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Japan’s Early Modern Period — Tokugawa



By Michael Johnathan McDonald

Tokugawa Era  (Edo Period)

Status Level Boxes

Lands directly under Tenryō – Direct support of the Tokugawa

Mangers/Moral elite



Artists, creators


Money lenders, merchants ( Considered bad).

Most medieval merchants looked down upon


  • Daimyō 1614-16 a code of allegiance, controlled small inter-province aspects.

  • Nagasaki: Foreign trade

  • Edo ( modern Tokyo), Tokugawa Capital ( administration)

  • Osaka, the market place. Samurai and Daimyō must take their stipened rice to sell in this commercial castle-town

  • Good Will: Tokugawa controlled for reasons of establishing harmony

  • All roads and interstates, able to inspect shipments and movements.

  • All mines of copper, gold and silver

  • Point all these below were policies to weaken the Daimyō.

Loyal Oaths: 1614-16:

  • Thwart any form of familiar alliance: example Tozama could not marry each other.
  • Daimyō watched like criminals.
  • Loyal Oaths taken multiple times for each house and for every aspect of contention.

Onetsuke [ ph. Ownets-kay] inspector

  • Spy department, paid people to rat-out potential law violators.

Policy of Sankin-Kotai [ Ph Sun-king-ko-tie]

  • 1630 edict for all Daimyō to spend 2-3 years in Edo ( so they could not form permanent bonds in their realms).
    • More important, in retrospect, than Iemitsu's measures of urban control were his moves to regularize the daimyo hostage practice that had operated haphazardly since Ieyasu's day. During the 1630s he developed it into the intricate sankin kotai , or "alternate attendance" system, in which lords and large numbers of retainers moved between castle towns and Edo every year, and wives, heirs, and suitable numbers of attendants lived in Edo permanently. Sankin kotai became the single most important mechanism of daimyo control, remaining intact and little changed until 1862. (tot 108)
  • Must build a mansion for the shogun, must spend one’s own money on the shogun, and attend Tokugawa functions.
  • Also be of service and act as a servant to the Tokugawa.
  • Late in period many reverted changes to this policy

Castle Towns.

  • Edo’s architecture of administration served as a blue print for all towns and villages and was a weapon of control – a keystone of the control machinery . the Edo service established a pattern of uniform castle towns and used the same construction plans, but on a smaller scale.
  • Castle in the middle, with the women harem at the center, and branching-off form all sides were the administration buildings and all other functionaries of law and administration.
  • Courts made up many wings.
  • The bakufu developed under the Tokugawa, and there were no administration apparatuses in pre-Tokugawa Japan – of the likes of Tokugawa, but the Edo Castle created the model of bureaucracy, which made up eventually of 1,000,000 people.

Point: all these above were policies to weaken the Daimyō.

Edo Castle-Town Bureaucracy

  • Courts offered places for commoners to come in an use to make a complaint, but these courts were under the jurisdiction of the Daimyō.
  • There were courts specifically for the samurai.
  • No precedence was used in court of law, of the likes we understand in modern western or Islamic courts.
  • Fudai, Hatamoto & Hake were the Military-Civil bureaucracy.
  • Office of Inspector-General. This position saw the collection of census taking, oversaw the examiners, and carried out the correct policies.
  • Shogun advisory, made up the council of state, and  formed state policy.
  • Chamberlains and rival shoguns often employed dirty politics, sometimes accusing appointments of favor. ( Homosexuality among samurai was common; a major theme, in society, such as the Classical Greeks).
  • Artisans, merchants had their own smaller-scaled administrations to run.
  • A position of magistrate of Religious Affairs, over say wandering ascetics, and dealt with the homeless population.
  • Infandant’s surveyed land for potential assessment of tax revenue. Cadastral Surveys – to determine productivity of land. This was done because of central government’s distrust in the local village people ( who knew they knew, and so both sides knew they both knew) , which they accuse the villagers, in general, of cheating total tax payments. In the famine periods, this becomes a huge issue for both sides. During times of great abundance, rules became laxed, and the fact that a proficient cadastral was only issued for a village once in a life-time of a certain family house. There was a particular esteemed amount of trust for this policy. The Samurai didn’t like to go into the village to oversee if the correct measures were being taken, until later on the Tokugawa period.
  • When the shogun was out of town, a selected Daimyō took temporal control.
  • Daimyō were told to mimic this type of administration in their new castle towns

Nagasaki Castle-Town

  • Officials controlled society
  • Younger – leader officers and Fudai of lesser importance in direct charge of Shogun Military Affairs and other groups.

Osaka Castle-Town: Governance

  • Commerce Center of the Edo Bakufu.
  • All Samurai, Daimyō must bring rice-stipends to be sold here.
  • The watchers- (my term),  A & B appointments , where oscillating positions take place at intervals, mostly each month. A works January- let say, and B fills in for February.  This helps keep bribes to a minimum. And sometimes three –persons would rotate in one official position. However, these systems brought up buck- passing, where no one would take full responsibility. Therefore,  who would  face punishment?
  • The watcher’s system slowed the Tokugawa system down immensely, but this was how they believed the best rout for their society’s moral system.
  • 1614-15 Osaka
  • 1620s estimated peek of bakufu silver mines on Sado yielded some sixty to ninety thousand kilograms of bullion per annum. Until the 1630s, these mines played a large part in domestic and foreign trade.

Stipend System

  • One’s stipend is gauged upon one’s family heritage.
  • Stipend ranks are determined by the amount of Koku ( rice that could be consumed by one person in a year)
  • A high rank  was 2,500 and higher, and the low rank was, well variable.
  • Augmented stipend policies did enter politics at some periodic cycles. These were helping issues in famine-periods and other natural or man-made disasters. Fires in Edo were common and a hindrance to the timber industry.

State & Problems  Periods of Reform




Name (decent status)

Reign dates

Life dates


Ieyasu (Founder)

1603/2/12/ -1605/4/16



Hidetada (son)

1605/4/16 -1623/7/27



Iemitsu (son)

1623/7/27 -1651/4/20



Ietsuna (sun)

1651/8/18- 1680/5/8



Tunayoshi (brother)




Ienobu (nephew)




Ietsugu (son)

1713/4/2 -1716/4/30



Yoshimune (near cousin)




Ieshige (son)




Ieharu (son)

1760/9/2- 1786/9/8



Ienari (near cousin)




Ieyoshi (son)




Iesada (son)

1853/10/23 -1858/7/4



Iemochi (distant cousin)

1858/10/25 -1866/8/11



Yoshinobu (distant cousin)

1866/12/5 -1867/12/9


– Establishment & Reforms

Dō (ph. Doe)/ nichi = way or road ( like the way of the samurai); meant what are the ideals of moral or things.

Religious targets;

o        Christianity

o        Hokke Buddhism ( Fujufuse sect,  reason: inflexible fundamental (tot129)

Ieyasu (1603/2/12/ -1605/4/16)

·         Expelled missionaries, outlawed the practice of Christianity, and tried to make a trade link with the Iberians.

Hidetada (1605/4/16 -1623/7/27)

·         Continued to encourage foreign trade, but wanted to Christianity imports.

·         By 1613 Ieyasu had Dutchmen and Englishmen to trade with, so the following year as scandals erupted and domestic affairs worsened, he decided to sever the Iberian connection.

·         1617, Brothel’s of Edo placed into licensed quarter, most notably Yoshiwara in Edo. This is part of a suppression of lavishness, not a total banishment. Argument. Restraining recreation excess did not, however, eradicate popular entertainment or its producers. (tot195).

Iemitsu (1623/7/27 - 1651/4/20)

·         Genroki period ( 1688-1704).

·         Crystallization of the Tokugawa system.

·         Under him The Tokugawa ideology system was established.

·         1629, Brothel Shimmachi activities regulated into secure quarters of the castle-town of Osaka.

·         Restrictions on Christian literature.

·         Edicts limiting consumption began appearing when Ieyasu was alive. 1683 at least seven laws specified what forms of clothes to wear. (tot 136).

·         Rules about clothing may have been most common.

·         Other controls: what people ate, size of house, the scale of entertainment, choice of construction materials, weddings, funerals and other ritual occasions, and a plethora of o objects used in daily life (tot 136).

·         1632, the newly pacified realm was still ruled by the rough and tumble of the fighting men, who governed through simple and hierarchal structures of authoritarian control. (tot 58)

·         Yamaga Soko (b. 1622)  formulated a philosophy called “ the Way of the Warrior,” known as bushidō. Soku’s writings reveal his concern to provide samurai with useful and appropriate instruction. In particular, he saw the discipline of the military arts as valuable, arguing that in the absence of warfare, the samurai’s task was to discipline himself to fill properly the peacetime role of society’s leader and culture model. He produces works on military ethics from 1650s onward. (tot 172).

