Nagasaki bugyo

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  • Japanese: 長崎奉行 (Nagasaki bugyou)

The Nagasaki bugyô, or Nagasaki Magistrates, were the chief officials appointed by the Tokugawa shogunate to oversee local city matters and in particular matters relating to foreign trade at the port of Nagasaki. Though originally there were two appointed to the position - one based in Nagasaki, and one in Edo - the number was later doubled to four in the Genroku period, and then reduced to three, and then back to two by the end of the period. The Nagasaki bugyô enjoyed the same rank or level of prestige as the Osaka jôdai and Kyoto shoshidai, who held similar positions in those two cities.

The position was created by Tokugawa Ieyasu, and remained in place throughout the Edo period. From 1642 until 1670, the bugyô was assisted by a Nagasaki tandai shoku; that post was abolished in 1670. The bugyô also had four machi toshiyori under him who helped administer the inner city, while the daikan of the outer city reported directly to the financial magistrates (kanjô bugyô) in Edo. The total number of officials and staff under the command of the Nagasaki bugyô numbered around 550.[1]

The bugyô were typically hatamoto with a stipend of 500 to 1500 koku. The two (or more) Nagasaki bugyô typically switched places each year, traveling from Edo to Nagasaki through the Inland Sea, and from Nagasaki to Edo along an overland route.[2]

Reception of Ships

A Chinese trading vessel would typically be received at the port in the following manner. First, a lookout spotting the ship would send a messenger to the bugyôsho to report on its size, distance, and description. Other officials were notified, and a few tens of small boats would help tow the junk into the port, where it would drop anchor and sound a gong to announce its arrival. Then, a group of officials, including interpreters, a representative of the Chinese community, and the rotating head of one of the Japanese merchant districts, would board the ship, reading out the ban on Christianity and requiring the Chinese sailors to step on a fumie in order to prove they were not Christians trying to sneak into the country. The crew and cargo manifests and other papers were then checked. Officials paid particular attention to the amount of aloewoods, ginseng, camphor, and musk on board. After the fûsetsugaki (a report on goings-on abroad) was submitted, the Japanese officials left the ship. Nagasaki officials then met and scrutinized the cargo manifest, distributing copies to a number of offices, and to the relevant Japanese merchants.

The ship would begin to be unloaded the following day. The merchant districts of the city took turns being responsible for providing laborers to aid in the work, and being the ones to receive privileges in purchasing the cargo. The head of the Chinese compound met with the ship's crew at the compound warehouses, checking the cargo lists against the actual cargoes, while a group of ashigaru remained on hand in a small boat. Any goods destined for shogunate warehouses (e.g. those types of goods to which the Nagasaki kaisho claimed a monopoly) were sent there directly.

The rest of the crew typically disembarked and took up residence in the Chinese compound the following day, while Japanese guards guarded the Chinese ship and any cannon or other firearms the Chinese might have brought. Meanwhile, Japanese merchants entered the warehouses, inspected the cargoes, and negotiated prices and purchases. An auction was held the following day, with the Chinese taking part in negotiations over prices. The Chinese would then bid and negotiate similarly for any Japanese goods they wished to transport back to China, and the bugyôsho would issue permits for a future return.[3]

Selected Nagasaki Magistrates


  • Marius Jansen, China in the Tokugawa World, Harvard University Press (1992), 11-12.
  1. Daniele Lauro, "Displaying authority: Guns, political legitimacy, and martial pageantry in Tokugawa Japan, 1600 - 1868," MA Thesis, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (2013), 49.
  2. Umimichi wo yuku: Edo jidai no Seto Naikai 海道をゆく-江戸時代の瀬戸内海-, Museum of Ehime History and Culture 愛媛県歴史文化博物館 (1999), 121-122.
  3. Jansen, 31-32.
  4. Jansen, 18.
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