Bansho (builder) (番匠)

Bansho (Bansho/Banjo) were builders engaged in wooden architecture in medieval Japan. They were also called Moku (builder), and were the predecessors of today's carpenters.


Bansho is regarded to derive from Banjoko (builders and maintenance workers in the Ritsuryo system) who took turns repairing in Kodai Ritsuryosei (ancient East Asian system of centralized governance). They originally belonged to the construction-related government officials (Shurishiki (repair offices), Mokuryo (Bureau of Carpentry), Zojishi (provisional government office for construction and repair of the governmental temples) and so on) and the local authorities (Kokuga (provincial government offices), Kokubun-ji (provincial monasteries and so on) and, if needed, made trips for work, and when the Kamakura period started, free Bansho who did not belong to any organization increased in number centering around urban areas, which resulted in keen competition among Bansho, thus Daikushiki was established from the 13th to 14th century as a system to control the contracting rights for work. The 'Daiku' serving as Daikushiki played a role of leading Bansho lower than Inzu/Toryo (head of carpenters) and was supposed to be appointed by the employer, but the title of Daikushiki was sometimes transferred or sold and the employer's right of appointment lost substance. In addition, conflicts arose regarding Daikushiki and the contracting right for work was abused as a special privilege, which led to a steep rise of wages due to demanding high wages to the employer and led to delay and refusal of work, so the Muromachi bakufu (feudal government) ordered abolishment of the Daikushiki system, which was then gradually breaking down.

Bansho were not required to pay tax other than to pay the appointment fee for Daikushiki and only belonged to the loose organization under the Toryo class, not like other occupations where they became Kugonin (purveyors to the Imperial household) and Jinin (associates of Shinto shrines) or formed guilds. At the beginning of the 16th century, Daimyo (Japanese territorial lord) in the Sengoku Period came to appoint powerful Toryo as Daiku (head of builders) (Kunidaiku/Gundaiku) of the Daimyos' own territory and let them control the Bansho in the territory. Such a system of control over builders by the Daimyo was handed down to the carpenter organization in the feudal system, characteristic of the Shogunate.

[Original Japanese]