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Japan’s Early Modern Period — Tokugawa


Women — Tokugawa


By Michael Johnathan McDonald

Tokugawa Era (Edo Period)

Japanese  Family, Business & Retaliations in the  Tokugawa

“The ideal family in the Tokugawa period, as Kathleen S. Uno describes it, was the ie, the stem-family household, which retained only one child as heir in each generation. More than a biological unit, the ie is frequently defined as a corporate entity in the sense that it embraced nonkin (servants, adopted heirs, and his or her unmarried children). The ie also connoted household property, domestic animals, ancestors and such intangibles as family reputation. Like a well-established business, the ie was devoted to its own perpetuation.”1

This argument is very suspicious of shortsightedness. Not to mention the comparables to the Kokka, we have a problem with the people establishing agency.

Katheleen S. Uno argues that “the emergence of a postwar domestic conception of womanhood is related to early-twentieth-century changes in the household division of labor? 2 She has a narrow argument as too not distinguishing between the Samurai wife and the peasant wife. Both women and men can be sent to run the household, but this was usually for the peasants in comparison to the more structured life of the Samurai where the women had to manage most of the martial reproductive work: housekeeping. In the peasant families all facets of community norms faced collaboration to make sure they survived. The sons, the daughters, the in-laws, the parents and the man and the wife often worked various jobs.

Men and Reproductive work: Housework

Shimai Soshitsu, left a set of written injunctions instructing his son to avoided luxury, entertainment and religion; to stay at home; and to practice frugality [ it was ordered at this period by a certain shogun] in order to guard the family riches. Thriftiness included painstaking attention to menial household tasks:

Buy at the cheapest rates, and make careful note of the prices.” 3

This intends the undercutting the community’s longevity. First many inter-village, and some often corporate entities, entered the village in the early morning, like a farmers market- type deal, and undercut local sellers. In the Tokugawa system this was allowed, or possibly most frowned upon, and was hard to police, being in a Daimyō domain, but these practices disturbed the currency rates. One also could see a picture that favored the Tokugawa corrupt individuals. The Tonya system, a licensed monopoly issued by the shogunate, usually by charter payments, allowed inter-regional trade in villages and usually could undercut the local shopkeepers and produce sellers.  Even as sanctioned buy the shogunate, these practices fluctuated the currency, by destabilizing the worth of coin. What the coin should have bought, now buys more, but at a cheaper quality, and thus lasts a shorter time period in the hands of the purchaser, and thus the coin is devalued, goes back only to the wealthy in Osaka ( the trade capital of the Tokugawa) and  rests in the hands of the rich. This was not jinsi. The peasantry, including an alliance with Daimyō led revolts against the  Tonya, including entire villages.

So the men were taught to be frugal by associating with anti-peasant factions.  The Tonya ( 17th Century new type of merchant) were known government license corporations.  But not unlike K-Mart today, and Cosco, and other large corporations, people generally do not care until these directly affect them personally, life what happened in Englewood, the last time I checked the news, the city council , by pressure of the community, would not allow one of these by corporate retail stores to establish a store within their community. They feared the same reaction of these villagers. Revolts ( or protests – both took place)  and the reason was the cheaper labor, and prices brought people away from the small business that actually rant the community and kept it personal and alive with employment of older people and established community families. What we see here are the same similarities. Frugality, although valiant and moral, subsist within this village – a  surreal universe when it comes to how a community must operate as a unit, according to what Katheleen S. Uno wants you to believe. The survival of the ei, is not what is happening in written injunction. What is happening is a surreal image of a father telling his son to act with intelligence and look for the cheapest product in a farmer’s market-like or flee-market sale-district within their community. The kokka, the house, must be preserved with prestige, and returned to the next owner, usually the son, or close in-law, to be better than when it was taken. Therefore, the underselling by the marketplace, in their own village takes money away from their village and therefore, the money goes to Osaka, and not back into the community to be used, of course, to upkeep the community’s wellbeing.  The community creates the value of the  kokka, and therefore the Kokka creates the value of a family. Thereupon, why would someone what to hurt the Community, that would hurt the Kokka that would then hurt the ie? This is why this argument is clumsily portrayed.

The Household Division of Labor

After the Meiji Restoration, new political and economic policies fostered a greater separation of public and private spheres, which impinged on the household division of labor. The separation of school and workplace from the home affected increasing numbers of children, then men, and finally women. 4

Early Meiji policies promoted fukoku kyōhei )”rich country, strong army”) and bunmei kaika ( “civilization and enlightenment”) did have an indirect impact on women’s roles, for the departure of men and children from the home for much of the day irreversibly reshaped the daily lives of women in growing numbers of households. 5

Turn of the 19th Century, the Minister of Education created the prescription of Japanese womanhood, ryōsai kenbo (“Good wife, wise mother”) in the wake of the 1894 ― ‘95 Sino-Japanese War. 6

After 1899, ryōsai kenbo   became the cornerstone of women’s education, beginning with a handful of girl’s higher schools and extending to the ordinary coeducational curriculum in 1911. 7  

Ryōsai kenbo   Presumed a greater degree of female competence; if properly educated, mothers could prepare their children to be good subjects of the emperor by installing in them diligence, loyalty, and patriotism. Mothers thus would render service to the nation from the home. 8

The problem with making a statement like this in part takes away the agency of the Tokugawa citizens. Why could not the mothers’ of the Tokugawa instill loyalty to the Tokugawa, and diligence and pride (patriotism) for their own town, village or castle-town? These are questions that need to be asked because Kathleen is comparing the two periods, for her main argument?

