Tokuseirei (徳政令)

The "Tokuseirei" (ordering return of land sold and dissolution of debts) was acts by the Imperial Court and the bakufu (Japanese feudal governments headed by a shogun) during the Middle Ages in Japan, from the Kamakura period to the Muromachi period.


Tokusei' (acts of Virtuous Government), also called 'Shinsei' (new system), are social policies that the Emperor initiated upon ascending to the throne or when the name of the era was changed because of natural disasters, etc. and were based on the theory of correlation between heaven and man and entailed activities to save the poor, "Shinryo-kogyo" (conducting ceremonies and securing property for revenue) and court case processing. The aim was to return to the old system by voluntary restoration of sold or foreclosed property and smooth processing of court cases (zasso) regarding property and debts.

From the beginning of the Kamakura period, social turmoil such as natural disasters and war began to affect the aristocracy, and it was clearly apparent that the existence of the aristocracy itself was threatened when the Imperial Court forces were defeated and the retired emperor was exiled in Jokyu Disturbance. In this situation, there was a movement within the Imperial Court to recover authority and regain unifying power by realistic politics. The 'Tokusei' (acts of Virtuous Government) was one of the policies that was promoted as part of this movement and it is necessary to understand that 'Tokusei' is not equivalent to the 'Tokuseirei' (ordering return of land sold and dissolution of debts).

From the stance of being critical of the Imperial Court's situation, the Kamakura bakufu requested the promotion of the 'Tokusei.'
The Retired Emperor Gosaga re-established Kirokusho and in 1286, the Retired Emperor Kameyama cloistered government promoted reforms ('Koan-Tokusei,' political reforms in the Koan era) such as dividing In-hyojo into Tokusei-sata (governmental issues related to personnel and temples/shrines) and Zasso-sata (ordinary court cases related to property, money, etc.) and in 1293, Emperor Fushimi (later the Retired Emperor) enhanced Kirokusho as the organization for promoting tokusei ('Enin-Tokusei,' political reforms in the Enin era).

Initially, these reforms were in agreement with the Kamakura bakufu's policies to recover public order after confusion due to Mongolian attempts to invade Japan, etc. (the bakufu reforms by Yasumori ADACHI are also called 'Koan-Tokusei'), but when the scale of tokusei was enlarged and consideration of reversion to the old system (before the Kamakura bakufu) became linked with the idea of recovering the authority of the Imperial Court, the Kamakura bakufu used Ryoto tetsuritsu policies for the Imperial succession as a reason to intervene politically and terminated the cloistered governments of Retired Emperors Kameyama and Fushimi, causing tension between the bakufu and the Imperial Court, leading to Emperor Godaigo's direct governance, which eventually transformed into the movement to overthrow the Kamakura bakufu.

Administration of Tokuseirei (ordering return of land sold and dissolution of debts)

Orders for Tokuseirei during the Kamakura period were mainly for protecting poor and suffering vassals, and the most commonly known order is Tokuseirei in the Einin era in 1297. In 1334, during the Kenmu Restoration, Emperor Godaigo issued an Tokuseirei.

With the spread of So (so village) in the Muromachi period, peasant uprisings and Tokusei uprisings demanding an Tokuseirei increased. Also, private Tokuseirei was issued by uprising forces and local powers.
These uprisings commonly happened upon the change of shoguns, and involved demands for 'Tokuseirei upon Change of the Shogun.'
The peasant uprising in the Shocho era did not lead to an official Order for the Acts of Virtuous Government from the Muromachi bakufu, however the Tokusei Uprising in the Kakitsu era led to an official Order for the Acts of Virtuous Government from the bakufu (the Order for the Acts of Virtuous Government in Kakitsu era).

Initially, the Muromachi bakufu was cautious about issuing Tokuseirei, but in 1454, the bakufu issued "Buichi-sen," "Buichi Tokuseirei," "Tokusei-buichi-sen," which ordered 10% of debt repayments to be paid to the government as a type of handling fee, and since this 10% of debt became income for the bakufu, it was later frequently used to unlawfully renew the bakufu finances.

During the Sengoku period (period of warring states), there was a case where the lord of Sagami Province (western Kanagawa), Ujiyasu HOJO, passed the position of family head to Ujimasa HOJO and started 'Tokusei upon family head change' when there was a great famine, suggesting that 'Tokusei upon family head change' was an established practice.