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Tokugawa Hidetada had been shogun since 1605, but he only began to rule for himself after his father Ieyasu died in 1616. He consolidated his power in the Bakufu by squeezing 4.5 million koku in revenue from his younger brother Matsudaira Tadateru, his nephew Matsudaira Tadanori, and the daimyos Fukushima Masanori and Honda Masanobu. In 1618 the Yoshiwara quarter of Edo was designated for regulated prostitution, which was made illegal anywhere else. Hidetada confirmed the ban on Christianity in 1616 and limited European merchants to the ports of Nagasaki and Hirado. Two Jesuits converted miners at Ezo during a gold rush, and more than fifty Japanese converts were executed in Kyoto and Nagasaki in 1619. No foreign missionaries were executed until 1622, when nine European priests were burned at the stake in Nagasaki along with sixteen Japanese; thirty other converts were beheaded. Missionaries estimated the total number of Christians executed between 1613 and 1626 as about 750. During the same period the Jesuits claimed they baptized 17,000 adult Japanese. Spaniards were expelled from Japan in 1624. Hidetada let his son Iemitsu become shogun in 1623 but kept the power until he died in 1632. Hidetada and Iemitsu confiscated about 3.6 million koku each from the daimyos. In 1628 Hidetada banned the importing of Christian books, and the next year a law was made that required suspected Christians to trample on bronze plaques depicting Christian images; those who refused could be tortured or executed. In 1627 the Shogun decreed that the Emperor would no longer appoint the ecclesiastical office holders. Hidetada's daughter married Emperor Go-Mizunoo in 1620. Their daughter was born in 1623 and was proclaimed Empress Meisho in 1629, when the protesting Go-Mizunoo abdicated.
Shogun Iemitsu (r. 1632-51) began his rule by confiscating half a million koku from his younger brother Tadanaga for having mistreated his vassals. Unemployed bannermen (hatamoto) led men of other classes in gangs to rob and gain from other illicit activities. Some of these had been caught and put to death when watches were put on cross-roads in 1628. In 1632 rules were made for the hatamoto that urged them to practice martial arts while avoiding gambling, extravagance, factions, trade, or naming heirs without permission. Daimyos had been leaving hostages at Edo since the battle of Sekigahara in 1600; after 1633 they were required to live there half each year or every other year while their families remained there all the time.
In 1634 Shogun Iemitsu marched his army of 300,000 to Kyoto, where he raised the retired Emperor's revenue from 7,000 to 10,000 koku and lavished gifts on the citizens. He added provisions to the Buke Shohatto drafted by the Hayashi brothers in 1635 that made the Shogun's decrees the supreme law. Thus the Shogun governed as a military dictator with the help of daimyos and their samurai in the provinces in a continuing feudal system. The daimyos were bound to lead their armies into the field at the Shogun's command. Yet during the peaceful Tokugawa era, no armies were mobilized after 1638 until 1864. All religious matters were put under the authority of the superintendent of temples and shrines. Daimyos governed their own territories by han-seki (land registration) and his samurai retainers (kashindan). A council of these elders (karo) advised the daimyo, and they acted as independent vassals. Only Kaga governed by the house of Maeda had more than a million koku. Twenty-two great daimyos had over 200,000 koku, and more than half the daimyos had territories of less than 50,000 koku. In 1635 the Bakufu sent priests from the five great Zen monasteries in Kyoto to Tsushima to watch how officials managed their relations with Koreans.
After the military aristocracy, the second class was considered to be the farmers. Soldiers were five to seven percent of the population, and the peasants made up about eighty percent. The farmers and the third class of artisans had local self-government by village or ward headmen. Artisans who made armor or weapons were more respected. Guilds were organized according to occupation, and apprenticeships were strict. Merchants were considered the lowest of the four classes, but Japanese law often combined the artisans and merchants as the chonin urban class. In 1642 some merchants and officials were severely punished for attempting to corner a market. Usually only the samurai were allowed to use a surname or carry two swords. A samurai guilty of a crime would often commit ritual suicide (seppuku) to preserve his family name.
Edo had an impregnable castle and grew to about a million people by the end of the 18th century and would be renamed Tokyo. Under the shogun from four to six senior councilors of the Roju were the main administrators. The same number of junior councilors were responsible for the shogun's housemen and bannermen. In 1633 inspectors were sent out to discipline the daimyos. Cities were administered by magistrates, and the Nagasaki magistrate had the added duty of supervising foreign trade as a monopoly for the Bakufu. About three hundred families in the Kyoto palace enclosure made up the kuge. Because of their lineage and court rank, they were considered part of the upper class; they were not wealthy and survived by teaching their artistic crafts or marrying daughters off to rich daimyos. A vendetta between samurai occurred in 1634 when Watanabe Kazuma went after Kawai Matagoro for having murdered his father. By mid-century the Code of One Hundred articles would be drawn up to define the rules of vendetta. The state if notified promptly would give permission to kill an offender if no rioting was involved. However, someone from a lower class who offended might be killed by a samurai immediately.
After the civil wars ended, as many as a half million unemployed samurai (ronin) had few opportunities and were forbidden to live in villages or monasteries. Many gave up their samurai status and became hired workers or farmers. The Christian samurai who had fought for the Christian daimyo Konishi had the most difficult time. Some soldiers settled in other lands such as the Philippines, Siam, Indo-China, Taiwan, the Moluccas, Borneo, Celebes, Java, and the Malay peninsula. The exclusion decrees began in 1633. The 1635 order made the importation of silk a monopoly for the Shogun. Japanese citizens were forbidden to travel abroad without a license and could be executed for having done so. The practice of Christianity was prohibited in all fiefs. The 1637 Shimabara revolt in Kyushu was blamed on Japanese Christians. The next year almost all the 20,000 rebels were killed, while the much larger government forces lost about 10,000 men. In 1639 seven senior councilors signed the final exclusion order. Portuguese vessels were completely banned. Macao sent envoys to negotiate, and 61 Portuguese were beheaded. In 1641 the Japanese limited Dutch merchants to the island of Dejima in Nagasaki. By 1644 no Jesuit missionaries remained in Japan. In 1649 the size of the armed forces under daimyos was set according to the extent of their domain.
