Han system

A Han (Japanese藩; occasionally Principality or Daimyat called ) was in the Edo period awarded by the Shogun feudal to a daimyo ( lords ). It was associated with an income ( kokudaka ) of at least 10,000 koku.

The entire political system of the Shogunate ( Bakufu ) as central government and the subordinate Daimyaten is called bakuhan taisei (幕 藩 体制) or short hansei (藩 政).



The provinces of Japan were (often in the 8th century ) was established in former times by the Imperial Court. They were originally an administrative division of the central government. Parallel to the provinces and the distribution of land after the ritsuryō system developed in Japan as early as the late Heian period (12th century) with the so-called Shoen a feudal system of government.

In the Muromachi period, the bakufu appointed a Shugo daimyo for the government of each province. This remained until the beginning of the Sengoku period ( 15th century), in which no effective central authority was available and local daimyo among themselves fought for supremacy. Most of the Shugo daimyo lost power and were replaced by the Sengoku daimyo. These were warlords, often of lower samurai ranks, the extended their lands by military means. Some of them, like Shimazu of Satsuma province survived until the Edo period. Only the three kingdom unifier Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu were gradually pacify the country and build a new central power. The Han system is due in particular to Hideyoshi, the awarding of lands institutionalized as a fief.

Edo period

In the Edo period, the provinces remain as geographical names. The Han, however, was a local government structure and can be described as a power range of the respective local government. The Han system was determined by the Tokugawa Bakufu. In addition to the han there was the tenryō, land that has been managed directly by the Tokugawa shogunate, and smaller fiefs, such as the hatamoto, which also reported directly to the Shogun.

The number of Daimyate fluctuated slightly between 250 and 300 to the big Daimyaten was a castle with an underlying castle town ( Jokamachi ), was administered from which the fief.

The larger fiefs were in the course of the Edo period almost independent states, with their own border guards and its own currency, the so-called Hansatsu. The richest Han was with more than a million Koku which ruled from the Kaga Maeda, which extended over the provinces of Kaga, Noto and Etchu. Seat of government was the city of Kanazawa, the capital of today - is Ishikawa Prefecture - formed together with the province of Noto.

Meiji Restoration

When the Tokugawa shogunate fell, was named after the Boshin War, first the country under direct Shogunatsbesitz, and converted the fief of the defeated in the war in Han prefectures. 1869 under the leadership of then gave Chōshū Satsuma and almost all the other daimyo back their lands to the emperor, but were left in their posts of this. Amounts collected as taxes went rice from now on, however, directly to the government and the daimyo were government employees. Your post was not hereditary. On 14 July 1871, the Han were abolished during the Meiji Restoration and converted into prefectures.

One exception was the Ryukyu Han, which was formed in 1872 out of the former Ryukyu Kingdom via Priority command and existed until 1879.

The term "Han"

The term Han (藩) for the fiefdom of a daimyo has undergone changes meaning. From the Tokugawa shogunate even the dominions of their vassals were called kachu (家 中). Han, however, comes from the Chinese classics, and was used by educated Confucians such as Arai Hakuseki. From 1868, the term han was developed by the Meiji government used to delineate the feud against the possession of the Shogun, three years before its abolition. The name of the fief as areas of individual daimyo han can thus be found from the Meiji period in history books, not in contemporary sources.

The names of the Han are thereby formed, depending on the source of three different systems, either of the old province, after the name of the castle or by the ruling family. The Han Chōshū example has therefore more than three names:

  • Province Name: Nagato -han (长 门 藩). The problem with this system is that often several Han were in a province, or conversely a Han in several provinces possessed lands.
  • Colloquial Province Name: Chōshū -han. ( Originally " ford "州, " province, region " ) combined case, the first character in the name of the old province (长) is in the on- reading with the character Shuu.
  • Name of the castle / the seat of government: Hagi -han. This name is most likely to clear, but there are cases as just Chōshū in which the seat of government was moved, so Choshu was also known as Yamaguchi -han.
  • The name of the ruling clans: Mōri -han. This naming is problematic insofar as it for a large family like the Matsudaira was who ruled various Han in various lines, as well as several unrelated families with the same name. Also, changed the ruling family of an area when the line became extinct or was deducted from shogunate.

Therefore often a combination of provincial and county seat or province and surname is used to refer to Han clearly. Because of this ambiguity, it is in the literature often confusion between provinces, ruling families and Han.

In addition, the character han (藩) is translated in some bilingual dictionaries as " clan ". However, Japanese monolingual dictionaries only list the meaning of " fiefdom ". Ruling families or clans (similar to Scotland), but referred to in Japanese as ke (家) or shi (氏), not as han (藩). Nevertheless, can be found in sources partly questionable names such as " Satsuma clan ". However, Satsuma is the name of the ancient province, which was ruled by the Shimazu clan.

Relationship between Han and Bakufu

The structures of the Han and the Bakufu, the government of the shogunate, were similar in principle because Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Bakufu, a form of government took over, who had developed his ancestors, when they were still small local daimyo in the province of Mikawa. Some daimyo, especially those whose ancestors had already served the ancestors of the Shogun were the same men of Han and officials of the Bakufu. Although other daimyo had no permanent office, but were called to temporary tasks.

Each daimyo served the shogun and received from him the government authority. The heir of a daimyo should be previously approved by the shogunate. If a biological or adopted son of a daimyo was determined as his father's heir, he traveled to Edo to be recognized by the Shogun. When the shogun refused to recognize, the fief reverted to the Shogun.

Income of Han

In a redistribution process guided by a daimyo fiefs were provided by the shogunate by means which are expressed in koku of rice, called kokudaka. The minimum was 10,000 koku, but there were very large differences. Of the approximately 25 million koku of rice National advent of Shogun kept 5 million for himself, the richest 30 koku han received half of the remaining 20 million. The other 230 han had to share the other half. The Shogun increased or reduced income, depending on behavior of the daimyo, especially in the first half of the Tokugawa. Exceptions to the minimum:

  • Kitsuregawa with about 5,000 koku under the same family, who occupied a special status as direct descendants of the Ashikaga, and
  • Ogawa was the short-lived with 9,820 koku the Mizuno Wakenaga, Tokugawa Ieyasu's a cousin, possibly.