The new order offered women unprecedented educational and vocational opportunities. But did these opportunities offer new constraints in the household division of labor and the state’s attempt to redefine women as Ryōsai kenbo.  At first glance, only the gains stand out. Compulsory education was required for girls as well as boys, and conceptions of female inferiority lessened as mothers were accorded greater responsibility for childrearing. Yet closer scrutiny reveals that, property rights and the right to serve as family heads, and nearly excluded from universities. 9   

Kuramota were warehouse type of merchants formed around 1850s(?).

Confucian world merchants were looked down upon as the lowest ranking citizen in all of society, much like the medieval Europeans saw the moneylenders and effectively the merchants as well. Kuramota depended upon the Sankin Kotai system in Edo, and Osaka Daimyo by law must buy their rice from the merchants.

Argument: The merchants intertwined society, but could not be seen as an opponent to the status quo, like Marx’s bourgeoisies or European models that rose up against the aristocracy to bring it down, according to Mr. Scheiner ( My professor). I argue otherwise, given that these were not open markets and therefore, as Smith argues the countryside took over the economy of the castle-towns, where freelance and Tonya merchants took over controls, not regulated by the shogunate. The Market, according to Scheiner, became basic to the economic development that required service handlers ( Merchants), usually former samurai that renounced their position and took up working for Daimyo or other samurai as quartermasters. They ran the foreign trade connections for the samurai, and possible this move helped them make more money then their later position, especially in the later periods of the Tokugawa.

Yodoya Saburemon, was very wealthy Kuramota merchants whose income was many times that of the entire national income. This showed how merchants changed in society. Once looked upon negatively, the money and wealth created prestige, which forced the Tokugawa to listen to their pleas to form a guild for protection against daimyo that could ask for loans and never have to pay them back by law. This way they could say, I just do not want to lend you any money. Tokugawa had a system that allowed the Samurai debt forgiveness, and this meant the merchant was out of luck, especially when they supplied credit to Edo, during Sankin Kotia, where the Daimyo didn’t want to carry money with him on his journey to the Castle-Town.

During the rise in prestige of the merchants, Samurai actually wanted to inter-marry their daughter to the rich men.

The Chōnin, play a deep role in this aspect. Merchants could not own land, and samurai could not pay them, and even kill them if they wanted too. There was no sanctifying of a contract. Samurai bylaw and a judge would support him or her, didn’t need to honor the contract. The Chōnin merchant could not get the judge to rule in his favor, even when the merchant had the correct paperwork. The judge could say,’ I erase all daimyo and samurai debts,’ and this is how these things happen.

In 1721 guilds were formed, but not at the merchants liking, they had to pay kick-backs, or what is properly termed as a charter payment to operate. The shogun would receive their money no matter what. This created monopolies, and monopolies created hardships for the smaller businesses.

The frugality laws also led to merchants dressing down their wealth in public. If a person was seen with a gold thread in their garment, this was a clue they were a wealthy person or a merchant. The merchant didn’t have the same class status rights as a samurai, therefore the contradiction.

The monopolies, which rose in the1720s, liked the guild ( and craft trades) because it gave protection from competition. This is when the term Tonya or Nakuma became known. On the positive side, these encourage growth of particular trades. 

Osaka was the commence capital where Samurai must sell their koka. The merchant rose when these handlers needed to transport the goods to and fro. The Samurai would not build and shop and run it, he or she had to hire someone to do this and pay them. These were called service merchants, and usually came with partial samurai ranks of quartermasters. In the urban centers, where traders arose, usually they started out as a urban storehouse manager, called a kuramoto.

The place where non-married men (usually samurai)  when ( their entrepôt) was Osaka or Edo, where they spent plenty of money. These places are where the merchants could make a good living.

The Tokugawa shoganate tried their hardest to limit highway building and large sea vessel construction. These were to discourage large trade within and whiteout the empire. As for population figures, as far as merchants were concerned, the castle-towns help ten-percent of the population, while the countryside held the bulk of it at ninety-percent.

In the 1780s-‘90s, the Daimyo entered into battle and needed large supplies. They looked to the merchants. This is when they began to appoint many quartermasters. This is because many of them had experience with privateer and the Wako pirates. However, it was in the 1600s that the Daimyo, when they became shoguns, to appoint quartermasters to the level of Kuromot merchants.

Yodoya Saburemon’s estate was confiscated by the shogun, and this is why we know the figures of his enterprise. He had Daimyo outstanding loans that equaled about 1,ooo,ooo reyo, meaning this amount of money was more than the national budget several  times over and other more wealthy merchants did exist.

The monopolies created a need for a central banking system which comes into being. This was usually tied to big shipping, and its influence controlled the credit system.

These were proprietary rights of shopkeepers too.

Anne Walthall, Life Cycles of Farm Women.

  • The Wealthy Girl

Bokushi believed in teaching his children to value practical learning, especially the technique of accounting.(Bern47) Walthall demonstrates female scholasticism, verses practical economic education, such as mathematics, and how wealthy family’s priority in teaching their girls to manage business. One case a young daughter, who was ten-years-old, is taught to work in a pawn shop and actually take down numbers and figures. She shows this to show that practicality was especially emphasized buy wealthy families to teaching methods employed by them. See seems to stress a frowning on these families, by the wealthy, of teaching the Chinese Classics, that will not bode well for a financial future, in securing and running the future family business.

In the villages near Edo, wealthy peasant entrepreneurs bent on acquiring the best and most expensive education available for their daughters had them become servants in the homes of daimyo and hatamoto (high-ranking retainers in the shogun). (bern 48) This ploy by a wealthy family helped the girls become independent, although, there were fears and dangers always connected to this privileged lifestyle. She could be abducted, sent into prostitution, abandoned or sometimes spend the family money.

