July 31, 2022
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I have had Japanese titles and forms of address on the brain. I have always tried to find a way to make sure that I have a Japanese persona appropriate context for my SCA rank and title. For a long time, I referred to myself as the Junior Undersecretary for Shrine Maintenance, an appropriately bureaucratic title for a low-ranking bureaucrat; and when I received my GoA I decided that I had earned a promotion to Senior Undersecretary. When I was Gold Falcon Principal Herald I, with the help of Kameshima Zentarou Umakai, translated Calontir as the Kingdom of Chushinchi and the role of Principal Herald as Jibu-kyo—the head of the Ministry of Civil Administration/Ceremonies (the Jibu-sho).
I wanted to make sure that I was giving the same attention and level of detail to my forthcoming investiture as Baron of Mag Mor, so that I could properly contextualize my position. But for anyone reading this just to know if the normal SCA styles are also fine—they are! I’m never going to be picky about what someone calls me, and I’ll reiterate that in the last section. This document is solely so that I can share my thoughts, and for anyone curious about adapting a landed Baronage in the SCA for a Japanese persona. I will never insist on it from anyone, nor will I be mad with however someone is comfortable addressing me.
I. Mag Mor
Mag Mor is, to both a Japanese and European mind, a fiefdom. In both cultures it would be given by a sovereign (King or Tenno) to a sub-infeudated noble, where it would become hereditary. And in both systems the landed noble administering the fiefdom would have their title defined by the name of the fiefdom. So, the first step is to translate the name so we can then properly discuss the title.
Mag is an Irish word meaning Plain, and Mor means ‘big, large, or great’ (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/m%C3%B3r). Thus, the Barony’s name literally translates to ‘Great Plain’, a fitting name for the barony stretching out across the great plains of Nebraska. This naming pattern follows that of the Irish Mag Mell—delightful plain—which is one of the names for the Celtic Otherworld (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mag_Mell).
The closest Japanese word for plain, in my research, is 畑 —pronounced ‘hata’ (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E7%95%91). This plain is specifically a crop field, which is similarly appropriate as the ‘plain’ of Mag Mor are the vast agricultural bounty of the lands.
Japanese has a prefix specifically for indicating that something is big or great, which is 大 (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E5%A4%A7). This is pronounced like a long “Oh”. Combining these we arrive at 大畑, or in English O-Hata or Ohata.
II. What is the Lord of O-Hata
Domains ruled by a noble in the Sengoku Jidai and Edo periods of Japan were referred to as han. They originated as personal estates of powerful warriors, and eventually became more legally important than the previous kuni of the Imperial court (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Han_system). But, seeing the previous, they were also less a strictly delineated county system than an abstract.
Interestingly, a han’s importance was measured not by its actual size or the number of knights that it could offer but by its agricultural production. This was measured in koku, a unit of accounting equivalent to the amount of rice necessary to feed one person for a year (https://www.sumitomo.gr.jp/english/history/s_history/rice/). This means that while to a period European eye Mag Mor would be of mixed importance—incredibly large but with a small population and only (currently) a single knight’s service—to the Japanese eye it would be incredibly valuable. Assuming that we grant an equivalence of rice (the Japanese staple) to corn, soybeans, and wheat (American staples), Nebraska’s 1.85 billion bushels of corn alone would qualify it as a “million koku domain” greater even than the Tokugawa Shogunate’s Kaga Domain (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaga_Domain).
The kuni were originally overseen by the kokushi, administrators appointed by the Emperor and the Imperial Court. With the rise of the military bakufu (literally ‘tent government’), successive Shoguns began appointing competing shugo (military governors)who assumed more and more importance (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shugo). These shugo of varying ranks gained power until the breakdown of the Ashikaga Shogunate in the 15th century led to the Sengoku Jidai, the period of the Nation at War, when they all began to be referred to as Daimyo (literally ‘great name’).
For my period—perpetually trapped in December of 1600, unless the SCA ever extends the end date—the most appropriate position equivalent to a landed Baron would be a Daimyo. Of course, one of the issues with a Japanese persona in the SCA is that the most appropriate equivalent of a Count or Duke would also be a Daimyo, differentiated only by the size and importance of the han. Japan would not have a five-step graduated aristocracy until 1869 (see below), but that is something many non-European personae have to deal with.
