- Japanese: 高家 (kouke)
While the term kôke is used generally to refer to high-ranking houses or those of ancient or honorable lineage, in the Edo period, the term came to also refer to a specific post within the shogunal administrative structures.
Essentially chiefs of protocol, the kôke, at the direction of the rôjû, oversaw shogunal journeys to Ise and Nikkô, the reception of Imperial envoys, and a variety of other ceremonial and ritual matters. They also regularly traveled to Kyoto as shogunal envoys carrying messages or the like to the Imperial Court, and managing relations with the Court otherwise. In shogunal audiences with Imperial envoys or foreign ambassadors, they often served as intermediaries in conveying both words and objects between the shogun and his guests. Officials known as the sôshaban served similar functions.
The position was hereditary, and included chiefly members of the Kira, Takeda, Oda, Rokkaku, and Hatakeyama clans, among others. Their stipends were not particularly high, but they enjoyed rank equivalent to that of a daimyô.