the state as opposed to "loyal people" or "subjects" (臣民 shinmin) of the emperor. And "national" would become the only term for the "people" of Japan after 1945, when SCAP forbade the use of "shinmin" -- the term used in the 1890 Constitution. The 1947 Constitution used "kokumin".

loyal affiliate [of sovereign]
subject [of sovereign]

Shinmin was introduced as term for status as an affiliate of Japan, as a state, no later than the 1871 Family Register Law. It then became the term for state affiliation in the 1890 Constitution.

Though the 1899 Nationality Law was predicated on the Constitution, it spoke only of being "Nihonjin" (Japanese). Other laws spoke of "shinmin" or "kokumin" (nationals) according to the needs of the law.

"Shinmin" was banned in 1945 by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, in favor of "kokumin", which became the term for state affiliation in 1947 Constitution and in all postwar laws, including the 1950 Nationality Law, which was predicated on the 1947 Constitution.


Article 1 of 1872 Family Register Law

Subjects at large



Article 32 of 1872 Family Register Law

Eta hinin etc.



1872 Jinshin register statistics

Households by sex of heads, and persons by sex, by status

The following data were adopted from kosekinorekisi (戸籍の歴史) [history of koseki]. ← No longer exists
The table design, translated headings, and comments are mine.

Similar data, with slightly different headings, and many other tables of early Meiji family register statistics broken down by status and sex, and prefecture, are now posted on Wikipedia's 壬申戸籍 (Jinshin koseki) page.

These data dramatize the variety of status categories used to classify people who were subject to registration under the 1871 Family Register Law proclamation effective in 1872.

壬申戸籍  明治5年1月29日現在の調査
身分別  戸数 (戸主の性別)  人員 (性別)

Jinshin [1872] household registers  Survey as of 8 March 1872
Numbers of households (by sex of head of houshold) and people (by sex), by status