For the daughters of wealthy peasants who lived too far from samurai households and the educational opportunities they offered, costly pilgrimages functioned more of less as finishing schools, the pilgrimage both strengthened faith and provided an occasion for sightseeing and observation; it was a learning experience that took young women outside their home communities and forced them to interact with strangers. Taken usually a year or so before marriage, the pilgrimage made it possible for teen-agers to travel with their friends and female relations largely apart from male society, expect for one companion-escort. 10  

  • The Poor Girls

Indentured servants in the latter half of the Tokugawa Period.

Understanding in society: “ A well-dressed, well-traveled, well-educated, and well-mannered girl was a family asset. Perhaps for this reason , even ordinary peasants indulging their daughters wherever they could. In fact, in 1841 Sata, daughter of Sajiemon from the Tsukui district in Sagami, was arrested for wearing clothes above her station.” 11

The poor could not have the lifestyles of the wealthy, so “when girls from ordinary peasant and tenant farm families began to leave their homes and villages in the later half of the Tokugawa period, they went to work as indentured servants (hōkōnin). Studies of polder villages in central Japan show that three-fourths of the daughters of tenants in one village left home in search of work, and nearly two –thirds from another were sent into service outside the village at least once in their lifetimes. 12 Indentured servitude took young girls out of the villages, and opened up a new world to them on the positive side, but on the negative side took them away from their families, thus breaking down the ie, the stem-family coherency.

In some instances, marriages were not officially registered until after a trial period of a year had elapsed. 13 Walthall supports a notion that when daughters of tenet farmers migrated in search of work, they tended to marry late. This contrasts her evidence that shows that the wealthy inclined tended to marry earlier. 14  She will also show by census statistics that the more affluent of families show an increase in longevity of lifespan over women who lived in want ( the poor). Although usually the  notion is that living wealthier one had access to better healthcare, better dietary functions and more stress-free atmosphere, being able to abscond hard-labor. 

Like puritans of America, Japanese poor peasants practice ‘night-visits,’ or in the Puritan lingo ‘stay-over’s’.  To test a possibility of longevity of a marriage, the “mediation factor her was lust, a passion validated in the practice of premarital nights visits and evidently given greater latitude within the Japanese peasantry than the military aristocracy. Although, Walthall is describing the physical space and the realative importance for it within small living quarters for the peasantry, both in comparison to France and Japan, the practice to see it the comparability for a couple was importance for the functioning of peace and harmony of the house.

In understanding that divorcee in China’s aristocracy at that time was frowned upon and women often committed suicide, for the sheer shame, of not being able to marry again, and in Japanese divorces the aristocratic male had all the rights, the women of the wealthy and astute found it hard to remarry at their same level; and often in the Samurai upper echelons the women could not remarry. Although, the peasant classes in Japan often married and divorced often, and multiple times, this practice of mate-compatibility was a functioning normalization. “ Harmony between the husband and wife is the basis of prosperity for the descendants.” 15 Although, space is the indicating factor of intimacy here in Walthall’s argument, the real intimacy issue is sexual compatibility as it connects to the kokka.

The question of divorce highlights further differences between samurai morals and customs on the one hand and diverse peasants practices on the other. According to samurai teachings, widows and divorcées were not expected to remarry. Tales of virtuous women recount how they committed suicide rather than accept a second marriage ― behavior praised also in China, where chastity was the crucial expression of female fidelity. Only a man, furthermore, could initiate divorce, either or simply by sending her baggage back to her natal home. A woman could do nothing to prevent the divorce or to protect access to her children. 16

Wages in the fields

Although women worked alongside men in the fields, they were not paid equal wages. “A painstaking Record” (“Ryūryū shinkuroku”), written in Echigo in 1805, shows that in the eighteenth century women were paid half or less what men made, but in the nineteenth century their pay increased to two-thirds that of men. At rice transplanting time, when female labor was a premium, they received almost a man’s wages. 17


In one village, over 20 percent of children under age five died, and only 64 percent survived to maturity.18 This is what possible Smith said of the mortality rate of infants. This of course is not countryside.

Laurel L Cornel

A Geronticide argument is offered by Laurel L. Cornell in her essay, “The Deaths of Old Women: Folklore and Differential Mortality in Nineteenth-Century Japan.” She uses census data to calculate women’s lifespan according to occupants of the household, identifying the key-mitigate, the step-daughter, asking three hypotheses if the step daughter has any-role in gernoticidal matters. “Obsuteyama” ( Literally, Old Women-Abandoning Mountain”), is a legend of a women who was dragged up to the mountain to be killed, by her son , who then changes his mind and takes his mother home with him, and she lives out the rest of her life naturally, but with a main point that her experience on the earth helps the village survive a major disaster. 

There were no an amalgam of evidence from a variety of sources, and only the census could pin-point potential trends. She uses the headmen population registers throughout Japan, although not naming the villages, from mid-1600s  through 1872, and only focuses on the years 1751-1775,  and pooling only “fifty-six in a rural village of Yokouchi, Shinano province, located in an intermountain valley in central Japan about a five-day walk from Edo to the southeast and Kyoto and Osaka to the southwest.” 19 Cornell also creates birth data for these women and “ Assign these women a year and month of birth based on their age at first entry, thus creating an age that remains consistent until they die.” 20 For the consensus she used the age sixty-years-old to apply the moniker of old age. In addition, the senses detailed some of the individual lives so she takes two individuals merely the same age and follows their life-paths.

Although this is a nice study, and a good topic, any form of analysis must be predicated with an uncertainty of pain-staking detail to all regions of Japan. A folklore, or legend has mobility, where as the registers do not. A register stays immobile, affixed to a location, in a town or village, as in this case, for eternity. A legend can actually transfer cultures and oceans.

