Bugyoshu (group of magistrates) (奉行衆)

Bugyoshu, also called Yuhitsukata, were of group of Bugyonin (magistrates) who were lawyers of the bureaucracy within the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). As a group of civil officers with direct control of the bakufu, they were correspondents to the Hokoshu (guard force with direct control of the bakufu), a group of military officers.

The early stage of the Muromachi bakufu

Bugyonin had already existed within the Kamakura bakufu, and upon its collapse, a number of them followed Takauji ASHIKAGA and joined the Muromachi bakufu to be employed as Bugyonin. At first, Bugyonin were referred to as Yuhitsu (private secretary), were assigned to the judicial institution called Hikitsuke and were put in charge of drafting hosho (documents informing lower-ranked people of decisions made by those in the upper ranks) and migyosho (documents to inform people of decisions made by those in the Third Rank or above). In addition, Bugyonin were also assigned to various judicial institutions established in the Muromachi bakufu, such as the jinseigata (authority of a relief system for judicial decision of the litigation by hikitsukeshu, coadjutor of the high court), teichugata (authority of a relief system for mistakes of the litigation in the Middle Ages, later becoming direct appeal to the shogun) and Naisogata (one of the legal institutions set up in the early stage of Muromachi bakufu).

However, after the downfall of Naoyoshi ASHIKAGA, who played the leading role in planning for a new administration that carried over from the Kamakura bakufu system, Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA consecutively became the In no betto (chief administrator of the Retired Emperor's office) and Daijodaijin (Grand Minister) absorbing the political functions of the retired emperor's office and Imperial Court into the structure of the bakufu. As a consequence of these developments, the duties of Bugyonin began changing as well.

Hikitsuke were effectively made obsolete and Yuhitsu (amanuensis, secretary) were stationed at places such as the Mandokoro (Administrative Board), the Samuraidokoro (Board of Retainers), Monchujo (Board of Inquiry) and Onshokata (department that handled reward duties).

A number of Bugyonin were appointed to a post in charge of special assignments and were referred to as 'Betsu-bugyo' (extra bugyo).

Influential figures among the Yuhitsu were called Gozenbugyonin (also Gozenshu, Gozensatashu and Onshokatashu) and were allowed to participate in Gozensata (Shogunal hearings) that were presided over by the seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians"). Gozensata, primarily set up at the Onshokata, had the characteristics of being the Shogun's private meetings when compared to conferences consisting of Hyojoshu (members of the Council of State) and Hikitsukeshu (also called Naidanshu) (a line-up of officials who practiced trial and litigation for the bakufu). Within Gozensata meetings, Bugyonin initially held the position of preparing drafts for judicial decisions called ikenjo (reports submitted by underlings to answer the Shogun's inquiries), but Gozenbugyonin were later personally authorized by the Shogun to participate in Gozensata and state their opinions directly.

The Yoshinori Era

As it became the era of Yoshinari ASHIKAGA, the Shogun began making important decisions at Gozensata meetings in order to control officers of lesser or equal rank to Kanrei (Shogunal deputy); Gozenbugyonin, who were well versed in legislation, precedents and Yusoku kojitsu (court and samurai rules of ceremony and etiquette), formally handled drafting and putting the seal on the hosho (papers) (Bugyonin hosho) that had the Shogun's mandates. Under such circumstances, their opinions at Gozensata meetings began to have a serious influence on the Shogun's decisions and they gradually established themselves as private consultants of the Shogun.

Of particular note was the highest-ranking Gozenbugyonin, referred to as Kuninbugyo, who together with having control of the Yuhitsu and Bugyonin became a member of the Hyojoshu. Following suit were several high-ranking Gozenbugyo who also received treatment equal to that of the Hikitsukeshu (Naidanshu). In this period, the Saito, Matsuda, Iio and Fuse clans made it a family tradition to pass on the knowledge learned from the descendents of the Ota and Miyoshi clans, who were the Bugyonin of the Kamakura period, generation after generation through a limited ancestry and came to dominate the positions of Yuhitsu and Bugyonin in addition to forming the groups of Bugyoshu and Yuhitsukata. In spite of the importance of their role, they could only be promoted up to Kaigo (Deputy Chief of the office) or Shitsujidai (deputy steward), which were equivalent to an assistant director of an organization within the formal structure of the bakufu. In addition, Bugyonin (Gozensatashu), who were no higher than Gozenbugyonin, were collectively called Gozenmisanshu.

Furthermore, there were a number of individuals within these families who were unable to assume an official bakufu post, but there were also a few who were employed by influential shugo daimyo (provincial military governors becoming daimyo (Japanese feudal lords)) and demonstrated their abilities within the fields of justice and document preparation. It is believed that one of these individuals was Tsunehisa IIO (Hikoroku Saemon no jo), who served the Hosokawa clan Shugo (governor) of Awa Province and composed a poem depicting Kyoto in burnt ruins after the Onin war.

For further interest

Even after the Yoshinori Era, the Bugyoshu increased its influence within the bakufu, and while Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA was the shogun, for all practical purposes the Bugyoshu constituted the virtually supreme advisory board of the bakufu in place of existing official posts such as the Hyojoshu. Under these circumstances, a clash occurred between the Bugyoshu and Hokoshu in 1485.

While the Hokoshu as a group of military officers were dissolved by the Coup of Meio due to the Kanrei aiming to take over the authority of the bakufu, the value of the Bugyoshu, who were in charge of preparing documents and judicial matters, continued to exist as long as the structure of the bakufu existed. Entering the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States) (Japan) when Yoshitane ASHIKAGA and Yoshizumi ASHIKAGA both stood as shogun, the Bugyoshu divided as well and mutually existed in both bakufu structures. The shogun seldom attended Gozensata during this period and the Naidanshu (Assistants for Council) (denchu moshitsugi (transmitter or transmitting of messages of the palaces), Naidankata), reorganized by close associates to the shogun, transmitted decisions made by the Bugyoshu to the shogun and obtained approval. It believed that it was in this manner that the Bugyoshu continued to exist as an entity that supported the administrative structure of the Muromachi bakufu until its collapse.