Table of Contents
John W. Hall, Toyoda Takeshi (editors), Japan in the Muromachi Age, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1977.


John W. Hall, Toyoda Takeshi (editors), Japan in the Muromachi Age, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1977.

Satō Shin`ichi (with John W.Hall), “The Ashikaga Shogun and the Muromachi Bakufu Administration”, pp.45-52

Ashikaga shogunate formed over the years dating from 1338 to 1392, from when Takauji first became shogun to the time that Yoshimitsu brought the southern court to an end. The outstanding feature of the Ashikaga shogunate – apart from bakufu`s own administrative offices, regional vassals of the shogunate (shugo) were both high officials of government and military governors. The central government was thus affected by competition among regional officials. The shogunate itself was also just a `hegemon` over the shugo houses, for the shugo ruled their provinces in the name of the shogunate.(45)

1392 thus marks the point at which the shogunate was most stable – twenty shugo houses were made into a coalition that held jurisdiction over forty five provinces in central Japan. Shugo of the ten eastern provinces were answerable to the Kamakura (Kantō) kanrei. Those shugo in the eleven provinces of Kyushu placed under the authority of one of their number (thus making the position more unstable), who thus became the shogun`s representative (Kyushu tandai). Those shugo from the central provinces had to reside in Kyoto and make themselves available for service. Affairs in the provinces handled by local retainers (kokujin) who became deputy shugo (shugodai).(45)

Bakufu itself developed along two lines – external affairs of the shogunate handled by several offices each run by a shugo. Chief office was the kanrei, or deputy shogun, presided over a council of chief vassals known as the yoriai. The Samurai dokoro, Board of Retainers, through its chief officer, the shoshi, represented the shogunate in matters relating to military and law enforcement. In the regions, the Kantō Kanrei was deemed important enough to be assigned (initially) to a member of the Ashikaga household. Elsewhere offices were established in the far north (Ōshu) and the south (Kyushu). In the central administration, shogun relied on personal guard and group of offices staffed by hereditary administrative specialists.(47)

Throughout the political history of the Muromachi bakufunate, there was a changing balance of power between the shogun and vassal shugo, changes in the structure of the Muromachi bakufu organization and changes in the relationship between shogunal power and the bakufu organization.(47) The Bakufu administration went through three phases of evolution, each one representing a change in the relationship between the shogun, his vassals, and his administration. In the formative years of the Muromachi bakufu, the administration was divided into two sections, one run by Takauji, the other by his brother, Tadayoshi. Each side had different political functions. Takauji had responsibility for the country`s military houses (buke to tōryō) and had power to command bushi as their `overlord` (or shogun). Hence Takauji had influence over those administrative offices in which politico-military authority was exercised, such as the samurai-dokoro and the onshō-kata (Office of Rewards), which distributed rewards for military service.(48)

Tadayoshi, on the other hand, was in charge of the `bureaucratic` organs of government. He administered over the hikitsuke-kata (Board of Inquiry) and the monchūjo (Records Office). He thus exercised legal control over landholdings of the military aristocracy (or shugo). He represented `the monarchical aspects of the Ashikaga government, as opposed to the feudal aspects of Takauji`s authority`. This two-headed government was unstable and led to clashes between the two brothers, which ended in 1352 with Tadayoshi`s death from poisoning. This brought about an institutional crisis.(48)

The crisis was averted by the creation (or elevation) of the position of kanrei (deputy shogun), which under Takauji had been a fairly minor post. The kanrei was to serve as a unifying force between the two lines of administrative control – feudal and bureaucratic. The kanrei was thus to be appointed from among the most powerful of the shogun`s vassals, members of the Ashikaga inner circle and shugo over several provinces – historically, three such houses came to be associated with the kanrei; these being the Shiba, Hosokawa, and Hatakeyama.(48)

With the enhancement of the position of kanrei came the formation of the council of senior vassals (jūshin kaigi). It was composed of the Shiba, Hosokawa, and Hatakeyama, together with a number of additional vassals and became an instrument for discussion and consensus building on political matters. The council of senior vassals also served a second purpose; it assisted the shogun and kanrei in the formation of bakufu policy, but also limited the concentration of power into the hands of either the shogun or kanrei. This was the second phase in the evolution of the bakufu organization, and corresponded with the reigns of the shoguns Yoshimitsu, Yoshimochi, and Yoshikatsu.(48-49)

The succession of the shogun Yoshinori, however, marked the next phase in changes to the bakufu administration. Yoshinori decided to personally involve himself in the judicial and policy-making matters of government. This shifted the balance of power around the shogun. As a result of his changes, the shogun directly administered the bugyōnin-shū (Corps of Administrators) and via their office tried to monopolize the formation of bakufu policy and its enforcement. This resulted in a change in the influence of the kanrei. The kanrei had previously served as `chief coordinating agent` among the several offices of the bakufu administration and `the voice of policy consensus among the shogun`s vassals`. The emergence of the bugyōnin-shū diminished the political influence of the kanrei and the council of senior vassals. This was the third phase in the Muromachi bakufu`s organization, a process that continued under Yoshimasa and became solidified after the Ōnin War.(49)