One koku of rice was about five dry bushels and the annual consumption by one person. Thus the number of koku indicated the food supply for that number of people. In 1643 the sale or mortgage of arable land was prohibited so that peasants would not migrate to the towns. Peasants were not allowed to travel outside their district without a certificate. In 1649 the Bakufu government issued a document to guide peasant farmers. They were to work hard and remove all weeds, growing beans and other foods on the borders. They should rise early to cut grass, and they were to make straw rope or bags in the evening. The wife should work at the loom day and night. If a wife neglects her household duties, she should be divorced. They should wear hemp or cotton, not silk. They should not buy tea or sake and must not smoke tobacco. The average tax on peasants was half the rice crop, and they could be made to work on roads or supply horses without pay. Villages elected their own headmen, but influential families usually dominated. If taxes were not fully paid, the headman could lose his property or be tortured. In 1641 seven headmen were executed for protesting a land survey in Uwajima. In 1652 the headman Matsumoto Choso insisted on a tax reduction, which was finally granted, but he was executed.
Peasants were organized into groups (goningumi) of five families responsible for mutual aid and for mutual surveillance. A 1642 law made the group responsible for the fields of those who absconded. Anyone helping a peasant escape or another offender could be punished by fines. The Zensho published their duties with specific instructions that included how to receive public officials, clear roads, tie up dogs and cats, clean and repair wells and streams, cultivate all arable land, and keep bridges and roads in order. Permission must be gained to cut bamboo or trees or to build. Ronin, merchants, and beggars were not allowed to spend the night in the village, and strangers must be questioned and reported to authorities. Christians were forbidden entry. A village must help another village in case of fire or robbery. No person under the age of ten was to be sold.
After Shogun Iemitsu died in 1651, more than 3,000 attendants, mostly female, were dismissed as unnecessary. The capable young Hotta Masamori was one of several retainers chosen to accompany his dead overlord in the junshi custom that was finally abolished in 1663. Five years later a vassal of Okudaira Tadumasa committed junshi suicide, and his two children were executed; this was the last junshi recorded. Iemitsu's son Ietsuna was only ten years old and suffered poor health until his death in 1680. Matsudaira Nobutsuna and Abe Tadaaki on the Roju council governed, and they got Confucian advice from Hoshina Masayuki. Local han authorities became more independent. In 1651 the daimyo Matsudaira Sadamasa returned his fief in Mikawa to the Bakufu with all his possessions so that the Shogun would pay the poverty-stricken bannermen (hatamoto). Then he walked through Edo with a begging bowl, but the Bakufu considered him mad, confiscated his estate, and gave it to his elder brother. Two independent samurai, Yui Shosetsu and Marubashi Chuya, taught military skills and sold weapons. After Iemitsu died, they plotted to start a fire in Edo to overthrow the government; but Chuya was arrested, and surrounded Shosetsu and his colleagues committed suicide. Chuya and his accomplices were tortured and executed along with their families. Another ronin conspiracy by restless samurai was discovered and suppressed the next year.
Abe Tadaaki urged a policy that would reduce the number of dangerous ronin. Daimyos were allowed to name an heir on their death-bed to prevent the Bakufu from confiscating their estates. As more of the samurai's sons were educated, they were able to fill positions in government. Those gangs who wore odd costumes and hairstyles were called kabukimono. Townsmen from the class of clerks and shopkeepers formed machi-yakko bands to punish the wrong-doers. These yakko bands often went beyond the law, but in literature and theater they were usually portrayed as heroes. After three hundred in the Daishojingi-Gumi band were caught and their leaders executed in 1686, the yakko bands tended to disintegrate into gamblers and loafers. Because of these bands, vendettas became less frequent among samurai but more common among the other classes.
After the great Edo fire of 1657 that took a hundred thousand lives and burned down the mansions of the great daimyos, the Bakufu provided relief and loans to victims of disasters. In 1658 in Omura 600 Christians were killed, and 200 more would be put to death in Owari in 1683. The han gained most of their income from land taxes that included the production of rice, wheat, barley, and cotton. The production of tobacco had been prohibited but was legalized in 1667. Irrigation from the Tamagawa waters in 1655 and from Lake Hakone in 1670 opened farmlands in the Kanto plain. Sadai Tadakatsu was Tairo from 1638 to 1656 and was succeeded by Sadai Tadakiyo, who became the senior Roju in 1666. He was often reprimanded by the elderly Abe Tadaaki, who died in 1671, and Hoshina's advice ended the next year. The Tokugawa government began running a deficit in 1678. Hotta Masatoshi, son of the Hotta who died after Iemitsu, was appointed Roju in 1679. When Ietsuna died the next year, Masatoshi and Mitsukuni removed Tadakiyo from power and got Iemitsu's fourth son Tsunayoshi named shogun.
Tsunayoshi (r. 1680-1709) appointed Hotta Masatoshi his chief councilor or tairo. In 1681 the Shogun ended a vendetta by ordering Matsudaira Mitsunaga to commit suicide, and he confiscated his fief of 250,000 koku. During his reign Tsunayoshi would confiscate the estates of 46 daimyos and a hundred bannermen. For the first time more fudai daimyos were punished. He had intendants investigated, and 35 were eventually dismissed; some were even executed. In 1682 he ordered commissioners and censors to improve the public morality by banning prostitution and enforcing other sumptuary rules. Daimyos were urged to reduce luxuries, though Tsunayoshi spent much on the temples of Shingon Buddhism. Confucian virtues such as loyalty, filial piety, frugality, and diligence were praised on public notice boards throughout the country. Charitable ordinances were also enacted to protect abandoned children and ill travelers. In 1683 a revised Buke Sho-Hatto ordered private disputes and farmer's complaints to be solved by law officers. Masatoshi did not get along well with subordinates and was murdered by a junior councilor in the council chambers in 1684. Tsunayoshi did not appoint another tairo nor meet with the council but created the new office of chamberlain (sobayonin). The Shogun occupied himself with Buddhist rituals and cultural pursuits. He hired the poet Kitamura Kigin to teach, and Tsunayoshi performed in No plays in his palace. He made officials attend lectures on Confucianism and gave some of them himself. He improved relations between the Bakufu government and the imperial court.
The Genroku era from 1688 to 1704 became famous for its prosperity and cultural achievements. In 1687 Tsunayoshi began issuing decrees for the protection of animals, especially dogs. He was criticized for punishing people who sold or ate birds and other animals, and some townsmen and farmers were even executed for killing or injuring a dog. In 1695 shelters were built and within two years 50,000 dogs were being fed by the state. Tsunayoshi was also unpopular for having sexual affairs with boys as well as women, and promoting his favorite boys set a bad example for the daimyos. With funds nearly exhausted, in 1695 Hagiwara Shigehide persuaded the shogunate to debase the gold and silver pieces and became Finance Commissioner. This scheme gave the Bakufu a temporary profit of five million ryo. (Ryo in money roughly equals koku in rice.) As the public lost confidence in the currency, counterfeiting spread, resulting in five hundred convictions in the next few years. After 1698 the Shogun communicated by his Grand Chamberlain Yanagizawa Yoshiyasu (1658-1714).
