Kaisho (meeting place) (Medieval Era) (会所 (中世))

Kaisho, interpreted literally, was some sort of place where a meeting, exhibition, Yoriai (debate), or association was held, but developed in the medieval era in Japan where certain divisions, or even independent buildings were named 'kaisho.'
The following is a detailed explanation of the Kaisho during the Muromachi period, which is when they were developed the most. For Kaisho during the Edo period, please refer to Kaisho (early modern times).


By looking through out its history, there were various uses of the word kaisho, but one thing that could be said was that it was a place where people gathered. There were various things that structured 'people' during the medieval era, but one could spend time within Kaisho without concern for their birth. For example, there were imperial family, Shogun, court nobles, courtier, monk, and doboshu (servants of shogun who did various duties and contributed to art) during the Muromachi period. Once these people performed renga (early Japanese poetry form) they would sit in circle in a shukushitsu (main guest room) and recite poetry without concern even for those with low social status. There were various 'unofficial entertainments' and meetings held other than renga parties.

So where were these Kaisho located? Well they were located mainly within the grounds of imperial families, kuge (court nobles), samurai residences, and big temple compounds. It was also within the gosho (palace) of shogun during the Muromachi period, and this was used for politics as well as cultural purposes. The Kaisho there was usually majestic and adorned with Chinese artifacts. When the Emperor performed gyoko (imperial visit), special ornaments were displayed to the extent that it would awe on-lookers.

Origin and history

From the characteristic of the kaisho building itself, the origin is said to be the Kakutei (lodging) (Idei (guest room or the bedroom of the owner)), where the guest and master of the house met within the shinden zukuri (architecture representative of a residence of a nobleman in the Heian period). Many Kakutei had Futamunero (the type of hallway with two pillars, having a servant sleeping quarter sandwiched between two hallways). By studying its structure, kaisho occurred during the transitional period from the shift from shindenzukuri to Shoin zukuri (traditional style of Japanese residential architecture). Spaces called Kaisho in the beginning were part of the architecture, became independent during the Muromachi period and specific buildings became known as Kaisho. Kaisho started to be recognized as a place for cultural activities, and we would like to see the formation of Kaisho through this point of view and through the two representative cultural artworks of 'utaawase' (poetry contest) and 'renga' (linked poetry).

From the place of Utaawase

Utaawase which became the origin of renga were actively held at places such as emperor's palace during the Heian period. A place where such renga was held was Seiryoden (the Residence of the Emperor) and Futamunero where seating location was predetermined by birth class since it was a public space. From the master seat, a person of lower birth was seated further away and at a lower level. The left and right of the room were also clearly divided. In addition, the content of the meeting was fancy and just a ritualistic game and party, but this characteristic greatly changed after the period of Emperor Shirakawa. It was because the awareness of Utaawase as an art and literature was gaining ground.

This trend accelerated during the period of Emperor Gotoba, who loved art and literature, in the Kamakura period. The "Shin-Kokinwakashu" (New Collection of Old and New waka (Japanese poems)), one of the Nijuichidaishu (twenty one representative collection) and Chokusenshu (Imperial-commissioned poem anthology) was edited during this period, but utaawase which was performed in order to do editorial work confined those of different social status to read out poems in the same location to increase the productivity of the meeting. It was the place within the palace of the emperor, where social order was supposed to be protected. Such trends did not continue for long, but it probably led to a change which connected to the kaisho becoming a place where renga was performed.

From the renga venue

Concerning that renga, the Hananomoto-renga (a form of renga), which had the characteristic of quelling the soul of the dead, performed by unrelated people who entered the priesthood, was performed for about a hundred years from the mid-Kamakura period and became popular. Hananomoto-renga permitted unannounced participation, and among renju (participants of renga), high noble people, such as Sosen hoshi (Tonyudo, his common name was Taneyuki CHIBA), who was a close associate of MINAMOTO no Sanetomo and was talented at waka, and even Emperor Daijo (Dajo) joined secretly. When Hananomoto-renga disappeared at the end of Nanbokucho (the Southern and Northern Court Period), the Kasagi-renga (a form of renga) that came in place of it was performed mainly in Kitanotenmangu Shrine without revealing the background of participants. The people who participated in renga wore a bamboo hat, concealing their identities and read poems. The Kasagi-renga continued until the Edo period. This genealogy led to the renga of the Kaisho where people sat together regardless of their ranks.