The third phase of the bakufu organization meant that the shogun came to increasingly rely on a group of families hereditarily associated with shogunal administration. Though the Ashikaga family itself began to lose power, these families kept the institution of the shogunate functioning for nearly a century after the Ōnin War. The officers in charge of the active organs of government were drawn from an exclusive group of families, and these officers continued to serve in their posts unaffected by changes in political conditions or changes among the shogun, kanrei, and other shugo with political influence. This was true for the bugyōnin that ran the mandokoro (Administration Office) and other offices. It was also true for the families that comprised the military guards. This `heredification` of the lower levels of the bakufu administration allowed the shogunate to continue, but with ever decreasing levels of influence.(49)

The Hokogata:
The hokogata were a corps of bodyguards under the shogun`s direct command. They normally lived in Kyoto and took turns guarding the shogunal palace. The guard rosters (goban chō) from the 1440s, 1450s, and the year 1487 allow for a glimpse as to the nature and composition of the corps. The guards were organized into the same five corps (go ban) and composition of several corps remained roughly the same in terms of houses from which they were drawn. For one hundred years, the structure of the corps and the families from which the corps were drawn from underwent no change.(50)

The same went for the composition of the samurai dokoro, in charge of enforcing justice and police protection within Kyoto. The shoshi (who served as chief officer), from the time of Yoshimitsu, was drawn from four houses almost equal in prestige to the houses representing the kanrei. Those houses were the Yamana, the Akamatsu, the Isshiki, and the Kyōgoku. The retainers of the shoshi designated as deputy shoshi (shoshi-dai). His job was to assist the shoshi and administer the city of Kyoto. Over time, clerks known as yori`udo (bygyōnin specializing in legal matters) took over management of the samurai dokoro using zōshiki, or subofficials given the task of inspection and prosecution. The yori`udo and zōshiki too were appointed from particular prescribed houses. To put this simply, despite changes to the structure of the bakufu organization, despite changes to the shoshi and shoshi-dai, the office of the samurai dokoro was run by the same pre-determined group of officials. This was also the case in the mandokoro.(50)

Inherent conservatism in the Muromachi system and the formation of groups:
Hence the lower levels of the bakufu administration became hereditarily fixed. This meant that the hereditary officials would find ways of protecting themselves from competitors, from both within and outside the shogunate. Among groups of hereditary officials staffing the bakufunate, particularly among those of the same socio-official status (or mibun 身分), a sense of solidarity and group identity emerged. The guard group had a strong sense of solidarity in the face of opposition, as did the bygyōnin, who banded together when confronting other status groups within the administration. This group identity was so strong that it meant that such groups would occasionally defy the orders of their superiors. Hence “there came a time in the history of the bakufu when lateral ties binding particular functional or status groups together became conspicuously stronger than the vertical authority ties between higher and lower levels of the administration.”(50-51)

This illustrated by an incident that took place in 1485 in a clash between the bugyōnin and the hōkōshū. Clash began over seating arrangements at the shogun`s palace between two bugyōnin and the hōkōshū. Soon both the bugyōnin and the hōkōshū were divided into opposing sides. Despite an order from the shogun Yoshihisa, the byogōnin would not back down and threatened to resign their posts and take the tonsure. This matter was eventually settled peacefully, but created further divisions between offices.(51)

The third phase of the Bakufu`s organizational development thus characterized by hereditary holding of office and group monopoly of functions around the shogun. Why this happened: bugyōnin were officials with skill in writing which most bushi lacked, they also had administrative skills and special legal knowledge which could be applied to legal cases. As they had a monopoly on such skills, they were indispensable to the administration of the bakufu. They could thus oppose the wielders of political power. The bygyōnin thus possessed a certain background and social status, both of which were necessary to gain membership to the group. As membership brought with it material and intangible benefits, the group became a closed unit. In Muromachi society, there were many groups – merchants guilds, religious communes, peasant villages etc – in which group inclusiveness and communal solidarity were protective devices. This tendency also had its influence on bakufu administration.(51)

The hereditary holding of office had a dramatic effect on shogunal power and on the political process between the bakufu, the shogun, and great territorial lords. Yoshinori had attempted to increase his own direct influence over the several organs of government and make it responsive to his personal rule (by creating the posts for bygyōnin). From an administrative point of view, succeeding shogun had more direct control over bakufu administration, but the result in power politics (shogun`s ability to influence the shugo) was weakened to the point where the shogun held virtually no influence at all. The second stage of the shogunal system, whereby the kanrei worked through the council of vassals to support the shogun and check excessive power was acceptable to the shugo. The kanrei and council members mediated between the shogun and the organs of the bakufu organization, and between the shogun and the rest of the bushi class. While the kanrei was a symbol of consensus policy among the great shugo families, the shogun could wield influence over the nation.(52)

In a sense, the reforms of Yoshinori were the catalyst for the slow decline of the Muromachi system. The kanrei obviously used the supposed demotion of his office to rearrange his relationship with the organs of government (possibly with an eye to promoting certain families to certain positions), hence when the offices of the central administration became hereditary and confined to a narrow group of retainers, the shogun was thus cut off from the support of the shugo coalition. The kanrei was no longer an instrument of the shogun, but instead he turned the shogun into no more than a figurehead by making his own position vital for the administration of the bakufu. By the end of the fifteenth century, the kanrei was the most powerful position in government, and almost exclusively held by the Hosokawa. The shogun, with his guard and administrators, still continued as an honoured institution, but had nowhere near the influence that earlier shogun had held.(52)

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