Buke Shohatto (code of warrior households) (武家諸法度)

Buke Shohatto refers to the code by which Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) governed the territorial lords during the Edo period.

Summary

Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, a member of the Gotairo (Council of Five Elders) of the Toyotomi government, was appointed Seii Taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians") after the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 and began to establish the Edo bakufu in Edo.

Buke Shohatto consisted of the three articles of written oath which the Edo bakufu ordered territorial lords to write in 1611, plus ten articles written by Konchiin Suden which were added later, and in July 1615 Hidetada TOKUGAWA, the second shogun, issued it to territorial lords in Fushimi-jo Castle (it is also commonly known as 'Genna rei' (Genna code)).

The code was aimed at daimyo (Japanese feudal lords) and the vassals of Tokugawa Family and originally had thirteen articles, but was revised on the shogun's replacement, and Iemitsu TOKUGAWA, the third shogun, added the system of Sankin-kotai (Daimyo's biennial residence in Edo), the ban on building large ships etc. so they finalised version contained nineteen articles ('Kanei rei' (Kanei code)). Tsunayoshi TOKUGAWA, the fifth shogun, integrated it into the code for shoshi (retainers) and enacted the 'Tenna rei' (Tenna code).

Later, Yoshimune TOKUGAWA, the eighth shogun, abolished the 'Shotoku rei' (Shotoku code) enacted by Ienobu TOKUGAWA, the sixth shogun. In fact, it had been revised by Hakuseki ARAI and as Ietsugu TOKUGAWA died young it continued to be used as it was. Yoshimune announced that 'Tenna rei' would remain in place for eternity and after that, revisions of Buke Shohatto were stopped.

The code was seen as the most important Bakufu Law as it was created by the enactment of the shogun's direct order, and mainly consisted of codes of order and prohibition for regulating daimyo.

The Shogun and drafter at the time of promulgation

Genna rei

Promulgation

-1615

Shogun

- Hidetada TOKUGAWA

Number of articles

- 13 articles

Drafted by

- Konchiin Suden

Remarks

- Drafted by the order of Ieyasu TOKUGAWA.

Kanei rei

Issuance

-1635

Shogun

- Iemitsu TOKUGAWA

Number of articles

- 19 articles

Drafted by

- Razan HAYASHI

Revised contents

-Sankinkotai was insituted and the the building of ships more larger than 500 koku was banned (the restriction was withdrawn for commercial ships in 1638).

Kanbun rei (Kanbun code)

Promulgation

-1663

Shogun

- Ietsuna TOKUGAWA

Contents

- The ban on Christianity in express terms

Tenna rei

Promulgation

-1683

Shogun

- Tsunayoshi TOKUGAWA

Contents

- Banned the tradition of following one's master to the grave in express terms and clearly stipulated the Matsugo yoshi no kin (ban on adopting a son on one's deathbed).

Shotoku rei

Issuance

-1710

Shogun

- Ienobu TOKUGAWA

Drafted by

- Hakuseki ARAI

Contents

- It was written in Japanese style and further clarified the rules daimyo had to comply to.

Kyoho rei (Kyoho code)

Promulgation

-1717

Shogun

- Yoshimune TOKUGAWA

Remarks

- It followed the Tenna rei. It has not been revised since.

The main contents of Buke Shohatto 'Kanei rei.'

・You should enjoy literary and military arts and kyuba (archery and equestrianism) exclusively.

Translation: You should be fond of military arts and learning.

Daimyo and shomyo should exchange the Edo residence. Perform Sankin (daimyo's biennial residence in Edo) every summer in April. Nowadays there are many servants: this causes expenses for the country and labour for the people of the domain. From now on it should be reduced to an appropriate number. However, when going to the capital (Kyoto) roles should be left to assigned status.

Translation: Daimyo must visit their own territory and Edo in April every year. Nowadays there are many servants and it is a burden for the territory and people of the domain. From now on it should be reduced to an appropriate number. However, when going to the capital (Kyoto) roles depend on predefined social status.

• We strictly forbid building new castles. If the moat or stone walls of a daimyo's castle are dilapidated and need to be fixed, they must report to the magistrate's office and get permission.

Translation: We strictly forbid building new castles. If the stone moat or foundations of a daimyo's castle are dilapidated and need to be fixed, they must get permission from a bakufu officer.

• Even if an incident occurs in Edo or elsewhere, those who are in the Domain must stay there and wait for the bakufu's command.

Translation: Even in the case of an incident in Edo or elsewhere, those who are in their Domains must stay there and wait for the bakufu's command.

• When a legal judgement or punishment is being handed out, no-one except those in charge may be present. Further, it should be left to the medical coroner.

Translation: When a legal judgement or punishment is being handed out, it is forbidden for anyone to except those in charge to be present. You should leave it to the medical coroner.

• We forbid mounting rebellions, collecting comrades and making oaths.

