Hatamoto (direct retainers of shogun) (旗本)

The "hatamoto" is a general term indicating those who were direct retainers of the Tokugawa shogun family, provided with an amount of rice crop less than 10,000 koku (approximately 180 liters/koku) and the family status of omemie (vassal with the privilege to have an audience with the shogun) or higher who attended the ceremonies in the shogun's presence. Since it originally used to indicate a samurai group who guarded the battle flag of their lord in war areas, it is not a system only in Tokugawa period.

Hatamoto in the Sengoku period (period of warring states)

In the Sengoku period (Japan), this term sometimes indicated the retainers who were under direct control of a lord, to separate them from the makusita-so samurai belonging to an independent military service such as kokujin (who were not retainers of the lord but were subordinated to the lord militarily). Hatamoto was organized mostly by hereditary vassals, and constituted the samurai group for guarding the main war base of the lord in fighting. At that time, the local samurai lords who were subordinated to a lord but controlled their territories independently aligned and realigned with each other freely. Under such a background, it is considered that lords relied on the hatamoto strongly and that the hatamoto were involved in the governments centrally. It would not be too much to say that, of the retainers, the hatamoto played the central role in the Sengoku period, although they could not attain brilliant military achievements, because they, for example, Kagechika CHIZAKA (CHISAKA), a retainer of Kenshin UESUGI, were deployed around the main war base in fighting..


Typical examples of hatamoto in the Edo period were retainers of the Tokugawa clan who originated in Mikawa. In addition, hatamoto also included surviving vassals of the Gohojo clan and of the Takeda clan, and the Akamatsu clan, the Hatakeyama clan, the Bessho clan, the Hojo clan, the Togashi clan, the Mogami clan, the Yamana clan, the Takeda clan, the Imagawa clan, the Otomo clan, the Oda clan, the Kanamori clan, the Takigawa clan, the Tsutsui clan, the Toki clan, and the direct descendant families of and the branch families of Masanori FUKUSHIMA, all of whom were a daimyo family, the person succeeding the name of daimyo whose properties had been confiscated, a noble family that was a powerful clan in a remote area and could not become a daimyo, a former daimyo in the Sengoku period, or a shugo daimyo (shugo, which were Japanese provincial military governors, that became daimyo, which were Japanese feudal lords).

Taishin-Hatamoto,' who earned a rice crop of around 8,000 koku and was provided with a family status treated daimyo as well, and the Matsudaira family in the Matsudaira-go area (with a 420 koku of rice crop), where the Tokugawa shogun family originated, were called Kotai-yoriai.

Those who were from the families of former noble clans and responsible for protocol, such as the Kira clan, the Hatakeyama clan, the Imagawa clan, and the Takeda clan were called koke (master of ceremonies) and separated from other retainers. Initially, the number of koke families including the Kira family was three, but gradually increased up to 26. Being mostly provided with the rice crop of around 1,000 koku, the earnings of these koke were often smaller compared with their family statuses or their governmental post levels. Governmental posts that should be given to a 100,000-koku class daimyo were sometimes given to koke-kimoiri (dominant families of the koke families), but their earnings were always less than 5,000 koku.

The retainers who belonged to the social standing of omemie (vassal with the privilege to have an audience with the shogun or under that were called "gokenin" (immediate vassal of the shogunate).

Life of Hatamoto

Hatamoto and Gokenin were governed by Buke shohatto (Laws for the Military Houses), and were placed under control of wakadoshiyori (junior councilor). They had to reside basically in Edo, but the Kotai-yoriai families were provided with a jinya (a regional government office) in their chigyosho (hatamoto's fief). Generally, the hatamoto with the rice crop of 3,000 koku or more (hatamoto yoriaiseki [a family rank of high-ranking hatamoto, direct vassal of the shogun]) were provided with the right to manage their fief like daimyo (Japanese feudal lord), and executed administrative rights and judicial rights except trials for grave penalty such as death penalty. For the hatamoto with 500 koku or less, who constituted most of hatamoto, the right to manage their fief except collecting tax, were entrusted to governmental officers of the bakuku, called Daikan or Gundai. The bakufu disliked the execution of right to manage their fief by the Hatamoto retainers who possessed their own territories, and took the policy of curbing the execution. However, because they needed securing tax and were also responsible for scandals in their territories, some hatamoto executed their right to manage their fief actively, even though they earned a 500 koku or less of rice crop.