Tunayoshi (1680/8/23-1709/1/10)

·         Genroki period ( 1688-1704).

consumption laws: deterioated under Iemitsu and then flooded under Tsunayoshi.

Yoshimune (1716’45)

·       Kyōhō period (1716-36)

·         His nickname: ‘The rice shogun’.

·         He was a hands on ruler.

·         Significant policy phrase: From recoinage to sumptuary laws.

·         Christian literature of astronomy, calendar-making and other scientific books allowed into society, for the advancement of science. Also literature of medicine. Must of the most advanced forms of astronomy and calandrics were done by Christian westerners. Before 1720 no Christian literature at all.

·         A period where everyone saw prosperity, but did not plan for the future, where somewhat ecological and biomass waste saw dissipation at the hands of quick prosperity.

·         A word not liked by Tokugawan historians, but a class that did arise during this period, was the bourgeoisies.

·         A culture of merchants.

·         Yoshimune’s  Agricultural Promotions.

·         Sugarcane (production)

·         Ginseng domestication reduced imports from Korea (1730s).

·         The sweet potato cultivated in Ryūkyūs by the 1600s was now promoted in terms of public value because it was an alternative to rice, which had some many price fluctuations and harvest difficulties in periods.

·         Shipping reforms. To slow copper exports he reduced Nagasaki Chinese trade from twenty-nine ships to twenty-five ships in 1736, and further limited them six years later to ten ships. The bakufu minted some iron coins in Nagasaki, as well.

·         Ofuregaki kampō shūsei, in 1742 ( second year of the kampō period, he ordered all decrees from 1615 until 1742 to be chronologically produced and archived so that shogun could refer to what these 3,550 decrees did and to see which ones made good policy.

·         Calls for Frugality: He issued public decrees regulating women’s dress, behavior of nuns, daimyō recreation, highway usage, and manners and morals in general. He insisted on periodic population censuses and issued decrees relating to mortgage and sale of land, sale of women, abandonment of children, secret adoption, and unauthorized wearing of swords or use of family names (310, Totman).

·         Yoshimune’s triumphs lay in his implementation of the sumptuary laws, which ended his recoinage  reforms of the last twenty years.

·         Tried to limit micro-farming and promote landlordism.

·         He forbade the villages to divide land holdings.

·         Eased the debts of peasants form money lenders.

·         Flatly prohibited mortgages on paddy fields.

·         However, lands kept slipping into merchant’s hands.

·         1762 law of transference of land to other peasants but not to merchants.

·         1727-28 finances improved, and reforms disrupted in 1729-35.

·         The replacement of currency with high-quality coinage was successful by 1718, but then drove down the price of rice which affected the tax – koku revenue.

·         Non stau, the driving up of the value of money was initially prohibited in 1707, but successfully brought back in 1730s.

·         1732-33 uchi kowashi, incidents of urban smashing, connected to rice shortages and merchants making large profits out of crisis situations.

·         1735-36 Yoshimune abandoned his twenty-year policy of currency reform.

·         1736 Emperiodics: Kyōhō ended and Genbun begin.

·         1736 the shogun authorized the debasement of Ietsugu’s gold and silver coins to get new issue in to circulation  - he offered a premium for the old coins and this worked as people sent them in.

·         A quarter century of financial stability, not seen in Tokugawa before or since.

·         Yoshimune advocated rooftile, and in 1740 , he made thirty-two lords tile their mansions.

·         His agriculture programs helped offset problems that soon would arise. By fostering new crops he addressed the ecological problems of his time.

·         Kuniyabu bushin policy enabled Yoshimune pursued  major river repair, which was a central theme of his rule up until 1732, but problems existed as the  villagers used these funds for their own rivertine needs. Typhoons and the Kyōhō famine created  major fiscal burdens.

·         Yoshimune displayed more creative imagination in problem solving than many pervious administrations.

·         He ultimately gave the 18th Century Tokugawa its structure.


Period of stasis: 1751-1790

  • Variable protests and reforms

  • Crop failures and famine

  • Common Land

  • Corveé duty

  1. 1660 Domain paper money  ( han satsu) appeared after Edo outlawed Edo han coins. Reauthorized in 1730 which became common currency.
  2. Saku Sogoro was crucified for protesting, but these episodes only made these individuals champions of the common people and they in turn made these figures worshiped and idealized as gods.
  3. Uchi kowashi, was the term where peasants’ smashed the stores, houses and building of the money lenders.
  4. Common land: iriaichi, was the emergency land of villages given as a collective whole for farming and surviving in case of famines or other natural disasters and was issued as a program early on in the Tokugawa system. However, land reclamation, and land clearing reduced the amount of common land, increasing suffering during these natural disasters and hard times. Common land could be seen as protective rich-soil, and where roots and other natural plants served in time of dire need for the peasants in any particular village.
  5. Sukegō duty, was a decree to villages settled alongside major highways where the government ordered the people to provide horses, corveé labor and porters to help officials cross the land. Each decade an increase in demand for people and horses incurred resentment, as these were poorly paid positions, and positions of noble abuse.
  6. River crossings were one of these duties and the peasants had to hoist by planks the officials across rivers to keep them dry. It was hard and poorly paid ‘forced’ labor. Often workers would not show up on time and this slowed the transformational system of the entire government.
  7. By the 1770s, samurai became poor and began bargaining, making pottery  and acting like peasants to make a living.
  8. Still tax orthodoxy, meant only the agriculture ( of only lands directly controlled by the Tokugawa) should be taxed.
  9. 1760 transfer of silver from Osaka to Edo (1.6 million gold ryō worth).
  10. Takenouchi Shikibu, argued feudal lords lose power in ten generations, meaning the shogun in this sense, but emperors do not have this problem ( he thought).
  11. Yamagota Daini, called for an army if new laws suggested by him to punish corrupted government officials were not implemented. He also advocated for the assassination of the shogun leader and said that this was a humane way of dealing with their abuse of power and not listening to the peasants. He was accused of fostering by way of his teachings the 1764 Obata ( in that vicinity) anti-corveé uprising called the post-horse rebellion.

Tamuma Okitsugi ( 1760-’86)

·       Tanuma Okitsugu  chamberlain of the Tokugawa shogunate.

·         Different person from other Tokugawa leaders, somewhat of a problem

·         Very interesting character.

·         Came from a relatively humble samurai background.

·         He was intelligent, but gained power from a sexual favors (a relationship) which people frowned upon, but did happen on occasion.

·         He took a total different approach to the economy, which is seen today as very progressive.

·         He for the first time suggested taxing the merchants to get the central government an increased tax-base.

·         He tried to transform the economy which he received a backlash, from traditionalists.

·         When he died many rejoiced and celebrated. When his son was assassinated another celebration erupted.

·         Looking back now, his reforms were exactly what the Tokugawa system needed, ironically. It was the right course.

·         He was the most powerful non-shogun leader of the Tokugawa period.

·         He was a page to Ieshige, later becoming a shogun in 1745.

·         Worked his way up from 600 to 10,000 t0 20,000 koku rights and was allowed to build a castle.

·         During Daini’s episode he was promoted to the rank of 20,000 koku, and probably had a say in the decision of the matter.

·         According to anti- Tanuma scholars, He gained a reputation for corruption, encouraged expensive gift giving, primarily to enrich himself, let the daimyō off the hook in river duty allowing them to spend time building their mansions, and basically was pro-rich-class.

·         1782 he approved the most ambitious canal project by Edo, which was damaged by flooding caused by surprise weather, and flooded a large area and he was blamed for this, and anti-Tinumans ascribe that he spent all the governments money and he then had to bilk money from daimyō, increase taxes on certain things, manipulated the currency, and called for austerity – thus causing people to dislike him. This project was to reclaim a large portion of Kantō swampland.  The next two years are periods of constant unrest, and attributed to his policies. He needed to borrow money form the feudal lords, and make many financial measures which lead to nothing in regards to the needs to address the damage of the disaster.

·         A personal insult, it is claimed, caused his son to be wounded and then died, and the assailant was applauded and raised to a savior figure and idealized.

·         The people initially didn’t like him because he gained power from sexual ties to the shogun in power, either female or male.

·         His political enemies were now organizing.

·         In the summer of 1786, 51 year old Ieharu fell ill and rumors of posing filled the castle with great shinpenlords that moved in and took over power. They halted Tanuma’s land and reclamation schemes, cashiered some of his officials, and accepted the resignation that he prudently tendered on ground of ill heath. Ten days later the shogun’s death was announced, many of his officers were relived of duty, and Tanuma political machine remained in power, and his allies  managed to stall moves by his enemies to put Matsudaira Sadanobu into high-office and even began suggesting that Tanuma should be restored to full power.

·         A stalemate dragged on for months, and a food shortage caused by the crop failure of 1786 finally precipitated an upheaval so great that it discredited the old guard, opening the way for the new regime (T 345-6).