In 1701 Kira Yoshinaka tried to teach the Ako daimyo Asano Naganori imperial etiquette; but after mutual insults he ordered Asano to commit suicide (seppuku). Asano's 47 retainers (samurai) became unemployed (ronin), but Oishi Kuranosuke led them in revenge and killed Kira in 1702. The 47 ronin gave themselves up and were ordered to commit seppuku. In this case the emerging Bushido code of the samurai enabled them to punish themselves. Their graves have been venerated, and the popular play Chushingura was based on these events. An earthquake at Edo in 1703 took 150,000 lives and began harder times. In 1705 Yodoya Saburoemon was accused of ostentatious display of wealth and was ruined when the Bakufu canceled the large daimyo debts owed him and confiscated his entire estate. More fires and earthquakes occurred in 1707, when Mount Fuji erupted. The next summer Tsunayoshi announced he would resign in favor of his nephew Ienobu, who became the next shogun early in 1709.
Ienobu (r. 1709-13) had been Kofu daimyo, and he was advised by his tutor Arai Hakuseki. Over nineteen years he lectured Ienobu on the Confucian classics 1,299 times. Hakuseki wrote histories on the larger fiefs from 1600 to 1680. Shogun Ienobu canceled the edicts of his predecessor about animals that had been ridiculed, and in a general amnesty 8,831 prisoners were released. The Buke Sho-Hatto was revised again to eliminate bribery, especially among the chamberlains. Officials were ordered to listen to the complaints of the people. Ienobu's reforms abolished cruel punishments and made the courts more efficient so that cases would not take years as they had before. By 1711 four debasements had reduced the silver coins to 80% copper. That year peasants in Echigo rioted, but Hakuseki persuaded Ienobu to have the causes investigated. Although he listened to the ronin Confucian, Ienobu made the former No actor Manabe Akifusa his chief advisor as chamberlain. Hakuseki also urged the Shogun to strengthen the currency by issuing a new gold coin, and he recommended reducing the loss of silver by limiting foreign trade. The Confucian Arai only approved of importing medicines and books from China. When Commissioner Hagiwara Shigehide advised debasing the currency again in 1713, Hakuseki accused him for the third time of cheating for thirty years to acquire a fortune of 250 million ryo. Shigehide's plan was rejected, and he was removed from office. After Ienobu died, four-year-old Ietsugu was named shogun. In 1714 a pure currency was introduced. The price of rice had been rising, but now it went down sharply for four years.
More fudai daimyos and bannermen were becoming salaried officials. By using monopolies and seclusion from foreign trade the Tokugawa regime denied profits to the western daimyos who might oppose their power. The shogun and daimyos hired procurement merchants and let them build quarters close to the walls of their castles. Many of these were ex-samurai who previously had been in charge of military supplies. The cultivation of land in Japan increased by 82 percent from 1600 to 1720, but after that not much more land could be reclaimed. Improvements in using draft animals, tools, fertilizers, and double-cropping increased yields. Treadmills were used to raise water from ditches, and mechanical devices aided threshing. The annual rice crop increased from 18.5 million koku in 1597 to 25.8 million in 1700, feeding about that many people. As commerce developed, the government allowed the cultivation of cotton, tea, hemp, sugar, tobacco, oil seeds, vegetable wax, indigo, and mulberry for silkworms. Miyazaki Antei studied farming for forty years and wrote The Farmer's Compendium (Nogyo zensho) in 1696. He observed that shortages were not caused by poor soil or lack of effort but occurred because peasants were not aware of farming techniques. By 1700 farmers and merchants had gained confidence and were not as intimidated by samurai.
Fujiwara Seika's Confucian disciple Hayashi Razan (1583-1657) wrote an account of his debate with a Japanese Jesuit in 1606. That year he became legal adviser to Ieyasu, and he served the military government for the next fifty years. Hayashi taught the ideas of Zhu Xi, and he wrote Honcho hennen-roku, a chronicle of Japanese history that was continued in the Comprehensive Mirror of Our Country (Honcho tsugan), which his son Hayashi Gaho (Shunsai) completed by 1670 in 310 volumes. In 1630 the Hayashi family established a Confucian school that later became the Tokugawa college and was called the School of Prosperous Peace (Shohei-ko). Two years later the Owari daimyo Yoshinao, the ninth son of Ieyasu, had a hall built for the worship of Confucius at Ueno next to his Hayashi school. Razan and his brother Nobuzumi drafted the new laws of 1635. Hayashi Razan believed that the Confucian way of heaven was the same as the Shinto way of the gods, and that when people follow this way, there is no need for military coercion; but military force could be used to restore a disordered society. Razan criticized Buddhism for being less practical than Confucianism, for being of foreign origin, and for having less clear ideas about the mind. He argued that Confucian ideas could be found in ancient Japanese legends and history, and he warned that divine retribution occurred when one violated the Confucian ethics.
Nakae Toju (1608-48) criticized Razan for not practicing the rules of conduct that he taught. In 1634 Toju renounced his samurai status and left the fief to take care of his aging mother in Omi. He believed in devotion to the Supreme Lord. He studied Confucian writings but eventually abandoned Zhu Xi to read Wang Yangming. In 1645 he acquired the complete works of Wang Yangming, and during the last three years of his life he promoted his idealist philosophy. In his dialog Okina mondo Toju focused on the internal moral sense that comes from intuitive knowledge and guides right action. The inner light of conscience is the divine reasoning that guides one by sincerity and reverence instead of being swayed by one's desires. Toju believed that the mind is neither good nor evil, but these result from the will. He believed that all humans are given divine light to tell good from bad, and everyone hates injustice and is ashamed of evil because they are born with intuitive knowledge. Thus all humans are equal. An inferior person by watching over oneself may realize an error and turn to good, thus becoming a superior person. Toju argued that controlling the mind is also important for women, and he considered it a mistake to think that this is not a woman's business. He wrote,
If a wife's disposition is healthy and pious,
obedient, sympathetic, and honest,
then her parents and children, brothers and sisters,
and, in fact, every member of her family,
will be at peace and the entire household in perfect order,
so that even lowly servants benefit from her gracious kindness.