It was commonly said that 'the number of hatamoto was 80,000.'
However, in a survey in 1722, the number was approximately 5,000, and was 17,000 including even the gokenin of omemie or under. However, it is said that the number became roughly 80,000, when the retainers of hatamoto and of gokenin were further included (for this, the number of military personnel allowed for a 100,000-koku daimyo was 2,155).

The hatamoto who earned a 5,000 koku or more of rice crop including kotai-yoriai was approximately 100. Those who earned a 3,000 koku or more of rice crop was approximately 300, and 90 percent of hatamoto earned a 500 koku or less of rice crop..

According to a record in the Hoei era (1704 - 1711), the amount of chiho-daka of hatamoto (the total earnings of hatamoto who were granted their chigyo-chi [fief]) was a 2,754,000 koku of rice crop, occupying 64% of all earnings of the hatamoto, and a 1,534,000 koku of rice crop as salary called, kirimai, kuramai (rice preserved in a depository by Edo Shogunate and domains), or fuchi (stipend). Although the chigyo-chi existed throughout the nation, 80 % of it was concentrated in the Kanto region, in particular, with 21% of all Hatamoto chigyo-chi in the Musashi Province where Edo was located, 12.5 % in the neighboring Kazusa Province, and 11% in the Shimosa Province.

Hatamoto were obliged to bear larger military burden for smaller earnings (the amount of rice crop), and in addition, aikyu practice (dividing control of an area among more than one person) was done to adjust the amounts of rice crop among the hatamoto: For example, control right of a village was divided among 13 hatamoto in a particular case, making the control extremely difficult. Because, in addition, hatamoto had to reside basically in Edo, their life styles became more and more like those of consumers regardless of whether they were chigyo-tori (recipients of land revenue) or kuramaidori (retainers who received rice preserved in a depository by Edo Shogunate and domains as their salary). In as early as in the Kanei era (1624 - 1644) in 30 years after the bakufu was established, 'impoverishment of Hatamoro' became a problem. Kienrei (a relief measure to help the gokenin and hatamoto who fell into economic difficulties during the Edo period) in the Kansei Reforms was enacted under such a situation as well.

Even if having the right to have an audience with the shogun, a hatamoto actually could have an audience with the shogun only in the occasion of succession to family headship or Atoshiki-sozoku (inheriting the family head post because his father died), if he earned a small amount of rice crop or was provided with no post.

In the early Edo period, rowdy hatamoto called hatamoto-yakko (servants of the shogun) organized a group, called themselves otokodate (ones who seek to right wrongs), and confronted rowdy people in the general public called machi-yakko (town servants), which was written in kabuki (traditional drama performed by male actors) or kodan storytelling.

Governmental Posts for Hatamoto

In Edo, Hatamoto took the post of Oban (or bankata; great guards) for guarding the Edo-jo Castle and the shogun, or civil officers (or yakugata; in charge of administration, judicature, or finance), such as machi bugyo (town magistrate), kanjo bugyo (commissioner of finance), ometsuke (inspector general) and metsuke (inspector). The hatamoto without governmental post who earned a 3,000 koku or more of rice crop were organized into hatamoto yoriaiseki (a family rank of high-ranking hatamoto), and those who earned a less than 3,000 koku of rice crop were organized into a group called Kobushin-gumi (samurai without official appointments who receive small salaries).

The highest post available for hatamoto was the keepers of Edo-jo Castle. After Yoshimune, the eighth shogun, established the Gosankyo (Three Lords: three junior collateral houses of the Tokugawa family), the position of karo (chief retainers) at these families were considered to be equivalent in the status to the keepers of Edo-jo Castle. However, it was not rare that a hatamoto at the 3,000-koku level was selected for such a post. The Gosankyo had their residences in the Edo-jo Castle, and they were treated as the members of shogun family. Therefore, the Karo of Gosankyo were not baishin (indirect vassal).

In addition, the taishin hatamoto (greater vassal) with a 5,000 koku or more of rice crop could assume the posts of Sobashu (aide of the shogun), Sobagoyo-toritsugi (attendant who serves Shogun by informing of a visitor and convey the message), Oban gashira (captains of the great guards), Head of military patrol, chief of the bodyguard of the Shogun or the keeper of Sunpo-jo Castle.

