Bunchi Seiji (文治政治)

Bunchi seiji (civilian government) refers to a form of the governance practiced from the fourth shogun Ietsuna TOKUGAWA to the seventh Ietsugu TOKUGAWA.

Background of bunchi seiji

The form of the government of the first shogun Ieyasu TOKUGAWA to that of the third Iemitsu TOKUGAWA is called budan seiji (administration by military command), and it was a time to establish the basis for the Tokugawa shogunate,
In this period of time, daimyo who opposed the bakufu or who violated the regulations of Buke Shohatto (code for the warrior households) mercilessly received sanctions such as kaieki (sudden dismissal and deprivation of position, privileges and properties) and genpo (a punishment with deprivation of social status and part of territory), no matter whether they were shinpan (Tokugawa's relatives), fudai (hereditary daimyos) or tozama (outside daimyo). Consequently, many samurai who lost their job became ronin (masterless samurai), causing social disorders bringing a sense of expectation of wars. After Iemitsu TOKUGAWA died of illness, as his successor Ietsuna TOKUGAWA was still immature, Shosetsu YUI conspired with Chuya MARUBASHI and others to take Ietsuna TOKUGAWA into their custody, and staged a rebellion criticizing the politics of the bakufu and demanding the relief of ronin (the Keian Incident [1651]). In addition, Shozaemon HETSUGI attempted to attack Roju (senior councilors of the Tokugawa shogunate), and owing to such restlessness the cabinet officials of the shogunate were obliged to change their policy from the budan seiji.

Age of Ietsuna TOKUGAWA

In the place of immature Ietsuna TOKUGAWA, his uncles such as the lord of the Aizu Domain Masayuki HOSHINA and Tadakiyo SAKAI took charge of the political affaires to assist the shogunate government. He eased a restrictive measure called Matsugo yoshi no kin (ban on adoption as a son on one's deathbed) in order to reduce the number of kaieki sanctions, which was the cause for the increased ronin. The bakufu revised Buke Shohatto (Kanbunrei) in 1663, and forbade junshi (following one's master to the grave) and abolished the system of Shoninnosei (forcing daimyo to offer a hostage) (these two measures were called 'two good actions in the Kanbun era'). These policies broke a traditional mindset handed down from the Sengoku period (the period of warring states), and the relation of master to servant between shogun and daimyo as well as between the lord of the domain and his vassal was converted from a personal relationship into a relationship in which a follower served his master's family. Furthermore, the revision of the shogunate licenses, Kanbun Shuinaratame, which was carried out in 1664 during the Kanbun era, consolidated the status of shogun.

Around this time the class of honbyakusho (farmers who had land as well as the obligation to pay land tax,) began to decline due to divisional succession of agricultural lands. As the Edo bakufu and each domain relied on the yield of rice for their source of funds, Bunchi Seigen-rei (the law to control the division of lands) was issued in 1673 for the purpose of maintaining the honbyakusho class. At the same time, as the improvement of water supply became a major issue a long with the expansion of Edo as a city, Tamagawa Josui Water Supply was constructed.

Furthermore, the administration of each domain was stabilized due to the reduced burden of military service in the long-lasting peace, and each domain set out the development of new fields in response to the great famine of the Kanei era, which consequently produced economic growth within the domain. During this period, in addition to above mentioned Masayuki HOSHINA, the following feudal lords called rulers of virtue appeared and they conducted good governance: the lord of the Okayama Domain Mitsumasa IKEDA, the lord of the Mito Domain Mitsukuni TOKUGAWA, and the lord of the Kaga Domain Tsunanori MAEDA.

However, the bakufu began having serious financial problems starting from the reconstruction of Edo city, which was burnt down due to the Great Fire in the Meireki era, to the decline of gold produced from Sado Gold Mine in the Sadoga-shima Island, and the comparative fall of the rice price against the prices of other commodities.

Age of Tsunayoshi TOKUGAWA

As Ietsuna TOKUGAWA had no hair, Tsunayoshi TOKUGAWA, the lord of the Tatebayashi domain and Ietsuna's younger brother, succeeded to the position of shogun. However, immediately after Tsunayoshi assumed the position of shogun, his sobayonin (lord chamberlain), Yoshiyasu YANAGISAWA gripped the real power over the bakufu, making use of adverse situations including the incidence in which Wakadoshiyori (junior councilor) Masayasu INAGA was stabbed to death inside the palace.