“Old Age Security.” Mori’s study of Taishido shows that on the average women spent thirty-six years with their husbands and seventeen years as widows. 21

Survival rates by experience class show the fortunate women outlived the ordinary consistently past the age of sixty-five. Widowers show the lest longevity around fifty-percentile ranging around the sixty-five year mark. The nonlineal,  showing the lest longevity of them all were women of non-lineal status to their households, elder sisters who had returned to her household of origin after two divorces, the other a distant cousin of the household head who apparently move in after the other members of her own house emigrated elsewhere. 22 She discovers that having grandchildren increased the longevity of the lifespan of women, in a separate graph analysis. Cornell’s hypothesis on one of her question should have proved that having grandchildren increased the chances of geronticide, but this was not the case. In another analysis graph the shown data of the presence of daughter-in-laws and no daughter-in-laws are negligible, with only a small increase for the presence of a daughter in law. This too goes to support Cornell’s evidence that she is trying to show that geronticide had no basis for reality.  She studies the survival rates of men and women, of husband and wives and doesn’t come up with conclusive evidence that geronticide existed or did not.

In her final argument she sums up the noteworthy claim that this was a figment of people’s imaginations.  “ The reason, I suspect, is that while geronticide may not have existed in people’s behavior, it did exist in their hearts and minds.” 23 Cornell makes no claim that this could have happened in history. Like her, I cannot say for certain this didn’t happen. She could have stated there was no trend, but an episode that initially a long time ago created this folklore, could have happened. She admits a few grandmothers died promptly at ten-percent. A ten-percent margin is always over the tolerance limit in any society which see in its midst an ill they see justification for – and this type of legend can act as a buffer and reminder to people that older people are in fact people and they have special gifts of experience and knowledge with allows them to be of help to a community in time of crisis. Infanticide was a common practice as detailed by Smith and others, and is widely accepted practice in the Tokugawa period. It is hard to imagine that this practice didn’t also rear its ugly head from time to time, which in fact, would not show up in a senses analysis as limited as this study.

However, the positive aspects of this study reflect the house trends of the graphs displayed and have a relevance factor in understanding rural life in these small samples of villages.


Jennifer Roberts The Shingaku Women: Strait from the Heart”

One of the most distinctive features of the Shingaku ( heart Learning) movement was its timelessness. Founded in Kyoto in 1729 by Ishida Baigan (1685-1744), a farmer-turned-merchant, this movement had as its overall objective the rectification of a social system destabilized by rapid expansion of the market economy. Although merchants were officially at the bottom of the four-class hierarchy, Baigan argued that they, as the de facto managerial class, performed a function in society homologous to that of the samurai; that is, it was incumbent on both groups to conduct their business with honesty and in a spirit of selfless service. Thus, by giving moral and spiritual justification to commercial activity, Shingaku sought to rationalize the expedient pursuit of profit. Baigan translated the “Bourgeoisi tenor of the age” into a “national” cannon of social morality that amounted to a synthesis of the Why of the Samurai and of the merchant. 24

Throughout the seventeenth century, merchants and artists ( collectively, chōnin, or  townspeople) in general, and females in particular, had been marginalized within a social system that embodied the androcentric [ male perspective, short def.] values of the samurai minority.  Baigan and his chief disciple, the wealthy merchant Tejima Toan (1718-86), now understood to convince townspeople that they were actually the social vanguard. At the crux of the Shingaku teachings was the discovery and cultivation of “original heart” (honshin), which, though good in itself, was subject to corruption because of exteriorization of people’s material circumstances. Whereas male merchants and artisans were encouraged to cultivate a moral, rational approach to commerce, advice to females was not similarly bound by status of occupation. Owing to their anatomy and attendant vices, females of all classes were regarded by Shingaku theorists and their temporaries as a problematic constituency in need of moral rehabilitation. Toan, in particular, constructed a canon of “ female-likeness” (onnarashisa) premised on the strict alignment of sex and gender roles. 25

Tokugawa times a model terminology of the “farmer model” or the “samurai model” were accompanied by edicts from the bakufu ( the shogunal military administration) defined and to further refined the parameters of each existential model. 26 These details were about what to wear, how to do one’s job, and procedures of various sorts of complicity to standing laws. This hierarchy of ideal social and occupational statuses was a further complicated by the coexistent operations of a separate sex-gender system, which effectively bisected each of the four social classes into female and made divisions. Age grades provided the provided additional denominations. 27

Roberts’ argues that “ the entrenchment of a Confucian patriarchy, together with the bureaucratization of the samurai class, effectively indurated the concept of females as “inferior to males.” 28 She continues along with citing the various misogynist schools, some called “practical schools” that taught its form of Confucianism. In this society, Neo-Confucianism was the form of which the Tokugawa taught its subjects. She even gives an extreme argument of a self-appointed critic of female superiority by citing his rhetoric: “[the] female genitalia, while necessary for the reproduction of make heirs, were linked to dull-wittedness, laziness, lasciviousness, a hot temper, and a tremendous capacity to bear grudges”. 29

A New Cultural Identity

Underground Movement to popular culture of the anti-bureaucracy crowd.

Ishida Baigan (1685-1744) founder of a new religion called Shingaku.

1)      Chōnindō (Chōnin thought)

2)      Chōninbukro

3)      Yoshiwara ( anti-samurai entertainment district up till 1950s).

4)      Edokko (A child of Edo, nomenclature a person of the city; like a New Yorker who acts and talks like a native city dweller of New York; similar with Tokyoites.

5)      Sui (Esthetic codes form China, in Tokyo pronounced as iki, a style of life, an attitude. Collectively known as the identify of  being a tsū.

6)      Kaitokudo, Osaka academy until the 17th century, the modern period.