身分 戸主男 戸主女 戸数 人員数 %計
Household heads by sex Households People by sex People Prcnt of
Status Male Female Total Male Female Total Total
Imperial family皇族 7 4 11 14 15 29 0.0001
Nobility 華族 459 0 459 1,300 1,366 2,666 0.0081
Shizoku (former samurai) 士族 258,939 13 258,952 634,701 647,466 1,282,167 3.87
Soldier samurai 卒 166,873 2 166,875 334,407 324,667 659,074 1.99
Landed samurai 地士 646 0 646 1,715 1,601 3,316 0.0100
Monks 僧 75,925 0 75,925 151,677 60,169 211,846 0.64
Shinto priests 旧神官 20,895 4 320,938 52,141 50,336 102,477 0.31
Nuns 尼 - 6,068 6,068 0 9,621 9,621 0.0290
Commoners 平民 6,326,571 170,752 6,497,323 15,619,048 15,218,223 30,837,271 93.13
Karafutoans 樺太人員 - - - 1,155 1,203 2,358 0.0071
Total 計 6,850,315 176,882 7,027,197 16,796,158 16,314,667 33,110,825 100.00
  1. The numerical data Total population of as of 8 March 1872 (Meiji 5-1-29). in the table are from one of several tables of data presented on a Wikipedia overview of the Jinshin registers and several censuses based on them. The subgroupings of the statuses into related classes, the English titling, and the percents are mine.
    1. Other tables show fuller breakdowns of data by domain and occupation. The Jinshin registers were used from 1872-1885, after which they were replaced by registers of a different design. One table shows status breakdowns for annual counts for all years from 1872 through 1885, except 1877-1878.
  2. 戸數人員 are the very first terms of the preamble to the 1872 Household Register Law and are the most important objects of the measure -- the objects to be enumerated for the purpose of protecting and serving the people of Japan, according to the preamble of the law. 戸數 (戸数 kosū) means "count of households" and 人員 (jin'in) means "number of people". The structure of the phrase exemplifies the "balance" or "parallelism" of good Chinese. 戸 (ko) and 人 (jin) are objects to be counted, and 数 (sū) and 員 (in) are counters.
    1. The heading 人員数 is shown as received. Since "jin'in" (人員) itself means "number of people", adding "-su" (-数) to make "jin'in-sū" (人員数) would result in "number of number of people" -- which would seem to be redundant. Today, however, "jin'in" is commonly used to mean "people/members/personnel" -- which are plural. So "jin'in-sū" appears to mean "number of people".
  3. The imperial family (皇族 kōzoku) and nobility (華族 kazoku) were closely related through blood). These two castes would continue to be legal statuses until after World War II. The imperial family, by then much larger, was reduced to three generations, which meant that most members of the family became ordinary nationals. Paragraph 2 of Article 14 of the 1947 Constitution held that "Peers and peerage shall not be recognized" (華族その他の貴族の制度は、これを認めない "Noble families and other aristocratic families shall not be recognized"). Those who had held titles of nobility, which were inherited, lost their titles and became ordinary nationals. Today, only the imperial family, with its own register system and family laws, continues to constitute a caste apart from the general Japanese population. Imperial family family laws preserve the sort of patriarchy and primogeniture that the 1947 Constitution abolished for the general population.
  4. "Shizoku" (士族) were former samurai or "gentry", a class that would continue to be recorded on registers until the early 20th century but which came with no legal privileges and would eventually have little social meaning either. "Soldier samurai" (sotsuzoku 卒族) and "Local samurai" (jizamrai 地士) [village samurai (gōshi 郷士) in Sanuki only] would later in 1872 be abrogated, and become mostly commoners, though some became shizoku.
  5. "Monks" (僧) and "nuns" (尼) were classified as such. The social class of "shrine house" (社家 shake), referring to the priest of a shrine, was abolished shortly before the Jinshin register system was established. However, as Shinto priests had not yet been made commoners, and were not members of any of the other classes, they were classified as "former Shinto priests" (旧神官) for the purpose of registration.
  6. Commoner (heimin 平民) counts do not include children [foundlings] (suteji, sutego 棄兒、捨児), persons in confinement [prisoners] who have no registers (museki zaikanjin 無籍在監人). Abandoned children are included as a distinct category from 1878. Registerless confinees are included as a distinct category from 1883.
    1. Today, people legally exist in Japan only if they are somehow registered -- either in koseki (if qualified as Japanese), or as aliens (if not Japanese).
    2. From 1947 to 2012, aliens permitted to reside in Japan were registered in alien registers that existed alongside koseki. Today, resident aliens are registered with the Exit-enter-country Control Bureau ("Immigration Bureau") nationally, while locally they are treated like Japanese for purposes of municipal resident registration -- which is different from family or alien registration).
    3. A number of people are born in Japan but go unregistered. At which point their unregistered existence comes to the attention of authorities, the conditions of their birth and upbringing are investigated to determine their qualification as Japanese. If a family court rules that they qualify for Japanese nationality, then they are enrolled in honseki (koseki). Otherwise, they classified as stateless aliens, and remain stateless until which time they acquire a nationality -- possibly Japanese nationality through naturalization.
    4. Foundlings came to be enrolled as Japanese, hence the invocation of jus soli (right of soil) for children whose parents are unknown. Prisoners also came to be registered.
  7. Registrants in Karafuto (樺太) are shown only for the 4 years from 1872-1875, for in 1875 Japan traded its claim to and interests in Karafuto (Southern Saghalin) to Russia for the Northern Kuriles (Northern Chishimas). Karafutonans would begin to be counted again from 1906, the year after Russia ceded the southern half of Saghalin (Karafuto) to Japan following Japan's victory in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905.
    1. Karafuto became Japan's 48th prefecture in 1943. Toward the end of the Pacific War in August 1945, Karafuto was invaded and captured by the Soviet Union. And under the terms of surrender signed on 2 September 1945, confirmed by the San Francisco Peace Treaty effective from 28 April 1952, Karafuto abandoned its claims to Karafuto, which became part of Sakhalin in the Soviet Union, now again Russia. Karafuto's registers, however, were evacuated, and their registrants were reregistered in Hokkaidō or wherever they resettled.

