Gonin-gumi (five-household group) (Japanese history) (五人組 (日本史))

In Japanese history, the Gonin-gumi, or the five-household group system, was a system of the community association organized under the command of a feudal lord. The Gonin-gumi were established among some samurai groups for military purpose; however, mostly the system was applied to peasants, tradesmen and artisans. It was also referred to as 五人与(Gonin-gumi, or five-household party) or 'Gonin-kumiai' (five-household union).

This system is considered to have started as the 'Goho-sei system,' an administration system in the ritsuryo system (a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo code) in ancient times. Later, in 1597, Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI organized the Gonin-gumi, or five-member groups, consisting of lower-ranking samurai, and the jyunin-gumi, or ten-household groups, consisting of common people. The Edo shogunate also took over Hideyoshi's system to crack down on Christians and regulate ronin (masterless samurai). Moreover, they operated the groups as terminal organizations for general administration.

The Gonin-gumi system consisted of groups of five members who were landholders in a village, and landlords/house owners in a town, including appointed group leaders called 'Kumigashira.'
Then, the groups were organized under Nanushi/Shoya, the headman of the village. This was the unit for collective responsibility, mutual monitoring, and mutual aid, and the feudal lord operated these organizations for law and order, resolving conflicts in the village (town), collecting land tax, and notifying everyone of acts. Every village and town had their own acts to comply with, a census register for every group, and a book referred to as 'Gonin-gumi cho' sealed by every group leader and the village official.

In reality, however, some Gonin-gumi cho contained missing families who had run away or family composition that was different from reality. In villages under the murauke system (village-wide, collective responsibility system for tax payment), most conflicts such as tax delinquency were discussed and handled by the whole village instead of the Gonin-gumi. Therefore, there is a doubt about the effectiveness of the Gonin-gumi. In some villages, every family had its feudal lord, (it was referred to as Aikyu). In that case, the Gonin-gumi organized by the feudal lord and another Gonin-gumi ('Go-gonin gumi' [the Gonin-gumi of the dwelling]) made by the village based on their settlements existed at the same time. However, the Gonin-gumi system indirectly helped to give Nanushi/Shoya authority, control the life of the citizens, and reinforce autonomy of the villages and towns. Along with development of the modern self-governing laws, the Gonin-gumi disappeared as a legal system; however, the tonarigumi (neighborhood association [established in Japan in 1940]) system during World War II took over its characteristics.

[Original Japanese]