Edokko/ sui (iki and tsu)

The purpose of life becomes an anti-establishment urban thought, directed against Tokugawa bureaucracy, a model by the late 18th century. Edokku model their life in a form of art. The object of life is typified in the amount of money one can show off, and show people how much one spends. One of the philosophies of conduct was never hold on to your money. Once you get money then spend it. Tsu was argued that the French term dandy was a reasonable character of the Tsu. Basically, the dandy was a person that knew his way around the city, a person who knows popular culture,  a type of person that conducted themselves with certain codes known in this sub-culture  ( Subculture here is only to identify first,  that this was not at first the established popular culture , and second that it operated within the establishment, but disregarded most of the establishment’s conducts.), but rejected the established traditional system.

An edokku rejected the  Edo system. Since this culture is tied to the Chōnin, and by the late 18th century the merchant countryside rose into prominence many wealthy individuals formed sub-cultures and began to believe their purpose in life rivaled that of the samurai.

In order to make it as clear as possible I must show popular cultural trends in the west, more specifically America in the last twenty-five years. In the last quarter of a century, a movement gained cultural significance, first starting relatively underground, otherwise not accepted as culture but promoted by certain institutions that sprang up concurrently that acted as conduit for its promotion. This new cultural identity formed a code that took established traditional culture and turned it around. The women were considered the dominate species, and the men were players. The player didn’t want to fall in love, and saw low as a hindrance to their existence. Nothing matter to them, not like a nihilist bent on self destruction or no hope with a bad ending to everything, but a person that didn’t really care about anyone’s future, including themselves. They became their own hero in their own mind. Their attitudes characterized them as assertive, aggressive, emotional and arrogant with an adequate form of aspiration and conception of power. Their haughtiness offered a comparable to a know-it-all. Eventually in Edo, these sub-culturalists became the culture of admiration, at the bakufu’s expense. They were the rich new-money-people on the block, so to speak, and they held an ill-mannered belief that all the governmental officials were corruptionists born and raised to keep them down from their physiological glory.

In matter of cultural expression, these people went to the fabled Yoshiwara. It will be easier to make the western comparison once we put them in their desired domain. The Toshiwara was a gated entertainment district within Edo. This was a sacred site where anyone who entered left their former identities at the gate. No weapons were allowed in especially the samurai. They had to leave their famed swords at the gate to pick them up later. This was to show that the samurai are no better than the commoners. Once inside life was turned upside down. Typical references to winter celebrations of history where the servants become the master are a simplistic but accurate general theme here. The Samurai are now the societal bad guys, the bakufu are the enemies,  and the merchant class ( once toted as the lowest of lows on the totem of respectability) are the worhiped kings, so to speak. As stated above, women are the superior race, and men are not husband-bound but players in search of thrills and exotic ecstasy. There were the districts in Edo for legalized prostitution, but here the illegal form dominated. The courtesans were high-priced, and socially refined – trained in an art of their new superiority. Customs and mannerism in this place were not found outside in the so-called real world. The tsū had a distinct advantage as the samurai needed to work within the outside world during most of the year, but the tsū lived and breathed these Edokko practices. The tsū’s dress, speech and display of money separated themselves from the establishment. In Toshiwara they were now the establishment.

To understand the significance of the new establishment, this sub-culture promoted what we call a vulgar display of wealth and power. To show-off their new attire they wore expensive jewelry, the bigger the better, and gave them as gifts to their friends to show their status within this culture. The more expensive and the more out front one showed-off this jewelry the more one was respected as a player. Now that we are in the Yoshiwara I can now link the contemporary western theme as it relates to what was happening at this time. The culture that arose in the later 18th century of Tokugawa is similar to pop-culture in America. The institution, for a sake of better descriptions of physical places, were like the Music Television, MTV, or the RollingStone magazine, where a sub-culture arose that distained the traditional cultural trappings and formed their own code and conduct, thus becoming an industry within itself. In the ‘90s when Pop-culture really took off as a cultural phenomenon, the ideas there laid with the ideas here. The players, the women depicted as courtesans (must understand what a real courtesan was), the vulgar display of ‘bling,’ the anti-establishment persona, although many lived within this unreality choosing to make it their own reality – which is exactly what the tsū managed, the over professing felt they were the superior race and intellect. Since they continually challenged the intellect of the supporters of the Tokugawa system, they in effect became their own intelligencia. Just as contemporary popular icons read a newspaper and then give speeches (their uneducated opinions because they have easy access to the media)  on how the nation should conduct its national security, run a financial institution, or any plethora of rant on current event topics, the tsū believed they knew all about life better than the trained and educated bakufu, and nominally spoke-out any chance they could get – which was usually within the bounds of safety. This meant that tsū ( Dandies also was adept at) knew when to stop their antiestablishment rhetoric, before it was too late and become dangerous for their persons. It was said, that even stupid people could attain wealth. This thought surely was from the Samurai directed at the tsū. These were no more than the common judges of behavior. The elite, as they called themselves, looked to the feminine aspect of judgment. The women became their own judges of authority and this is usually a big argument in defenders of this movement that believed bakufu men or anyone that supported the bakufu even in print were misogynists.

Innocently Yoshiwara was referred popularly as Edo Play. This was innocently just make believe for the guest, however real for the new-money persons, as evidence of its eventual closure. The games were children’s play, and idea was to mimic a child in opposition to the grown-up Tokugawa citizen that had a family and was loyal to the system of progress within that Neo-Confucian formula. Children do not know what is right and what is wrong, nor do they care – which was the point. This was about having fun, an escape form reality – that is until the underling reason was the overthrow the establishment by passive-opposition – perpetrated by the actor taking the persona of the child and understanding this was not fantasy but a form propagating their beliefs by understanding this was show for the samurai, but underneath they compadres ( their friends) knew they were the better in all aspects of their mind. Once fantasy began to mix with reality, then things got troublesome for the Tokugawa.

