Shitaji chubun (下地中分)

Shitaji chubun is a term which was used in medieval Japan and it means the division of the land implemented, under the situation where the ruling system of or rights to the land were entangled in a multi-layered way under shoen koryo sei (the system of public lands and private estates), with the aim of achieving the unified land ruling system (Ichien chigyo). Shitaji chubun was implemented mainly in the western part of Japan from the mid-Kamakura period to the period of Northern and Southern Courts (Japan).


Under the stratified land ruling structure of shoen koryo sei, the right to rule lands/peasants and the right to the proceeds of lands were very complicated because these were entangled in a multi-layered way, as seen in the structure of honke (official/nominal owner of shoen (manor)) - ryoke (lord of shoen) - shokan/jito (officer of governing shoen/manager of shoen). Under this system, lands from which proceeds (nengu (tribute) and kuji (public service) etc) were gained were called shitaji while the proceeds which were gained from lands/peasants were called jobun.

After the Jokyu War, the Kamakura Bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) appointed jito in the confiscated territory of court nobles/samurai who had sided with the Emperor Gotoba (shinpo-jito (newly appointed jito)), in addition to the provincial territories that belonged to the Kamakura Bakufu and the confiscated territories of the Taira clan and/or rebels where it had appointed jito earlier. As a result, a lot of Togoku Samurai (a group of samurai in the eastern part of Japan) moved to Kinai (provinces near Kyoto)/western part of Japan. Jito enhanced their ruling power at shoen/koryo through their activities of encouraging agriculture and as a result, disputes with the lords of shoen frequently occurred. In the event that the lords of shoen brought up litigations to the bakufu in connection with such disputes (shomusata), they often won the case.

At local shoen, however, jito often embezzled nengu on the pretext of natural disasters etc. and many of these disputes couldn't be resolved through litigations alone or the results of litigations were virtually ineffective. The background behind the above is considered to be the fact that jito began to pursue the unified ruling of land by annulling the multi-layered land ruling system and obtaining Shitaji shinshi ken (the right to shitaji) since the legal status of shoen became stable thanks to the Kamakura Bakufu's authorization of jito's right to rule the land (ando). There also is a weighty view asserting that the cause was the fact that the cases where peasants, who strengthened their economic power thanks to the spread of a two-crop system etc. and began to settle at one place, jointly refused to pay nengu to jito or azukedokoro (a deputy of the lord of shoen) increased.

As a measure to counter such situations, the Jito-uke system, under which the lord of shoen decided a fixed amount of nengu for shoen under jito's management and appointed jito to shokan (manager of shoen) in return for their obligation to pay nengu to the lords of shoen or kokushi (provincial governor), came into use in the eastern part of Japan where jito themselves were often kaihatsu-ryoshu (the local lord who actually developed the land). Another measure, which was seen mainly in the western part of Japan where jito came from the eastern part of Japan were placed higher than local kaihatsu-ryoshu or myoshu (owner of rice field), was Shitaji chubun by which jito and the lord of shoen divided the land equally. As the case of non-payment of nengu by jito, who were obliged to pay to the lord of shoen, often occurred even under Jito-uke system, Shitaji chubun was widely used as a way by which the lord of shoen could secure a certain amount of nengu.

There were two kinds of chubun, namely wayo-chubun by which the land was divided amicably through both parties' negotiation and compulsory chubun by which the land was divided according to the order of the Bakufu, such as a court ruling. It is contemplated that wayo-chubun in which the lord of shoen made concessions to jito was widely done. In spite of the term chubun (halve), the ratio of division was not necessarily one half for each. As the ratio of division varied depending on the parties' relative power, like one third versus two thirds, Shitaji chubun was also called Shitaji bunkatsu (division of the land). Shitaji chubun was done not only between the lord of shoen and jito but also between azukedokoro and jito as well as the lord of shoen and azukedokoro. As both parties involved in Shitaji chubun agreed to mutually respect the other party's open-end right to rule the divided land, jito became the legal and perfect owner of their land.

Historical materials which suggest the fact that a map was made by both parties when division was done is "Togo-cho, Hoki Province (Tottori Prefecture) Shitaji chubun ezu," which is often printed in Japanese history textbooks. This map is estimated to have been drawn in 1258 and the details of wayo-chubun made in November of the same year were underwritten on it. On the map, a red line which divides fields and pastures equally for the lord of the land and jito was also drawn.

Through Shitaji chubun and Jito-uke, jito obtained not only Shitaji shinshi ken but also the right to control jobun (also called jobun chigyo) gradually. Accordingly, some of the jito achieved ichien shihai (complete ruling) of their territory by obtaining the right to both shitaji and jobun and started to take on the character of zaich-ryoshu (local lord). After Genko (Mongol invasion attempt against Japan), a movement to exchange ichienchi (land under ichien shihai) in Kyushu owned by the lords of shoen and those in the western part of Japan owned by jito became active because of the need to defend the coast. With the development of the above movement, jito who held ryoshu shiki (rights and responsibilities of the lord of shoen) and the lord of shoen who held jitoshiki (rights and responsibilities of jito) appeared and the traditional role-sharing system based on status began to collapse. As a result, the nature of ryoke shiki (rights and responsibilities of the lord of shoen) and jito shiki at shoen/koryo changed substantially and the collapse of shoen koryo sei was prompted.