Sakaya-yaku (酒屋役)

Sakaya-yaku was a tax imposed upon sake breweries in Kyoto by the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun).

Sake brewing started as a business in the middle of the Kamakura period, but dealing sake had been banned by the Kamakura bakufu. However, sake breweries were under the control of powerful temples or shrines such as Enryaku-ji Temple in Kyoto, so the Imperial Court had to sanction dealing sake in return for contingent taxation such as tsubo-sen (the tax charged on sake dealers). Since 1322 when Emperor Godaigo was in power, arguments to turn tsubo-sen into a form of regular taxation had arisen many times, but opposition by Enryaku-ji Temple delayed collecting taxes from sake dealers by miki no kami (Chief of the Sake Office) until the period of Northern and Southern Courts, and conflicts continued because some sake breweries refused to pay tax with Enryaku-ji Temple on their side.

The Muromachi bakufu managed to finance its budgets by the income from goryosho (the Imperial or shogunate's estate), whose areas were dwindling because the transportation of nengu (land tax such as rice) was disturbed by civil wars across the country, and some goryosho were occupied by the Southern Court's army which were used to reward their soldiers. The bakufu decided to impose a tax on sake breweries.

Although Miki no kami and Enryaku-ji Temple fiercely fought back against the bakufu's move, they were suppressed by the strong military power of the bakufu of Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA, and the bakufu put into force a law called 'Rakuchu-hendosanzai doso-narabini-sakaya-yaku jojo' (洛中辺土散在土倉并酒屋役条々) (Rules of tax regarding financial services and sake dealers in Kyoto) with five articles in 1393. This law denied the interests of influential houses such as Enryaku-ji Temple and limited the taxation by miki no kami to the minimum. Sake breweries and doso (pawnbrokers and moneylenders) were exempted from other taxes in return for paying the bakufu 6,000 kan per year. Based on various records, sake breweries equipped with 10 sake pots or more are considered to have been subject to tax, and probably 100 mon was imposed on each sake pot. Other contingent taxes were imposed for constructing public buildings and important ceremonies. The bakufu directly collected taxes initially, but later it picked up a large sake brewery from each several dozen houses in the same business and assigned them to serve as Nosenkata (an institution to collect tax from moneylenders and sake breweries) to collect sakaya-yaku. There had been dedicated sake retailers called 'ukezake,' and reputed sake produced in rural areas had been sold in Kyoto since the late Muromachi period; and the bakufu also imposed taxes on them. Although the tax revenue decreased after Onin war, this tax system was continued until the end of the Muromachi bakufu, and it went through changes but was not abolished even after Nobunaga Oda's administration.

[Original Japanese]