The ongoku-bugyo (magistrates placed at important areas directly controlled by the government) placed by the bakufu at important cities was selected among the thousand-koku class hatamoto. However, the Fushimi magistrate was an exceptional post to which a fudai daimyo (a daimyo in hereditary vassal to the Tokugawa family) was appointed as well. Fushimi was a key point to enter Kyoto from the Tokai-do Road, and in Sankin-kotai (daimyo's alternate-year residence in Edo), it was prohibited to proceed to the Kyoto side from Fushimi, to prevent daimyo from making contact with the Imperial court. The Nikko magistrate where shogun was used to visit was provided with a status slightly higher than that of other ongoku-bugyo. The Nagasaki magistrate post was the most coveted one, because additional income, being close to bribes, was expected in relation with trade, and therefore, various maneuvers were conducted to get the post. Some hatamoto who became Nagsaki magistrate established a big fortune.

On the other hand, the governmental posts assumed by the Hatamoto with a small salary of around 100 koku to 200 koku included the following: a member of Kojunin-ban (Kojunin group), Nando, Kanjo, daikan (local governor), hiroshiki (inner apartment supply officer for Edo-jo Castle), Yuhitsu, Doho-gashira, Kofukinban-shihaigashira, Hinoban-kumigashira, Gakumonshokinban-kumigashira, Kumigashira of Kachi-metsuke, Sukiya-gashira, makanai-gashira (chief of cooks), Kura-bugyo, Kane-bugyo, Hayashi-bugyo, Fushinkata-shitabugyo, Tatami-bugyo, Zaimokuishi-bugyo, Gusoku-bugyo, Yumiyayari-bugyo, Fukiage-bugyo, Zen-bugyo, Shomotsu-bugyo, Teppodamayaku-bugyo, Jisha-bugyo-ginmimonoshirabeyaku, Kanjo-Ginmi-aratame yaku (inspector of the documents inspected by assistant minister of treasury) and Kawabune-aratameyaku. Some gokenin assumed lower posts for hatamoto.

Hiroshiki, makanai-gashira, and Kanjo-Ginmi-aratame yaku were selected among the competent hatamoto with small stipend.

After the mid-Edo period, no gokenin has promoted to hatamoto in the military and guard spheres. On the other hand, some gokenin who assumed lower-level governmental posts under hiroshiki or Kanjo-bugyo promoted to hatamoto.

In order for a person not entitled to be a hatamoto to become hatamoto, it was basically required his family to have assumed posts for hatamoto for three consecutive generations. However, once permitted to have an audience with the shogun, he was immediately recognized as hatamoto as Omemie-no-shi (vassal with the privilege to have an audience with the shogun).

As a piping time of peace continued, the following trend appeared; while officers in the governmental posts concerned with guard or military affairs called bankata were selected on a family status basis, civil officers called yakugata were selected considering their competence as well. In these situations, the highest posts reachable by the catamite retainers with 200 koku to less than 500 koku generally were the Kanjo ginmiyaku post, being just under the kanjo bugyo (commissioner of finance), whose officers checked accounts directly under the roju (senior councilor), or the hiroshiki-yonin post (officer responsible for general affairs in O-oku [the inner halls of the Edo-jo Castle], where one-fourth of the bakufu revenue was consumed, and was provided with accounting right there as well as the right to select suppliers to O-oku.

By the way, the bankata were classified into the five posts of koshogumi (page corps), shoinban (the castle guards), oban (castle guards), shinban (new guard) and kojunin (escort guard). These posts were called Goban (kata) (five Ban posts).

Yoriki (police sergeant) attached to the town magistrate's offices were allowed to ride on a horse and often provided with a salary of a 200 koku (200 straw bags) of rice crop, but they were not hatamoto.

The hatamoto system was changed drastically for the first time when, in 1856 after Japan was opened to the world, Masahiro ABE, a roju, opened a military training school in Tsukiji and ordered hatamoto for the training of group-fighting tactics, including rifle-shooting and gunnery. In the following Bunkyu Reforms (reforms in the Bunkyu era [1861 - 1864]), the military system was reformed rapidly: For example, military officers were selected among the hatamoto who had completed the training of rifle shooting and gunnery, based on their competence. However, for the hatamoto who were at the peak of financial poverty, there was no power remained to support the military service. Therefore, in September 1867, the military service imposed on hatamoto was actually abolished, and it was decided that a half of the revenue from their fief to be collected (in four installments) as money for military use. Due to the Taisei Hokan (transfer of power back to the Emperor) occurred during the first collection, the bakufu had collapsed before this system functioned fully.
However, if this system functioned, the meaning of hatamoto would have changed drastically even if the Edo bakufu remained, because, losing the military roles, hatamoto would have become only an existence that could have been 'candidates for military officers' or 'candidates for governmental officers.'

