Bukeshisso (武家執奏)

Bukeshisso is a term that relates to the Court-Bakufu (the Imperial Court and Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) relationship between the Muromachi bakufu and the Northern Court in Japan (the court noble government), and the term has the two following meanings:

One meaning is that of when the seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians") of the Muromachi bakufu made a political request to the Northern Court (the Imperial Court) on a particular issue.

And the other is that it is a post set in the Northern Court (the Imperial Court) that relayed the bukeshisso from the shogun and vice versa, played the role of conveying the intention of Chiten no kimi (the retired emperor in power) and the emperor to the shogun.

Bukeshisso of the Muromachi Shogun

As a description of bukeshisso, it is written, depending on the record, in several different ways such as 'somon' (reporting to the Emperor), 'moshiire' (making a proposal to the Emperor) and 'kuchiire' (mediating two parties). In general, on behalf of the Shogun the official who acted as the negotiator often made a proposal to perform bukeshisso for the post.
(Conversely, sometimes the official acted as the messenger to receive the message [kuge shigyo] from the Imperial Court or In no cho [Retired Emperor's Office], and convey the messages to the Shogun.)
Especially, in cases where a member of the Nikaido or Sasaki clans who acted as Toshi (messenger from the Kamakura bakufu to the Imperial court in Kyoto) was dispatched this was called 'buke moshi kotoba' (report informing the Court of the bakufu's intention).

Several cases of bukeshisso were seen during 1338 and 1341 when Takauji ASHIKAGA was appointed as shogun. It is after Shohei itto (temporal unification of the Northern and Southern Courts) that the frequency and influence of bukeshisso started to increase. Bukeshisso came to cover not only shoryo ando (the act of providing authorization for land ownership and guaranteeing feudal tenure) and bukekani (official court titles for samurai) but also almost all areas such as Court nobles' appointment and dismissal in the Imperial Court, kamon ando (providing authorization for family lineage), policies to temples and shrines and senshin (the dedicating of entitled documents and poetries) of Chokusen wakashu (anthology of Japanese poetry compiled by Imperial command).

As a result, in 1358, the Kanpaku (chief adviser to the Emperor) Yoshimoto NIJO was dismissed from the post after 16 years of service, by Yoshiakira ASHIKAGA's shisso. After this incident, bukeshisso came to intervene in the appointment and dismissal of the Sessho (Regent), Kanpaku and Daijodaijin (Grand Minister of State). In addition, when the retired Emperor Suko and Emperor Gokogon were in conflict over the investiture of Imperial Prince Ohito, Emperor Gokogon expected bukeshisso to support his biological son Ohito's investiture as Crown Prince.
However, as the shogun at the time was Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA who was 13 years old, kanrei (shogunal deputy) Yoriyuki HOSOKAWA, the guardian of the Imperial Prince, repeatedly insisted that the Emperor make a decision over the matter, saying 'the Emperor should make a decision' and 'don't allow samurai intervention.'
HOSOKAWA's advice led to the Emperor's decision on his son's investiture and his abdication from the throne, according to "Gokoingyoki" (The Diary of Emperor Gokogon).

The Southern Court managed to avoid the crisis of losing income due to the military campaign from the Southern Court, with military and economic support from the Muromachi bakufu. The Northern Court was not able to maintain its status without depending on the Muromachi bakufu, and as the Northern Court recognized this, it actively tried to be connected with the bakufu. Because of this situation, the court nobles began to think that it was impossible to refuse bukeshisso. In his letter to Kimitada SANJO in 1384, Emperor Goenyu wrote '執奏之下,無沙汰者,可為公家御咎也' and lamented the situation that not to obey the bukeshisso led to court nobles' sin.

Such situations developed into a decline in Imperial sovereignty (the transformation of the shogun into the King of Japan) of Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA. And because of the situation in the later Muromachi bakufu after Yoshimitsu, intervention by bukeshisso still continued.

Bukeshisso' as a government post

Bukeshisso,' taking the other meaning, indicated the court noble who was in charge of conveying Chiten no kimi's inzen (decree from the retired Emperor) which was the imperial decision by the Northern Court or the emperor's Imperial order at the time of direct imperial rule to the Muromachi bakufu. It, conversely, also meant, as is mentioned above, to convey the bakufu's request to Chiten no kimi or Emperor through the opposite route.