That kind of family is certain to enjoy lasting happiness,
and succeeding generations will continue to prosper as a result.2
Toju emphasized filial piety and the debt of gratitude everyone owes to their parents for their affection and the moral nature they inherit. He expanded the concept of filial piety to include gratitude for all of life. Toju was loved by the poor for his simple philosophy and was called the sage of Omi.
Kumazawa Banzan (1619-91) studied with Nake Toju. In 1647 Banzan went to Ikeda in the Bizen province and implemented administrative reforms. His advice led to using riparian water works for irrigation and forest development. He also organized the first clan school for the Okayama. After being promoted by Ikeda Mitsumasa, he was criticized by the tairo Sakai Tadakatsu for proposals he made in his writings. Banzan recommended the land reforms he had introduced in the Ikeda fief, and he suggested ending the policy of making the daimyos spend half their time in the capital so that the money saved could be used to help the ronin. Banzan had to resign in 1656 and went to Kyoto, but he was driven from one post to another because of his radical reforms. He criticized governmental autocracy and urged individuals to act with autonomy. Hayashi Gaho called Banzan a heretic. In 1687 Banzan submitted a reform program to the Shogun, but it aroused such controversy that he was kept under surveillance for the rest of his life. He believed that true wealth is using the world's goods for the benefit of all. This is the great principle by which the shogun could make the entire country happy and peaceful.
The Fuju Fuse faction of the Nichiren sect lost another debate in 1630, and Nichiju was exiled. In the 1660s Mount Minobu petitioned the commissioner of temples to prosecute the Fuju Fuse, and temple lands were only given to those who renounced the Fuju Fuse faction. In 1669 the Fuju Fuse temples were prohibited from having parishioners because they were not allowed to certify their religious affiliations. In 1687 the General Temple Regulations proscribed Christianity, Fuje Fuse, and two other Nichiren sects. Fuju Fuse congregations would continue to suffer persecution, especially in the years 1718 and 1794.
In 1628 the Bakufu attempted to regulate the Zen temples of Daitokuji and Myoshinji by forbidding the wearing of purple vestments and requiring abbots to have thirty years experience and to have mastered 1700 koans. When Takuan Soho (1573-1645) submitted a written protest, he was sent into exile; Emperor Go-Mizunoo resigned. After Shogun Hidetada died in 1632, Takuan returned and became a friend of Shogun Iemitsu's sword-master Yagyu Munenori. He lectured to Go-Mizunoo and others on human origins. Takuan found that Buddhism had much in common with Confucianism and Shinto. He urged all classes to practice the social ethics of Confucianism, and he criticized merchants for being greedy and lacking kindness. He wrote about how Zen teachings can improve the martial arts such as archery and swordsmanship. In The Mysteries of the Unmoved Prajna he warned that illusions and egotism can cause paralyzing anxiety. In a letter to Yagyu he explained how to preserve the fluidity of the mind by keeping it free of intellectual and emotional disturbances. Takuan also wrote that the art of serving tea is a harmonious blending of Heaven and Earth in order to establish peace. Propriety in practical living means gentle manners and respectful relationships.
Suzuki Shosan (1579-1655) wrote Right Action for All (Bammin tokuyo) in order to make Buddhist teachings more accessible to the common people. Shosan had been a samurai and fought at Sekigahara in 1600 and at Osaka in 1614, but he became a Zen monk at age 42. He refused to follow a master and therefore was never accepted into the Soto or Rinzai orders. He helped to build a network of Soto Zen temples. Shosan believed that fulfilling one's vocation was attaining one's true nature, even if one was a peasant or a merchant. He believed that one should work in the world not for money or power but as a religious experience of doing good. He criticized monastic retreats and refused to ordain monks, hoping to found a new and practical Buddhism. He suggested that working can be meditative, and he advocated living without fear of death by "practicing dying" and imagining life-threatening circumstances. He felt that people should act out of gratitude to the protector and peacemaker of a just and orderly state, and he wanted the government to help restore Buddhism.
In the Rinzai sect Shido Bunan (1603-76) was a disciple of Gudo Toshoku but was not ambitious. However, Shido developed a popular way of teaching ordinary citizens. In his poetry he wrote that the names of Buddha, God (Shinto), and the heavenly way (Confucian) all point to the nothingness of the mind. By always living in the mind of complete nothingness, evils that come to one will dissipate entirely. Bankei Eitaku (1622-93) recommended rigorous Zen training to attain "nonbirth" or the original mind. His teachings were said to have won over fifty thousand people. Hakuin Ekaku (1685-1768) revived the importance of meditation (zazen) and the koan used by the Rinzai sect.
Yamazaki Ansai (1618-82) was a Zen monk and studied Confucianism. In 1647 his Refutation of Heresies (Hekii) praised the Neo-Confucianism of Zhu Xi and denounced Buddhism. In 1655 he established a private school in Kyoto and wrote commentaries on Zhu Xi. He was conservative in that he emphasized adhering to one's social function and obeying one's superiors. He also criticized the Hayashi family, but later in life he turned to Shinto and founded the Suika school. His teacher had called Ansai suika, which means "divine descent and protection." He found Confucian virtues in the Japanese legends recorded in the Kojiki and Nihon shoki and even identified the spiritual kami with Confucian principle. He started a movement for national learning (kokugaku). Ansai was said to have had six thousand followers, but most of them continued to follow the Confucian faction that he rejected. Nakae Toju also wrote The Meaning of Shinto, and Kumazawa Banzan said that Shinto was more suited to Japan than Confucianism.
Yamaga Soko (1622-85) was a military instructor for the Ako daimyo, and in 1661 he returned to Edo, where he wrote The Essential Teachings of the Sages (Seikyo yoroku) in 1665, calling for a return to the original teachings of Confucius and Mencius. The Bakufu government preferred Zhu Xi's emphasis on loyalty and duty; they considered Yamaga's repudiation of Neo-Confucianism offensive and banned him from the capital. He went back to Ako and wrote The Way of the Warrior (Shido), which applied Confucian philosophy to samurai ethics, preparing the way for the Bushido teachings that combined martial discipline with civil arts. Although the samurai does not do ordinary work, he practices duty and in using self-discipline teaches by example. Yamaga urged warriors to cultivate clean and sober habits to purify themselves for the duty of leading society. In the peaceful Tokugawa era they gradually changed from military functions to being civil officers, who guided the people. Soko wrote that the samurai should not consider reward, but he himself declined employment that paid less than 10,000 koku. He moved from the study of strategy to the ethics needed in government. He wrote that the true warrior keeps to the ways of peace in his heart while outwardly keeping his weapons ready. He warned against the weakness of only seeing one's own side, instead of having an open mind to see the other's side. In 1675 Yamaga wrote An Autobiography in Exile (Haisho zampitsu) that described his intellectual development from Neo-Confucianism through Daoism and Buddhism before turning back to the original Confucianism and Shinto. He argued that Japan was superior because its imperial line descended from the sun goddess without a break and because foreigners had never conquered their land.