·         The crop failure had caused over one-hundred disturbances throughout the country, according to Herman Ooms, and by the end of the year (1786) swarms of old men and women descended on Edo, as beggars and homeless (T 346).

·         This caused the worst riot Edo had ever known. (Broke out May 5, 1787), as 980 rice shops were raided and countless stores were damaged. Calls were uttered for “World Renovation.” The people that participated in this hoped a semi-religious or spiritual movement would produce an egalitarian world order. After tow days of turmoil, three-thousand military personal were sent in to squelch the riot/protests.

·         Popular upheaval had achieved what machinations of the political elite had failed to do (T 346). Tanuma’s reign was over as within weeks his title of Daimyō and mansion in Edo were confiscated and his lands at Sagara were confiscated.

·         When Tanuma died in 1788, the people celebrated just as they did the death of his son.

·         With the fall of Tanuma, Edo came into the hands of Matsudaira Sadanobu. He faced the same issues, but he reintroduced ideology and continued foreign policy, two issued that the people saw as necessary to go forward. His initiatives in these areas became trends for the next half-century (T 346).

·         1664, Edo reacted to the evidence of Christianity’s apparent spread by ordering all daimyō by the backufu. Thy policy of strict control that had previously been required only on bakufu lands, and left to daimyō to implement as they chose elsewhere, was henceforth to be applied by everyone. (tot129).

·         1665: Only licensed shrines could operate.

·         1790 After this time foreign matters created huge problems for the Tokugawa government.

·         Beginning of Stasis  crumbling: Industrial Euro-American societies slowly established their commercial, political and,  intellectual presence in east Asia.

·         Culture changed, as Kabuki, Haikai, and ukiuyo-e saw its status put on the back burner for new fads and styles – but never lost.

·         The legality of the shogun remained a clear demarcation of class distinction.

·          Bushi privileges had life or death privileges, the power to end of give life to any commoner. This law would become a class basis for war.

·         Collective responsibility & Punishment , the five main houses of the standard agrarian village, had a headman take charge as responsible for all the families in the community, and he was sanctioned by the daimyō. He could lose his life at the worst possible scenario, but other methods of punishment were branding the foreheads of thieves, cutting of arms of robbers ( if the left arm was gone a citizen automatically knew this arm was the culprit in robbery). Slit the nostrils, the body sawn in half, and other degrees of punishments were issued by detailed orders issued at all farms so that citizens’ could understand the what the culprit did to get his punishment. However, Japanese torture was never as severe as the Chinese in history. Chinese punishments were much worse.

·         Family lineage the Bushi were under stress to keep their family lineage going. When a member could not continue by way of birth defectiveness, the family had an option of adoption, common in Japanese history. Adoption was a flexible procedure. A poor family on the other hand was not under pressure to continue its line, because according the Tokugawa law, all classes were static, and no family could raise itself above its original rank. Therefore, the census’ taken ever year for agrarian families, saw many family names disappear form the records and history. Initially peasant families were not allowed to venture from their villages. This comes later when famines and social disorder breaks down. Samurai mattered and they needed to keep their lineage in tack for family purposes.

·         Legal framework Confucianism frame work taught that by nature the top rules and the bottom follows. This became the foundation of the Tokugawa. Also, there were no mobility ( Japanese interpretation) of classes ( no meritocracy as in China). So, the nature of frozen nativity in place, it was immoral for the peasant to rise in status – therefore, many ceased to care to preserve what little life they had. The argument was this is the way things are, were and will be. Therefore, religion mattered to the hopeless peasant. There was a better place, at least somewhere.

·         Class Census Every year for the peasants in the agrarian villages, there was a census taken for each of the families in the provinces. To do this, one needed to go to the local Buddhist temple and register. The headman, needed an extra provision. He was called upon to stomp on the Christian Bible, declare his villagers were not Christians, and he himself needed to declare Christianity as an immoral religion. Usually this census was carried out at the beginning of the year. This was an attempt by the Tokugawa to keep societies immobile. They tracked family names. Also, it was a reasonable opportunity for historians ( then and now) to understand what was going on in the villages.

·         Christian Peasants the notion of Christian peasants is a misnomer. There were and had been revolts that took place with Daimyō, Samurai and many other variable – ranking class people who took part in Christian revolts. Christianity in Japan was a problem for the Tokugawa. The Japanese who lived under the Christian theme, believed a more higher moral standard of living existed then the Tokugawa system. On the other hand, the Tokugawa feared Christianity for its freedom doctrinal exploits which threatened power structures themselves. Therefore, Tokugawa dealt with Christian communities in the strictest sense.

·         Tokugawa merchant class creation In reality the Tokugawa didn’t want to create a merchant class, remember they are the bottom of the moral-ranking system, and considered immoral, but needed. So only in Osaka, where the Tokugawa could keep watch of rice distribution, was the only major city in which this was done – and not in the villages or regional trade posts. Therefore, to transport rice, merchants were needed to haul the goods to Osaka and to its destination, and thus the Tokugawa created their own problem – the merchant class. They will become rich and powerful becoming a factor of policies significance later on.

·         Ships Small Tokugawa purposely forbid large ship-building. This way no Tozama or Daimyō could transport large fleets of men for an insurrection. This of course created transportation restriction. They also considered that building large ships would increase foreign (coastal that is ) trade, and this would lead to a free market economy ( Capitalism) and created disorder and threaten their economic control. They held about 2/3 of all the major industries, and all the roads, as well as most of the copper, silver and gold mines. Increased consumption problem arose and some historians cite these policies as one point in factor ( not the whole).

·         By these restrictions they governed by this status-quo.

·         1790s onward: political scholarship entered into the social arena. It stimulated intellectuals and society, giving it some good ideas and some bad ideas. The old system of stasis and longevity with ideology was crumbling with the introduction of the outside world. What did the outside world do; what did it think; and more importantly what was out there?

·         Another trend after 1790s was the focus on Edo’s lifestyle as a complete synergy of expression. “ Edocentrism” it was called. The metropolis of newly formed worlds of ideas and customs. This was the new politico-economic-cultural center and the economic engine of Japan.

·         Russian encroachment vie Ezo ( northeast)

·         1840s Euro-American encroachment from the south.

·         The bakufu forced their vassals to cut stipends to their samurai and these trends upset the who balance of power. Some political officers gave up and left politics to form other careers which would bring them a decent living. Others formed groups to pursuer reformist thought, and to understand what happened to their system. Now there were many samurai that were disillusioned with the Tokugawa system. At this period, the magic and understanding that living in a fantasy land was more bearable then remaining the reality to see the society crumbling beneath them, a society that many hated in the beginning, but became to have pride in and therefore were in want to escape the inevitable.

·         Acceptance of  the life of a bunjin, or aesthete, a sort of Taoist sagely alternative to dutiful Confucian serve as a loyal samurai, became many career (T 350).


Ienari (1787/4/15-1837/4/2)

·         Further spread of education.

·         Proprietary and domain schools, Terakoya and Shingaku schools

·         Naturalizing the Alien and Sanctioning the Lowly.  

Shogun by number

Shoguns 1-3 (1603-1651)

·         High Tokugawa Period.

·         First three shogun periods saw the rise of the Tokugawa machine, the consolidation of their ideology and grip on the state called Japan. Boxed in were the Tozama, by flanking loyal daimyō.

·         Hideyoshi began the archetype Tokugawa Administration Castle towns, eventually mimic across Japan by edict.

·         Daimyō safe from losing their positions up until 1615.

·         Precedence came into being (??)

·         Iemitsu crystallized the Tokugawa system.

Shoguns 4-7 (1651-1716)

·    A Period of Prosperity. ( many building and job opportunities, abundant environmental opportunities, restricted later on due to deforestation, environmental issues.)

·         System relaxed. ( stable-employment means relaxed social atmosphere)

·         National prosperity. city- building increases pride.

·         1700 population to 35,000,000.

·         Period of Chinese National Studies. Learning how to govern in a growing bureaucracy.

·         Chinese ideas spread throughout the land.

·         National operation with only a partial taxation of Japan.

·         Not enough tax revenue so they start to become bankrupt.

·         Made no efforts to increase taxes.

·         This period saw Genroku ( urban culture).

·         Urban development centers.

·         1761-36 the first reforms address new land reclamation, agrarian culture and the introduction of new crops.

·         Reforms of frugality.

·         Reforms of clothing police This kept a strict-watch on people’s class-rank appeal. One could even go to jail for defying the authority to dress appropriately.

·         These programs had no success at all.

·         1786, Tanuma Okitsugu, chamberlain proposed a better reform for Japan. He called on effort to begin mercantilism to get Japan back on track. His method was to have merchants turn profits then be forced to pay taxes to the Tokugawa Administration which would work as domain profits. This way a modern-type of taxation would support the federal expenditures. However, this administration was a pre-modern one, and many could not grasp it, so thus being so, most frowned upon this major proposal and Okitsuga suffered the blame-game politics. The Tokugawa system kept decreasing in sustainability of the entire system and he got the blame. Also, this period of his time Japan saw many calamities which overbear the burden for any type of minor reform.