From historical documents

Here, it is recommended that the incorporation of the 'Kaisho' be seen by in fact observing historical documents. The word, 'Kaisho' was seen from the end of the Heian period. The description within the diary of FUJIWARA no Teika (Sadaie), "Meigetsuki" (the entry dated December 10, 1203 (old calendar)) was supposedly the first place where the word, 'Kaisho' was mentioned. According to it, there was supposedly 'Gokaisho' within the 'Furo gosho,' which was the Uji gosho of the Retired Emperor Gotoba.
Was it a building related to baths?
Apart from this, it was where the Kangakukai (a place where study is encouraged) contributed by YOSHISHIGE no Yasutane at the end of Heian period, was first mentioned. From here, several crucial historical documents are quoted, but the word, 'Kaisho' was stressed by making it bold-faced.

The following two quotes were from articles written during the Kamakura period, the start of a time when the word, 'Kaisho' could be observed.
At the beginning of the Kamakura period, it was written as follows within 'Kindaikairozekiji' in "Mumyosho" (an essay on tanka poetry) written by KAMO no Chomei:

By looking at series of meetings of people at this time, the day Kaisho was established, there was a look of relaxation on all people, each showing their emotions, and there was no limit to the disturbance. The word, 'Kaisho' could be confirmed within 'the thing about pulling out a tooth' in the eighth volume of "Shasekishu" (Rasekishu) (Collection of Buddhist stories) edited by Mujo during the latter part of the Kamakura period.

The modern customs are shameful to the Buddhist record written about the future, and the students of Buddhism turned away from the will of the Buddha as the samurai of existing families built a tower, young men decorated their houses in order to have his name heard many times, gained profits from it, sat at drinking parties, or made it into kaisho where poetry is read, and held many rude activities. The 'kai' (meeting) mentioned in "Mumyosho" is about the poetry party. According to "Shasekishu," it described the place of drinking parties as the seating, and the place of poetry reading as kaisho, and either way, it could be seen that kaisho was strongly related to art and literature. In addition, it also criticized that such places became a 'disturbance' and 'had many rude activities' done by people who gathered at kaisho. This was related to the fact that the space of kaisho was a place of common ground, and people mixed together regardless of their social status.

The following quote from thirty-seven volumes of "Taiheiki," which was a war chronicle describing the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan), is almost always referred to within papers written about Kaisho. A story of when Doyo SASAKI, who was on the side of Takauji ASHIKAGA, had to leave Kyoto and go to the country side.

When Sado hankan (Doyo SASAKI) was defeated, he invited the general to his palace as something of norm, within a kaisho as big as six rooms, a tatami with the enormous family crest was lined up together, and even honzon (the principle image such as Mandala), wakie (scroll), flower vase, incense burner, tea pot, and tray were lined together, and the study room had sanskrit written by Ogishi (Chinese calligrapher), literature written by Kanyu (Confucianism scholar in Korea), sleeping quarter with a pillow smelling of Winter daphne, took the sleeping gear and placed it on donsu (Chinese blanket), and the twelve rooms of the samurai serving far from the lord had hanging birds, rabbits, pheasant, and swan piled up high, and big cylinder that could contain as much as three seki (541 liters) contained sake (Japanese rice wine) and stopped two Buddhist followes, and said, 'try to serve a shot of wine to anyone who visits this lodging.'
This 'six room kaisho' was part of a building and was not yet separated. In this case, the kaisho of Doyo was during a transitional period to Muromachi (Muromachi period).
The fact that many karamono were decorated and the presence of two monks, who would eventually become the Doboshu (monks who performed art, tea, and various duties for shogun or daimyo) were viewed as fine examples indicating the progress of Kaisho development and the most flourishing period of Muromachi period,

The Kaisho of the Muromachi period

The architecture of shinden zukuri, which had many functions, began to take on the form of an independent building. The kaisho, which was a part of the building, became the center of that independent structure upon entering the Muromachi period. During the gyoko (Emperor's visit), it was greatly used and decorated with karamono.

By observing the formation of the architecture, it has been pointed out that the layout of the architecture was similar to that of hojo (the living quarters of a head priest) of Zen temples. In addition, Mitsugusoku (the incense, flower vase, and a candlestick placed offered for the Buddhist altar) was placed in front of the scroll of sanpukutsui (those that became a group with three objects) which was decorated in the main guest room and was probably created with a concern for directions. Tsuyoshi ITO, who was a historian of architecture, saw a contrasting relation between the thatched hut and kaisho of medieval era, and commented on their relationship.

