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Home » 3. Institutions and Administrative Practices » Officiants
A profession established by the court for the performance of ritual at Ise Jingū. A position established only at Ise, it was filled by the Nakatomi family for generations. In later years it was also called jingū kanchō or sōkan. It is not, however, listed in the Shokuin rei, but, like kurōdo (an office in charge of imperial storehouses and archives) or kebiishi (a combination of judge and police officer, charged with evaluating illegal acts), was an exceptional imperial appointment. According to Kitabatake Chikafusa's Shoku gen shō, with the establishment of Ise Jingū during Suinin's reign, Ōkashima was the first person appointed, and thereafter his descendants, the Nakatomi, filled the office. However, this cannot be confirmed by reference to the Nihon shoki or other documents of the period. The first documentary record is in the Shoku nihonkōki, in a record from the third month of 850 stating that Onakatomi no Fuchiuo served as saishu from 815-843, suggesting establishment of the post in the early Heian period. A member of the Nakatomi clan affiliated with the Jingikan and holding fifth rank or higher would be appointed, and would receive upon his first appointment ten thousands sheaves of rice. The saishu's greatest duties were performance of the kinensai, tsukinamisai, and kannamesai rites, serving as imperial emissary (heihakushi), and transmitting the emperor's thoughts to the Ise deities in a norito (ritual prayer or incantation). In addition, at the twenty-year renewal of the shrines the saishu orchestrates the entire shikinen sengū, acting as the person who transfers the deity to its new location (hōsenshi). On the occasion of a change in saigū appointments, he also offered the reason for the change to the deity, an extremely weighty responsibility. As time went on, the saishu came to be named head of the Nakatomi clan and to have responsibility to recite the Tenjin yogoto (roughly, invocations for the continued prosperity of the emperor) at the daijōsai (the first niinamesai held after an emperor's accession). Additionally the performance of kitō (invocations of divine power) by the saishu at the Jingikan was instituted in the mid-Heian period. The office of the saishu is primarily concerned with ritual, but in 903, in the time of saishu Nakatomi Yasunori, with the systematization of offices from the court to those associated with the Ise Shrines, the saishu was also directed to take responsibility for the shrine's land (shinryō) as well as the shrines themselves. The saishu held the authority to appoint priests (shinshoku) below the sixth rank, with indirect influence over appointments up to negi (suppliant priest). Originally, saishu appointments were supposed to be drawn from Jingikan officials above the fifth rank out of any of the three Nakatomi sub-lineages, but from the mid-Heian period these appointments were concentrated in two of them. From the end of the Heian period, the Sukechika sub-lineage, located in Iwade, Ise Province, virtually monopolized the post of saishu. This lineage was renamed Fujinami in the middle of the Edo period, in the time of saishu Kagetada, and they continued to hold the position until the end of the period. With the 1871 reform of the Ise Shrines, Konoe Tadafusa and Sanjō Nishisuetomo were appointed saishu from among the aristocracy, but after the 1875 appointment of Prince Tomoyoshi, the office of saishu came to be filled by a member of the imperial house. Since the 1947 appointment of Kitashirakawa Fusako (the seventh daughter of the Meiji emperor), a woman of the old imperial house has filled the position.

— Fujimori Kaoru
"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
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