Definitions of Hatamoto in the Edo Bakufu

In historical textbooks, hatamoto in the Edo bakufu (the Tokugawa shogun family) was defined as the persons who were direct retainers of the shogun with a less than 10,000 koku of rice crop and were entitled to have an audience with the shogun (omemie or higher), but strictly considered, the situation was not so simple.

In a narrow sense, hatamoto indicated direct retainers of the shogun with a 200 koku (200 straw bags) or more but less than 10,000 koku of rice crop, excepting the families with the Kotaiyoriai status, the Koke families and the Kiregawa clan that was treated as a daimyo though earned less than a less than 10,000 koku of rice crop.

In a broad sense, hatamoto included, in addition to the hatamoto in the narrow sense, the direct retainers of shogun who earned less than a less than 200 koku (200 straw bags) of rice crop, wore Setta (Japanese traditional sandals), were not entitled to ride on a horse, but was allowed to have an audience with shogun. Because the Kiregawa family with a less than 10,000 koku of rice crop was treated as a daimyo, the family was not included in the hatamoto in the broad sense as well.

Also, as the retainers of shinpan (Tokugawa's relatives) and of Fudai daimyo are not direct vassals, they could not have an audience with the shogun basically; however, the hatamoto status was sometimes specially given to members of the families with a distinguished history. In this case, they were entitled to have an audience with the shogun, and was allowed to dismount a horse at check points during their sankin kotai. Therefore, in the broadest sense, the hatamoto indicated those who were entitled to have an audience with the shogun, excluding daimyo and those who were treated as daimyo.

Famous Hatamoto

Konyo AOKI
Hakuseki ARAI
Tadanari IWASE
Tadasuke OOKA (Echizen no kami [Governor of Echizen Province], Yamada-bugyo, machi-bugyo [town magistrate], and jisha-bugyo [magistrate of temples and shrines].
Later became a 10,000-koku daimyo of the Nishi-Ohira domain)

Tadataka OKUBO (Hikozaemon)
Shigehide OGIWARA (Omi no kami [Governor of Omi Province], kanjo bugyo [commissioner of finance])
Tadamasa OGURI (Oguri Kozuke no suke [Assistant Governor of Kozuke Province])
Yasuyoshi KATSU (Kaishu KATSU)
Manjiro NAKANOHAMA (commonly called John Manjiro.
Although coming from a fisherman family, he was invited to the bakufu as an exceptional case.)

Toshiakira KAWAJI (gaikoku-bugyo [magistrate of foreign affairs])
Kigin KITAMURA (poet)
Yoshinaka KIRA (from koke, Kira Kozuke no Suke)
Shigekatsu KUBOTA (intendant of Saigoku region [western Japan] under the shogun's order, also named Shigekatsu KAMACHI)
Kagemoto TOYAMA (Saemon no jo [third-ranked officer of the Left Division of Outer Palace Guards], machi-bugyo, ometsuke)
Yasumori NEGISHI (Hizen no kami [Governor of Hizen Province], machi-bugyo.
The author of "Mimibukuro" (literally, "Ear Bag"; a collection of fantastic tales and intriguing rumors from early modern Japan)

Genjo NORO (scholar of herbalism)
Nobutame HASEGAWA (commonly called Heizo, an officer of hitsuke tozoku aratame-kata [literally, "investigative division for arson and organized robbery"])
Ujinaga HOJO (Ometsuke, the founder of the Hojo-school military science)
Sadatomo MATSUDAIRA (Shoo MATSUDAIRA, an expert of breeding Japanese irises)
Nariyuki MIZUNO (Jurozaemon)
Kyuso MURO (Confucian scholar)
Tanehiko RYUTEI (his real name was Hikoshiro Tomohisa TAKAYA.
Author of popular stories)

Hikotaro SASAMOTO (the founder of the Utazawa melody for shamisen [a three-stringed Japanese banjo], the first head of the school of this type of melodies, commonly called Sasamaru UTAZAWA)
Masamori NAKANE (sobayonin [lord chamberlain] of Iemitsu TOKUGAWA, shogun's retainer, ometsuke, and master of calligraphy)
Ichinojo NAKANE (shogun's direct retainer, member of a bakufu delegation towards the end of the bakufu system and the assassination incident of the bakufu delegation)

[Original Japanese]