Translation: We forbid activites such as forming rebellions, collecting comrades and making oaths.

• District lords and feudal lords must not have private disputes. You must be careful of this at all times. If a dispute happens, report to the magistrate's office and seek direction.

Translation: Daimyo must not have a private disputes. You must always be careful of this. If a dispute happens, report to the magistrate's office and seek direction.

・ Landed daimyo, castle lords and kinju (attendant) and Monogashira (Military Commanders) possessing over 10,000 koku (approximately 1.8 million litres of crop yield)) are not allowed to marry without the permission of the bakufu.

Translation: Daimyo, kinju (samurai who were close advisers to the shogun) and Monogashira are not allowed to marry without the permission of the bakufu.

• Gifts, events such as weddings or parties and housebuilding have become too luxurious, so from now on they should be simplified. In all other regards, try to practice economy.

Translation: As gifts, events such as weddings or parties and housebuilding have become too luxurious, from now on they should be simplified. In all other regards, try to practice economy.

• Do not disturb the rules of costume. Those who are higher than Kugyo (high court noble) can wear shiraaya (white woven fabric) and those who are higher than daibu (master) can wear shiro kosode (a kind of white underwear). Kosode (a kimono with short sleeves worn as underclothing by the upper classes) with a purple lining, purple back fabric, ren or without a crest, cannot be worn freely. It is forbidden for a lower-ranking samurai in kachu (family-related communities which existed in the late Muromachi and Azuchi-Momoyama periods) to wear clothes embroidered with ayara (twill weave, pattern of diagonal stripes) or nishiki (brocade) because there has been no precedent of this.

Translation: Do not disturb the rules of costume. Those who are higher than Kugyo (high court noble, Sanmi (Third Rank)) can wear shiraaya (white woven fabric) and those who are more than daibu (master, goi (Fifth Rank)) can wear shiro kosode (a kind of white underwear). Kosode (a kimono with short sleeves worn as underclothing by the upper classes) with purple lining, purple back fabric, ren or with a crest, cannot be worn freely. It is forbidden for a lower-ranking samurai in kachu (family-related communities which existed in the late Muromachi and Azuchi-Momoyama periods) to wear clothes embroidered with ayara (twill weave, pattern of diagonal stripes) or nishiki (brocade) because there has been no precedent of this.

• Only those with permission may ride a palanquin, such as the Tokugawa family, landed daimyo, the sons of daimyo, castle lords, legitimate children of rank higher than jiju (chamberlain), people over fifty, doctors, men of Onmyodo (the way of Yin and Yang), the sick and so on. However, those with permission are an exception. The rules for each clan must be decided by the Domain. The rule omits kuge (court nobles), monzeki (successors of a temple) and those of high rank.

Translation: Only those with permission may ride a palanquin, such as the Tokugawa family, landed daimyo, the sons of daimyo, castle lords, legitimate children of rank higher than jiju (chamberlain), people over fifty, doctors, men of Onmyodo (the way of Yin and Yang), the sick and so on. However, those with permission are an exception. The rules for each clan must be decided by the Domain. The rule omits kuge (court nobles), monzeki (successors of a temple) and those of high rank.

• Do not accept a retainer who was a hindrance to his ex-master. If he is reported to be a rebel or murderer, then return him to his master. If his behavior is dubious, then bring him back to his ex-master or expel him.

Translation: Do not accept a retainer who was a hindrance to his ex-master. If he is reported to be a rebel or murderer, then return him to his master. If his behavior is dubious, then bring him back to his ex-master or expel him.

• When you expel or execute a retainer whose relatives are hostages of the bakufu, you must obey the bakufu's orders. If the execution must be performed at once, you must report the details to the bakufu.

Translation: When you expel or execute a retainer whose relatives are hostages of the bakufu, you must obey the bakufu's orders. If the execution must be performed at once, you must report the details to the bakufu.

• In chigyosho (land paid as a chigyo's salary, especially a domain of Samurai holding less 10,000 koku in the Edo period) do business honestly and do not breach the law or diminish the Domain's power.

Translation: Do government affairs honestly in the domains and do not breach the law or diminish the Domain's power.

• Do not block roads, horse stables, ships or bridges and do not cause traffic congestion

Translation: Do not block roads, horse stables, ships or bridges and do not cause traffic congestion.

• Do not build a private sekisho (checking station) and do not establish laws which stop the circulation of goods.

Translation: Do not build a private sekisho (checking station) and do not establish laws which stop the circulation of goods.

• Do not build a ship with a capacity of over 500 koku.

Translation: Do not build a ship with a capacity of over 500 koku.

• The system of temple and shrine territories across Japan, which has existed since ancient times, must not be distrupted from now on.

Translation: The system of temple and shrine territories across Japan, which has existed since ancient times, must not be distrupted from now on.

• Everything must be carried out in obedience to the law of the bakufu you must observe it.

Translation: Everything must be carried out in obedience to the law of the bakufu you must observe it.