III. Addressing the Daimyo of the O-Hata Domain
Having settled on Daimyo as the appropriate leader of the O-Hata domain, what is the proper period title and form of address?
- Not the SCA Approved Titles
Unfortunately, the SCA approved alternate titles are not the most period example. Those titles, found at https://heraldry.sca.org/titles.html#Japanese, are based on the above-mentioned post-period aristocracy. After Japan was opened (violently) to trade with the West and the overthrow of the Shogunate in the Meiji Restoration, they began a program of modernization and westernization. While the army was reorganized and retrained by the Prussians (sorry, Tom Cruise), they reorganized their nobility based on the British. Thus, they instituted the Kazoku—a five step peerage consisting of the ranks of non-Imperial Prince (equivalent to a Duke), Marquess, Count, Viscount, and Baron (https://www.britannica.com/topic/kazoku).
The SCA approved alternate titles are the form found in the Kazoku, which was never reflected in SCA period. They fit very nicely into the SCA’s mostly English system because they were explicitly modelled after them the better part of three hundred years after period ended.
To be clear, I have no issue with anyone in the Society who uses the SCA approved titles, as they are the only ones which are actually approved. But it is important to me to at least have a more period authentic presentation for myself.
- Kami, Court Ranks, Ason, and Sama/Dono.
Most of the information in this section is provided by the website Sengoku Daimyo, originally written by Master Edward of Effingham and now maintained by his former student Master Ii Katsumori. You can find the section which is referenced here at https://sengokudaimyo.com/address.
The most appropriate title for a daimyo is to take the name of the domain and append -no-kami to it. This goes back to the original kokushi, where kami was the highest rank they could be appointed. Thus, we would find the title “Baron of Mag Mor” translating as “O-Hata-no-Kami,” which is what I intend to put beneath the signature line on Baronial scrolls and in letters to the local newsletter.
Appointment as a Daimyo would also come with appointment to a rank in the Imperial Court, even though by my period the authority of the Imperial court was entirely theoretical. But it was an important theory—while the Shogun ruled in fact, he acknowledged the fictional authority of the emperor and received an appropriate court rank. Thus, when I am invested as Baron I will go (under Master Edward’s proposed system) from being a courtier of the Senior Sixth Court rank to the Senior Fifth Court rank; and I will be entitled to append ‘go-i’ to the end of my name.
But there is a further wrinkle. Certain court ranks in period would almost invariably come with honorary titles. For the fourth and fifth court ranks this title is ‘Ason’, which went between the clan and given names for the fifth rank and after both for the fourth rank. I will also accordingly be entitled to be addressed as Saito no Ason Takauji, in addition to being entitled to address as Saito Takauji go-i.
This is, of course, incredibly confusing. If I can be referred to as O-Hata-no-Kami, Saito no Ason Takauji, and Saito Takauji go-i, how does someone address me? Fortunately for us, this is a much simpler exercise. It is always appropriate to address someone in the SCA, especially if they are in a specific rank/title or if they outrank you, as either <Name>-sama or <Name>-dono (pronounced ‘tono’, but written as ‘dono’).
And there is always the Japanese equivalent of both ‘Excellency’ and ‘Grace’, which is ‘Kakka’ and may have -sama appended to it. But this is…awkward in English, to say the least, given what it can sound like.
- Bringing it all together
As of August 27th, therefore, it will be most appropriate to refer to me as:
O-Hata-no-Kami where you would use the title ‘Baron of Mag Mor’;
Saito no Ason Takauji where you would use my full name in referring to me as ‘Baron Saito Takauji’;
Saito Takauji go-i where you would use my full name in referring to me as ‘Baron Saito Takauji’;
Takauji-sama or Takauji-dono where you would address me directly as ‘Baron Takauji’, or even Uji-sama or Uji-dono for ‘Baron Uji’.
And Kakka-sama if you really have to replace ‘Your Excellency’, although I really just prefer Excellency.
IV. SCA Titles Are Always Fine
But just to re-iterate: SCA titles are also always fine. Baron Takauji is great, Baron Uji is also great, and as I said I genuinely prefer ‘Your Excellency’ to ‘Kakka-sama’. I will also never be upset if someone refers to me as Takauji Danshaku, even though it is not my preferred form.
As long as it isn’t something mean, I’ll always be happy to respond. And please insert a joke about not calling me late to feast here.