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  • Japanese: 幕府 (Bakufu)

Bakufu (lit. "tent government") is a term commonly used to refer to the samurai government, or shogunate. The term, however, was not commonly used during the periods of samurai rule. Instead, kôgi ("public authority") was among the most common terms employed to refer to the government. The term bakufu, by contrast, only came into common usage within the Mito school of historical philosophy, during the mid- or late Edo period; Mito scholars used the term to contrast with their vision of Japan as an "imperial country" (kôkoku), under an Emperor as the source of authority. This represented a significant shift in relations between the shogunate and the Imperial Court around this time. The use of the term bakufu only became truly standard during the Bakumatsu period (1853-1868), when the sonnô jôi movement identified the "bakufu" as its target of opposition, and in the Meiji period (1868-1912) when the term became properly entrenched through its use in the public education curriculum.[1]

The term ryûei (柳営, lit. "willow camp") was also sometimes used to refer to the shogunate. Perhaps the most prominent example of this use is the Ryûei Hinami-ki, a record of the Tokugawa shogunate. The term ryûei derives from a reference to the Book of Han, in which Han Dynasty general Zhou Yafu made camp at a place called Xì liǔ ("thin willow") while preparing to defend against Xiongnu invasion. The shogunate, as a "tent government" (bakufu) or metaphorical military encampment, was thus called ryûei in reference to that camp. The term can also refer to the person of the shogun himself, or to his family.[2]


  1. Watanabe Hiroshi, Luke Roberts (trans.), "About Some Japanese Historical Terms," Sino-Japanese Studies 10:2 (1998), 32-35.
  2. "Ryûei," Digital Daijisen, Shogakukan, Inc.