Goon (favors) and hoko (services) (御恩と奉公)

Goon and hoko indicate factors and concepts that constituted master-servant relationships among samurai during medieval Japan. The master-servant relationships among samurai during the medieval period were not one-sided but were established based upon mutually beneficial ones in which benefits were not only given by a master and received by his servant, but also given by a servant and received by the master. Here, the benefits a master gave his servant was called goon, and the benefits given by his servant to the master hoko. The relationships of 'goon and hoko' had been formed gradually among samurai class during the middle to the latter half era of the Heian period. However, it was after MINAMOTO no Yoritomo became the leader of the samurai in the Kanto area, or Kamakura-dono (lord of Kamakura), that the relationships of 'goon and hoko' were firmly established. After that, the relationships of 'goon and hoko' continued functioning as a base for establishing the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), and were inherited by the later Muromachi bakufu and Edo bakufu as well.


Specifically, goon indicated that a master guaranteed control of an area by his servant or that a master awarded an area newly to his servant. The former benefit was called honryoando and the latter sinonkyuyo. When the Kamakura bakufu was established, the benefit of honryoando or sinonkyuyo, or that of goon, was given by Kamakura-dono to gokenin (immediate vassals of the shogunate) in the form that Kamakura-dono appointed them to jito (the managers and lords of manors).


Hoko specifically indicated the military role that a servant should play for his master and the economical burden that the servant should bear for his master. When the Kamakura bakufu was established, gokenin played, for the Kamakura-dono, the economical roles as samurai, called Kanto-mikuji, in addition to the services of military roles, such as military roles in emergency, the Oban-yaku role for guarding the imperial court and bakufu, the Ikoku keigo ban-yaku role (the role for guarding against attacks from foreign countries) and the Nagato keigo ban-yaku role (also the role for guarding against attacks from foreign countries at a station placed in Nagato, present Yamaguchi Prefecture).


Around the tenth century during the Heian period when a large social change occurred, the Imperial court abandoned the policy of entrusting tax-collecting affairs and military affairs solely to the central government system and promoted to entrust these affairs to kokushi (provincial governors) or rich persons, or, in other words, to introduce the kanshiukeoi-sei system. In particular, in the Kanto region where fighting occurred frequently, local rich persons or powerful clans had come to bear public military burdens. Under such situations, samurai groups formed being centered in the Kanto region, and in such a group, the master took top position and led his servants called Ienoko or roto. A factor that enabled connecting a master with his servants in such a situation was the relationship between goon and hoko. A master and his servants formed a certain union (samurai group) by establishing mutually beneficial relationships called goon and hoko. However, the master-servant relationship was rather loose, and it often happened that a samurai served more than one master or established a master-servant relationship with a master only temporarily.

Towards the end of the Heian period when the position heading all samurai in the Kanto region, called Kamakura-dono, was introduced, the master-servant relationship based on goon and hoko gradually became exclusive (not allowed to have any master other than the kamakura-dono) and permanent, making the relationship stronger. Thereafter, goon and hoko functioned as a basic factor constituting samurai society that continued until the Meiji Restoration.

By the way, concerning the master-servant relationship based on goon and hoko, there is an opinion that the relationship is interpreted the same as the feudal master-servant relationship, because when it is compared with feudalism found in Medieval Europe, there are some common points. On the other hand, another opinion has been proposed that the master-servant relationship is specific to Japan, being fundamentally different from that found in European feudalism.