Yuhitsu is a civil officer who worked as a secretary of samurai family in the medieval and modern times. Although the original duty of Yuhitsu was to write texts in someone's place, as the centuries roll by, they started handling official documents and records, taking a role of clerks. They were also called Shuhitsu, and in modern times, a different Chinese character, 祐筆 (Yuhitsu), was also used to express the position.
In the early period, not all Bushi (warriors) knew well enough about the correct way of writing texts, Shosatsurei (remarks on the concept of epistolary etiquette), and illiterate Bushi were not uncommon. Those Bushi (warriors) ordered their own vassals or Buddhist monks who knew how to read and write to prepare Shojo (missives) and Monjo (written material) in their place. Later, when the rank of Bushi (warriors) got higher, they had a greater opportunity to write official and personal Monjo. There, Yuhitsu became a specialist job, and it became common to order Yuhitsu to create and write Monjo and Samurai families only signed or wrote Kao (written seal mark) on them. This was very different from Kuge (a court noble) in which autographed Monjo were common because the documentary forms were passed on from generation to generation. In the case of Monjo which were issued by Samurai families, they were leagally-effective if they contained the issures' signatures or Kao (written seal mark) even if the monjo themselves were written by Yuhitsu.
This is called Yuhitsugaki (there were some special exceptions such as Takauji ASHIKAGA, who even let Yuhitsu write his own signature and Kao.)
When office works got more complicated, Yuhitsu started to prepare Monjo regarding matters decided through formal procedures and signed them with a part of their authority, providing the Monjo the same effect as the documents issued by their lords. The examples of Yuhitsugaki were seen on Inzen (a decree from the retired Emperor) or Rinji (the Emperor's command) from the early period, and later adopted on documents of Samurai families such as Hosho (a document for informing lower-rank people of the decision of upper people such as an emperor or shogun) and Migyosho (documents for informing of decisions made by third or upper ranked authorities).
The Kamakura Bakufu and the Muromachi Bakufu - Japanese feudal government headed by a Shogun.
When MINAMOTO no Yoritomo established the Kamakura Government, the origin of the Kamakura bakufu, the lower-ranking government officials who were called on from Kyoto got its office job, and one of the Yuhitsu working there in the early period was OE no Hiromoto. Later, when Hiromoto started to concentrate on governmental works at Kumonjo (administration office) and Mandokoro (Administrative Board), people such as Moritoki TAIRA (Chikeji [an official working under mandokoro betto, or a director of the administrative board] of Mandokoro belongs to the Kamakura bakufu), Hirotsuna FUJIWARA, and FUJIWARA no Kunimichi started working as Yuhitsu.
Later, Yuhitsu were placed not only in the authorities of Seitaishogun (commander-in-chief of the expeditionary force against the barbarians, great, unifying leader) and the regent to the shogunate, but also in each authority of Bakufu such as Hikitsuke (Court of justice), and the descendants of the government officials, such as the Ota clan and the Miyoshi clan, took over the role of it. The Muromachi bakufu basically took over the system, and some people worked as Yuhitsu were appointed to be Bugyonin (a magistrate) increasing their influences in the government and formed a group called Bugyoshu or Yuhitsukata.
In the Muromachi bakuhu, Yuhitsu was separated into some roles such as Hakaraikata-yuhitsu, which took charge of the administrative affairs, Tono-yuhitsu, which took charge of writing official documents, and Sakuji-yuhitsu, which took charge of constructing buildings.
The Shokuho government
In the Sengoku period (period of warring states) (Japan), Yuhitsu started to accompany army in order to issue necessary documents during wartime period. Under both the Oda and Toyotomi governments, which were established after the unification of the warring daimyo, there was an institution called the Yuhitsushu (corps of administrators), who not only created public documents, but also sometimes stood in as the Bugyo (magistrate) or the Daikan (local governor) of directly-controlled lands, taking part in the policymaking processes. Mitsunari ISHIDA, Masaie NAGATSUKA, Nagamori MASHITA, included in the Gobugyo (five Bugyo) of the Toyotomi government, were originally the members of Yuhitsushu belonged to Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI. Other famous Yuhitsushu are Ryosei MYOIN, Sekian TAKEI, Choan KUSUNOKI, Yukan MATSUI of the Oda government, and Soze WAKU, Nagatoshi YAMANAKA, Yoshitaka KINOSHITA of the Toyotomi government.
As stated below, after the Toyotomi government had fallen, some of the Yuhitsushu were hired by the Tokugawa government, and the term Yuhitsushu was also adopted by the Edo Bakufu.
The Edo bakufu
Although Yuhitsu existed in the Tokugawa clan as a warring lord, because those Yuhitsu who were working for Ieyasu TOKUGAWA when he was in Mikawa Province were appointed to administrative posts, such as Bugyo or Daikan, or Fudai Daimyo (a daimyo in hereditary vassal to the Tokugawa family) as Ieyasu expanded his influence and subdued various regions to unify Japan, it is thought that many of them who were hired as Yuhitsu when the Edo Bakuhu was established were the children of the Bugyo-shu belonged to the former Muromachi Bakuhu (Naosuke SOGA), the Yuhitsu-shu of the Toyotomi government (Shigeyasu OHASHI), supported the 'eastern' army at the Battle of Sekigahara, and the Yuhitsu of the former Gohojo clan, served Ieyasu when he subdued Kanto region.
Including the Tokugwa Shogun family, all Daimyo generally appointed Yuhitsu from their vassals; however, Tsunayoshi TOKUGAWA, a Shogun originally from the Tatebayashi Domain, brought his Yuhitsu from the Tatebayashi Domain to the Edo-jo Castle and let him serve as Yuhitsu. Consequently, Yuhitsu was separated into two kinds, Omote-yuhitsu, preparing and managing Monjo related to general administrative matters, and Oku-yuhitsu, preparing and managing Monjo related to the Shogun as his close associates. Although on its early stage, the both Yuhitsu were up against each other, later the system selecting Oku-yuhitsu out of Omote-yuhitsu was established and the separation was settled. Although Oku-yuhitsu was prohibited from making any personal contacts with people other than Shogun, only Sobayonin (lord chamberlain) and Oku-yuhitsu could serve as Toritsugi (an attendant who serves Shogun by informing of a visitor and convey the message). There was an separated office placed for Oku-yuhitsu and they researched and released reports about policy issues sent by Roju (senior councilor) or Wakadoshiyori (junior councilor) under the supervision of Shogun. Consequently, any confrontations with Oku-yuhitsu (who managed everything in Edo-jo Castle behind the scenes) carried the risk of compromising one's position, and this was true even for the daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) of Taihan (a large domain) or the heads of the O-oku (the inner halls of Edo Castle where the wife of the shogun and her servants resided). It is said that there were problems related to money around Oku-yuhitsu because of this. Meanwhile, the treatment of Omote-yuhitsu was one step lower than Oku-yuhitsu, they did not related to any secrecies but the preparation of Monjo related to general administrative matters such as Hanmotsu (autographic signatures) or Shuinjo(shogunate license to trade), and management of Bugencho (Registers of vassals) of territorial lords and Myobu (identification) of Hatamoto (direct retainers of the Bakufu, which is a form of Japanese feudal government headed by Shogun) or Gokenin (an immediate vasal of the shogunate in the Kamakura and Muromachi through Edo periods).