Osso (petition without legal procedures; retrial regulation) (越訴)

An osso referred to a suit asking for retrial and so on without taking regular judicial proceedings. It did not matter whether it was legal or illegal.

Although an osso was sometimes identified with a jikiso (direct appeal) because they had something in common in fact, originally a jikiso was made to a person in paramount authority, while an osso was made to the upper legal institution.

Ancient Times

In the Ritsuryo law, it meant pursuing a suit by seeking a judgment from an authority superior to the court. According to the Kushiki-ryo (law on state documentary forms in the Yoro Code), the fixed course of a suit in local districts was a gunji (local magistrate), a kokushi (provincial governor), the Daijokan (Great Council of State) in that order, and in the Capital the Kyoshiki (Capital Bureau), the Gyobusho (Ministry of Justice), the Daijokan in that order (if appeals were not accepted by the Daijokan, people were allowed to report to the emperor), and if people made an appeal against this procedure, they were given 40 strokes of cane ("Toshoritsu"). The officials who had accepted this were also given a similar punishment.

However, if the government office as the legal institution had neglected a trial illegally, or prevented an appeal, an osso was admitted exceptionally. "Toshoritsu" of the Tang Dynasty banned making a direct appeal to government officials in a palanquin. Because Japanese "Toshoritsu" has some missing parts, it is unknown if it included this regulation. However, before the Heian period no record of such a matter was found.

Medieval Period

In the early Medieval period osso rules were introduced as a retrial regulation. The Goseibai shikimoku (code of conduct for samurai) banned conventional osso in which nanushi (headmen of a village) or peasants ruled by a kokushi (provincial governor), a shoen honjo (lord of a manor), a jito (agent in charge of a lord's manor) and so on made a direct appeal to the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) without their master's permission, while an osso as a retrial regulation was introduced. There were two kinds of retrial systems in the Kamakura period: teichu, which was an appeal made based on a belief that the legal institution in question was unlawful; and osso, an appeal made based on a belief that the judgment contained a factual error. At first the hikitsuke (Court of justice) was in charge of osso, however, the Ossokata (legal institution) was set up as a specialized institution in 1264.

If people had an objection to a judgment, they were allowed to have a retrial in hikitsuke called a fukukan, and if they still could not get a satisfactory judgment, they appealed to the Ossokata. If the Ossokata determined that their osso were justifiable, the Ossotonin (head of the Ossokata) and the Ossobugyonin (officials in charge of retrials and accepting appeals) privately discussed and compared the petition for osso with the original judgment, and if they decided that the judgment was not fair, they issued a migyosho (document for informing of decisions made by third or upper ranked authorities), elected anew bugyonin, and started a formal trial under the command of the ossotonin. Similar regulations were adopted in the Rokuhara-fu (branch government office of the Kamakura bakufu in Kyoto) and the Chinzei-fu (local government office in Kyushu region).

However, when the authority of the Tokuso (patrimonial head of the main branch of the Hojo clan) was extended over the litigation system, changes such as the following occurred: objections to judgments delivered by hikitsuke whom the Tokuso trusted tended to be suppressed, the ossokata was temporarily abolished, and Miuchibito (private vassals of the Tokuso) were posted in the ossokata. The fuekiho law to limit a period of suing in osso was also introduced. Although it seems that the Muromachi bakufu set up Ossobugyo, naisogata (authority of secret report to the emperor) and jinseigata (authority of a relief system for judicial decision of the litigation by hikitsukeshu, coadjustor of the high court), they were gradually integrated into other institutions to be abolished. The succeeded fuekiho law stipulated that judicial procedures for an osso had to be done within three years after a decision unless Seii Taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians") granted special permission. In the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States) there were some examples of banning osso by the Bunkokuho (the law individual Sengoku daimyo [Japanese territorial lord in the Sengoku period] enforced in their own domain) and giving orders to comply with the original judgment (the Rokkaku clan, the Chosokabe clan and so on).

"Nippo jisho" (Japanese-Portuguese dictionary) defined "osso" as 'renewing a suit that was once rejected or settled' and "jikiso" as a derived word from "jikisou" meaning 'speaking directly to the King or the great lord, or appealing in speech or in writing.'

Early Modern Times

In the Early Modern times general illegal acts that violated the procedures in the lawsuit regulations were called 'osso' and these acts were banned together with private disputes. Petitions had to be submitted through village officers/town officers (with their seals on) to their Daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) or Daikan (local governor), and if the petitions were being sent to the Edo bakufu, the tenkan (written materials) of their feudal lord were required; without this their acts were regarded as illegal, which came under 'sashikoshi negai' (direct petition to a senior officer without following the prescribed procedures) or 'sujichigai no negai' (petition to a government office which does not have jurisdiction) ('Goson okite' [rules for autonomous villages] in 1603, 'Kojisaikyo sadame' [public law for petition] in 1633). This was because the Edo bakufu intended to carry out all suits according to legal procedures for the preservation of the shogunate system. However, actual tenkan were rarely issued, therefore, people whose suits were restricted had no other way of making osso by means of jikiso such as kagoso (jikiso to Daikan or Daimyo in a palanquin), kakekomi uttae (direct petition to the supreme court, magistrate's office, influential person of the bakufu and so on), suteso (leaving a petition in front of the gate of the supreme court and so on), hariso (pasting a petition in front of the gate of a roju's [senior councilor] residence or a government office) and so on, and in some cases they had to take hard-line measures by forming a faction for monso (petition by people gathering before the gate of the residence of a feudal lord or Daikan), ikki (uprising), goso (direct petition with the abuse of religious authority by armed priests or jinin [associates of Shinto shrines] to the Imperial Court or the bakufu), uchikowasi (destructive urban riots) and so on. Because jikiso were often used as a means of osso, the concept that 'osso' was the same as 'jikiso' came to be firmly fixed in the Edo period or in later years.

However, the punishment for simple osso/jikiso alone ended in stern warning. However, forming a faction for osso/jikiso or the faction's resort to force such as ikki or goso were regarded as a more serious crime and their leaders were given a capital punishment. It should be noted that the reason why people who sacrificed themselves for justice received a capital punishment was that forming a faction was regarded as a serious matter and osso/jikiso themselves were not a direct reason.

Although the Edo bakufu and clans that gave weight to the preservation of the shogunate system banned osso themselves, they could not leave unlawful administration and administration of justice by low-level functionaries as they were. Even in 'Goson okite,' if a jikiso was related to injustice of a Daikan, osso was exceptionally allowed and if actual jikiso was made, officials did not accept the appeal officially and punished the people concerned, but told them to appeal to the office responsible for the case, which had no other way than to accept the appeal certified by the bakufu/clans. Furthermore, the Edo bakufu itself decriminalized a suit to jyunkenshi (an inspector sent by the Edo bakufu throughout Japan) in 1711 and once more banned jikiso in 1721, but it prepared a meyasubako (complaints box), allowing legal osso by hakoso (appeal from a box).