Jisha-bugyo (寺社奉行)

Jisha-bugyo was one of the shogunate administrators in military government from the Muromachi to Edo eras, and was in charge of temples and shrines.

Kamakura and Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun)

In Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), officials who were in charge of temples and shrines were called "Jisha-bugyo." Other bugyo were set up to negotiate and mediate with certain strong temples and shrines. According to the Chronicle of Azuma, NAKAHARA no Suetoki was appointed to deal with requests from temples and shrines in May, 1194 (lunar calendar), and is considered to be the origin of Jisha-bugyo. In December, 1194 (lunar calendar), Kageyoshi OBA and others were appointed as bugyo in charge of temples and shrines supported by Kamakura bakufu, such as Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine and Shochoju-in Temple. Later, while Tokitsura OTA and Sadao NIKAIDO were appointed as Jisha-bugyo, other bugyo were appointed respectively for temples and shrines under the aegis of Kamakura bakufu, such as Suwa-taisha Shrine, Izusan-jinja Shrine, Mishima-taisha Shrine and Atsuta-jingu Shrine.

This policy was continued by the Kenmu Government and the Muromachi bakufu. In the Muromachi bakufu, Jisha-bugyo was subdivided into Temple-bugyo (in charge of Buddhist temples) and Shake-bugyo (in charge of shrines). Furthermore, additional bugyo, who were in charge of certain religious schools, strong temples and shrines, were appointed as Zenritsugata (commissioners for Zen and Ritsu monasteries), Sanmon bugyo (the Enryaku-ji magistrate) and Nanto bugyo (the magistrate of Todai-ji and Kofuku-ji Temples). After Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA, special bugyo were appointed proactively as bugyo in charge of special temples and shrines, by the bugyoshu (group of magistrates).
As the special bugyo were in a position between the special strong temples and shrines and the bakufu, they were often bribed by the temples or on the other hand they extorted the temples and shrines. (example: Confrontation between Enryaku-ji Temple and Tametane INOO who was Sanmon bugyo under Yoshinori ASHIKAGA)
These special bugyo were at the height of their power in the reign of Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA, then went into decline along with the fall of the Muromachi bakufu after the Onin war.

Jisha-bugyo and special bugyo were set up in the local administrative organs such as Rokuhara Tandai, Oshu Shogunfu and Kamakura Government.

Edo bakufu(Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun)

In the Edo bakufu, Suden ISHIN and Katsushige ITAKURA were in charge of the affairs of temples and shrines in 1612, although they had no specific positions. (Suden was a priest and Katsushige returned to secular life)
Suden worked full-time on the affairs of temples and shrines alone after Katsushige ITAKURA's death. Suden died in 1633, during the reign of Shogun Iemitsu, therefore, subsequently no one was in charge of the affairs of temples and shrines. Therefore, a post to deal with litigation related to temples, shrines and local provinces far from the capital was established in 1635. At first, this post was under the direct control of Shogun, then the Roju system (member of shogun's council of elders) was established and the roju controlled the post. However, it came under the direct control of the Shogun again in 1662 during the reign of Shogun Ietsuna.

In principle, fudai daimyo (daimyo as hereditary vassal to the Tokugawa family) with more than 10,000 koku were appointed to Jisha-bugyo, simultaneously serving as Sojaban (officials in charge of ceremonies).
[It was an exception that Tadasuke OOKA, who was Hatamoto (direct retainer of the shogun), achieved the rank of daimyo and became Edo machi-bugyo (town magistrate of Edo) without serving as a Sojaban.]
Among the three magistrates (Jisha-bugyo, Kanjo-bugyo, Machi-bugyo), Jisha-bugyo was the top-ranked, because Kanjo-bugyo and Machi-bugyo were under the control of roju. The fixed number of places was about four, and their offices were in their residences. They worked on a monthly rotating schedule.

Being a member of Hyojosho (conference chamber) as well as Kanjo-bugyo and Machi-bugyo, Jisha-bugyo was in charge of litigation regarding not only temples and shrines, but also many territories, except for Kanhasshu (the Eight Provinces of the Kanto region). The main task was to control temples, shrines and their priests. In addition, the Jisha-bugyo controlled temple town citizens, people in the domains of temples and shrines, folk religious leaders such as ascetic Buddhist monks and philosophers, and artists such as poets. As temples and shrines controlled the family registration of common people at that time, the role of Jisha-bugyo, which managed litigation and family registration, was similar to the present Ministry of Justice.


In period dramas, tharey are often scenes where doshin (police constable) and yoriki (police sergeant) of the Machi-bugyo are annoyed at a criminal who has escaped into the grounds of a temple or shrine, because these territories were under the control of Jisha-bugyo. But this is not based on fact. When a criminal entered the territory of a temple or shrine, Machi-bugyo applied, using certain procedures, to the Jisha-bugyo to handover and/or capture the criminal. Hitsuke tozoku aratame-kata (literally, "investigative division for arson and organized robbery) could investigate or capture the criminals within the domain of a temple or a shrine without Jisha-bugyo's prior approval. When a temple or a shrine protected a criminal, Jisha-bugyo investigated it strictly and sometimes took the priests into custody. Therefore, a temple or a shrine was not immune from the law.

[Original Japanese]