Buke Yashiki (武家屋敷)

A "Buke Yashiki" is typically a mansion which a daimyo (provincial lord) kept in Edo as a second house and as a branch office in the Edo period. It is also called Daimyo Yashiki (daimyo residence). It was also called ''Hantei". Its antonym is Kuge Yashiki (residence of a court noble).

Today's definition also covers "Samurai Yashiki" which was a residence of samurai after the Sengoku period (period of warring states).

Daimyo Yashiki

"Daimyo Yashiki" refers to the residence of a master served by a daimyo, a residence daimyo kept inside or outside a castle, or a residence daimyo kept regardless of his place of work or habitation. It sometimes referred to a building where hostages were kept, or one to accommodate workers and offices for public construction work. The definition also includes the Daimyo Jinya (fortified house) that was built at Nagoya-jo Castle (in Saga Prefecture) during the Bunroku-Keicho War (wars initiated by the invasion of the Korean Peninsula by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI's army in 1592 through 1598).

Edo period

In the Edo period, the Bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) provided Daimyo with land in the neighborhood of Edo-jo Castle or in suburban areas where daimyo built their houses, and they also kept residences in Osaka or in Kyoto for their own convenience. Daimyo Yashiki in Edo were places where daimyo stayed during their term of Sankinkotai (duty of alternate-year attendance in Edo), and they also had an embassy-like function for daimyo (han, or his domain) for political or economical negotiations with the Bakufu.

Daimyo Yashiki in Edo

The Bakufu provided daimyo with Kami (upper) Yashiki, Naka (middle) Yashiki, and Shimo (lower) Yashiki to own and use. Kami, Naka, and Shimo were distinguished by their distance from Edo-jo Castle. In 1738, the standard area of Kami Yashiki was set according to the daimyo's Rokudaka (stipend assessed on the basis of the crop yield of a daimyo's domain), but in practice the total area did not conform to it.

The daimyo and his family lived in his Kami Yashiki and he used Shimo Yashiki as his private space. Some daimyo held Naka Yashiki in the middle.
(Refer to 'Edo Hantei.')

Kura Yashiki, a kind of Shimo Yashiki, had several warehouses and residences in the compound which was built on the coast or at the mouth of a river, and these were facilities for the distribution of the products of the daimyo's home domain to transport them to Edo, and to put them into the market for disposal. They were mainly used for economic activities.
(Refer to "Kura Yashiki" for details.)

Samurai Yashiki

"Samurai Yashiki" were residences for low ranked samurai. Samurai used to live in their local domains in the medieval period, but after the Sengoku period soldiers did not need to farm and were forced to live in castle towns leaving their farmlands behind. It was similar to housing for government workers today. "Samurai-machi" was an area where many Samurai Yashiki were built. Samurai-machi were purposefully built in order to defend the castle structure. In castle towns, some castles had Samurai-machi in their Sannomaru (outer area of a castle) or inside the outer castle walls. In jinya (regional government office) areas, they had small scale samurai yashiki inside jinya compounds. Although many ordinary samurai such as Hatamoto (direct retainers of the shogun) or Gokenin (lower-ranked vassals) had residences which differed little from folk houses, upper or middle class Samurai Yashiki had mud walls, Nagayamon (a gate and long house for vassals), and Shikidai (an entrance hall with a wooden floor), and even lower class ones had at least zashiki (a tatami-mat reception room) of Shoin-zukuri style (a typical traditional Japanese style house), attempting to display their high status.

In the Edo period, because Shake (Shinto priest families) had the rank and status similar to that of the samurai class, their residences were also similar.

Townscapes of Buke Yashiki (Samurai Yashiki) and Shake-machi (Shake towns)

The Meiji Restoration made Samurai Yashiki redundant and many of them were dismantled, and the Second World War and the urban development which followed it caused most of them to be destroyed. However, some Samurai Yashiki or Samurai-machi areas survive today in the form they once held, and some of them are designated as Important Preservation Districts for Groups of Historic Buildings.

Hirosaki City (Aomori Prefecture): Important Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings
Kakunodate-machi (Senboku City, Akita Prefecture): Important Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings
Kanegasaki-cho (Iwate Prefecture): Important Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings
Mizusawa City (Iwate Prefecture)
Sakura City (Chiba Prefecture)
Matsushiro-jo Castle (Nagano City, Nagano Prefecture)
Kanazawa City (Ishikawa Prefecture)
Matsuzaka City (Mie Prefecture)
The Kamigamo Area of Kita Ward, Kyoto City: Kyoto City Kamigamo Important Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings (Kamigamo-jinja Shrine Shake)
Sasayama City Preservation District for Groups of Historic Sasayama Buildings (Sasayama City, Hyogo Prefecture): Important Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings
Matsue City (Shimane Prefecture)
Izumo-taisha Shrine (Izumo City, Shimane Prefecture): Izumo no Kuninomiyatsuko Nagayamon of Izumo-taisha Shrine Kuninomiyatsuko: Manai Shake Street (真名井社家通り) of Izumo no Kuninomiyatsuko
Tsuwano-cho (Shimane Prefecture)
Takahashi City (Okayama Prefecture)
Hagi City (Yamaguchi Prefecture): Important Preservation Districts for Groups of Historic Buildings
Iwakuni City (Yamaguchi Prefecture)
Aki City (Kochi Prefecture)
Shimabara City (Nagasaki Prefecture)
Kitsuki City (Oita Prefecture)
Saiki City (Oita Prefecture)
Kojirokoji (Unzen City, Nagasaki Prefecture): Important Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings
Obi-jo Castle (Nichinan City, Miyazaki Prefecture): Important Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings
Izumifumoto (Izumi City, Kagoshima Prefecture): Important Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings
Irikifumoto (Sendai City, Kagoshima Prefecture): Important Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings
Chiran-cho (Minami Kyushu City, Kagoshima Prefecture): Important Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings

Others

There is a house called "Buke Yashiki" in Higashiiya in Miyoshi City, Tokushima Prefecture, which has a legend about the survivors of the Taira family (its exterior appears to be a farmhouse).