The was a collection of edicts issued by Japan's Tokugawa shogunate
The Tokugawa shogunate, also known as the and the , was a feudal regime of Japan established by Tokugawa Ieyasu and ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family. This period is known as the Edo period and gets its name from the capital city, Edo, which is now called Tokyo, after the name was...
governing the responsibilities and activities of daimyō
is a generic term referring to the powerful territorial lords in pre-modern Japan who ruled most of the country from their vast, hereditary land holdings...
(feudal lords) and the rest of the samurai
is the term for the military nobility of pre-industrial Japan. According to translator William Scott Wilson: "In Chinese, the character 侍 was originally a verb meaning to wait upon or accompany a person in the upper ranks of society, and this is also true of the original term in Japanese, saburau...
warrior aristocracy. These formed the basis of the bakuhan taisei
(shogunate-domains system) which lay at the foundation of the Tokugawa regime. The contents of the edicts were seen as a code of conduct, a description of proper honorable daimyō
behavior, and not solely laws which had to be obeyed. By appealing to notions of morality and honor, therefore, the shogunate was able to see its strictures followed despite its inability to enforce them directly.
The edicts were first read to a gathering of daimyō
by the retired shogun
A was one of the hereditary military dictators of Japan from 1192 to 1867. In this period, the shoguns, or their shikken regents , were the de facto rulers of Japan though they were nominally appointed by the emperor...
was the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan , which ruled from the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Ieyasu seized power in 1600, received appointment as shogun in 1603, abdicated from office in 1605, but...
, at Fushimi castle
', also known as Momoyama Castle or Fushimi-Momoyama Castle, is a castle in Kyoto's Fushimi Ward. The current structure is a 1964 replica of the original built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi.-History:...
in the seventh lunar month
A lunar calendar is a calendar that is based on cycles of the lunar phase. A common purely lunar calendar is the Islamic calendar or Hijri calendar. A feature of the Islamic calendar is that a year is always 12 months, so the months are not linked with the seasons and drift each solar year by 11 to...
of 1615. They had been compiled by a number of scholars in service to the shogunate including Ishin Sūden
also known as Konchiin Sūden, was a Zen Rinzai monk and advisor to Tokugawa Ieyasu, and later to Tokugawa Hidetada and Iemitsu on religious matters and foreign affairs...
, and were aimed primarily at limiting the power of the daimyō
and thus protecting the shogunate's control over the country.
The reigning shogun at the time, Ieyasu's son Tokugawa Hidetada
was the second shogun of the Tokugawa dynasty, who ruled from 1605 until his abdication in 1623. He was the third son of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate.-Early life :...
, formally promulgated the edicts shortly afterwards, and each successive shogun formally reissued them, reinforcing the restrictions on the daimyō
and the control of the shogunate. Through these successive generations, however, the rules developed and changed significantly.
Articles promulgated in 1615
- The samurai class should devote itself to pursuits appropriate to the warrior aristocracy, such as archery, swordsmanship, horsemanship, and classical literature.
- Amusements and entertainments are to be kept within reasonable bounds and expenses for such activities are not to be excessive.
- The han (feudal domains) are not to harbor fugitives and outlaws.
- Domains must expel rebels and murderers from their service and from their lands.
- Daimyō are not to engage in social interactions with the people (neither samurai nor commoners) of other domains.
- Castles may be repaired, but such activity must be reported to the shogunate. Structural innovations and expansions are forbidden.
- The formation of cliques for scheming or conspiracy in neighboring domains must be reported to the shogunate without delay, as must the expansion of defenses, fortifications, or military forces.
- Marriages among daimyō and related persons of power or importance must not be arranged privately.
- Daimyō must present themselves at Edo
, also romanized as Yedo or Yeddo, is the former name of the Japanese capital Tokyo, and was the seat of power for the Tokugawa shogunate which ruled Japan from 1603 to 1868...
for service to the shogunate.
- Conventions regarding formal uniform must be followed.
- Miscellaneous persons are not to ride in palanquins.
- Samurai throughout the realm are to practice frugality.
- Daimyō must select men of ability to serve as administrators and bureaucrats.
The 1615 edict contains the core of the shogunate's philosophy regarding samurai codes of conduct. Similar policies would be imposed upon commoners as well, reissued and reinforced many times over the course of the Edo period.
Several items concern the need for frugality, a concept central to Confucian
Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius . Confucianism originated as an "ethical-sociopolitical teaching" during the Spring and Autumn Period, but later developed metaphysical and cosmological elements in the Han...
notions of proper governance. Others relate to sumptuary law
Sumptuary laws are laws that attempt to regulate habits of consumption. Black's Law Dictionary defines them as "Laws made for the purpose of restraining luxury or extravagance, particularly against inordinate expenditures in the matter of apparel, food, furniture, etc." Traditionally, they were...
, requiring people of certain stations to present themselves as such, in their dress, their modes of transportation, and in other ways.
