Sugoroku for Promotion of the Servents of the Inner Palace (Oku-bōkō Shusse Sugoroku)
Painted by Utagawa Toyokuni III 1844 (Kōka 1) Tokyo Shiryō Collection 377-S10

This is a sugoroku (a Japanese board game similar to western Snakes and Ladders) with the theme of the promotion of female servants in the inner palace. Each square contains pictures of various ranks and posts of maids who served in the palace. Though only a boardgame, it is an extremely interesting material which enables us to gain detailed knowledge about the posts and roles in the palace.

The inner palace was a much admired place to be for Edo period women.
From the humble positions of "Omemie" and "Mihashita" held by underservants, through "Onakai" and "Osue", they become "Heyago", "Room of Garments", "the third chamber" and "the next chamber" etc. The highest ranks are "Chūrō, middle-rank lady-in-waiting", "Oheyasama (Chūrō who bore a child to Shogun)", "Rojo, senior lady-in-waiting" and "Osoba, lady-in-waiting of the highest rank". This shows how the posts were truly varied and about the roles before these posts are obtained.
The society of Edo period was based on the caste system. As long as you were not born into the houses of "Gosanke (the three important families)" or "Gosankyō (the three branches of the Tokugawa family)", you could not become Shogun, but if you were a woman, it was possible to become mother to the Shogun even if you were not born into a samurai family. The sugoroku (Japanese board game similar to western Snakes and Ladders) may indeed be telling the dream story of Edo period women.
This kind of sugoroku is called "shusse sugoroku (promotion sugoroku)" and continuing from the Edo period into the Meiji period a wide variety of shusse sugoroku were produced.