Kaisho of the Muromachi period was a building that was used occasionally for big events such as a visit by the emperor. It was also greatly used for private events or leisure purposes other than official events.

Kaisho' was supposedly pronounced 'Kuwaisho' during the Muromachi Period. This was assumed from the following article. According to the Clause November 4, 1487 (old calendar) of "Oyudono no Ue no Nikki" written by the court lady of the empress. This 'Gokuwaisho' pointed to kaisho of Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA located in Higashiyamadono.

The lord moved to Gokuwai in Higashiyama. The castle built, moved, and went to finish his affairs.

Where it was located

Kaisho was located toward the farther end away from the Tsune no gosho or Kogosho, which was the residential space. It was connected to a pond located at the corner of the garden and Izumidono (a small building built next to a spring) as a special feature of the house of the shogun. It was not a usual house but a building of hare that was used sometimes for events such as a visit by the emperor.

Representative kaisho

The Kaisho within the gosho of the shogunke will be referred as the representative architecture of kaisho. The famous kaisho other than these were Hosshin-in of Daigoji Temple and Kongorin-in, Jojuin Temple of Daijoin Temple, the residence of Imperial Prince Fushiminomiya Sadafusa, and the residence of Takakuni HOSOKAWA from a later period.

Kaisho of the Kitayamadono of Yoshimitsu
The Kitayamadono kitagosho (it is currently, Rokuonji Temple) of the third shogun Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA had one kaisho, and this was believed to be the beginning of independent kaisho and kaisho in the residence of a shogun. It was a two story building called Tenkyokaku. The building itself existed since Kitayamadono was owned by the Saionji family. There were izumidono and famous three story Shariden (Kinkaku) next to the kaisho, and a part of the second floor of Shariden is said to have the architecture of Kaisho. Shariden and Tenkyokaku were both connected by a hallway on the second floor.

The Kaisho of Sanjobomondono of Yoshimochi. The Sanjobodomondono of the fourth shogun Yoshimochi ASHIKAGA had two kaisho of Higashi gokaisho (Hashi gokaisho), which existed before it became the gosho of Yoshimochi, and Oku gokaisho built in 1429. According to the "Kanmon Nikki" of the Imperial Prince Sadafusa (written on February 7, 1431 (old calendar)), 'the normal kaisho such as the Oku gokaisho and Hashi gokaisho both had Shogon (decorations related to Buddhism) and jewelries, which was surprising to the eyes. No fancy words can describe the natural scenery. It was as if it was the Shogon of the world of paradise,' and praised it and the decoration to the sky. There was a Shushi tsu as big as twelve rooms in Oku gokaisho. Yoshikazu and Yoshinori ASHIKAGA of later generations also lived in this Sanjobomondono.

The kaisho of Muromachidono of Yoshinori
There were three kaisho within the Muromachidono constructed by the sixth Shogun Yoshinori ASHIKAGA. The Kaisho was built consecutively within the gosho.

Minamimuki kaisho - First was a kaisho which was built in 1432
As according to its name, the front faced south. There were master guest rooms consisting of nine rooms toward the south side. It was used with the most respect out of the three kaisho. It was connected by a roofed passage to Kannonden.

Kaisho Izumidono - Second was a kaisho made in 1433 and was also called Kitamuki Kaisho with its front facing north. It seems as it was opposite to Minamimuki Kaisho, sandwiching the pond in between. The formation of kaisho must have been influenced by hojo, but Kaisho Izumidono seemed to be a building that was greatly influenced by Izumidono as according to the name when compared with hojo. By comparing the reconstructed ground plan shown below with others, factors setting the kaisho apart could be perhaps understood. It was also the building that was in a set with Izumidono.

Shinzo Kaisho- Third was a kaisho which was built in 1434 or 1435. It was also called Shinkaisho. It was an established theory that the front would be facing south, but there was a conflicting view stated that it was a kaisho facing east. It was the biggest among the three.

The Kaisho of Higashiyamadono of Yoshimasa
The Higashiyamadono built by eighth Shogun Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA had one kaisho. The front was facing south. The master guest room had oshiita (the board or altar used to decorate Mitsugusoku underneath the hanging scroll) and this showed different inclination from the master guest room of the kaisho until that time. However, it could be said that there was just oshiita and it might not be a big problem. Due to a difference in the interpretation of the historical documents in which the reconstructed image was based upon, "Ogawagosho narabini Higashiyamadono Okazarizu" within "Muromachidono Gyoko Okazariki," there was a theory that stated that the master bedroom did not have the built-in oshiita but oshiita that was simply placed there.

