Honmatsu Seido System (本末制度)

"Honmatsu seido," a system intended to control the Buddhist organizations, was established by the Tokugawa shogunate during the Edo period.

It aimed to control Buddhist sects by placing each of their temples within the hierarchy, from the main temple to the branch temple. Therefore, the shogunate needed to eliminate the temple that belonged to no main temple, and thereby fix the hierarchy of all temples.

In 1631, the shogunate banned the construction of a new temple, and the following year it compelled every main temple to submit a 'Matsuji.html">matsuji cho' (list of sub-temples). This incorporated the ancient temples of each local community into the hierarchy of a certain sect.

The incorporation also enabled the shogunate to ensure that its intention regarding Buddhism was made known to all branch temples through each sect's 'furegashira' (administrative head temple) in Edo.

Honmatsu seido was linked with other shogunate policies, such as the establishment of Terauke seido (the system that compelled the public to become Buddhists) and Jiin shohatto (the regulations for Buddhist temples). These shogunate policies reduced the organizational function of monpa (a division of a Buddhist sect) and of tatchu (a minor temple), both of which played the central role in Buddhist activities in each sect in those days, while the policies caused the concentration of religious power on each main temple.

[Original Japanese]