Shoguns 8-10 (1787-1795)

·       Kansei Reforms.

·         Economic Times of Trouble.

·         Sadanabo Reform was run by the meticulous person who became known as Tonaoshi Daimyō. He was considered great because he dealt with crisis well. He is seen as a divine rectifier, and world renewer – seen as a deity.

·         Shogun depleted their financial reserves.

·         Tokugawa always had major portions of big industries. But still they had economic problems.

·         No universals tax system, and only a tax over lands they directly held.

·         They went totally bankrupt and then borrowed and went into debt.

·         A national operation such as this system without a national tax plan and implication created most of the troubles.

·         The planned cash crops, cotton and tobacco, to ease the financial strain.

·         When into reform modes.

·         Cities, like Edo, caught fire continuously, and a prohibition on tiled roofs ( unknown reason) lead to more wide-ranging fires in the cities, despite the lookouts. The Timber Industry depleted by decades of felling, created a wood shortage, and when there were sources for wood, they came from afar and cost plenty of money.

·         Only be the beginning of the 19th Century did Tokugawa issue an ordinance for tile roofing. The tile used was of higher technology than the old-one they had banned. A thinner, easier constructible product. It is quite possible that the Tiles technology used prior needed advanced supporting system, because of weight, which caused an unfeasibility to implementing the older-types of heavy-tiles onto the Edo roofs.

·         A commercial society arose

·         In the 19th Century, the less developed areas of Japan began to develop the most rice.

·         Some historians cite cannibalism, hunger and starvation, due to coupling factors weighted by the serious and the major famine years.

Shoguns 11-12 (?)

·         Clear Period of Shogun decay.

·         System falling apart.

·         Wealthy peasants arising.

·         Merchants getting rich (again they pay no tax). They meagerly became more important in society now.

·         Shoguns in serious debt to the merchants.

·         Bakufu became corrupt.

·         Rebellions in Osaka.

·         Rebellions suppressed but became totems of opposition to the Tokugawa government.

·         Debasement of coins and the Tokugawa scrapping off metal form older-coins to reissue a new line. They accidentally shipped most of their gold, silver and copper out of the country (mostly on Dutch ships) because that is what was demanded for trade.

·         They issued paper money, which was of no worth (no precious metal backing).

·         1841-43 Tempo Reform, limit the commerce,

o       Just outright take the income of others.

o       Some trade legislation passed.

o       Peasants went to Edo, but told to return.

o       Kabuki morphs into the magical, mythical and spiritual- fantasy-like drama. Nothing could happen except by a magical occurrence. The people left reality and forged into unreality to escape the problems of the day they saw they could not fix.

Shoguns 13-15 (1853-68)

·         Shogun

·         Commander Mathew Perry shows up form the U.S. and tells the Tokugawa government that the U.S.A. is sending emissaries to the Tokugawa.

·         The U.S. was concerned about the Chinese/British Opium wars.

·         Sanki Tokai, modified then stopped.

·          Edo sees an evacuation of daimyō and samurai leading to a depopulation of 400,000 ( 1,000,000 down to 600,000).

·         Several Daimyō break off and form a faction to take over Japan.

·         Chosu could not be suppressed by the Tokugawa

·         1867, The last Shogun, a smart person resigns the position ending the Tokugawa era.


Argument: How long can prosperity last? What is boredom, how does the lower classes feel they are left out of prosperity and the good life?


What is the relationship between the Samurai and the Daimyō?


Kokka and Kuni make up the prime objective of the relationship.

·         Together they represent: A horizontal understanding of lineage, heredity and heritage, tied intrinsically with a vertical understanding of simplistic neo-Confucianism temporal power.

·         In reality, Kuni embodies temporal power while kokka embodies permanent power, but the temporal’s authority abstractly has jurisdiction over the Tokugawa hierarchical right.

·         As complex as this may seem, most citizens of Tokugawan could understand this. We know this by reading the prime source documentation of samurai and daimyō’s correspondence, documentation, and decree.  It would be only at the peasant level where the understanding diminished to traditional feudal reasoning directly corresponding to literate abilities.  

·         That being said, the historians of recent have ill-defined, albeit innocently,  the Tokugawa system with terms that do not match the actual functioning of Tokugawa government. 

·         The way the Tokugawa were able to achieve this contradiction was to place every social class strictly into tight-definitional-fixed boxes. The Shoganate line contradicted by definitional – separation the daimyō line, and they were both tied to kuni and kokka respectively in order to make the system function as a single line. Both in theory had power over the other, but it was generally understood and practiced that the Shogun had supreme control, as abstractly as that could comprehended. 

Kuni (Code of  jinsei; benevolent government)

·         Bakufu / han

·         Single minded disciplinary power to the ideology of benevolent rule, yet complex and worldly – the disciplinary power coming from one’s comprehending its understanding of the intricacies and contradistinctions.

·         As vertical social arrangement kuni is seen as a  two way street and everyone is tied to it.

·         The Neo-Confucian thought which pervaded the ideology of the Tokugawa system can be summed up in one term as jinsei.

·         A horizontal understanding of lineage, heredity and heritage, tied intrinsically with a vertical understanding of simplistic neo-Confucianism.

·         Duties: daimyō maintain the house to pass on, but need to pass it on in a condition the same or better than they inherited it. It is like a subway rider who rides the train and gets off at the end, but some how must leave it in a better condition, theoretically, then when he boarded it.

·         A house can never be stained, marred or dishonored, and if so, one has recourse including options to file for retribution, even against a Shogun.

·         A daimyō can be requested to move by a shogun or ordered to move by a shogun.  If the daimyō refuse he has a vendetta right to pursue in Edo, with time limitations, of he can usually go to his castle, and feign revolt against the shogun, taking a chance that the shogun will back-off. 

Kokka ( the ideology of house)

·         Daimyō don’t own the house of the domain, it is owned by the ancestors. He is just a rider that will eventually get off the ride and leave the position to the next rider.

·         Daimyō do not have rights of a private owner, but they have rights to give that domain to their heirs. Even still,  they need to make sure that their heirs are going to administer that domain with their own domainal- version of jinsei.

·         Daimyō are sovereigns of their own house, but just not owners. They are the quintessential retainer, the manager of their domain.

·         In the Tokugawa era Kokka only refers to the house, the concept of the house in context, a continuous domain rather than a domain of trust.

·         As horizontal social arrangement Kokka  is seen as a one way street and only its identity is tied to it.

·         The complexity is seen when one understands that the one way street needs to cross the two way street and both become a sophisticated junction whereby interaction becomes the link to the Japanese Tokugawa System.

·         Shogun in essence rules outright the Daimyō, but the Daimyō have autonomous power over the Shogun.

·         Filial is second only to jinsei. First the house must be ruled with benevolence, and second he must have filially to the Shogun.

·         One can see the contradiction, but it is not a contradiction when looking whole-hardily at the system that functioned for at least two centuries.

·         Daimyō need to see each other as equals, and this cultural function acted upon the desires of acceptance, unity, understanding, and competition.

·         If the daimyō fail in a domain, then peasant revolts take place.

·         A Daimyō could be seen by other daimyō as not demonstrating correct jinsei, and therefore leave them without emotional support when the shogun come to enquire what happened. The Daimyō needs understanding from his neighbor daimyō in case it is the shogun enacting hard measures on the domain, such as unnecessary emergency tax, that creates problems which make the peasants revolt. The shogun can and did not correctly run their part of the bargain in the implementation of the kuni, which was their responsibility.

·         The peasants in turn do not understand Kuni or Kokka, but they understand that the daimyō are their lord and he is the end-all of all things to them.

·         If successors are incapable of administering the domain, then the elders shall remove persons and find new persons of those descendants who can preserve the house.

·         Must keep the house orderly within all measures necessary, and at all costs.

·         Once a daimyō is removed his domain is demolished, and his castle must be cleaned and vacated. If one barricades themselves in their castle, they better have other daimyō support them to agree that the offending shogun acted without jinsei. Sometimes, the shogun overseeing a domain where this happened could not gather up enough people to forcefully remove a daimyō, thereby needed to leave the issue unresolved. However, this type of move meant everyone with the daimyō that revolts is under the same penalties now as the daimyō in question.


gi, rei, and hō

When Tokugawa fell these terms of gi, rei, and hō came into discourse.

Gi; used to control the events. Meaning of-like ‘Righteous’, a way to uphold one’s integrity. This allowed for vendettas to be legal in a sense time- allotted for a claim placed in Edo courts, so the opposition knows and will not be surprised, or can act upon its disclosure.

Hō a standard of means, a status.