Sutemi HORIGUCHI predicted that the position of this kaisho faced the front rather than Tsune no gosho and was located between Kannondono and Togudo, but Mitsugu KAWAKAMI denied this theory. Kawakami predicted that due to the secondary nature of kaisho, it was not placed in front of Tsune no gosho but was probably placed at the back, and attempted the reconstruction of the coordinated location of Higashiyamadono.

The master guest room

People focused on the characteristic of Kaisho having the Tsukeshoin (a type of window), Chigaidana (a set of staggered shelves), oshiita, the place to decorate with karamono and equipment that would lead to the later Shoinzukuri (architecture of a study room), but it is the adjoining small room that has those items. The essential quality of the master guest room already functioned as the kaisho and the Yoriai so that it did not have equipment to be decorated as such. During special occasions such as a visit by the emperor, they placed the oshiita and decorated the place. The reason why the master guest rooms were mainly square shaped rooms measuring nine ken (one ken is a Japanese unit of measurement equal to just less than two meters) along each side was that their shape was based on that of an Amidado (temple hall containing an enshrined image of Amitabha), which was built in an effort to create heaven on earth.

The renga Kaisho (rengasho (the kaisho used for renga, Japanese poem)) of Kumata Shine in Hirano Ward, Osaka City is an example of kaisho that still remains to the present day. This was built during the Edo period in 1708 and is used during renga parties even now. It had six rooms and empty space decorated with only Hengaku-Sanjurokkasen-e (a framed picture of Thirty Six Poets) other than the floor which had oshiita in the central front area when looking within. Furthermore, there was a Rengado of Someda Tenjinko in Uda City (old Someda, Muro Village, Uda District) that continued its tradition from the medieval era, but was built during the Edo period and had nothing inside. The empty space was perfect for renga that placed value on equality.

In addition, the Ochima (the room that is at a lower level compared to other rooms) and hirobisashi (the adjacent room that is at a lower level compared to other rooms) were not attached to it. It was because Kaisho was a place where people of lower status, such as Doboshu, could attend the games of renga and Tocha (Tea Gambling where the player had to guess the tea brand) and share the same space. This will be explained in detail below.

The place of Yoriai

The Doboshu was the monk that practiced Jishu (one Buddhist sect), and those who passed down the genealogy of those who escaped from the society to practice Buddhism. Doboshu was responsible for a part of Kaisho. The power of Doboshu was carried out in the field of decoration in karamono concerning Kaisho (as the place of exhibition of Karamono (Chinese items) and will be explained in detail). Like this, Kaisho was located within the residence of a powerful ruler and was a unique space that had a deep connection with unrelated people. There were no ochima or hirobisashi near the master guest room. The ochima and hirobisashi had the purpose of demonstrating birth class difference to lower class people who were not welcomed. These were present in other buildings that were the residence of the lord and especially the buildings at the front, for an example, Tsune no gosho, within the same compound but not present within the kaisho most of the cases. However, there was an exception (Higashidono Kaisho of Yoshimasa) even among Kaisho for it was connected to a place designated as a living quarter for the shogun, and it was not connected to the true nature of Kaisho or the master guest room. These expressed the equality stressed by the renga parties.

However, this equality has been pointed out as something that existed 'only in that place.'
The equality was only present during the renga party and limited to the master guest room of the kaisho. This was a characteristic that continued from the Utaawase of Gotoba mentioned earlier.

As the place of literature and art

The 'unofficial game' was performed frequently at Kaisho. For an example, the master guest room of the kaisho was a hall to perform things such as renga and tocha popular at that time. There were occasions when sarugaku (form of theater popular in Japan during the eleventh to the fourteenth century), Tsukimi (moon watch), and parties were carried out.

The participants lined up in a circle around a writing written on paper when performing the renga without regard for high or low social status. The master guest room was suited to the performance of renga as it was square-shaped.

