Bansho (番所)

Bansho is a facility in which guards were stationed for security and surveillance.

Edo period

Bansho were installed in important spots during the Edo period.

Bansho were installed in the key spots for transportation to inspect travelers, baggage, and vessels as well as to collect taxes. Uraga bansho and Shimoda bansho are well-known as the ones established by the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) and funaaratame bansho (vessel inspection bansho) were installed in major ports in various places as well as in large river basin like the Tone-gawa River and the Yodo-gawa River. Bansho were installed at sekisho (check points) as well for security and tax collection. In addition, tomi-bansho (marine affair bansho), set up in major ports where foreign vessels were likely to arrive such as Nagasaki Port, watched for suspicious vessels and individuals from a high place in collaboration with funaaratame-bansho and sekisho.

In Edo, bansho meant machi-bugyo-sho (magistrate's office), but there were many types of bansho such as gomon-bansho installed at the castle gate of Edo Castle, tsuji-bansho installed in the streets of samurai residences, hashi-bansho installed at the foot of major bridges like Ryogoku-bashi Bridge, kido-banya (simple lodging house) installed by kido (town gate), and jishin-banya installed inside a town.

In addition to setting up bansho in important spots inside the territory such as shukuba-machi (post stations), some domains installed kuchidome-bansho and sakaime-bansho on the borders with other domains or tenryo (a shogunal demesne) to inspect travelers and baggage, to avoid the outflow of people of the domain and goods to other domains as well as to collect taxes. Because Buke Shohatto (code for the warrior households) prohibited daimyo (Japanese feudal lords) from installing sekisho privately, bansho served as sekisho, in practice.

Ryukyu Kingdom

In the Ryukyu Kingdom, bansho served as a regional office ruling its magiri (province) in recent times. Magiri officials headed by jito-dai (deputy Jito) were stationed in bansho by rotation. Bansho in the kingdom, which was responsible for overall local administration including tax payment to the royal authorities and jito (manager and lord of manor), and labor service management, also functioned as a supply center of human resources and horses for reaching Shuri. But there are many unclear points about bansho because a lot of magiri-related written materials were lost as a result of social disorder caused by the Ryukyu Annexation, the Battle of Okinawa, etc.