As the hierarchy of the Neo-Confucian system of the Tokugawa bakufu, a hierarchy arose within the Edokko. Although, within the hereditary samurai system, a meritocracy operated within the bakufu system – often job transference, or replacement. Within the Edokko, we look to popular contexts among such entertainment establishment’s desired social functions as voting who are the most popular. This cultural rating system is deeply engrained within the entertainment communities of America, and here so we see as well another form of this cultural normality within these worlds of fantasy. Just like the Oscars, the Grammy’s or the Emmys, the popularity contests of these tsū existed within the same cultural sphere. The criteria were style, popularity and possibly a little concurrent gossip to add to the mix. A recorded episode of the 18 great tsū’ completion took notice enough to be celebrated in writing. This was a completion in Edo to see which ones of these figures were the greatest among them.

The reversal of the role tsū played in society could be deduced to the archtyple role of the sage. The sage were the dandies and the  tsū while the  samurai became seen as the rubes ( opposite of dandies). The sage’s new mission was to expose the fraud. “ we must unmask the fraud,” they claimed. Since the fantasy sages now had the money, the formed a disconnect point within the society structure of Japan.  Now who were the worshipped? No-longer, they saw, the worshipped traditional Tokugawan system as the forerunners of progress, but created an anti-social Tokugawa society with its own hierarchy of leaders. These were not the traditional military men, or scholars, but common, mostly traditionally uneducated with extreme access to wealth for display purposes to get the worship factor going. There was no talk of a revolution, as many didn’t know how to even handle a sword, except as a prop on the kabuki stage, they indeed formed litterateur that had ‘ like’ as the suffix as a mark to show their distain and let it be known they were of a anti-society.

The reason why they marketed themselves as such, was part of the mystique was to put forth a vibe that they were the constant armature, and that becoming a professional meant you were serious, and serious meant you were traditional culture, and traditional culture was the number one enemy.

Sexual overtones ruled the priority of social function. Form the provocative attire to the manuals of celebrating voyeurism. Tsū ideals of the erotic world played heavily in the make up of this culture. Love was for ‘worms,’ because they became trapped ( notice the extreme liberalism aspects of all of this functionality), they were connected to something, they were not free (remember the 1960s American flower children’s creed on love and sex).  Players must be unconnected and marriage was seen as connected and meant you were also a serious person.

Within this sub-culture, secret styles clued off others within the organizational codexes, such quick identifying of certain sexual preferences. Nakama form of etiquette of the homosexual culture was disguised in dress, language and posture. These secret styles differentiated the different sub-sexio-classes within the Tsū.

To be different, to be non-conformative was the liberalism of the Tsū. In essence, a traditional distained class rose to prominence that in turn turned the distinguishment of societal importance around and challenged the establishment. What could the Tokugawa do? Certainly the merchants were important to the system, as they are in all civilizations, but they created the very monster that attacked them in the end. Such irony of life in general is duly noted in historical satirical stories and plays of many classical ages in many civilizations’. How do we get around it? Money is the root of all evil, so the story goes. Here the rich Tsū and Edokko turned out no different than the rich ruling samurai class, in the end.

Who were these people?

First, mainly the city people, explaining they had not relations to the countryside and how hard life was to farm and produce the food that they ate. Second,  country-bumpkins who made their wealth outside of the confines of bakufu trade restriction ( be it inter or coastal relations of trade communities). Others were within the confines of the Bakufu. Thirdly, but not the least, these metro-citizens were rice-brokers, as described above. These brokers became stars and usually asked a high-interest rate when they loaned out money to a samurai.  So these people were mostly rich, but their were the poor city followers that held the same sui as their compadres, but they all agreed the Tokugawa system must dissolve. Eventually many went professional as they saw their money more important than this fantasy world philosophy. This happened when enough parody and laughter in the public directed toward the samurai mostly from within the Yoshiwara district could no longer be tolerated by the rulers, they shut it down. This showed the Tsū had become less of an entertainment fantasy and more of powerhouse reality.

Establishment supporters

Now mentioned are also people that have new thoughts on bettering society, but they were different from the Edokko because they supported the Tokugawa system. They sought only to make small changes, and not large ones as with the tsū crowd.

Ishida Baigan (1685-1744) founder of a new religion called Shingaku, summed up on sentiment by arguing,  the merchants were now a de facto managerial class, performed a function in society homologous to that of the samurai; that is, it was incumbent on both groups to conduct their business with honesty and in a spirit of selfless service. Thus by giving moral and spiritual justification to commercial activity, Shingaku sought to rationalize the expedient pursuit of profit. 30

These were no codes like the Edokko, and were seen as the chōnindō significance; the dō meaning the like-thought. The chōnindō viewed their importance with a comparison of the parts of a tree. To picture a tree with its trunk as the foundation of the Tokugawa system, together with the trees many branches, which symbolized the chōnindō, i.e. the branches, the chōnindō were thought to be an extension of the tree’s main structure, the trunk.  In this way the chōnindō were inseparable parts of a whole. The chōnindō had asked the bakufu not to look upon them as parasitical. We have ethical role to play in the Tokugawa system. They were not anti-establishment because they believed that profit was an economic base in which progress of a civilization formed. Not to go too far in western comparison, but the capitalist writers argued the same thing, that profit produces the best goods and the best goods in turn form a competition society in the spirit of a community working as a whole for the betterment of the society. They argued that usury was good as well. Baigan’s doctrine doesn’t attack directly the Tokugawa merchant policies.  He claimed that all of us have a role in the society. This would be a case made by him in that since samurai controlled trade policy, and they were busy operating and administrating the society, that commoners could help out and provide a necessity to the growing rural markets and add to the new production capacity otherwise unforeseen with older laws.

Shingaku consisted of Buddhist and Shinto religious elements. These were hard work, diligence, moral endeavors for all of japans’ accessorial matters. Shingaku taught investment strategies, how to understand usury, and how to form corporations. These were moral business objectives which the Tokugawa actually accepted as standard new identity within its traditional system. Schools were set up one called Kaitokudo which played an important factor in Osaka for the men of the merchant class. Schools for women arose, and how their roles played significance in the new economics evolving. These were positive measures, with a positive outlook.