Rei: used to control the heart. Law, the Rights of etiquette.

Ritual suicide. If a Daimyō loses his land he can be asked to commit ritual suicide, and he does, his personal belonging will be untouched and passed down to the next in line of his heritage, his daughters and wife will not be sold into prostitution, and his family gets to keep their home and will not lose power.


A judge could rule that one upheld gi and rei, but they would argue as well as there was a law to uphold, and the continuity of the society depended upon it.

Key Sentiments

The house rose in natural time of the warrior, and this was real, but the ideology of the Tokugawa cannot rationalize the importance of the natural of the house. Informal thinking was deeply rooted in the warrior society.

How retainers saw the relationship

Samurai and the Daimyō’s relationships were a tangled between serving the kuni or the kokka, according to the chide retainers of a daimyō.  Samuria were loyal to the tradition of the kokka, but they should be loyal to the kuni, bakufu.

 Footnote ( see in text above)

Recreating Japanese Women:1600-1945, ed, Gial Lee Bernstine (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).

Totman, Conrad, “Early Modern Japan ( Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).


Gial Lee Bernstine, “Recreating Japanese Women:1600-1945” (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).

Conrad Totman. “ Early Modern Japan” ( Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).

Bibliography: Tomas C. Smith, “ Native Sources of Japanese Industrialization: 1750-1920” ( Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988

Daimyō’s relationship to the Samurai

Samurai’s life used to be hereditary, but  under Tokugawa’s  Neo-Confucian system, their position became granted by meritocracy practices. Samurai previously meant personal control over land and people, directly exercising their inherited right. Now their duty became impersonal and bureaucratic. They operated under a meritocracy system where they could be replaced, and usually incumbents had no security. They became appointed officials by the Tokugawa Shoganate. They no longer could form emotional attachments to lords as the Tokugawa government’s agenda was to move them around so they could form no deep personal relationships, within any given domain. This meant they often had many lords. What did this do? The function of this type of mobile bureaucracy assured the Tokugawa system that their relationships remained distant and formal. Vassals now looked upon the samurai as symbols of administrations and less as leaders of warrior classes.  Loyalty became to known as disinterest advice and personal conduct that was a credit to the lords administration: qualities  of an ideal bureaucrat had come to be viewed as the essence of the warrior.1

Castle-towns & Countryside Trends ( Not Facts)

Fun fact: Japan was the earliest industrialized nation outside of the western industrial nations.

Towns = pop. 500 +, or identified legally as ‘ towns’

Census figures between 1700-1850 on population growth.

Towns generally stagnated or lost populations. Rate of growth only increased in underdeveloped parts of the country, which in turn became micro-farming entities and saw nominal growth rates compared to the castle-towns ( About 335 in Toku. Period). Emigrations form castle-towns increased and populations in castle-towns decreased. Illegal trade became common in the countryside, where as legislation, guild-restrictions, and price fixing remained status quo in the castle-towns.

Why? Before 1700 dramatic growth of castle-towns and Tokugawa legislation brought the samurai in from the villages and countryside  and they brought their families, retainers and vassals with them. The samurai were removed from the daimyō lands/domains to give the daimyō a sense of security against his vassals. Village headmen ( leaders) often were likely to become merchants along with owning land. Higher prices led to more Castle-town families shopping in the countryside. The countryside having less legislation oversight reduced production costs of raw materials by up to one-third, undercutting the castle-towns. This, and cheaper labor costs as there were not guilds in the countryside meant lower over all resale prices for the castle-town folk. Furthermore, as the countryside’s micro-farmers, as Totman calls it or what Smith says as a “by-employment” functionality, the rural economies flourished attracting coastal shipping to sell their raw materials directly to them, instead of the Castle-Town ports. This then caused the Shogunate to receive complaints in which they began to issue licenses for monopolies, using the standard reikin system ( Contributions) termed as “ thank-money” ( or how the Mafia calls it ‘ kick-backs’) did not deter the countryside’s economic viability as there were no intensive governmental oversight to regulate  illegal trading and commerce. 

“As industry  and trade spread in the country, therefore, by-employment on the farms to reduce the annual flow of migrants to the towns, and the towns, unable to sustain themselves by natural increase, lose population.” 2

So with population stasis the only way for the Japanese to grow in the pre-industrial era was to take on more than farming, and take on two job titles. Smith calls this by-employment. There will always be a need for farming, so this career was inherent in the system. But to start small business outside of food production, the villagers provided cheaper labor, more wiliness and more determination to advance their economic viability in the countryside.

Family Priorities Keep Population Down

Why then no population growth in the Villages? ( it say a marginal 1%)

The concept of family and house kokka, meant that heritage was sacred. Most families owned a parcel of land. They didn’t have enough plot-area to have many kids, because according to tradition ( a law) they had to parcel out a piece to each child. The child could then start their own lineage if other children took over as rulers of the household proper. They could then start their own house (lineage), and therefore the house proper  loses out on their parcel. This was seen as endangerment to the family’s continuity. Too man children were seen as a negative; so infanticide and limits on the numbers of children were duly practiced.

Foreign trade Increases Population by providing new Careers.

Foreign trade in 1850 brought many new careers and the Japanese families had no problem of job procurement for their children, which in turn led to their having more babies, and thus the population increase is seen.

European Comparisons to Japan 1350- 1450

Much of the industries before factories in European towns saw the same trend of rural growth over city populations. This is not to say that cities didn’t grow, but with free rights in the rural communities, outside of new city legislation, the countryside had the advantage of procuring a better standard of living than the city. This can only be used within the time frame of 1350- 1450, according to Smith. Therefore, rural settlements in the pre-industrial ear were economic climates of opportunity in both Japan and Europe.

The Japanese can be described as rural- development, and the Europeans can be described as an urban- development. Both achieved the same result, but from different avenues.

In the west the bourgeoisies was created by urban growth, but in Japan, peasant merchants vied with declining samurai houses to start samurai lineages at the turn of the Meiji Restoration period. However, the peasantry saw no social mobility as was seen in the west, partly because of the international trade which by then was an institution of itself, and  Japan was just beginning to root itself into this new world community.

#1) Townsman could not change their government to help limit rural progress. They tried citing past loyalties, and asked for their government to give them relief and matter of right and justice, but they lived without corporate freedoms and representative assemblies.

#2) The decline of the castle-town merchants was more than matched by the rise of the rural entrepreneurs, who were consequently not only more important to their society that their counterparts in England and France, but I believe, a rather different breed.” 3

#3) Samurai class could be compared to the European aristocrats, who fell onto hard times because of the towns, as mentioned. Government revenue, which were nearly the sole source of samurai income and came in large part from the land tax, remained approximately the same in real terms after 1700, while government expenditures rose. The government became poorer as the country became richer. The Chief reason was not the government extravagance, but the removal of the samurai from the lands in the 17th Century and the consequence of the investiture of village with the functions of local government – especially the collection of taxes and the reporting of new arable land and changes in the productivity of the old arable lands. 4

Castle-towns view of the Countryside

Castle-towns cited illegal country-trade practices and some reforms tried to fix these, such as the reikin, but the Tokugawa saw little results outside their own sphere of influence to change these illegal practices. Also, enforcement of licenses was difficult in the countryside.

By 1850, merchants had been suffering from the rural-economic dominance of Japan’s countryside. Many merchants and headmen turned merchant ( by-employment) sifted to the rural comminutes and left the cities, and by this time the samurai of whom the poorer ranks sought work in the countryside doing almost anything to survive.

Ideology of Village - Communitie

The villages assembled themselves as communities loyal to themselves and against existing order of rural society. The failure of the central government to help them in times of natural disasters caused them to rely heavily on their mortal protection. Also, as trade and commerce of the rural villages became to increase there were occasional acts of violence against the establishment – the rich rural lords. There were increases of rural disorder and threats of violence, and chilling millenarian slogans as “remaking the world.” 5

Samurai Saw Stipend reduction

As the Shoganate saw increasing financial difficulties they began to decrease certain stipends of the Samurai. This also reduced consumer demands, as many merchants’ relied on big spending by samurai for their living in the Castle-towns.

