Onshogata (office for administering reward grants) (恩賞方)

The Onshogata was a department set up in the Kenmu Government and the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), which took charge of desk work relating to administering Onsho award (reward grants).

Onshogata in Kenmu Government

Emperor Godaigo overthrew the Kamakura bakufu in 1333 and set up the Onshogata to deliberate, investigate, and administer Onsho awards, appointing three people, Saneyo TOIN, Fujifusa MADENOKOJI and Mitsutsune KUJO, as the Shokei (a high rank portfolio). Although the new administration had overthrown the Kamakura bakufu, it was essential for the administration without its own military force, to reward warriors, who participated in the coup to overthrow the Kamakura bakufu, so as to prevent them from plotting a breakaway. However, regarding the Onshogata as a mere deliberative organ, the ultimate decision-making authority was delegated to Emperor Godaigo, and granting the requests from his aides, the emperor did not leave the management of Onsho awards to the Onshogata alone, but gave orders differing from the Onshogata, with the result that lawsuits were frequently raised. With no organs to deal with the lawsuits, the Onshogata was inundated with work related to the lawsuits, and in turn, the work of awarding Onsho became confusing.

In 1334, the administration introduced a system called Yon-ban-sei, under which the whole country was grouped into four regions and a tonin (the director) was appointed for each.
Sadafusa YOSHIDA (tonin for the Tokaido and Tosando regions)
Mitsutsune KUJO (tonin for the Hokurikudo region)
Fujifusa MADENOKOJI (tonin for the Kinai, Sanyodo and Sanindo regions)
Takasuke SHIJO (tonin for the Nankaido and Saikaido regions)
were appointed to the tonin, and Masashige KUSUNOKI and Nagatoshi NAWA were appointed to the Yoryudo (officer of the government). Concurrently holding the posts of tonin and Yoryudo of Zasso-Ketsudansho (agency of Kenmu government to file lawsuits), they were expected to cooperate with each other.

Takauji ASHIKAGA and his fellows, however, declined appointments to the posts in the Onshogata. Meanwhile, a judicial bureaucrat from the overthrown bakufu, a Yoryudo of Zasso-Ketsudansho, was excluded from the Onshogata. When Emperor Godaigo refused Fujifusa MADENOKOJI, who gave candid advice to the emperor about his ultimate decision, Fujifusa absconded and quit the government, and as a result the Onshogata stopped functioning. Although the denso-shu (a consultation form of denso - the job to relay messages of court's people to the Emperor) took charge of the work of awarding Onsho shortly, it was not long before the Kenmu Government collapsed.

Onshogata in the Muromachi bakufu

In 1336, Takauji ASHIKAGA, who had overthrown the Kenmu government, aiming to establish a new government, which later became the Muromachi bakufu, set up the Onshogata (also called Ontakugata) by appointing KO no Moronao as the tonin, who was a high minister of the Ashikaga shogun family and Takauji's steward. Thinking back on the failure of the Kenmu government, Takauji entrusted to the Onshogata a wide spectrum of work including acceptance of applications for the Onsho award, selection of land given as a reward, instructions on a land change (in the trial held between new and old lords, if the land in question belonged to the old lord) and Funshitsu Ando (providing authorization for a substitute document concerning the awarded Onsho), while he left the ultimate decision-making authority to himself.

After the establishment of the bakufu, Takauji transferred not only the civil administration, but also partial authority as a commander to his younger brother Tadayoshi ASHIKAGA for him to be a symbolic person, however, concerning the Onshogata, Takauji made the ultimate decision by understanding the work and participated in discussions when necessary.
Ultimate decision made by Takauji was called 'Goonsata.'
When a confrontation between Takauji and Tadayoshi in the Kanno Disturbance forced Tadayoshi and many bureaucrats supporting Tadayoshi to break away, many organizations in the Muromachi bakufu stopped functioning, but ironically, only the Onshogata was able to maintain its function because bureaucrats supporting Takauji had occupied the posts in the Onshogata.

Yoshiakira ASHIKAGA, who took the initiative in reconstructing the bakufu and later became the second Seii taishogun, designed the reconstruction work with setting a strategic base in the Onshogata, and later presided over a council called Gozensata at the Onshogata. Afterward, Gozensata was changed by Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA, the successor of Yoshiakira, into the virtual highest advisory panel controlled by the chief vassals and close advisers personally chosen by the shogun, which discussed important matters besides administering Onsho awards. When the bugyonin (magistrate, who originally took charge of the office work in the Onshogata) gradually took part in administration as the bugyoshu (group of magistrate, also called yuhitsukata), despite their low ranking in the Onshogata, they were included among the members of Gozensata in accordance with the shogun's instruction and called Onshogatashu (members of the Onshogata).

During the rule of Yoshinori ASHIKAGA, separated from the Onshogata, the Gozensata was incorporated in the center of the bakufu, and the Onshogatashu was generally called 'Gozensatashu' or 'Gozenbugyonin' (bugyonin with qualifications for attending the Gozensata). The Onshogata was also changed into an office for the Gozensata in reality and occupied by the bugyonin, the reserve members of Gozensatashu.

It was presumed that Onshobugyo or Goonbugyo (bugyonin who distributes the rewards), was separately appointed as the 'Betsubugyo' (bugyo with a special mission) from among the members of bugyoshu to engage in the work of awarding Onsho, however, the details are not clear.

[Original Japanese]