The junkenshi is an envoy of the Edo shogunate dispatched for surveillance of the daimyos (feudal lords) and hatamotos (shogunal retainers), and for research on the situation. The junkenshi can be classified broadly into goryo-junkenshi sent to inspect the kogi-goryo (tenryo [shogunal properties]) and hatamoto fiefdoms and shokoku-junkenshi responsible for surveillance of the daimyos of domains.
The Edo shogunate introduced the Genna Military Service Order in 1616 to make military service compulsory to the daimyos and the hatamotos, in order to maintain this system, the hatamotos were required to be stationed permanently in Edo (Jofu), except under special assignments, and in 1635, the daimyos were governed under the Sankinkotai system (amendment of the Buke shohatto, or the code of warrior households), in which the lords were required to reside in Edo in alternate years, instead of stationing permanently in Edo. The office of junkenshi was created for the Edo shogunate to directly inspect the hatamotos whether they had established the political and military foundations in their respective fiefs for providing military service to the shogunate and was regarded as a pair with the Sankinkotai system.
On November 19, 1615, Ieyasu TOKUGAWA unveiled the new policy of 'kunimawari-haken' (dispatch of inspectors to feudal domains) to be conducted once every 3 years in order to examine whether the Buke shohatto code and ikkoku ichijo sei (allowing only one castle per domain) were being observed faithfully but implemented the policy only once with inspectors sent to the Aizu region.
8 years later, in 1623, Hidetada TOKUGAWA dispatched 'kuni-metsuke' for surveillance of Tadanao MATSUDAIRA, his nephew (adopted son-in-law) exiled to Bungo Province, which was also a type of 'kunimawari-haken.'
The inspection tours were resumed in earnest by Iemitsu TOKUGAWA in the second year of his direct rule, when he decided on the implementation of the kunimawari-haken on January 6 (based on the old calendar), 1633, on the grounds that the Keicho map of Japan required revision. It is said that the first dispatch was on February 8 (based on the old calendar), when 6 with fudai daimyo (hereditary vassals to the Tokugawa Family) status, namely, Yoshichika KOIDE, Nagamasa ICHIHASHI, Yoshikatsu MIZOGUCHI, Mitsumasa KOIDE, Kazunao KUWAYAMA and Mitsunobu WAKEBE, were sent as official envoys to various parts of the country. Each envoy was accompanied by one hatamoto each from tsukaiban (responsible for order and patrol), koshogumi (page corps) or shoinban (castle guard) offices, serving as vice-envoys. In addition to revision of the map, these envoys are believed to have been on the mission of confirming the travel routes to be taken by the daimyos and their retinues in the Sankinkotai that had already been in planning at that time.
Although the practice was once again discontinued in later years, it re-emerged when Shogun Ietsuna TOKUGAWA issued on April 5, 1664 (based on the older calendar), the Kanbun Shuinjo (a vermillion seal letter) to all daimyos (Kanbun no Shuin Aratame), requiring all lords to organize inquisitions for suppressing Christianity in the same year. In order to confirm the state of progress in the inquisition, the shokoku-junkenshi system was introduced on February 18, 1667 (based on the old calendar).
According to the system introduced in 1667, the envoys were led by a wakadoshiyori (junior elder) as supervisor, with one tsukaiban as official envoy reporting directly to the wakadoshiyori, accompanied by one from koshoban (inner guards) and another from shoinban serving as vice-envoys. The envoys were accompanied by their attendants to inspect and rate the state of political rule of the private lands (feudal domains) and kogi-goryo as 'excellent, fair, poor and bad,' as well as to survey the state of enforcement of shogunal laws, including the ban on Christianity, and the state of prices, market conditions, maritime shipping, ocean defense, etc., in each domain.
This was followed by shokoku-junkenshi dispatch by Tsunayoshi TOKUGAWA in 1681 (start of Tenna era), the year following his accession to power, establishing the practice of order and implementation of dispatching junkenshi within one year of accession of a new shogun. At the same time, jurisdiction was also defined by dividing the country into 8 districts. In accordance with the system established in the Kanbun and Tenna eras, dispatch of envoys in behalf of the new shogun became established practice, excluding the case of Ietsugu TOKUGAWA, who died in childhood.
Exemplified by the forfeit of samurai rank and property from Takanaga KORIKI of Shimabara Domain in the inspection of 1667, there was possibility of punitive action for 'bad' daimyo, and these inspection tours stirred fears among the feudal lords. For this reason, the feudal lords attempted to ingratiate themselves to the junkenshi, organizing receptions that could be regarded extreme and imposing great burden on villages along the route that the envoys passed.
Furthermore, they created Q&A manuals known as 'junken-ogi.'
In addition, junkenshi inspection had its limitations because domains that had not violated shogunate policy were allowed a measure of autonomy.
Since the Kanbun inspection, there had been 8 such tours until 1838 for Ieyoshi TOKUGAWA. In Iesada TOKUGAWA's reign, the tour had been postponed until 1857 due to the arrival of the Black Ships from the US and outbreak of a natural disaster but eventually not conducted due to aggravation of Iesada's illness (and his death in the following year). The tour was postponed once again until 1862 in the reign of Iemochi TOKUGAWA for similar reasons but was cancelled when the Sankinkotai system was suspended temporarily on November 29 (based on the old calendar) with Bunkyu Reform of the same year, because it was regarded as a pair with Sankinkotai. On September 21, 1867 (based on the old calendar), the second year of the reign of Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA, junkenshi itself was terminated on grounds of confusion within the country and fiscal decline in feudal domains. It was only one month later that the Taisei Hokan (return of power to the Emperor) took place.
Junkenshi inspection tours under shogunate reigns
The following shows the dates when shokoku-junkenshi dispatch order were issued after accession of a new shogun and the actual years when the tours were dispatched.
Order issued on March 18, 1681, and envoys sent in the same year.
Order issued on March 30, 1710, and envoys sent in the same year.
Order issued on September 28, 1716, and envoys sent during the same year and the following year.
Order issued on November 21, 1745, and envoys sent in the following year.
Order issued on August 21, 1760, and envoys sent during the same year and the following year.
Order issued on May 14, 1787, and envoys sent during 1788 and 1789.
Order issued on August 16, 1837, and envoys sent in the following year.
Although shokoku-junkenshi was initially in charge of inspecting kogi-goryo as well, the dispatch of Kanhasshu junkenshi for the 8 provinces of Kanto region in 1671 to examine the state of rule by the local governors and peasant control in the region led to wider application of such inspection on the nationwide scale in 1712, leading to the creation of the goryo-junkenshi envoys representing the kanjo (accounting) office under the roju (shogunate elders) and kachimetsuke (security patrol and intelligence) office under the wakadoshiyori. Due to kogi-goryo being scattered widely in many parts, the country was divided into 11 territories.
After the first dispatch, goryo-junkenshi tours were conduced 7 times in 1713, 1716, 1746, 1769, 1789 and 1839. Starting in 1746, the goryo-junkenshi were dispatched simultaneously with shokoku-junkenshi at the change of shogun. Because the performance of the goryo-junkenshi impacted the state of finance for both the shogunate and the hatamotos and kogi-goryo and hatamoto domains were under the direct supervision by shogunate, unlike the feudal domains that were granted a measure of autonomy, the goryo-junkenshi held greater power than the shokoku-junkenshi.
Inspections for junkenshi
Reports for surveillance of remote domains submitted by the Oniwaban (intelligence officers) show findings of the behavior of the junkenshi during their inspections at feudal domains. The Oniwaban appear to have been assigned surveys of the junkenshi as part of their intelligence activities.