Kumon (official document) (公文)
Kumon was originally a general term for official documents in the ritsuryo system (a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo code), and derived from it, it also meant the government official who dealt with such documents. In the later generations, kuge (a court noble), temples and shoen also used the term for important documents and the person in charge of dealing with it. In addition, the archive of kumon as documents and the workplace of the person in charge were called 'kumonjo' (administration office).
Kumon in the ritsuryo system and Kumon as the administrative documents
In the Ritsuryo law, the items on 'Shikisei-ritsu' (Office Penal Laws) defined "kumon as official documents," and the law called Kushiki-ryo (law on state documentary forms in the Yoro Code) was enacted to determine the form and the procedure of the official documents.
In the Imperial Court, dai-keicho (the grand yearly tax registers), shozeicho (balance sheets of tax rice), chocho (list of choyo [tribute and labor]) and choshucho (report of affairs of state) submitted by Kokushi (provincial governors) in various places at fixed times of the year were particularly called shidonokumon. The Court audited the figures in shidonokumon in order to reveal Kokushi's dishonesty, and treated them as important basic information on administration and financial affairs. And in kokuga (provincial government offices), kumonjo was set up in order to produce these documents, and the figures who had skill in writing or calculation were appointed as zaichokanjin (the local officials in Heian and Kamakura periods) such as kokushi and shisho (people who performed miscellaneous duties about documents).
This was called 'kumonmoku' or 'kumonshisei.'
The document management following this was also done in Kuge's Mandokoro (administrative board), sogo (office of monastic affairs) of temples, and so on. In the beginning, those were also called 'kaigo' (post), 'shutsuno' (receipts and expenditure) and 'azukari' (an additional post to the chief of Naizenshi), but as the documents to deal with increased and started to include even lawsuits, all of them began to be called kumon uniformly. The person in charge of shoki (amanuensis) in the hikitsuke (judicial board) of the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) was also called 'Kumon,' whose duties included acceptance of documents for shomusata (trial dealing with land-related issues).
Kumon (kojo) in the Five Mountain System
The letter of appointment issued by Ashikaga Shogun Family to appoint the chief priest of Gozan-Jissetsu (five great Zen temples and ten important temples of Rinzai sect) was also called 'Kumon' or 'Kojo.'
The Five Mountain System had already existed in the Kamakura bakufu with the issuance of kumon (kojo), and it was improved by Takauji ASHIKAGA, the first seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians") of the Muromachi bakufu, who was actively protecting the Zen sect. Therefore, kumon (kojo) was usually issued in the form of Migyosho (a document for informing people of the decision of Third Rank or upper people) or Gonaisho (official document). (The procedure: at first, Shogun selects a nominee referring to the name list submitted by representative Buddhist monks: Rokuon soroku [highest-ranking priest of the Gozan, the leader of the Zen sect] and Inryoshiki [corresponding officer of Shogun and Soroku], then the Kumon Bugyo [magistrate] makes the text under Shogun's instruction, Shogun later confirms it, and signs and seals it to issue to the representative Buddhist monks who hand it over to the nominee). Also, from the middle of the Muromachi period, kumon (kojo) was sometimes issued for the purpose of appointing the monk who did not live in the temple as Jujishoku (a resident head of the temple) that was considered as honorary position.
This was called 'inarinokumon.'
The Reisen (honorarium) presented in exchange of kumon (kojo) is said to have been not only the important financial resource of the Muromachi bakufu, but also the funds for enabling Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA banished from Kyoto by Nobunaga ODA to work underground (because the appointive power over the chief priest of 'Gozan-Jissetsu' was considered being in Ashikaga Shogun himself, not in Muromachi bakufu.)
Moreover, the authority to issue kumon (kojo) regarding temples in the Kanto region, such as the Kamakura Gozan Temples, was held by the Kamakura bakufu. Local Shugo (provincial constables) would sometimes issue kumon (kojo) for provincial temples on behalf of the shogun.
Afterward, following Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA's retirement to become a priest, the Toyotomi government, then the Edo bakufu handled the issuance of kumon (kojo).
The Edo bakufu enforced the Gozan-Jissetsu Shozan no Shohatto (various laws put in force in Gozan-Jissetsu and Shozan [Zen temples other than Gozan-Jissetsu]) to abolish the Inryoshiki, and set up Konjin soroku in place of Rokuon soroku, adding strict qualification restrictions such as 'No issuance of kojo without hinpotsu (preaching by shuso [the leader of monks practicing asceticism] on behalf of Jujishoku).'
However, as exceptions, kumon (kojo) was sometimes issued to Tofuku-ji Temple by the Kujo family or the Ichijo family, and as Inzen (a decree from the retired Emperor) or Rinji (the Emperor's command) it was issued to Tenryu-ji Temple, Daitoku-ji Temple, Nanzen-ji Temple and so on.
Kumon in shoen
In shoen, persons who made a text to submit to kokuga and ryoke (virtual proprietor of manor) had been called 'kumon,' but this name later began to be also used for persons other than those in charge of writing and 'kumon' became a post name of low-ranking shokan (an officer governing shoen) of shoen. In the beginning, they were generally sent from ryoke, but some time later, kaihatsu-ryoshu (local notables who actually developed the land) who were well-informed about the local situation began to be appointed, thus it was handed down to posterity along with kyuden meaning incomes from land taxes on shoryo (territory). As a responsible person of the village, they served as a supervisor of shoen and peasants living in there, and nengu (annual tribute, land tax) and the compulsory service were paid through them. However, when the confrontation occurred between ryoke or jito (manager and lord of manor) and peasants, they were put in the difficult position between them.
In addition, kumon kanryo, the clerical expense at kenchu (land survey) for checking the cadaster owned by kumon of kokuga against that of kumon of shoen, was imposed on peasants as extra tax at the time of kenchu, in order to cover the actual expense and the reward to kumon of shoen who actually handled the practice.