Hokoshu (奉公衆)

Hokoshu was a govermental position established by the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). It is military power belonging directly to the shogun, and was called ban-shu or ban-kata because it was organized as goke-ban (literally, five ban). It was also called banshu (kobanshu).

Inheriting the banshu system in the palace in the Kamakura period, Hokoshu were the gokenin who were differenciated from general gokenin (an immediate vassal of the shogunate in the Kamakura and Muromachi through Edo periods) or jito (manager and lord of manor) and closely waited on thier shogun (otomoshu, literally, the attendant group).
If bugyoshu (group of magistrates) were civilian officials during the Muromachi bakufu government,

Hokoshu could be called military officials.


According to the remaining "Gobancho (literally, descriptions of ban, squad)" where the organization of Hokoshu in the eighth shogun Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA era was described, Hokoshu consisted of five squads, with each squad including 50 to 100 persons and 300 to 400 persons in total, and when wakato (young samurai) and chu-gen (lower-class retainers) were also counted, it is considered that Hokoshu had the military power of 5,000 to 10,000 persons. It is said that Hokoshu was also organized under Kamakura kubo (shogunal representative) and under Furukawa kubo.

Its members consisted of dominent gokenin, members of the Ashikaga clan, powerful Shugo daimyo (Japanese territorial lord as provincial constable) and Kokujin (local samurai). With the membeship of a squad inherited, it is said that the bond among the members was strong, and they acted jointly in the Onin War. The number of Hokoshu of the Mikawa Province, located at an important location for the Ashikaga clan, was more than 40, the largest of all of the provinces.

During peacetime, Hokoshu commuted, for example, to Bannai (the squad room) placed within the palace, and functioned as military power in emergencioes. Hokoshu was entrusted to the management of local goryosho (shogunate's estate) and was also given the rights to prevent Shugo (provincial constable) from entering their own lands and to collect tansen (a kind of provisional tax in medieval Japan).


During the early Muromachi period, political fights occurred frequently among powerful shugo even within the bakufu government, in addition to activities of various powers including that of the Southern Dynasty (in Japan), and Yoriyuki HOSOKAWA, deputy to shogun, lost his position in Coup of Koryaku in 1379. Therefore, Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA, the third shogun, formed a goup of bodyguards called Oumamawari to confront shugo's power. They played an active role as military power belonged directly to the shogun in Meitoku War, caused by the Yamana clan, and in the Oei War, caused by the Ouchi clan in 1391.

However, Yoshimochi ASHIKAGA, the fouth shogun, still depended on the military power of the Hatakeyama clan, and Yoshinori ASHIKAGA, the sixth shogun, aimed at strengthening his power following the policies used by Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA.
Yoshihisa ASHIKAGA, the ninth shogun, established Hokoshu as well as Bugyoshu who were civil officers as an official system, and Hokoshu played an active role as bodyguards for shogun in the battle for subjugating Rokkaku clan in the Omi Province in 1487

Yoshitane ASHIKAGA, the tenth shogun, subjugated the Rokkaku clan in 1491 by leading Hokoshu, went on a journey for subjugating Yoshitoyo HATAKEYAMA in the Kawach Province in 1493, but while he was on the journey, Masamoto HOSOKAWA, deputy to shogun, abolished the shogun position (Coup of Meio), effectively dismantling the Hokoshu system.

[Original Japanese]