Ito Jinsai (1627-1705) was from the merchant class, but he studied and opened the School of Ancient Meanings (Kogido) using the classics. He taught that individuals should be guided by their inner moral sense. Jinsai and Yamaga Soko formed the branch of Ancient Learning (Kogaku-Ha) that opposed Neo-Confucianism or deviations from the ancient Confucianism. His son Ito Togai explained his father's teachings in his Changes in Confucian Teaching, Past and Present (Kokon gakuhen). They believed that Neo-Confucianism had become more Buddhist and Daoist than Confucian by adopting such concepts and practices as the relationship between principle (ri) and material energy (ki), recovering one's original nature, following the way of sages, and using the meditation techniques of quiet sitting and sustained reverence. Ito Jinsai agreed with Mencius that human nature is good, and he believed in the importance of personal and social ethics developing the four humane virtues of loyalty, faithfulness, reverence, and forgiveness, all of which must be combine with duty (gi).
In 1690 Shogun Tsunayoshi ordered the Shokei Academy constructed in Kanda as a center for the worship of Confucius and as a university for the Tokugawa family, their Fudai daimyos, and their hatamoto retainers. Confucians were then allowed to be independent of the Buddhist establishment. Confucian advisors founded schools in various domains. Confucian political and ethical concepts helped the Japanese government move from rule by men to the rule of law by administrative institutions. The shogun and daimyos were urged to benefit the people, who were expected to be loyal to the political order as well as their fathers.
Kaibara Ekken (1630-1714) was a physician from Kyushu, and he applied the Confucian ethics to women and children. He treated his wife Token as an equal, and she probably wrote The Greater Learning for Women (Onna daigaku). In Japan women had to submit to their parents, to their husband, and even to their sons when they grew old. After passing the age of seven, boys and girls were not even allowed to sit together. Men often divorced their wives for not producing a child, for loose behavior, or disease, and they could also do so for disharmony with his family's customs. A husband divorced his wife simply by handing her a short note of four lines. In his Instructions for Children (Doji-kun) Kaibara warned parents that they may have to overcome their instinct for affection to instill discipline in their children, who must accept the censure of their parents in silence without resentment. He believed the head of the family is responsible for the family name and has the right to punish any member of the family. Kaibara wrote that filial piety should be extended to nature, the source and sustainer of life, which we should revere as much as our parents. He encouraged people to cherish all living things and avoid killing animals or plants. The books he wrote included Catalogue of Vegetables, Catalogue of Flora, and Medicinal Herbs of Japan. His last book was How to Live Well.
Tokugawa Mitsukuni (1628-1700) wrote the History of Great Japan (Dai Nihonshi) to educate samurai by drawing moral lessons. He invited others to help, including the Chinese scholar Zhu Shunshui in Nagasaki. As leader of the Mito group, Tokugawa Tsunaeda wrote the preface in 1715 and emphasized loyalty to the imperial house. Muro Kyoso (1658-1734) in his Conversations (Shundai zatsuwa) defended Zhu Xi and criticized samurai who became avaricious. He wrote that the ideal warrior places duty even before his life and especially before possessions, and he practices frugality. He supported the Tokugawa shoguns and argued that the mandate of heaven had been conferred upon Ieyasu for serving the interests of the people. He believed that the ruler should honor the people as heaven, while the people depend on food.
Arai Hakuseki (1657-1725) gave lectures on history to Shogun Ienobu in 1712, and the notes from these were published in the Tokushi Yoron. From the 9th century he described nine phases of the developing warrior class and then five phases when they became supreme in the Tokugawa era. He showed how the emperors gradually lost power after the Fujiwaras because of their incompetence. Using the Confucian concept of the mandate of heaven, Hakuseki argued that the Southern Court eventually failed because of Go-Saigo's lack of virtue. In 1715 Arai published A Report on the Occident (Seiyo kibun) based on his interviews with the Italian priest Giovanni Sidotti, who had been caught in the country and imprisoned. Arai admired western science but concluded that Christianity was too irrational to influence Japan. In his autobiography Hakuseki described his father's strict samurai self-discipline and quiet dignity. To maintain his samurai family line, Hakuseki refused the marry the daughter of a rich merchant. After serving Hotta Masatoshi for two years until his murder, he became the student and chief disciple of the Confucian Kinoshita Junan. Then he became the tutor of the future shogun Ienobu.
In contrast to Confucianism in China, in Japan the bushido way of the samurai and the chonindo way of the merchant were also important. Buddhism and Shinto continued to provide for the religious needs of the Japanese people, and the Tokugawa house officially patronized their temples. Buddhist ceremonies were generally used in weddings and funerals. The Pure Land (Jodo) sect became most popular, and by the end of the 17th century they had more than six thousand temples. Temple authorities could be used to try to find Christians after 1640, when the Shogun ordered everyone to register with a Buddhist temple except for a few families that were allowed to register at a Shinto shrine. Temple validation was required for marriages, employment, change of residence, and travel permits. The Emperor continued to be the high priest of Shinto and represented the religion of the nation. The Shinto priest Watarai Nobuyoshi (1615-90) worked to reform the Ise Shrine and urged devotion to one's social duties.
The samurai Yamamoto Tsunetomo (1659-1719) developed the philosophy of the influential Hagakure. He retired to live in a grass hut as a hermit in 1700, but the young samurai Tsuramoto Tashiro wrote down his ideas in eleven volumes. The first two volumes, The Recorded Words of the Hagakure Master, cover seven years and were completed in 1716. As a Nabeshima samurai, Yamamoto was determined to serve the Nabeshima house. The four vows he took were to never fall behind in the way of the warrior, to serve his lord well, to be filially pious, and to be deeply compassionate and help all human beings. Book One begins with the famous statement, "I discovered the Way of the Samurai is death."1 If a samurai faces a crisis in which life and death are equal, he should choose death. The samurai who is completely prepared for death has mastered the Way and may devote his life to serving his lord. As long as one bases reasoning on the self, one will be wily instead of wise. Correcting the faults of others is important, but one must do so in the proper way at the proper time and with tact.
