Jishinban (security office, security officer) (自身番)

Jishinban is a bansho (an ancient form of security office) installed in downtown areas in Edo and Osaka during the Edo period. Managed by townspeople, jishinban was mainly responsible for local security. The house used as jishinban was called jishinban-ya or ban-ya (simple lodging house).


In Edo, jishinban, under the supervision of machi-bugyo (town magistrate), were installed in each town in downtown areas (co-managed by several towns in accordance with town size) and the management expenses were paid by each town. Security officers were called jishinban because, in the early days, local landlords themselves were stationed in ban-ya as such (Self [or selves] is translated as "jishin" in Japanese). Later, heads of households and employed guards, in place of landlords, worked by rotation.

Patrolling the community, jishinban caught suspicious individuals and handed them over to the magistrate's office. In addition, watching out for fire was jishinban's another main responsibility and many jishinban-ya had their roofs equipped with a ladder (small fire watchtower called hinomi-yagura) and hansho (fire bell). Arresting and firefighting devices were installed inside ban-ya.

Jishinban was used as yoriaijo (meeting place) as well, where the community-related matters were handled. Specifically, jishinban received the documents from the magistrate's office or kept ninbetsucho (census registers).

[Original Japanese]