Bugyo (奉行)

Bugyo is the name of a profession for a samurai family from the Heian period to the Edo period. A person with this title was also called a bugyonin (magistrate) and the office in which the duties were carried out was called Bugyosho.


Originally, it was a verb that meant 'to duly execute the respectful order of one's superior,' and the infinitive form was 'bugyo-suru' (to do bugyo). The word later became used to refer to a person in charge of something.

In the Heian period, the first reference to bugyo appeared in a document referring to a provisional position to carry out public events and court functions. At first it was used to refer to an officer whose rank was below court noble, but later on came to be used for other responsible parties in charge of practical affairs, such as a Kurodo (Chamberlain), Benkan (Oversight Department - a division of the "daijokan" which was responsible for controlling central and provincial government offices), and Geki (the Secretary of the Grand Council of State). After the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) was established, bugyo was designated as an official duty in charge of domestic bakufu economies, Shugo (provincial constables) and Kokujin (local samurai). The post of bugyo established by the bakufu and Shugo daimyo (Japanese territorial lord as provincial constable) was a kind of middle-ranking executive or official, but when the same post was set up by a kokujin ryoshu (local samurai lord) it was often referred to a position equivalent to chief vassal or chief retainer who was the main assistant of a lord and supervised the domestic economy. During the Edo period, not only in the bakufu, but also in territories controlled by Daimyo (Japanese feudal lord), and from the middle of the period, strong governing systems with the characteristics of a bureaucracy called Han (or Domain) were formed. Many people employed by the bakufu and Daimyo families had the position of bugyo with various ranks, from senior executive to lower executive.

The transition of Bugyo

Descriptions of the position of bugyo and examples in which the post was set up according to time period

Heian period

A role provisionally set up to carry out ceremonies and rituals in the Imperial court.

Kamakura period

The name of permanent and temporary positions specifically in charge of government practices in the Kamakura bakufu.

Examples: Chinzei bugyo (a magistrate of the Kyushu region), Shugo (provincial constable) * later became Shugo Daimyo (Japanese territorial lord as provincial constable)

Muromachi period

The name of permanent and temporary positions specifically in charge of government practices in the Muromachi bakufu.

After the death of Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA, a civilian group composed of the families who had served as bugyo within the former Kamakura bakufu, along with families of hereditary vassals of the Ashikaga Shogun family organized the Bugyo-shu, from which it was regularly practiced to elect bugyo.
For details, see 'Bugyo-shu.'

Azuchi-Momoyama period

A person who was in charge of state affairs in the Toyotomi government.
Gobugyo (the five major magistrates)

Edo period

Names of job titles in Edo bakufu

Jisha-bugyo (magistrate of temples and shrines)
Kanjo-bugyo (commissioner of finance)
Machi-bugyo (town magistrate)
Ongoku-bugyo (the collective name of the magistrates placed at important areas directly controlled by the government during the Edo period)

Bugyo of today

In present-day Japan, it is used as the name for a role used in a rite or festival held at a shrine in which local residents and their children participate in the ritual. When someone is essentially in charge of preparing nabe (a Japanese dish served in a hot pot), which is cooked with the participation of everyone at the table, they are commonly referred to as "nabe-bugyo."

[Original Japanese]