The sarei became popular as the Zen culture became prosperous during Muromachi period, and tocha was widely popular within the upper class people until the time of Yoshimasa. Mainly Tocha and occasionally Sarei was performed in Kaisho. Furthermore, Kaicha (another name of tocha) was also performed and the tea party of 1416 was thrown on a grand scale. Kaisho had chatodokoro (chanoyudokoro (the adjacent area to the tea room)) and the chanoyudana was placed there. The Doboshu were packed there and brewed tea depending on the need. The Kaisho Izumidono of the Muromachidono of Yoshinori had Gozasho architecture that allowed one to predict if the shogun himself served tea.

Events that reminded one of later flower arrangement such as hanaawase (a flower card game or waka poetry contest about a flower), and hanakurabe (waka poetry contest about a flower) from the custom of hana shogan (flower appreciation) were performed. The hanaawase was performed mostly during the Tanabata Horaku (flowers placed in drinking party to enjoy the view) in Fushinomiya gosho and became popular. During the Tanabata Horaku of 1432, the kaisho of Fushinomiya (Tsune no gosho) was decorated with sixty-five flower vases full of blooming flowers.

As the exhibition hall of karamono

The karamono were decorated in kaisho as an 'art work' and treated as though it valued more than it was worth. There was a view that karamono were priced by the shogunke (family positioned to accede to the shogunate). Doboshu, Noami, Geiami, and Soami were active as the 'judges of Karamono' and wrote "Muromachidono Gyokookazariki" and "Ogawagosho hyohigashiyamadonookazariki" and described how gosho was decorated during gyoko or usually, but kaisho was mostly decorated with karamono.

The Tenkyokaku, which was a Kaisho at Kitayamadono of Yoshimitsu, was two stories high and the Zen culture could be observed together with its affinity with karamono was well. This was in contrast with tsune no gosho of Japanese styled buildings with Japanese decoration during the gyoko of Kitayamadono. However, the poetry contest performed during the Mifunegokai was carried out during gyoko and although most decorations at Kitayamadono of Yoshimitsu or Muromachidono of Yoshinori were of karamono, they were not decorations that were Japanese that cannot be compared as dichotomic. The kaisho of Kitayamadono was said to have a garden at the back and Shariden (a hall that stores the bones of Buddha) with a unique architecture that must have been a colorful and luxurious scenery with various objects for the visiting guest.

The karamono were decorated in such kaisho, but what about karamono themselves that were used as decoration?
Karamono was the item from Kara (China or Korea) as according to the word, and it was greatly popular as unique goods by the Basara culture such as Gucci and Cartier of modern times and was a nuisance for intellectuals such as Kenko YOSHIDA, but Yoshimitsu favored it and became an authority in that field. During the gyoko occasion, karamono decorated in kaisho received a stamp that indicated that it was the property of shogunke. There were 'Doyu' and 'Tenzan' of Yoshimitsu, 'Zakkeshitsu' of Yoshinori, and these treasures developed into 'Higashiyama gomotsu' (Imperial treasures owned by the Ashikaga family) of the collection of Yoshimasa.
The shogunke had the inclination to make karamono as 'art work.'
The shogun showed it to visitors before giving it away. It must have been that goods that gained the prestige of being exhibited at gosho developed a high reputation. Here, it could be said that karamono viewed not only the unique goods from kara but 'artwork' that had cultural and artistic values. What was meant by cultural was that it had the smell of continental Zen that was popular back then, and artistically the accuracy of Doboshu, Noami, Geiami, and Soami, as the judges.

The karamono stored by shogunke became a noble treasure just by itself and was greatly talked about. Monetary value was born for karamono, and was even traded with money that led to the wealth of shogunke. Yoshimitsu was the one who created the system concerning karamono, which was organized and utilized during the period of Yoshinori.

The end of kaisho

Japan plunged into the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States) (Japan) with advent of the Onin War and Meio Incident. The class of bushi and aristocrats, who were the rulers fell and the sengoku daimyo (daimyo (Japanese territorial lord) in the Sengoku Period) and town folks rose to take the place of leading cultural aspects instead. The tocha shifted to cha no yu (tea ceremony) of the Juko MURATA school concerning tea. The one that decorated cha no yu was the karamono bought from the ruler until that time. As a result, Chanoyu zashiki that suited cha no yu developed, and suki zashiki was born as the cultural place to carry out renga (linked poems). Kaisho disappeared by the time of Edo period, and chokaisho (the town meeting place) and Kaishochi (the place of kaisho) was created as the place to gather. The tradition as the space of irrelevance changed its shape but stayed the same during the Edo period, and remains even to the present day.

[Original Japanese]