See The Interior: The legal cornerstone of the Empire of Japan for an overview of status and other laws in Japan's prefectural Interior from the 1872 Family Register Law to the present.



The 1871 Family Register Law calls the registers in which people considered "jinmin" or "kokumin" or "shinmin" were to be enrolled as "koseki" (戸籍) -- meaning a "household" or "family" register. However, the term "minseki" (民籍) -- meaning an "affiliate register" -- was also used in Japan at the time to describe a population register.

The term "minseki" can be seen in the notice of change of registration status that appear immediately before the text of the Family Register Law, as follows (see image above).

Morioka prefecture gentry (shizoku 士族) Oyamada Jiroku, on account of leaving (dropping from) his [shizoku] register (dasseki 脱籍), is lowered to [the status of] commoner (shomin 庶民) and enrolled in a [general, ordinary] population register (minseki 民籍).

The expression "jinmin koseki" (人民戸籍) also appears in the 1871 Family Register Law. My hunch -- which I am unable to substantiate at this time -- is that "minseki" is a reduction of "jinmin koseki" -- at least in cases when the "people" (jinmin 人民) were enrolled in registers by household (戸籍), which generally referred to a dwelling with an address.

The term "minseki" (民籍) generally refers a civil register (seki 籍) of affiliates (min 民) of a country or territory. To the extent that such registers embrace the entire population of a country's affilites -- and to the extent that a country's affiliates are enrolled in household registers -- then "minseki" and "koseki" are synynomous with other and tantamount to "kokuseki" (kokuseki 国籍) in the sense of "nationality", though of the three terms are used differently. Otherwise, "minseki" signifies only the population (household) registers of a territory.

It is clear here that the term "minseki" was in use before the promulgation and enforcement of the 1871 Family Register Law.

"Minseki" was used by the Korean and Japanese authors of the Empire of Korea's 1909 Population Register Law (K. Minjŏkpŏp, J. Minsekihō).

Minseki was also used by the Empire of Japan to differentiate Japan's territorial registers, as well reporting "minseki-betsu" (民籍別) national census and other statistics -- as in, for example, the 1920 and 1930 censues. See 1936 Japan Year Book for examples of how Japan's territorial census figures were differently reported in Japanese and English.

The 1930 census classified Japanese by "minseki" (民籍) and foreigners by "kokuseki" (国籍) as follows.

Minseki and kokuseki distinctions in 1930 census

民籍国籍別人口 / 全国 Minseki kokuseki betsu jinko / Zenkoku
[ Population by (imperial territorial) population registers
or (alien) national registers / Entire country
= prefectural Interior (Naichi) of Empire of Japan ]  
Start of Japanese "minseki" (territorial) classifications
内地人   Naichijin
         [Interiorites = Subjects of Japan in prefectural (Interior) registers]
総数     Sosu [Total]

外地人   Gaichijin
         [Exteriorites = Subjects of Japan in territorial (Exterior) registers]
総数     Sosu [Total]
  朝鮮     Chosen [Chosen (non-Interior territory)]
  台湾     Taiwan [Taiwan (non-Interior territory)]
  樺太     Karafuto [Karafuto (non-Interior territory
             legally subject to Interior laws]
  南洋諸島 Nan'yo Shoto [South Pacific Islands = German islands occupied by Japan in 1914,
             recognized as being occupied by Japan in the 1919 Treaty of Versailles,
             and administered by Japan under a League of Nations mandate until 1945]
Start of foreign "kokuseki" (nationality) classifications
外国人    Gaikokujin [Aliens]
総数      Sosu [Total]
  中華民国  Chuka Minkoku [Republic of China]
  [ 省略 ]  [ Other foreign states omitted here ]