What Was the Bakufu?

Osaka Castle, stands today in the heart of Osaka City.
Osaka Castle, which was built in 1583 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. D. Falconer / Getty Images


The bakufu was the military government of Japan between 1192 and 1868, headed by the shogun.

Prior to 1192, the bakufu was responsible only for warfare and policing, and was firmly subordinate to the imperial court. Over the centuries, however, the bakufu's powers expanded.  Beginning with the Kamakura bakufu in 1192, the shoguns became the effective rulers of Japan, while the emperors were mere figureheads.

In 1868, the Meiji Restoration extinguished the bakufu's authority and returned political power to the emperor.

The word bakufu literally means "tent government" - evocative of the military camps where early bakufus were based.

Pronunciation: "bah - KOO - foo"

Also Known As: shogunate

Examples: "Unfortunately, not many documents remain from the Kamakura bakufu of 1192 - 1333."