Ministry of War (pre-modern Japan)

Premodern Japan
Imperial seal of Japan
Part of a series on the politics and
government of Japan during the
Nara and Heian periods

Chancellor / Chief Minister
Minister of the LeftSadaijin
Minister of the RightUdaijin
Minister of the CenterNaidaijin
Major CounselorDainagon
Middle CounselorChūnagon
Minor CounselorShōnagon
Eight Ministries
Civil AdministrationJibu-shō
Popular AffairsMinbu-shō
Imperial HouseholdKunai-shō

The Ministry of War or Military Ministry[1] (兵部省, Hyōbu-shō), sometimes called Tsuwamono no Tsukasa, was a division of the eighth century Japanese government of the Imperial Court in Kyoto,[2] instituted in the Asuka period and formalized during the Heian period. The Ministry was replaced in the Meiji period.


The highest-ranking official or head of the military (兵部卿,, Hyōbu-kyō) was ordinarily a son or a close relative of the Emperor. This important court officer was responsible for directing all military matters; and after the beginning in the late 12th century, this military man would have been empowered to work with the shogunate on the emperor's behalf.[3]

The ambit of the Ministry's activities encompasses, for example:

  • oversight of the rosters of military officers, including examinations, appointment, ranks, etc.[4]
  • dispatching of troops[4]
  • supervision of arsenals of weapons, guards, fortifications and signal fires[4]
  • maintenance of pastures, military horses, and public and private horses and cattle[4]
  • administration of postal stations[4]
  • control of the manufacture of weapons and weapon-makers[4]
  • oversight of drumming and in flute playing[4]
  • control of public and private means of water transportation[4]
  • regulation of the training of hawks and dogs.[4]


The ministry was established as part of the Taika Reforms and Ritsuryō laws which were initiated in the Asuka period and formalized during the Heian period. After 702, the Hyōbu-shō replaced the Hyōseikan, which was created in 683.[5]

In the Edo period, titles associated with the ministry became ceremonial titles.

In the Meiji period, the hyōbu-shō was reorganized into a modern Ministry of War and Ministry of the Navy.


The Asuka-, Nara- and Heian-period Imperial court hierarchy encompassed a ministry dealing with military affairs.[1]

In the 18th century, the top ritsuryō officials within this ministry structure were:

  • Minister or chief official (兵部卿, Hyōbu-kyō), usually a son or a close relative of the Emperor.[6]
  • First assistant to the Minister (兵部大輔, Hyōbu-taifu).[3]
  • Second assistant to the Minister (兵部少輔, Hyōbu-shō).[3]
  • Senior staff officer (兵部大丞, Hyōbu no dai-jō).[3]
  • Junior staff officers (兵部少丞, Hyōbu no shō-jō), two positions.[3]
  • Director of dance (隼人正, Hayato no kami), considered a very low rank.[3]
  • First assistant director (隼人佑, Hayato no jō).[3]
  • Alternate assistant director (隼人令史, Hayato no sakan).[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Ministry of War, Sheffield.
  2. ^ Kawakami, Karl Kiyoshi. (1903). The Political Ideas of the Modern Japan, pp. 36-38., p. 36, at Google Books
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Annales des empereurs du japon, p. 431., p. 431, at Google Books
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Kawakami, p. 37 n3,, p. 37, at Google Books citing Ito Hirobumi, Commentaries on the Japanese Constitution, p. 87 (1889).
  5. ^ Nussbaum, Louis Frédéric et al. (2005). "Hyōbusho" in Japan Encyclopedia, p. 363., p. 363, at Google Books
  6. ^ Varley, Paul. (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki, p. 272; Titsingh, p. 431.


Further reading[edit]