7)      Chōnindō (Chōnin thought)

8)      Chōninbukro

Female-like-ness was thus best achieved, according to Baigan and his successors, in the context of marriage, for in order to become an effective household manager a women had to learn how to shrink the “ego” (Ware) that obscures and pollutes her pristine original heart. 31 On the surface, the Shingaku construction of “female” gender matched the of the Confucian-oriented bakufu and the male intelligencia in general. Confucian’s original heart teaching sought a women should possess obedience, purity, goodwill, frugality, modesty and diligence. 32 Shingaku didn’t want to make women superior to men, it wanted to isolate the female role in society and show that women mattered and it sought to set goals by instruction to achieve the proper women in society. This religion didn’t focus on the single female identity, but a general idealism of a woman’s role in society. Women were becoming business managers, shopkeepers, and importants of the public domain. Gender was thus used  as a rational for setting the spatial parameters of those activities; it was not intended to prohibit women ( especially chōnin) from shop keeping altogether. 33

The architecture of the Shingaku colleges (kōsha) symbolically extended the sexism and gender ideals that informed the movement. Virtually all of the 180 colleges founded in forty-four provinces throughout Japan were modeled after Meirinsha (1728), the head college in Kyoto. Merininsha was divided into eight rooms, including one reserved for women labeled fujin. When public lectures were held at a college, the sliding doors separating the rooms were removed to create maximum space and bamboo blinds were installed to separate female from male listeners. This temporary, gendered space was labeled nyoshi seki, or “females” place.34

This type of special arrangement gave women the time to be with themselves and to discuss matters inherently to what women go through compared to understanding what a man thinks. However, the “samuriazation” of family law under the auspices of the 1898 Civil Code, together with the Meiji state’s advocacy of the “good wife, wise mother” gender rule for all classes of women, occasioned the eventual hegemony of male “ experts” on motherhood. This view was sticking point for Shingaku critics. The Marriage institution like in the Tsū’s view argued it took away part of a women’s independence. Yet, what Shingaku did was give a voice to the chōnin, and this typified the importance of the movement. When women’s traditional roles has a whole had taken back seat to the male constructs at the Kabuki theater, or the  new Edokko courtesan, women need a new religious-like type of discourse to reaffirm their importance as mothers and women in society. In effect, the Shingaku disciples cared about their role as correct women, where as the Tsū didn’t care about a women’s role in society. Possibly this was a needed religious-experience because sterotypes of Japanese women, most possibly propagated by Tsū tracts, doomed the women’s image as nothing more than a small-minded and extravagant objects of sexuality. The Shingaku women was the professional women and they sought to forbade the negative stereotypes that arouse in castle-towns such as Kyoto (Edo) and Osaka.

Shingaku lectures were also public matters. A report dated 1794 notes a week-long engagement in the village of the Tanba-province which drew an average of 513 women and men each day, for a total of 6,672 persons. Females were the featured subjects on parables, composite of proverbs and common sense precepts. They drew from historical incidents and enumerated social problems and simultaneously proposed solutions for them. 35

Jennifer Robertson’s  conclusion re-evaluates her argument that the Shingaku movement was of nominal success. “ Singaku disciplehood did neutralize some of the negative values imposed of female sex, however. Likewise, by participating in the construction of the Shingaku women, female disciples compensated for their “natural” misrepresentation of her. Roberson argument that the female genitalia “prevented them form representing the Shingaku Women” precluded female –like-ness. The logic of anatomical reductionism virtually assured that females could participate only in the deconstruction of female-like-ness as it was defined by the patriarchal intelligencia” [ italics left in for empasis]. 36 In this way Roberson denies female agency. The female was trapped to be a product of the Tsū. The idea of disconnection of the marriage institution is a big matter for her argument. This is because men in general want a certain type of stability in their lives in which women traditionally performed as a function of society. The new Edokkoites and iki movements showered their appraisal of women as independent paragons of women’s superiority but at the same time she was a non- caring-elitist posed to careless of any traditional functioning of civilization including the marriage institution.  The “paradox,” as Robertson states, the Shingaku disciple produced can actually be shown on both sides of the argument with the Tsū disciple. Modern pop-cultural lyrics stress that a player wants an independent women, a type of superiority player in the public but a submissive prostitute-like in their beds, meaning behind close doors they, the players, become the misogynists ― thereby forming the paradox inherent in the argument.  The male Chōnin that played in the Yoshiwara did not or never give “real” control to the Tsū women. It was all fantasy, and Robertson seems to argue that “Bakufu ideology did not and could not accommodate women’s control over the construction and representation of “female” gender.” 37 The Shingaku supported the bakufu, whereas, the Tsū didn’t. It would be easy to stress the promotions of tradition within the Japanese legacy, for it worked, and it was natural ( According to Confucian doctrine) but to say that a total role reversal where women defined government, culture and economics would be a monolithic endeavor itself, reshaping most of the world’s historiography and ultimately changing the course of human events.  If this would happen, would the male take over all aspects of the female’s role? This can be seen as what the bakufu Intelligencia was trying to come to terms with. Would women now fight the wars, building the roads and building, move large rocks, and boulders?  These factors do come up in Robertson’s argument possibly because she didn’t think about them. They are noteworthy in historical relevance. What were the women’s roles in Japanese society and how do we understand in the context of the bakufuan argument?