Textile Industry until 193

Until 1930s, the leading sector of modern industry in Japan was not heavy industry but textiles, where labor a relatively important factory, units of production often rather small, private capital predominant, and the role of government and banks modest and mostly indirect. 6 Smith argues that “Pre-modern industry” as seen in the countryside made it possibly for Japanese easy change into a textile industry. The By-Employment of the countrypeople already had achieved discipline and craftiness necessary to step into the role of industrialists by the time the foreigners showed up in 1850. “The pre-industrial values incorporated in the emergent factory system were not immemorial” 7

“Closed Economy, a nearly unchanging population, and isolation from war […] “

The Land Tax In the Tokugawa Period
The Land Tax in the Tokugawa Period only applied to lands directly owned by the Tokugawa, and the ideology to keep it this way never waned, but at Tamuma Okitsugi’s  ( 1760-’86) bequest, a program to change this nearly was implemented before he was forced out as leader, Tokugawa could have changed the course of their history.  The lax of a comprehensive tax system is at absolute contrast in severity of implementation of a massive breakdown of a sever tax that many Japanese historians allowed to the number one reason for the Tokugawa era to end. Therefore, here , you will get the new more accurate understanding of the Tokugawa tax system, and understand that it was not opposite reason of not promoting a comprehensive tax on the non-Tokugawa domains, that actually cause the national government’s financial problems. The reason that the older Japanese historians make the mistake, is they cited no proof for their arguments, which means they only relied on sources affecting Tokugawa inner Castle-towns and complaints of severity of tax increases there that actually do not reflect Japan as a whole and with understand a massive amount of commerce and production lay at their whims if they wanted to tax it, in which never happened. All that potential federal revenue went unclaimed.

The tax system, the most ancient of institutions, runs a civilization and it better be comprehensive, but managed in such a way that it keeps commerce bustling and keeps small business from asking for national government’s assistance.

A tax is levied on the village as a whole, the community, rather than individual proprietors of families. A datum called Kokudaka, which might be translated as taxable or assessed yield, was the lord’s referent in setting the land tax which was announced to the village in a document called the menjō. Menjō, both recorded the assessed yield of the village and the percentage demanded as land tax.

Kokudaka expressed the productivity of a unit of land and was usually arrived at be averaging yields, estimated just before the harvest, over a period of years. Adjustments were often made to take account of differentials costs, distance from market, and other factors that varied from one piece of land and one village to another. To assign a Kokudaka to an individual field, it was necessary not only to estimate the yield per tan of plots in a village to another. To estimate the yield and to survey for size all of the plots in a village, which often ran to several hundred, was an immensely difficult and politically sensitive job. It is not surprising, therefore, that assessments were not kept current

Assessments in Tokugawa villages, it is known, tended to get out of date because of a combination of changes in productivity and infrequent and piecemeal reassessment. Also, assessment covered only land held in Nakahara, although families may have held land in neighboring villages. For these reasons assessments can be regarded as reflecting farm income, at best, only approximately. 9

Assessments were carried out usually once in a century, or once in the whole period the Tokugawa. As cited before, the personal ramifications of telling peasant to procure such-and-such amount was not an easy issue for a samurai governmental official. Each peasant had their own problems, be it drainage problems, bad plots, inadequate nutrients and soil depletion, and the fact that other people in the village had better plots, so telling a peasant he or she must produce capable of their neighbor, with these horrible variables in place was not an easy thing to do. The Government was supposed to run jinsei and that meant treating others as equals. The fact is we do not know how Tokugawa peasants in a village divided up their lands for agricultural production, and this causes a problem. We can assume they helped each other out as the village as a whole was responsible for making its payments, but there is other proof that peasants with bad plots, remembering the responsibilities of inheritance, meant that peasants with good plots could produce more yields, and thus, pay-off the their share of the taxes, as preordained, and have plenty of ‘surplus’ left over to sell in the local markets to substitute their incomes.

Thus, the farm size affected the family size by the age of marriage and the age of stopping, not be the spacing of children . 10 Large holders wanted more children, not because they wanted to divide up more of their parcel of land, but because they could afford too. It also, made the notion that more one has the more one will acquire. They productivity of land of a large plot meant just that – it needed more hands to help in the fields, and that would mean less hired labor elsewhere.  Also, wives of large holders may have been more fertile, because they were typically more healthy, being able to look after themselves, better, eat better  and live more comfortably.

Population was basically unchanged from 1721 to the Meiji period. However, productivity of agriculture grew. This was not because of population explosions, but was due to the fact that better technology and better farming developed. In most cases a restriction on children were carried out by much of the population of peasants. The poorer peasants usually had one child, so they would not have to divide up their holdings, and lose prestige, or what they had left. In the census numbers we must be careful of the statistics, because children were not counted until after their first birthday had passed

Infanticide and abortion were common to all ranks in classes. Therefore, taking a accurate census would be better after the first year to make sure the baby was wanted, either adopted or raised by their families. Most critically, was the fact that infant mortality was seen at a 20 percent rate and this would also affect such senses data. The Daimyō prohibited abortion and infanticide, possibly citing the loss value of total labor in his domain, but infanticide was practiced usually in secret, but many family members and close associates of families knew, was practiced after the second birth, for the poorer peasantry or for the ones that wanted to keep their prestige. If a family was poor and they had many kids they would have to divide what little they had in plot area and give all the rights to their children. Therefore, they lost any income from these losses and, thus, could not keep themselves, in the novelty-culture. Japan was like anywhere else, and looks and status even at the commoner level mattered.

Smith says that part of the population question my be in that “existing families may choose to restrict marriage to a single son in each generation in order to avoid fragmenting holdings ( Which would result in uneconomically small farming units,  imperil family continuity, and lower family prestige in the village), with the incidental effect of holding the birthrate well below the level it would reach without such restriction.” 11 such Smith is looking at Yokouchi Village in Shinshū whose population registers from 1671 to 1871 have been carefully analyzed. (1) The marriage rate for men and women was slightly lower,(2) the average of women at first marriage was somewhat higher, and  (3) the number of children-ever of married women who lived in a married state until the age of forty-five declined significantly. 12 One can also look at by-employment  in the eighteenth century and modern economic growth.

Okura Nagatsune  (1761-1856), an agricultural reformer with a passion for promoting by-employment, calculated that each of the adult members of a farm family could earn the equivalent of daily wages during the off-season of farming by domestic paper making, which he recognized as a relatively poor-paying occupation. Citing a contemporary letter, a village headman in Kawachi Province noted that some years the importance of commerce amounted to 60 to 70 percent of a family’s living and farming only 30 to 40, and others when the proportions are reversed. 13

Tax was based upon quantity and that had less relation to actual productivity as time passed. 14 Tax Contemporary documents reported that good land and good farmers were taxed less heavily than poor. Smith argues that if the lands were not assessed periodically, which they never were, then consequently taxes were relatively low on improved land and high on unimproved land. 15 and All these factors played there parts in population and taxes, and by-employment played a vital role in changing demographics and circumstances of the poor.

1      Smith, Tomas C.  Native Sources of Japanese Industrialization: 1750-1920 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 10.


2          Ibid, 35.

3          Ibid, 37.

4          Ibid, 39, 40.

5          Ibid, 39.

6          Ibid, 43.

7          Ibid, 44.

8          Ibid, 45.

9          Ibid, 120.

10       Ibid, 121

11       Ibid, 97.

12       Ibid, 97.

13       Ibid, 84.

14       Ibid, 64.

15       Ibid, 65.

16       Ibid,

17       Ibid,

18       Ibid,

19       Ibid,

20       Ibid,

21       Ibid,

22       Ibid,

23       Ibid,

24       Ibid,



Bibliography: Tomas C. Smith, “ Native Sources of Japanese Industrialization: 1750-1920” ( Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988)

Mirror of Modernity

The Invention of Edo, by Carol Gluck

Edo Memory

Carol Gluck tells us that the Tokugawa period is only a memory and not a history to her. She illustrates the many cultural and scholarly implications of how Japanese from c. 1880 to the 1990s viewed their Tokugawa period. All of them saw it from a different angle. Even outside historians and culture-buffs. However, she sums up anti-history of how all these identities perceived differently the same period of time, making the argument that the Tokugawa period was timeless as a reflection of our memory and no-one could quite understand it completeness. In essence, she took herself out of the argument, but made herself the agent of illustrating, albeit simplistically, these varied arguments altogether.

“ In Japan the Edo Period became just this sort of historical imaginary. ‘Edo’ [ …] was the invented other in relation to which modernity posited itself. From early Meiji times, Japan’s before-the-modern was imagined largely in terms of an Edo identified as Japanese “tradition.” This grand conflation made it seem as if centuries of tradition had come to rest in the 300-yar period immediately preceding the replacement of the old past with the new future. And it made Edo-as-tradition into the mirror of modernity. From the early 1879s to the mid-1990s, the reflections of Edo carried along with the ideas of what the modern was or ought to be. But the invented tradition of viewing Edo-as-tradition ― the way we (Japanese) once were ―remained the desired object of modern memory.”1

The agents of Edo-memory returned, almost obsessively, to that past to find in it whatever they were missing in the present or hoping for the future. 2

Edo-memory thus appeared in many genres. Most fall, however, into three positional forms. The first and most obvious stake out its ground in narrating the nation-state. In the notational Edo, the Tokugawa past became the matrix of national history, described as an impediment to or a resource for the modern nation-state. A good part of the linear story was instrumental, ideological production for the sake of imagining the national community, put forth not only by the state but by all those engaged in constructing “the story of the nation.” But thinking the national past cannot be entirely subsumed under functionalist categories, which seem to suggest that the national story was always told for the sake of the nation. The tradition-to-modern plot could just as easily by told against the state, and in the second form of memory, it often was.