Criticism must begin
after one has discerned whether or not the person will accept it,
after one has become his friend, shared his interests,
and behaved in such a way as to earn his complete trust
so that he will put faith in whatever one says.2
Otherwise one merely embarrasses the person. One should restrain oneself or cover one's mouth while yawning or sneezing. The enlightened samurai investigates ahead of time all possible situations and solutions so that one may perform brilliantly.
Yamamoto was concerned that men were losing their virility and becoming like women and that they were becoming preoccupied with money matters. One may learn one's faults by contemplation, but this is done better by talking with others. The samurai must know his shortcomings and spend his life improving himself. Learning from others helps one discern the situation and form resolution before the crisis occurs. One should model oneself after the best qualities in others such as propriety, courage, eloquence, ethics, integrity, and decisiveness. Anyone can be one's teacher. In order to excel, one should ask for criticism from others. Most people use their own judgment and make little progress. Ultimately the resolution of the moment is most important. One must discipline oneself to be clean and pure. Hardships and difficulties increase human abilities and help one develop special talents. The samurai should not speak ill of others nor praise them but say as little as possible. Victory over oneself is achieved by vanquishing the body with the spirit.
Hirayama Togo was born into a wealthy merchant family of Osaka in 1642. He started writing haikai (linked verse) when he was fourteen and became a haikai master by 1662. He used the pen-name Ihara Kakuei and followed the classical Danrin style of Nishiyama Soin (1605-82), though Ihara's poetry was criticized as strange by calling him Dutch. He changed his given name to Saikaku, which means ingenuity. In 1675 his wife died of a fever and left behind three young children including a blind daughter. Five days later Ihara composed in one day a thousand-verse requiem, which was published. He retired from business and participated in haikai writing sessions. Saikaku wrote a record four thousand verses in one day in 1680, and on another occasion he claimed to have composed 23,500 verses in a day and a night. He traveled and concentrated on prose writing, only returning to haikai in his last years before he died in 1693. Saikaku wrote only one play in 1684, but Chikamatsu's version the next spring was a greater success. Although ethical themes are clearly evident, Saikaku's main purpose in writing stories seems to have been merely to amuse and entertain. He is credited with developing the floating world (ukiyo-zoshi) literary trend that was initiated by the Tales of the Floating World by Asai Ryoi, who was more of a social critic but not as good a writer.
Ihara Saikaku published his first novel, Life of an Amorous Man, in 1682, and two years later it was followed by a sequel of stories in the courtesan-critiquing (yujo hyobanki) genre. The Tale of Wankyu's Life (1685) was based on a true story of a rich man who let his obsession for a courtesan lead him to madness and death. Saikaku wrote prolifically and published thirteen books of stories in the next four years. Five Women Who Loved Love (1686) contains five novellas about daughters and wives of merchants who sacrificed their respectability for romance. Four months later Saikaku published The Life of an Amorous Woman, which is about a woman who enjoyed sex. The Great Mirror of Manly Love (1687) describes the prevalence of pederasty and sodomy among samurai and in the kabuki theater. Apparently sodomy had spread among samurai during the long wars of the 14th and 15th centuries, and it was also found among Buddhist monks.
Also in 1687 Saikaku wrote Twenty Breaches of Filial Piety in This Land, showing how unethical behavior is punished. Critics have suggested that these stories were commenting on the hypocrisy of Tsunayoshi, who was posing as a Confucian ruler while behaving in an opposite manner, though Saikaku did not include any stories about Edo. In A Record of Traditions of the Warrior's Way (Budo Denraiki) 32 stories of samurai vengeance were presented in a realistic manner and were followed up by Tales of Samurai Duty (Buke Giri Monogatari) in 1688. Saikaku objected to the samurai tendency to throw away one's life over a private quarrel of the moment without a thorough examination of the facts. That year he also published New Records of Strange Events and The Japanese Family Storehouse or the Millionaires' Gospel Modernized, which describes how merchants attain riches. In 1689 his Judgments Made under the Cherry Blossoms in This Land narrated detective and crime stories that reached their conclusions in the courts of two historical judges, giving the new Japanese genre a literary form. In the last work published during his lifetime, Saikaku's This Scheming World (1692) revolved around the collecting of debts from townsmen (chonin) at the end of the year. After his death other collections of stories were edited and completed by his disciple Hojo Dansui. They focused on the evil consequences of rich patrons of brothels, money-making, alcoholism, and haikai poets that Saikaku had known.
The Life of an Amorous Man by Saikaku contains 54 sections describing incidents each year in Yonosuke's life from the age of seven. He is from a wealthy merchant family in the Osaka area. As a boy he spies on a woman bathing. A girl tells him that poverty forced her into prostitution, and at age eleven he visits her parents and buys her freedom. He learns how to call on lonely widows, and one gets pregnant and leaves her baby on a doorstep in Kyoto. He realizes virtue does exist after a wife resents his attentions and hits him on the head with wood. Yonosuke travels to Edo and leads a dissipating life as a playboy, but a letter from his mother informs him that his father has disowned him. Yonosuke travels to Osaka and stays with the family of a prostitute. At Kyoto he recruits concubines for a retired merchant. He struggles to survive and observes an annual orgy at the Mt. Kurama temple. When Yonosuke tries to force himself on a woman, her husband returns and cuts his head, leaving a scar. He is arrested by police looking for a robber and meets a woman in prison. After an Edo amnesty the woman's husband is jealous, and she is killed. Yonosuke is haunted by the ghosts of four women he had induced to sign amatory pledges. He experiences deep sadness (mono no aware). After his father dies, his mother turns over to him a fortune in 25,000 gold kan.
In the second part Yonosuke falls in love with the refined courtesan Yoshino, pays her ransom, and marries her. After she demonstrates her skill at playing koto, serving tea, reciting poetry, and arranging flowers, his family accepts her as his wife. However, Yonosuke soon becomes restless and begins visiting courtesans with his friend Kanroku. After tiring of provincial prostitutes, he visits the top courtesans in the big cities. The deep feelings of Mikasa are contrasted to the cold business of her owner Gonzaemon. When she and Yonosuke threaten suicide, Gonzaemon is motivated by the fear of being haunted to let her go. Tired of his roving infidelities, his wife Yoshino leaves him. Yonosuke has various encounters with the most expensive courtesans. As his hair turns gray, he begins giving away his wealth to Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, the poor, houses for destitute actors, and paying ransoms to free prostitutes. As his health declines, he has no legitimate children, family, or heir, and so he gives away most of his remaining property, hoping to be saved by Buddha's mercy. Finally with six friends he boards a ship to go to an island inhabited only by women. This novel reflects the pleasure-seeking of the wealthy merchants in a society in which men are honored while women are usually treated with contempt.