Joyce Chapman Lebra

Women in the All-Male Industry: The case of Sake Brewer Tatsu’uma Kiyo

Rice wine, known as Sake, Japan’s oldest industry, has traditionally been an all male endeavor. Traditionally brewmasters and male workers invoked Shinto deities while making sake: “This was a warning against the polluting nature of females” in the breweries during the Tokugawa and Meiji periods. 38

Before these periods, traditionally, as still used with native tribes living outside of civilizations, girls sat and chewed rice ( or other natural biomass) and spit the contents into a pot, a part of a natural brewing process. In Japan this was done by girls as young as fourteen, and this suggests that women were not seen as polluting agents traditionally. However, things changed.

Tatsu’uma Kiyo came form a house that brewed sake. She was born on July 16, 1809 (d. 1900), and under her de facto rule major industry innovations were born. She was from a Katmigata merchant house, and her for Tatsu’uma Kichizaemon IX had only one daughter. He believed in an old proverb that said, “It’s a girl, so the house will prosper.” He raised her to know his business. The brewery was called Hakushika, and for the next fifty years it prospered like no other brewery.

In 1830, Kiyo began to make political marriages that would be a lasting policy for her, first herself marrying into another brewery house. The merchants and/or country industries enjoyed certain prerogatives over women in Edo or other castle-towns.

In Osaka, there was a stipulation for a woman to become the head of the household, called headsman, for up to three years voted on by a committee of the five-top houses in a village. However, Kiyo never took on this role, instead she “was the power behind the successor form 1842 thought 1897.” 39 What this meant for women, was that although Tokugawa ideology woman in keeping women in the back-room, so to speak, women could easily run a major warehouse or business from behind the scenes. Lebra tells us that she followed an already well defined tradition.

With her political matchmaking she often used sons-in-laws to run branch houses, and she had many children, many who were girls. She also didn’t mind cousins marrying cousins. In this way there was a headhouse, and the many branches, thus building a family empire. Tatsu’uma also cleaned the fermenting barrels herself after one year devastated the sake crop because of bacterial infection. She was a hands-  on administrator. Another disaster was a fire in 1847 that destroyed many of her archives on the family operation. With these concerns of disaster she ventured into money-lending, exchange broker, and investor. In the 1840s, she traded gold in Edo and silver in Osaka. Tatsu’uma in 1846 began to purchase their own ships. 40 When the price of rise rose,  she looked for ways to buy bulk and invest in smaller sub-breweries of her clients’ and ran their sake 9 mixed with some of hers) and put her label on it to sell. This has become a standard all over business in the world today. In 1884, Nihon Yusen Kaisha introduced to Japan the steamship and the next year Tatsu’uma founded a shipping company, which soon followed after by a marine and fire insurance venture. 41 Tatsu’uma was becoming an entrepreneur and ten years later she bought big steamships from England. As one can see, she became sort of a legend. But, Lebra wants to argue the women’s ultimate role in memory. Afterr interviewing the fifth-generation survivors, they didn’t want to discuss Kiyo with her. She wondered about this, and then looked to the gravesite and noticed that Kiyo grave was couched-off into a corner plot, while her grandson was displayed prominently.

Perhaps, as several interviewees in Kobe and Nishinomiya suggested, the reason lies in tradition: by customs, if a women was too successful in bu8isness, she might become an embarrassment to her family because she humiliated her [male] competitors. Her successors might then keep her out of  the family grave or delete her name form the family register. It is possible that Kiyo was just such a women, for by the time of her death her family’s business was three times larger than its nearest competitors. Kiyo’s behind-the-scenes management of brilliant triumphs over business rivals, in other words, may have proven awkward not only to the Tatsu’uma family during her own lifetime, but to subsequent generations as well. Family deference to codes of modesty and humility may well have lost for Kiyo the central place she surely deserves in the history of modern Japan’s most prosperous sake brewery. 42

Patrica Fister

Female Bunjin: The4 Life of Poet-Painter Ema Saikō

A female Bunjin ( Scholars of Chinese art and letters) was active in the second-half of the eighteenth century. Ema Saiko (1787-1861) was such a bunjin, who became famous for her work, had many disciples, as well as influences and met many other great artists and literati in her day. Her one complaint, that she didn’t express in common language was her pinning for marriage. This came out in some of her poetry. This is what the argument is about. She had a chance to marry one of her masters, but she delayed. She also wrote that being unmarried helped her to be the great artist she was, but an argument can be made she was not completely happy. She stated that painting bamboo, in one of her poems was the happiest thing she ever encountered, but her longing of a life- partner makes her character a sad one. The argument Fister puts forth is – do talented women and having a family to serve a cohabited possibility in pre-modern Japan or modern Japan? To Ema Saiko, according to her own admission, this answer is no.

1Recreating Japanese Women: 1600-1945, ed. Gail Lee Bernstein (London: University of California Press, 1991) 3.

2 Ibid, 18 .

3 Ibid, 33 .

4 Ibid, 35.

5 Ibid, 37.

6 Ibid, 38.

7 Ibid.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid, 40,41.

10 Ibid, 48 .

11 Ibid, 49.
12 Ibid, 50 .
13 Ibid, 52 .
14 Ibid, 52.
15 Ibid, 56 .
16 Ibid, 60.

17 Ibid, 57 .

18 Ibid, 65 .

19 Ibid, 74.

20 Ibid.

21 Ibid, 67.

22 Ibid, 85.

23 Ibid, 87.

24 Ibid, 88.

25 Ibid, 89 .

26 Ibid.

27 Ibid.

28 Ibid, 91.

29 Ibid.

30 Ibid, 88.

31 Ibid, 94.

32 Ibid.

33 Ibid, 96.

34 Ibid.

35 Ibid, 105.
36 Ibid, 106 .
37 Ibid.
38 Ibid, 131 .
39 Ibid, 141.

40 Ibid, 146.
41 Ibid,  141.
42 Ibid, 148.


Gail Lee Bernstein “ Recreating Japanese Women: 1600-1945” (London: University of California Press, 1991).

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