Some items were included to prevent the formation of alliances against the shogunate, for example, the items regarding social interactions between domains and marriages among the daimyō
families. The fudai
was a class of daimyo who were hereditary vassals of the Tokugawa in Edo period Japan. It was primarily the fudai who filled the ranks of the Tokugawa administration.-Origins:...
bore less power, were more trusted by the shogunate, and could be easily punished by having their domains and privileges rescinded. However, the tozama
A ' was a daimyo who was considered an outsider by the rulers of Japan. The term came into use in the Kamakura period and continued until the end of the Edo period.-Edo period:...
were far more powerful and less trusted and the shogunate lacked the strength to directly impose by force its policies within the tozama
domains and rightfully feared the military potential of an alliance between multiple tozama
Regulations regarding the construction, expansion, and repair of fortifications also serve to prevent the build-up of military power that could be used against the shogunate, as does a reference to the policy of sankin kōtai
was a policy of the shogunate during most of the Edo period of Japanese history. The purpose was to control the daimyo. In adopting the policy, the shogunate was continuing and refining similar policies of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. In 1635, a law required sankin kōtai, which was already an established...
, by which daimyō
were required to make elaborate pilgrimages to Edo regularly, to present themselves for service.
Promulgated in 1635
The edicts were reissued in 1629, and again in 1635, by the third Tokugawa shogun, Iemitsu
Tokugawa Iemitsu was the third shogun of the Tokugawa dynasty. He was the eldest son of Tokugawa Hidetada, and the grandson of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Iemitsu ruled from 1623 to 1651.-Early life :...
. Though there were many changes in this third promulgation, most of the stipulations were simply elaborations on the same themes. Daimyō
were banned from quarreling, from forming alliances and parties, and from swearing oaths to one another. The system of sankin kōtai
was more fully established at this time, and described more specifically in the edict. Sumptuary regulations were elaborated upon.
This year is also quite significant for the implementation of a number of policies which can be grouped under the term kaikin
(maritime prohibitions), and which are sometimes referred to as the Sakoku Edicts
This Sakoku Edict of 1635 was the third of a series issued by Tokugawa Iemitsu, shogun of Japan from 1623 to 1651. The Edict of 1635 is considered a prime example of the Japanese desire for seclusion...
. Though the restrictions against overseas travel are not themselves mentioned in the 1635 version of the buke shohatto
, a number of related policies regarding domestic travel and religion are described.
Some of the new stipulations were as follows:
- Care must be taken to maintain roads, boats, bridges, and docks in order to facilitate swift communications.
- Private toll barriers are forbidden, as is the elimination of existing ferry routes.
- Ships which can carry over 500 koku
The is a Japanese unit of volume, equal to ten cubic shaku. In this definition, 3.5937 koku equal one cubic metre, i.e. 1 koku is approximately 278.3 litres. The koku was originally defined as a quantity of rice, historically defined as enough rice to feed one person for one year...
are forbidden to be constructed.
- Lands owned by Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples
Along with Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples are the most numerous, famous, and important religious buildings in Japan.The term "Shinto shrine" is used in opposition to "Buddhist temple" to mirror in English the distinction made in Japanese between Shinto and Buddhist religious structures. In...
must not be taken away from them.
- Christianity is forbidden.
The edicts were reissued upon the succession of each of the shoguns. The promulgations under Tokugawa Ietsuna
was the fourth shogun of the Tokugawa dynasty of Japan who was in office from 1651 to 1680. He was the eldest son of Tokugawa Iemitsu, thus making him the grandson of Tokugawa Hidetada and the great-grandson of Tokugawa Ieyasu.-Early Life :...
, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi
was the fifth shogun of the Tokugawa dynasty of Japan. He was the younger brother of Tokugawa Ietsuna, thus making him the son of Tokugawa Iemitsu, the grandson of Tokugawa Hidetada, and the great-grandson of Tokugawa Ieyasu....
, and Tokugawa Ienobu
was the sixth shogun of the Tokugawa dynasty of Japan. He was the eldest son of Tokugawa Tsunashige, thus making him the nephew of Tokugawa Ietsuna and Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, the grandson of Tokugawa Iemitsu, the great-grandson of Tokugawa Hidetada, and the great-great grandson of Tokugawa...
in 1663, 1683, and 1710 respectively saw significant stylistic changes, though with relatively minor amendments of substance. Among the new stipulations were bans on junshi
, refers to the medieval Japanese act of vassals committing seppuku upon the death of their lord...
(ritual suicide following the death of one's lord), abuses of power, the acceptance of bribes, and the suppression of popular opinion, along with stipulations regarding the proper succession of daimyō
within a clan or domain.
The following seven shoguns reissued the buke shohatto
in its 1683 form, with only the most minor of stylistic changes. Though these were once pronounced along with the Shoshi hatto
(laws for samurai), the latter became largely obsolete after 1683 and was absorbed into the wider body of shogunal orders and prohibitions (the kinrei-ko