As Tsunayoshi was fond of learning Confucianism since he was the lord of the Tatebayashi Domain, his knowledge of Confucianism was reflected in his policies. Tsunayoshi issued Buke Shohatto, Tenna edition in 1683 during the Tenna era. This new code stated "the warriors should be encouraged to elevate their literary and military arts as well as loyalty to one's master and filial piety, and should acquire their proper courtesy." The new code made a clear departure from "Kyuba no michi" (the spirit of samurai) mentioned in the previous Buke Shohatto issued in the Genna era, indicating the bakufu's intention of establishing public order through the courtesy based upon loyalty to one's master and filial piety (in addition, the appeasement of Matsugo yoshi no kin (ban on adoption as a son on one's deathbed), which had been adopted in the age of Ietsuna, was clearly stated).
In order to establish and enhance public order through the courtesies, the following measures were taken:
In an attempt to elevate the authority of the shogun, the bakufu's Imperial Court policies of the bakufu were also eased; the number of Imperial domains was increased by adding the lands with the total production of 10,000 koku crop yields, Yushima Seido (Sacred Hall at Yushima) was built, and Nobuatsu HAYASHI was appointed Daigaku no kami (Director of the Bureau of Education).

In addition Tsunayoshi, having no successor, issued Shorui Awaremi-no-rei (the law prohibiting cruelty to animals) in 1865, which was a notorious law providing for extreme animal welfare. It cannot be denied that this law accelerated financial difficulties of the Edo bakufu, but it was designed to strengthen bunchi seiji by establishing a sense of morality among the common people, as seen in the law of mourning or the prohibition of abandonment of children issued around the same time.

The above-mentioned worsening of the chronic budget deficit that had been built up since the rule of Ietsuna, the previous shogun, was due to the excessive spending by Tsunayoshi and his mother Keishoin, as well as the enforcement of the Shorui Awareminorei. Therefore, the bakufu appointed Kanjoginmiyaku (a post of the Edo bakufu to support commissioners at the finance ministry) Shigehide OGIWARA (later he became kanjo bugyo [commissioner of finance]) to gain profit from money emissions (seignoirage) by issuing Genroku Koban (oval gold coin), however, it in turn caused inflation, which threatened the common people's life. On the other hand, Genroku Culture prospered mainly in Kamigata (urban area around Kyoto and Osaka). Furthermore, the bakufu established kaisho (trading office in Nagasaki) and restricted the international trade through Nagasaki.

Ages of Ienobu and Ietsugu TOKUGAWA (Shotoku no chi [the peaceful era of Shotoku])

As Tsunayoshi TOKUGAWA had no son who could succeed him, the lord of the Kofu domain Ienobu TOKUGAWA, who was his nephew, became the sixth shogun, and after Ienobu, Ietsugu TOKUGAWA assumed the position of the seventh shogun, although he was still little. In this period Akifusa MANABE and a Neo-Confucian scholar Hakuseki ARAI led the government because the shogun was weak and immature. The challenge of this government was 'how to enhance the status and authority of the shogunate, regardless of a shogun's own personality,' due to the fact that Shogun Ietsugu was not gifted with longevity and he was immature, and therefore, it can be said that the policies in this age were under the influence of Neo-Confucianism just as in the age of Tsunayoshi.

Immediately after Ienobu assumed the position of shogun, Hakuseki ARAI abolished the order Shorui Awareminorei and dismissed the sobayonin Yoshiyasu YANAGISAWA. And in order to resolve the government's problems, he firstly decided to use the authority of the Imperial Family (by establishing the Kaninnomiya family and fixing the engagement between a daughter of the Emperor Reigen, Imperial Princess Yoshiko, and Ietsugu TOKUGAWA). Secondly, by issuing the second edition of Buke Shohatto in the Hoei era, he established the dress code and limited the use of the family crest of Hollyhock, which belonged to the Tokugawa family. Thirdly, he simplified the reception of Chosen Tsushinshi (Joseon missions dispatched to Japan), and changed the honorific title used to address the Japanese sovereign in messages sent by the Joseon Dynasty from "Tycoon of Japan" to "King", which was a higher title.

Hakuseki ARAI adopted economic policies opposite to those applied in the age of Tsunayoshi. The first action he took was the emission of Shotoku Koban (oval gold coin), which was the measure to solve the inflation. This reduced the amount of currency emitted, cooling the economy. The second action taken in considering Japan's import surplus through the trade in Nagasaki, was restricting the international trade through Nagasaki by issuing a new law in 1715 to limit the amount of international trade called 'Kaihakugoshi shinrei' or 'Nagasaki shinrei' (which meant that gold and silver were drained out of Japan; and the outflow of gold and silver meant the decrease of the domestic circulation of money and eventually indicated the risk of cooling economy because the currency was backed by the amount of gold and silver at that time).

The economic difficulties of the Edo bakufu, triggered in the age of Ietsuna, became increasingly serious during the civilian government. Although the Edo bakufu relied on rice for its source of funds, the fall in the price of rice in relation to the prices of other commodities went unresolved from the reign of the fourth shogun through to that of the seventh; the issue was finally resolved by the Kyoho reforms introduced by Yoshimune TOKUGAWA.

[Original Japanese]