Saikaku's Five Women Who Loved Love contains five tales based on actual events. In the first story Seijuro falls in love with the courtesan Minakawa; he is disinherited by his father, is taken to a temple to prevent him from killing himself, and learns of Minakawa's suicide. Young Onatsu discovers Seijuro's love letters sewn in his sash and desires him. She writes him passionate letters, and they elope. However, they are caught on a boat, and he is beheaded for seduction, kidnapping, and theft. Onatsu cuts off her hair to become a nun. In Chikamatsu's 1709 play Seijuro is executed for having wounded his former master. Saikaku apparently wanted to emphasize the love story and left out the actual attempted murder.
In the second story a cooper writes love letters to the maid Osen, and old Nanny arranges for her to meet him. The servant Kyushichi also desires Osen, and the four travel together. Osen marries the cooper and has a child; but when she is falsely accused of adultery with the elderly Chozaemon by his wife, she actually does it and then commits suicide. This actual incident occurred in 1685.
Beautiful Osan marries an almanac maker in the third story. While he is away, Osan writes love letters for her maid Rin to young Moemon, who is running the business. Osan takes Rin's place in bed at night at the meeting with Moemon. Osan decides to run off with him and die. Eventually they are arrested and executed. They were in fact crucified in 1683, but in Chikamatsu's 1715 play based on this incident a priest prevents the execution of the lovers.
In Saikaku's fourth story young Oshichi falls in love with Kichisaburo at a local temple, where her family finds refuge during a fire. After her mother takes her home, Oshichi misses Kichisaburo and starts a fire so that she can see him again. She is caught and executed for arson. Kichisaburo is persuaded to join the priesthood.
In the fifth story about women who gave themselves to love, Gengobei is a priest who loves boys, two of whom died. Fifteen-year-old Oman falls in love with Gengobei, clips her hair, and dresses as a boy. Gengobei is attracted to Oman and while making love discovers she is female. In passion he decides it makes no difference. Her parents want them to marry and give Gengobei numerous treasures. Thus the last story of the book concludes with a happy ending. In real life the two lovers committed suicide; but Saikaku disapproved of love suicides, considering them a cowardly escape. In all his dozens of stories only one of his earliest stories is about a love suicide.
The narrative of Saikaku's Life of an Amorous Woman is in the first person and has one main character, while most of his other books are collections of stories. Young men ask an old woman about her past, and she tells them of her wanton ways. She believes that love is the most important thing in life. At the age of twelve she receives love letters from a warrior and gives her body to him, but he is caught and put to death. She thinks of suicide but after a few days forgets about him. She becomes a dancer but avoids selling her body. She is betrothed but seduces her fiancé's father, who then sends her home. She is hired to be a concubine; but her master is impotent, and she is discharged. She becomes a courtesan and calls it the world's saddest profession. Shaving her head, she disguises herself as a monk to become the wife of a Buddhist monk, who teaches her how to have abortions. She lives in a corner of his apartment and visits his bed at night. After the ghost of his previous wife appears to her, she pretends to be pregnant and leaves.
She begins to teach calligraphy and letter writing and has an affair with a man who wants love letters written. She takes a position as a maid and pretends to be innocent, but she seduces the master and tries to get him to divorce his wife. Frustrated, she reveals her deceit and shame before leaving. At a jealousy meeting women release their anger by attacking a doll and then burning it. She warns that women should guard against jealousy. Next a lady hires her as a hairdresser; but when asked to give up her own hair, she is not allowed to quit. So she teaches a cat to remove the lady's wig, embarrassing her and ruining her marriage; then she seduces her husband. Her next job is as a seamstress, which is a quiet life until she finds erotic art on a man's under-robe. She offers herself to any man coming to her house. She takes a job in a shop and is told to sleep with her mistress. They both wish to be reborn as men to enjoy pleasure. As she ages, she takes a position managing courtesans; but her frequent criticisms cause them to dislike her. She lives alone in squalor and has a vision of all the children she aborted. She tries to sell her body in the dark but finally gives up. In a window she sees statues of the Buddha's disciples, who remind her of all the men she knew. She thinks of drowning herself, but an old acquaintance persuades her to purify her heart and enter the Buddha's path. She concludes,
I have revealed my whole life to you,
from the day when the lotus of my heart first opened,
until its petals withered.
I may have lived in this world by selling my body,
but is my heart itself polluted?3
The short Millionaires' Gospel (Choja Kyo) was published anonymously in 1627. This pamphlet advised on how to be successful and argued that every Buddha had to learn. Becoming rich requires extraordinary effort. One millionaire (choja) explains how he charged thirty percent interest. Nabaya says that to expect to become rich right away is a basis for poverty. Izumiya observes that our credit from former lives is limited while our appetites are endless. A painless life of too much pleasure causes bad results; we must endure some pain with patience. The Choja Kyo lists the following ten principles to cherish:
1. To use common sense.
2. To act with honesty.
3. To endure with patience.
4. To regard every man as a thief, every fire as a conflagration.
5. To abandon pride and listen to advice.
6. To know that remorse serves no purpose.
7. That conceit is anathema.
8. That small-talk leads nowhere.
9. That moderation is only half a virtue.
10. That playing bosom-friend to all is pointless.4
In The Japanese Family Storehouse or the Millionaires' Gospel Modernized Saikaku wrote thirty stories about real people that convey the lessons of thrift, hard work, and schemes that entrepreneurs have used to become wealthy while showing how extravagance and luxuries dissipate wealth. The first story emphasizes the importance of honesty, thrift, perseverance, humanity, and justice. In the country men must dig in the fields and women weave at looms. A merchant calculates that a temple that gets one hundred percent interest can gain a million in thirteen years. A son inherits a million, but in trying to return a coin to a prostitute in the Shimabara gay quarter he begins by drinking sake and in five years has blown his fortune. Osaka has become a great center of trade by honoring sales and purchases. A woman sweeps up lost rice and builds up a large nest-egg for her son. He collects discarded bales and weaves strings for cash. Then he sets up a shop changing petty silver to copper coins (zeni), and he becomes a daimyo's agent and marries into a merchant family. Another businessman achieves success by foregoing inflated charges on credit sales and accepts only cash. One must be careful in arranging a marriage because the marriage-broker claims ten percent of the dowry.