Oppositional Edo turned the Tokugawa past against he modern present. In what Nicholas Thomas calls “the inversion of tradition,” those who dissent are excluded from the hegemonic tradition as it is nationally sanctioned can use the same tradition in combat for their own cause. While conservative avatars of cultural identity hailed community and harmony in the archetypal Edo village, political progressives invoked the tradition that inhered in the politics of protest. From peasant uprising to the “ecological opposition” of Andō Shōeki, Edo-memories constituted a heritage of protest that animated the struggle to contest the power of the modern state.

Commodified Edo is the third form, which possessed, in quantity and reach, perhaps that largest share of the memory business. Ever since mid-Meiji, Edo was the favored site in the terrain of popular memory, whether in commercial media, historical fiction, museums and monuments , or the theming of Japan in history- lands like Genrokumura and Edomura. Like the heritage industry in Britain, Edo figured prominently in commodified nostalgia. 3

My Argument:

The arguments displayed here leaves out the founding functionaries of the Tokugawan system. Toyotomi Hideyoshi would be quite disturbed by this summery of historical blunder. The first two arguments, do not opposes or confirm the third meaning two positional forms are independent from the third.  Since the third form deals with nostalgia and the functionary of commercial gain, not wholly dedicated to scholarly pursuit, but more toward nostalgic novelty, we look only to the first two positional forms of Gluck for the prime argument and replace the her third form with the what Hideyoshi would offer as the third form and correct position form, that is the real Tokugawa position.

As Conrad Totman argues, in Early Modern Japan, by just citing history of the founding of the Tokugawa system correctly is that the Tokugawa didn’t see themselves as a national identity or a state at all. This is of prime importance here with this argument and to view people of the Meiji period looking backwards to argue for or against the State, i.e. national government, would be completely incorrect assessment of what the Tokugawa system was in the first place. Unlike the incorrect usage of citing people calling for the “construction of the state,” obviously arguing for the bakufu and Shoganate position, the term used by the founders and operated was a Federation. The Tokugawa was a Federal government within its feudal-like forms, obviously a correct assessment when we understand how the village cooperated and operated with the state. In what Gluck is describing is a construction of a memory that the Tokugawa system was a national system, a type of military-state whereas the tributaries of its jurisdiction had no rights at all. This would be saying the villages were not semi-autonomous, which would be in fact re-writing history. This is obviously in view of position-form one. In position-form two, we see people who remember only the tributaries of the Tokugawa system fighting against the national government’s authoritative rule. Gluck is trying to give of a sense that people in the memory of Edo only saw things in black-and-white, This argument is much more complicated and looking at it from this point only deters one from the facts of a federal government functionaries that operated within the Tokugawa government.

From Hideyoshi’s point of view, the village was just as important as the central government, i.e. national government (often confused in mixture of terminology of simply the state). The Tokugawa system could be seen as an enterprising central authority overseeing and governing many states, but most of these states had semi-autonomous power and privilege which Hideyoshi sought retainership rather then militaryship. So important that this concept be correctly stated one cannot argue one side of the structure was better than the other. The pro-Bakufu cite peasant instability, and their aberrant disregards to the vertical establishment by the agrarian-turned-powerhouse entrepreneurs. The Agrarian point out that the bakufu taxed them to the point that they rose up and rebelled. In a sober look at the functionary of the federal government, meaning both the cooperation and operation of both the village, Domains and the Castle-towns, one see that both had positive and negative histories, thus a real commodified view would come from a balanced accounting from both sides of argument one and two. By simply blaming one side and not the other defeats the purpose of understanding the factuality of the Tokugawa system and instead reverberates emotional and identifiable  bias toward a construct created in ones own memory by whatever conditions afflicted that construction.

In Gluck’s summery she finally argues that “ In these instances, memory displaced history, and Edo the storehouse of identity lay entirely outside time.” 4

Unfortunately like the oxymoron terminology of a ‘centralized- feudalism’, earmarked by some wayward historians and some nostalgics describing the Tokugawa period, history cannot do without memory and the likewise.  Glcuk’s thorough citing of all the various commentators on all the various Edo periodatioanlists only showed that no-one came to a consensus. She focuses on four Tokugawa troupes, and then gives her own Tokugawa version. The trope demarcates the specialization of each individual’s historic investigation. “First, the trope [language used in a figurative or nonliteral sense] that re “class”ified Edo by fastening on the status of hierarchy only to undo it.” 5  

This is in part to Gekokojō, “those below commanding those above,” and the Shōen Manors of the ancient order, now redefined under the Tokugawa to be mibun seido ( Tokugawa "status system'), the four-class hereditary division of samurai, peasant, artisan, and merchant.  “The second trope established the modern version of, and division between, the country and the city.” 6 The third trope centered on the Tokugawa shogunate ― the realm, the system, the state ― in short, the institutional arrangement of the political ancien régime.” 7 She threw in a little superfluousness there with some French.  The fourth trope was sakoku, the closed country ( and its historical opposite kaikoku, the open country) ― the most pervasive Edo image after the four-class social hierarchy, and surely the single most evoked metaphor for the Edo past.” 8

Commodified, as her number three positional-form, only showed a typical silliness or extreme bias, such as the “ Happy feudalism,” reflected in some Japanese thought in the 1980s, or the description of the “bubbling social stew” of Edo. 9

The remaking of the memory only came as a result of popular culture’s narrow faddish-interpretation of a certain period, or certain physical space within the vast 1603-1868 time span of the whole of Tokugawa existence.

Edo-memory as a mirror of modernity, has shown some argued that the Edo period was already modern by the time of the Meiji period, but some even went as far as to claim that by the Meiji Period, Edo was already post-modern. This reflection is didactically confused by the many Marxist writers too none-to-well to linear historiography. In is in the perception, there are no facts, and only one’s view form the outside, looking in. By looking from the outside as Cluk’s final argument crystallized, she is in a sense saying that Edo, because of the confusion of various historical periodization writs, became a timeless entity in her mind. She could not choose a side, but instead distanced herself from of the argument and became only the perceiver of what went on in Japanese history. In this sense it is a mirror in which she views Tokugawa history, and therefore it is easier for her to understand that this was only a memory and not real.


Importance of the Village is Paramount and in Equal Importance as the Edo Administration. One cannot operate without the other – this was federalism type agreement. The Village had semi-autonomous state/village rights, but national compulsory attachment to the authority of the Bakufu.

The Japanese Village: Imagined, Real, Contested. Irwin Sheiner

We think in generalities but live in detail, Alfred North Whitehead.

 Imagined communities

“Over the Past Decade Japanese have shown a vast capacity to create an idealized past. Even more apparent has been their effort to establish this past as an ideological basis for present conceptions of the Japanese state and people.” 10

Argument: “The call for the re-creation of the old community has not only been used as an instrument of national policy; it has also been encouraged by political agencies in various localities, particularly in the relatively recently created suburbs.” 11

“Nativist historian Irokawa Daikichi has argued that in the past when local village power. “ A self purifying reaction would occur.” Villages would carry out, he writes, “a leveling festival” (yonaoshi matsuri) to punish the wealthy.

Village & trans-village Terminology

Nōmin            (Agrarian), hyakushō ―  ( Peasants known today)

Mura              (village ) ,   buraka― ( Village known today)

Giri                 amalgamation, a cutting-up of villages in a given domain from a larger. territory. Mura-giri.

Kenchi daikan           The cadastral survey

Kenshi                        Tokugawa cadastral tax.

Kokugaku      rural headman school set up by daimyō to teach jinsei, turns into power-network for headman’s problems against daimyō and samurai. Kokugake came from Kara (Another form to say China, but translation means empty) and gaku, studies. Initially a deity religious type of functionary. It helped change the rural agrarian society:” We’re the real base of the Tokugawa system.” The ideal was offered to have the wealthy peasant replace the samurai. Then associations of many headmen was the functionary. In the late Edo period, Daimyō could not control or help all of the problems.  Later many manushi’s said, lets take over the controls of governance, “lets take over the daimyō’s role. When things began to become erratic, the daimyō didn’t care anymore, which of course led the way to opening opportunities for the peasant headmen to rise in non-legal governance control. Why is this? The Tenryō managing Bakufu stated they has no longer control of the domains.

Nengu             the two tiered taxes, one of the large (rice koku), and all others, grain tax.

Daikan            Shogunal attendant. Jobs: finance minister; officials approved by daimyō. They administer, but do not police within the village; they watch over the village, collect the rice-tax, and also calculate rate of exchange. The lowest rank of samurai.

Uakanomo – guni      Village orders: toshiyori, hyakushō dai, yoriai.