During the Kamakura period the imperial messages of Chiten no kimi or from the emperor were sent to the Kamakura bakufu or Rokuhara tandai (the bakufu's regional office) through Kanto moshitsugi (court-appointed liaison with the bakufu). As at the establishment of Muromachi bakufu the intention to resuscitate the Kamakura bakufu (military government) was included, the relationship between the bakufu and Imperial Court was intended to liken the one with the Kamakura bakufu.
(However, as the Muromachi bakufu, unlike the Kamakura bakufu, and the Northern Court (Imperial Court) were placed in the same city (Kyoto), the Muromachi bakufu did not need a liaison office, unlike for the Rokuhara tandai.)

But Kinmochi SAIONJI, who was the last Kanto moshitsugi, was executed by the government of the Kenmu Restoration, and on kamon ando (providing authorization for family lineage) by Emperor Godaigo, the Saionji family was succeeded by Kinshige SAIONJI, who was on the Southern Court side and the younger brother of Kinmochi. On the other hand, lawful wife Meishi HINO who became pregnant at the execution of Kinmochi gave birth the legitimate son (the later Sanetoshi SAIONJI) but he was too young to succeed the family. Furthermore, as Kinshige yielded to the Northern Court, it was impossible to exclude Kinshige. As a result, Chiten no kimi (the retired Emperor Kogen) and the Muromachi bakufu confirmed the kamon ando through Emperor Godaigo, provided that the family protect Sanetoshi as successor. On the other hand, the problem over who would succeed to the duties of Kanto moshitsugi until Sanetoshi succeeded the Saionji family became apparent.

That is when Kanesue IMADEGAWA, who had been Daijo daijin (Grand Minister of State) during the era of Emperor Kogon, appeared.
However, this promotion was nullified by Emperor Godaigo when the emperor returned to Kyoto after the Genko Incident, and even later as the Northern Court did not take measures to restore Kanesue's position, his nominal title was 'former Udaijin.'
Kanesue was the son of Sanekane SAIONJI, who took the duties of Kanto moshitsugi, and was Kinmune's grand-uncle. From 1337, the year following the establishment of the Northern Court, Kanesue's shosoku (letters) and migyosho (document of shogunate order) along with the retired Emperor Kogon's inzen (a decree from the retired Emperor) were sent to KO no Moronao, who was the steward of Takauji ASHIKAGA. On receiving those documents, the Takauji gave orders to the Shugo (provincial governor) and samurai all over Japan. Later, in 1338, Kanesue entered the priesthood. And then, as he died of a disease in February of the next year, his son Sanetada IMADEGAWA succeeded his father's duties. Sanetada was only 24 when his father died of a disease. But, as is mentioned above, this promotion was not thought to be a problem because he was recognized in the interim until Sanetoshi SAIONJI grew up. However, in 1342, three years after Sanekane SAIONJI's death by disease, Sanetada IMADEGAWA passed away suddenly. In reality, it is possible that he did not do many of his duties while he was working as a Toritsugiyaku (gentleman-usher between the Bakufu and Court) of the Imadegawa family. According to "Zoku Shigusho" (Historical work published in 1791), the decision to change the name of the era to 'Ryakuo' in the Imperial Court on October 19, 1338 was not conveyed to the bakufu, and it was not until October 25 that the seniors in the bakufu, including Takauji ASHIKAGA knew of the change.

It was then that Tsuneaki KANSHUJI became Sanetada's successor. It was written in "Chinyoki" (an account of the raising to the throne of the Emperor Gohanazono in 1429) by Imperial Prince Sadafusa, who was the retired Emperor Kogon's grandson, that Tsuneaki was one of the most important close aides to the Retired Emperor Kogon. Also, not belonging to the Saionji family, Tsuneaki was one of the descendants of Tsunefusa YOSHIDA, the first Kanto moshitsugi. After that, Tsuneaki started to negotiate with the Takauji or so called Takauji's deputy group of KO no Moronao, Tadayoshi ASHIKAGA and Yoshiakira ASHIKAGA, about the issues between the Imperial Court and the bakufu. Tsuneaki did his duties for about 10 years, and during the period the procedures in relation to negotiations between the Court and the bakufu were established, and the office organization and name of 'bukeshisso' were consolidated, and the word bukeshisso began to appear in documents.
(In a letter of representation of March 1370 by To-ji Temple in "Toji Hyakugo Monjo" [100 case documents of To-ji Temple], the words in the negotiations in 1351, between To-ji Temple and 'Kanshuji Ippon tokini bukeshisso' [Kanshuji, who was Ippon [First Order of an Imperial Prince] and Bukeshisso post at that time] [Tsuneaki KANSHUJI was Juichi [Junior First Rank] in 1370] were quoted.)

