Machi-bugyo (town magistrate) (町奉行)

Machi-bugyo was a name of a governmental post in the Edo period that was in charge of administration and judicature in an urban area (called machi-kata) in a territory. This post was also set up not only in the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) but in domains. However, when just mach-bugyo was used, it generally indicated the Edo machi-bugyo that was the governmental post in the bakufu. The bakufu machi-bugyo in the Tenryo cities (the cities directly controlled by the bakufu) other than Edo were called with the city name added to their heads, for example, Osaka machi-bugyo, and was generically called ongoku-bugyo (literally, bugyo in remote provinces).

On this page, descriptions are made about the Edo machi-bugyo and the Edo machi-bugyo-sho office (the office for machi-bugyo) (hereafter, bugyo and bugyo-sho office indicates machi-bugyo and machi-bugyo-sho office, respectively, if not specifically mentioned).


Edo machi-bugyo, jisha-bugyo (in charge of temples and shrines), and kanjo bugyo (in charge of finance) were generically called san (three) bugyo. The members in this post, together with those in the other two bugyo posts were also members of Hyojosho (the conference chamber), and were also concerned with affairs in the bakufu government. The number of officers in this post was basically two. In the early Edo period, daimyo were appointed this post, and later hatamoto (direct retainers of the bakufu).
In the era when hatamoto became to be appointed this post, the amount of rice yields for this post was around 3000 koku (approx. 180 liters/koku)

A machi-bugyo officer went to the Edo castle in the morning, reporting to Roju members or holding meetings, and in the afternoon, made decisions and held trials, working until late night. The work in the post was known to be hard, and the rate of death while in office was conspicuous.

Yoriki (police sergeants) and doshin (police constables) were subordinates of the bugyo officer, but were retainers of the shogun family and worked at a bugyo-sho office hereditarily. The bugyo officer was merely a hatamoto controlled by Roju, therefore there were no direct master-servant relationship between the officer and yoriki and doshin. If a bugyo officer and a yoriki member were in a master-servant relationship, the yoriki was called uchi-yoriki to differentiate from other ordinary yoriki members. It is generally depicted, for example, in storytelling, that the kita (north) bugyo-sho office and the minami (south) bugyo-sho office were in a rival relationship and didn't get along with each other. However, as shown in the later-described relationships between the two bugyo-sho offices, it is said that bugyo officers were outsiders in the area and their relationship of mutual trust was not firm.

a Machi-bugyo-sho office

Until 1631when the bakufu built machi-bugyo-sho offices, the person appointed a machi-bugyo officer used his residence as the office, executing his job by providing a court (called shirasu: literally, a white sand area) in the premise.

Its territory of control was limited to machikata (the town area) of Edo, and its authority did not cover samurai residences, shrines and temples that occupied more than a half of Edo. However, the control of the town areas in front of the shrines and the temples was transferred to the machi-bugyo. In 1818, the Edo area was officially specified on a map with a red line (called shu-biki), and at the same time, the area to be controlled by the machi-bugyo was shown with a black line (called sumi-biki). The area roughly corresponds to that of 15 wards of Tokyo, or the area of Tokyo City when the city system started.

The term of machi-bugyo-sho came from the name of the governmental post, therefore, the office was actually called go-bansho (a police station) or o-yakusho (a government office) by townspeople.

The monthly rotation system

As the term of kita-machi-bugyo (-sho) and minami-machi-bugyo (-sho) were often used, two Edo-machi-bugyo-sho offices were placed (except for a certain period). However, this did not mean that the control territory was divided between the two offices. The job was actually conducted in a monthly rotation system (however, for each of the doshin officers who walked around watching town situations, jishinban [the town-watching places operated by townspeople themselves] to patrol were specified, and in that sense, a control territory existed naturally. However, the jishinban places allotted to a doshin officer were scattered all over the Edo city area, and were not concentrated in an area, like the XX direction in the present police). This monthly rotation system indicated that civil suits were accepted by the kita (north) office or by the minami (south) office alternatively, and ordinary jobs of the office except for the acceptance of civil suits (including criminal suits whose examinations were underway) were conducted naturally. In addition, the bugyo-sho office being its off duty turn handled unfinished law suits that were accepted by the office in its on duty turn.

The term of kita and minami were used for identifying a location where the bugyo-sho office was placed, and were not used officially
Officially, each of them was called "machi-bugyo-sho office" uniformly. Therefore, when a bugyo-sho office moved and the relationship between the bugyo-sho office locations changed consequently, the name of the bugyo-sho office that had not moved was also changed. In 1707 when a residence of a bugyo officer moved to an area within the gate of Sukiya-bashi Bridge on the southernmost side from an area within the gate of Tokiwa-bashi Bridge, the new residence became to be called the minami-bugyo-sho office due to its location. Then, the former minami-bugyo-sho office located in an area inside Kajiya-bashi Bridge became to be called the naka (middle)-bugyo-sho office, and the former naka-bugyo-sho office located in an area inside Gofuku-bashi Bridge became to be called the kita-bugyo-sho office.


For a short period between August of 1702 and January of 1719, the naka-machi-bugyo-sho office was introduced as well. It is not clear why the office was introduced and what its job was, but it is said that the office was established to support the kita- and minami-machi-bugyo-sho offices.

Entering the Meiji period, the bugyo-sho offices were destroyed, but stone monuments have been built in the site where the kita-machi-bugyo-sho office is said to have been located (around on the north side of Yaesu-guchi Exit, Tokyo Station) and where the minami-machi-bugyo-sho office is said to have been located (around Marion in Yurakucho). However, either of them is the site where it existed towards the end of the Edo period, or in 1812 and later.

A list of Edo machi-bugyo officers
In the early Edo period, neither the kita-machi-bugyo post nor the minami-machi-bugyo posts were introduced yet, with only a bugyo post existing. Although it was not an official machi-bugyo post, its function was essentially the same. The post of machi-bugyo was officially introduced when the kita-machi-bugyo post and the minami-machi-bugyo post were established.. The naka-machi-bugyo post was introduced in an intermediate period, but was abolished only after assumed by five persons.

[Original Japanese]