Kaisho (the early-modern times) (会所 (近世))

Kaisho literally means a place where a kind of reunion, party, event, assembly or meeting was held. However, in Japanese early-modern times the term 'kaisho' was sometimes used for an independent structure like a merchants association, or a public local gathering hall, office and exchange market, mostly in the urban areas.
For the details of kaisho in medieval times, see 'kaisho (the medieval times).'

Kaisho in machigai (community association)

Machi-gaisho' (community kaisho) of a machigai was used as an office or a gathering place in the community. In kaisho, Machiyakunin (municipal officials) stayed in order to assemble people and notify the regulations issued by the town magistrate office and others, such as 'machibure' (laws for merchants and artisans), or on the contrary, in order to undertake office work such as preparing the application forms for residents.
The system of kaisho varies from town to town; in Osaka 'so-kaisho' (general kaisho) was set up as a higher institution in each one of the three areas collectively called 'Osaka sango' (three areas of Osaka), on the other hand, in Edo the town headman's official residence was used as 'machi-gaisho.'

After the Kansei Reforms (a series of reforms carried out in the Kansei era), a system of shichibutsumikin (accumulated fund) was introduced in Edo, and a place to manage the fund was called 'machi-gaisho.'
At machi-gaisho financing for the poor was offered at low interest rates. On the other hand, a special kaisho was established in Saruya-cho Town in Edo (Saruya-cho Kashikin Kaisho), as a financing institute for fudasashi (a trader who received or sold kuramai [storage rice] on behalf of the government for commission revenue). This was aimed to alleviate the economical blow that fudasashi received by Kienrei (a debt relief measure to help gokenin [an immediate vassal of the shogunate] and hatamoto [a direct retainer of the Shogun] who fell into economic difficulties during the Edo period) along with quieting the complaints of fudasashi to avoid their reluctance to provide fund to the samurai families. The control and management of this machi-gaisho was carried out by the official exchangers licensed by the finance ministry.

Kaisho in commercial activities

An office of a merchant guild or a similar association was called 'kaisho.'
Incidentally, some of the kaisho mentioned below sometimes played overlapping roles.

Kabunakama (merchant guild)

An office or a gathering place for kabunakama (a merchant guild) was called 'kaisho,' and the officers or clerical staff who were stationed there carried out management of the guild, its member merchants and dealing commodities, including the management of common properties, negotiations with outside parties, communication and management of its member merchants, organization of meetings for crucial decisions, quality check of commodities, etc.
It was also called 'yoriaijo(寄合所)' or 'tsurojo (通路所).'

Exchange market

Kaisho served as an exchange market and a trading office, where the exchange market rate was determined for exchanging gold and silver currencies and the trading of such as commodities as rice, cotton and oil was undertaken. Establishment of kaisho, in particular, as a dealing place of rice was spread out throughout the country; and among them Kome-kaisho (rice kaisho) in Dojima area of Osaka, where Kurayashiki (feudal lords' residence with adjoining warehouse) were especially concentrated, and Nagasaki-kaisho in Nagasaki City, where imported goods were treated, were well known. Kaisho affiliated to a certain Kurayashiki was called 'kome-tachiaisho' (rice trading floor) or 'haraimai-sabakisho.' (released rice disposing floor).


An office set up by each domain to pursue its own production management and direct marketing of its monopoly goods. It was practically a domain-run commercial organization and called 'sanbutsu-kaisho' (local products kaisho) or 'kokusan-kaisho' (provincial products kaisho), and occasionally it was also called 'so-and-so kaisho' using a specific name of the product traded there. After Japan's opening up the country to the world, some domains established 'han-kaisho' (domain kaisho) as a trade institution at the ports opened for foreign trading, and obtained arms and other equipment by exporting their products. Although the Edo bakufu didn't take a favorable view to domains' monopoly, considering it as the cause of steep price rise. However, the bakufu itself promoted a concept of 'shoshiki-kaisho' (daily commodity kaisho) in order to establish semi-nationalized distribution system of shoshiki (daily commodities) in the very last years of the Edo period (although the concept was never put into practice due to the collapse of the Edo bakufu).

[Original Japanese]