On November 23, 1353, Sanetoshi SAIONJI was appointed bukeshisso in place of Tsuneaki KANSHUJI. Immediately after this appointment, Sanetoshi was appointed Gon Dainagon (a provisional chief councilor of state), which was a suitable position for bukeshisso. The appointment was greatly influenced by the fact that Kinshige SAIONJI had fled to Yoshino after his downfall at the Shohei itto as he had been suspected of having secret connections with the Southern Court, and no one objected to Sanetoshi being the successor of the Saionji family. After that, Sanetoshi served as bukeshisso for more than 30 years. And as mentioned above, it was Sanetoshi that relayed many bukeshisso by the Muromachi bakufu shogun.

The chokusai (imperial decision) of Chiten no kimi was issued in the form of inzen, and in the case of direct rule by the emperor the chokusai of the emperor was issued in the form of rinji (the emperor's command). And the messages were conveyed to the bukeshisso through each tenso (job to relay messages of the court's people to the emperor). The bukeshisso issued a shigyojo (letter conveying orders from the head to the subjects) and conveyed it to the Shogun (kuge shigyo). Also, the Shogun ordered the steward (kanrei) and hikiuke tonin (chairman of the court justice) to issue a hosho (a document for informing lower-ranking people of the decision of higher-ranking people such as an emperor or shogun), which was equivalent to a shigyojo, to the samurai to whom the content of chokusai was supposed to be conveyed (buke shigyo). However, the procedures sometimes changed, depending on the rank of the bukeshisso himself or power relationships within the Muromachi bakufu. In cases where the chokusai was conveyed to the current or former ministers such as Kanesue IMADEGAWA and Sanetoshi SAIONJI (1224 or later), the messages of inzen and rinji were conveyed to the keishi (household superintendent) of the household in accordance with the court nobles' customary practice at that time, while in cases where the bukeshisso's rank was Dainagon (Chief Counselor of State) or lower, the messages were sent directly to the designated person. Also, during the period of the father and son of Imadegawa, kuge shigyo was issued by the keishi in the form of shosoku or migyosho. On the other hand, during the period of Tsuneaki KANSHUJI, although the documents took the form of shosoku or migyosho, they were issued in the form of jikijo (direct documents) by officials, and during the period of Sanetoshi SAIONJI, the formal shigyojo by officials were issued in accordance with the increasing power of the bakufu. In addition, kuge shigyo were issued to KO no Moronao, Tadayoshi ASHIKAGA and Yoshiakira ASHIKAGA who were the chief executive in practical works while Takauji ASHIKAGA was in the shogun's position. However, after Yoshiakira assumed the position of shogun, the address was changed to the shogun himself in accordance with the bakufu's policy to reinforce the shogun's power, which had started to be taken when Yoshiakira's father Takauji was alive.

But in 1382, as the shogun Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA took the post of In no shitsushi (steward of the retired emperor), which was the chief of Inshi (official of In no cho, or retired emperor's office) in addition to the post of Sadaijin (Minister of the left), he took the charge of administrating people of tenso status or below. So, the system of relaying messages from Chiten no kimi to tenso, bukeshisso, and shogun of the Muromachi bakufu collapsed. Therefore, it is considered that bukeshisso finished its purpose in approximately 1382 and was abolished. After that, the tenso who served the Chiten no kimi directly conveyed the messages to the shogun Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA who was his superior, and the intention of Yoshimitsu or the bakufu officials including bugyo (magistrate) was in return relayed to Chiten no kimi or the Emperor through the tenso. And even Yoshimochi, who was Yoshimitsu's son and was allegedly critical about his father's policies against the Imperial Court, also assumed the post of In no shitsushi of the retired Emperor Gokomatsu. Therefore, it became customary for the tenso to directly relay the intention of the emperor or retired emperor. And later, the tenso who assumed the role of relaying the intention came to be called 'buke tenso' (liaison officers between the Imperial court and the military government).