Nanushi (mamushi) /shōya               Most important village peasant, the headman.

Waka-guni     special duty crew; they are peasants that fill all voids of responsibility in village.

Wakanomo- guni ― Village Independent groups, Meiji get rid of this system.

Ujigami           animistic religion, ancestral worship, banned by widely practiced.

State Shinto/Buddhist                       Tokugawa state religious centers where annual vows of anti-Christianity and other banned religions take place.

Tenryō                        Tokugawa land that is taxed and directly under their control.

Kunritsu         Important figure who wrote that everyone above him was corrupt in the Tokugawa system and even had harsh words for peasants in village.

Ojoyo              Superheadsman, in later periods. O meaning large. (Spelt Ohoyo, but sounded as).

yoriai              Heads of village families and attend a privet council of only heads of family. This gives certain rights in village to people that belong to the council. In later periods some sell their land (ie. House) and become landless, meaning they lose their seat on the council and thus many village privileges. 

Tedai  secretary, adapted when crisis management was need, ruled the tenryō land management, was allowed to wear temporarily the two swords of the samurai.

Mabiki                        literally cutting away, the word designated for infanticide.

Rōnin              -Master-less Samurai

Village organization

Separated into two divisions. Kuni, the upper and lower.

Four basic elements:

1.      Household

2.      Wetlands

3.      Dry lands

4.      Common lands

                                                              i.            Household: Village multi- family organization. Five-house system in small groups, and then multi-five-house systems. Ideal of daimyō/Tokugawa were less peasants on land but more production ( i.e. less mouths to feed)

                                                            ii.            Wetlands: paddy-culture, the paddy field’s soil actually gets better over time, as the soil takes on richer nutrients. Contrasted with dryland soil depletion. Each family had a paddy to grow rice. Paddy-rice production required much cooperation.

                                                          iii.            Dry lands: hatake, each had a dry patch of land to grow vegetables.

                                                          iv.            Common land: each village needed a forest for fuel and fertilizer.


                                                            v.  Only peasants


                                                          vi.  Tera-koya, basic learning at the village, so the Buddhist temple could be prominent.


                                                        vii.            Accounting: Villagers keep the tax registers. All peasants are administrators of the village. This led to double booking.

                                                      viii.            Normative Tax: Tax was basically grain-tribute, most commonly understood as the basis of the program as koku ( rice), the amount of rice a person is estimated to eat in a year. Later on dry-field takes on taxes, as soy-beans, and artisan works such as silk making, and basket weaving. The Dry land taxes and artisan taxes were usally paid with cash.

                                                          ix.            No tax plan: The Tokugawa saw people making a lot of money and initially didn’t regulate an assessment or quantitative tax to their industries because of original tax polices of the Edo Bakufu system. This is one of the reasons for the demise of the Edo Shogunate. When monopolies appeared, Sake, Tofu and silk ( the raw materials) became national products, because of preference, but the Tokugawa government never taxed these items of commerce. What they taxed was movement, called the merchant domain policy, and was set at a fixed price. But when business became large there were no understanding on how to operate a corporation. These were new things. Trial and error were rampant in both the western periods and here.


                                                            x.            Village Religion: Shrine of the village, illegal but operational, no samurai came into village as a general statement. They could, but they didn’t like too. They were not liked. This is animistic beliefs, and elite used the founders of the village as a heritage of sorts , saying “ we go back to the founding so we are the de facto rulers. Still headman jobs were rotated as a general policy ordered by peasant understanding. Yet, prominent families were big issues at ceremonies, in regards to seating arrangements, and proper respect.


                                                          xi.            Chastity was no issue in the community, as it was in Castle-towns, or towns. Uncommitted relationships often happened. Many children born out of wedlock.


Youth Groups:

                                                        xii.            Waka-guni groups consisted of all, male, female and children. Usually identified as a group set entering at the age of fourteen to fifteen, but some people as old as seventy remain committed to group functioning. This is because these youth groups ran all the vital services, from the fire department, to the sweeper, and clean-up crew.

Village multi- family organization. Five-house system.

Problems: No village was completely self sufficient.

                                   i.  Water/rivers: downstream management.

a.       Water demanded cooperation; many villages depended upon claimed rivers; disputes could cause problems. Headmen meet to discuss solution. Which family is closer to the source? No law to regulate, it was the peasants job to regulate. No one wanted to get water too early because of the frost, or too late because of the frost, so careful negations result.

                                     ii.            Physical spacing. Each village not the same size.

a.       Mountain five-house elevations, verses the flat-land in production estimates.

                                                          iii.            No draft animals.

a.       The most villages didn’t use draft animals.

                                                          iv.            Evolution of peasant village administrators.

a.       Peasant> headman> daikan. Over time the samurai said they couldn’t manage the villages, either the daimyō, and asked that a prominent headman become a daikan, the lowest samurai official. This happens later in Toku. History.

                                                            v.            Real estate.

a.       In 1820s, the Tokugawa said to all landowners that bought their land form other peasants must ‘give it back.’ For reasons I do not know, the Tokugawa didn’t know this had happened for decades, and the people that bought the lands went nuts. People that bought land thought they were betrayed ( apparently did they know the law or did they even care?). They say “no we are not going to give it back.” The elite peasants were to castle-towns and mainly Edo to argue that for decades they had owned the land and to abolish all they had done since this time would doom all of Japan ( they were a little too emotional). The Bakufu administration said “alright we will leave things be.” The poor left the village, which was illegal and this gave the elite extreme stress because their workforce got up and left.

                                                          vi.            Infanticide.

a.       Childbearing was investigated and a consistency arose in the years between a mother’s birth and her children of a strangely four-five year interval; much speculation and argument as to why this has happen. Although, some new arguments are about nutrition, did people in the village receive the necessary fat-content in their diets? However, this shows of commonality with other strangely studied statistics. For example, from 1600- 1868 the population in the Tokugawa remain static. This was a time of relative peace, and something that would be attributed to a period of large scale war, but the Bakufu took annual census which has provided a huge inventory of population data. The population didn’t increase. The cause is assumed to be infanticide, and not folklore. Both abortion and infanticide were officially banned. But we are speaking of the semi-autonomous village that the samurai detested to enter. There are theses explaining these phenomena, but one cannot look at it as similar to what China went through in the 20th century. The short cause definition was labor management. This phenomenon didn’t happen in the city. ( See expandable explanation above).

Headman: Nanushi

Headmen are the chosen leaders of a village, they often carry a term and different families get turns offering their top managerial person. They are responsible to the Daimyō, and a daikan and any samurai that wants to make it their business. They must directly give the nengu directly to the daikan, and they are whole responsible to keep the peace and production adequate at Tokugawa standards.  If a headman has to call a samurai or a daimyō, he usually is fired, because he is seen as a failed manager of his village. Therefore, the headman has family councils and groups in which meet to work on projects in the village.  These are called the Uakanomo – guni. They consist of the toshiyori, the Nanushi’s cabinet and they were usually the elders of eminence of the village. Then there were the, hyakushō dai,… Then there are the  yoriai, or headpersons of each household. To be a yoriai, one must be kaba ( Literally bush), meant that you had property. This takes on importance later when wage-earners mortgage or sell their lands and are refused vital services because they do not own land anylonger.  Each have multiple tasks to carry out and responsibilities for making the village work, but ultimately if the samurai wants to know why a village is not operating under desired conditions, the headman will be solely responsible.

Disputes were decided by the intervention of the Daikan, the lowest samurai position.

Headman must deal with many things making their jobs responsible and tough.

Prescripts were issued periodically, and sometimes people would say constantly. These were edits by the Bakufu on who, what, where why and how to run a new program in a village. Or simple they could be a modification to an earlier prescript. They were posted on every section of a village.


When deforestation created an ecological disaster ( 18th century) , it was his job to put personal ( attendants)  on the border of the forests and keep a watch for illegal felling. Forests were very important and after the Meiji restoration, the emperor became protector of the forests.

Bakufu’s central concern was tax, and it was the daikan who’s job it was to estimate the exchange/fluctuation rate, gather the material and manage the collection-archives, the lowest of the daimyō were the hatomoto, who had a 25,000 Koku retainership.  The hotomoto was a retainer of the tokugawa, and his attendant was a daikan.

1 Mirror of Modernity: Invented traditions of Modern Japan, ed. Stephan Vlastos (Berkeley: University of California Berkeley, 1998), 262.

2 Ibid, 263 .

3 Ibid, 264.

4 Ibid, 284 .
5 Ibid, 276.

6 Ibid, 279 .

7 Ibid, 280.

8 Ibid, 281.

9 Ibid, 274.

10 Ibid, 67.


10 Ibid,.
10 Ibid,.

10 Ibid,.

10 Ibid,.

10 Ibid,.

10 Ibid,.

10 Ibid,.

10 Ibid,.

10 Ibid,.


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