Daikokuya's son Shinroku is thrown out for wasting his money in brothels. His failure in a new business makes him regret he gave up what he knew. He blames his parents for teaching him the arts while neglecting to instruct him how to make a living. He realizes that he can get nowhere in Edo without capital. Beggars suggest buying cotton and selling hand towels. He starts small but makes a profit, and in ten years he is worth a considerable amount. The harpoon master Gennai makes a million by extracting the oil from one large whale. Then he invents whale-nets and builds up a fleet of eighty whaling boats.
According to Saikaku the millionaire prescription includes early rising, family trade, work after hours, economy, and sound health. The list of luxuries from which one must abstain is long. Jinbei collects scraps of wood by following carpenters and carves them into chopsticks. Eventually he goes into the timber business and buys a forest. Saikaku concluded this story by suggesting that men save in youth and spend in old age. No one can take money to heaven, but it is essential on Earth. He noted that bankruptcies for large amounts were becoming common in Kyoto and Osaka. Izuya surrenders his assets which amount to 65% of his debt. Then he works hard for seventeen years and pays off all the rest. Saikaku found no parallel for this remarkable achievement.
Many of Saikaku's stories show how dishonesty and cheating eventually cause ruin once they are discovered. Some Osaka merchants soak their tobacco in water to increase its weight before shipping it to Nagasaki. The Chinese are upset but purchase ten times as much. When the large shipment arrives, they reject them all. The tobacco ends up rotting. Saikaku believed that the gods assist the honest and that swindlers will fail. Risuke buys used tea leaves and mixes them with his fresh stock. For a while he prospers, but he brags of his success. People find out and avoid him. He becomes ill, and his money cannot save him. Saikaku draws the lesson and indicates some of the disreputable tricks.
It is easy enough, as may be observed,
to make money by shady practices.
Pawning other people's property,
dealing in counterfeit goods,
plotting with confidence tricksters
to catch a wife with a large dowry,
borrowing piecemeal from the funds of innumerable temples,
and defaulting wholesale on a plea of bankruptcy,
joining gangs of gambling sharks,
hawking quack medicines to country bumpkins,
terrorizing people into buying paltry ginseng roots,
conniving with your wife to extort money from her lovers,
trapping pet dogs for skins,
charging to adopt unweaned babies and starving them to death,
collecting the hair from drowned corpses-
all these are ways of supporting life.
But if we live by subhuman means
we might as well never have had
the good fortune to be born human.
Evil leaves its mark deep in a man's heart,
so that no kind of villainy seems evil to him any longer;
and when he has reached that stage
he is indeed in a pitiful state of degradation.
The only way to be a man is to earn your livelihood
by means not unfitted to a man.
Life, after all, is a dream of little more than fifty years,
and, whatever one does for a living,
it is not difficult to stay so brief a course.5
Saikaku felt that the Chinese were not as quick to make money as the Japanese. The clock was invented in China, but it took three generations to complete the invention that helped mankind. Saikaku concluded this book hoping that future generations would profit by keeping the stories in their storehouse for their family's posterity.
Saikaku's last book published during his lifetime was This Scheming World in which every story is set on the last day of the calendar year when debts are collected. Many people have debts and try various means of avoiding bill collectors. Small expenditures day by day add up to a large amount at the end of the year. Saikaku believed, "People who refuse to pay their debts are no better than daylight burglars in disguise."6 He noted that the cheap pawnbroker in the slums could understand the misery in this world. Though people often say the rich are lucky, Saikaku suggested that people thrive by ability and foresight. The young should be alert; in one's prime one should earn much money; then in the time of discretion one may pile up a fortune; and in old age one could turn business over to a son and retire. In one story a man refuses to pay bill collectors by threatening suicide; but a young apprentice says lumber is not paid for and begins removing the gate post. He is quickly paid and suggests the technique of quarreling with one's wife and tearing up important papers.
A millionaire advises people not to forget their business, not even in their dreams. An agent takes away a wet nurse from a baby and says to blame it on money and her good breasts. A master was influenced by a novel about a poor ronin who could not pay and killed his wife, child, and himself. Most methods of avoiding bill collectors are not that drastic. Two housemasters would trade places on the last day of the year, claiming that the other owes him money. Finally after surviving the debt collections people optimistically celebrate the New Year.
In an era before magazines and newspapers Saikaku's stories provided valuable lessons as well as entertainment in the developing urban culture that was learning about business and the pleasures and dangers of spending money. His well described accounts of so many incidents imply the doctrine of karma by showing how actions have their consequences.
In the later 16th century Japanese theater began a major transformation. No and Kyogen plays were still performed at courts but were becoming ritual music. Shogun Hideyoshi, who had risen from humble origins, not only mastered the tea ceremony, but he also acted in No plays. Kabuki, which means bent or deviant, came to describe a new form of entertainment that was started by the lowest class (eta) and prostitutes. In 1603 Okuni, who claimed to be a Shinto priestess, danced and performed provocative skits while invoking the name of the Buddha. These shows tended to lapse into prostitutes dancing to attract customers. Yoshiwara was established as a quarter for prostitution in Edo in 1626, and three years later a brawl broke out between samurai while the prostitute Yoshino was performing in a No play in Kyoto. In reaction the Bakufu government banned women from performing in plays. In the next half century more than a hundred quarters would be licensed for brothels in Japan. In 1644 using names of actual people in plays was forbidden. Young men (wakashu) performed in kabuki plays, which were patronized by Shogun Iemitsu; but after he died, the wakashu dancing was also prohibited. Plays about the Shimabara quarter for licensed prostitutes in Kyoto became popular, but the name Shimabara was also associated with a popular rebellion in 1637. The Shimabara plays were banned in 1664. By then continuous kabuki plays of up to four acts were being performed.
Puppet theater developed in the 15th century and was called Joruri after a popular character who had a love affair with the hero Minamoto Yoshitsune. In the 1590s the Joruri brought together the stories, music on the samisen instrument, and puppets. By 1614 puppet plays were being performed in the palace of the retired Emperor Go-Yozei. These plays developed literary value and were recited by one or more chanters to the actions of the puppets. Uji Kaganojo (1635-1711) was a chanter who aimed to lift the Joruri plays up to the literary level of the No drama.
In the 1680s most kabuki plays were about troubles in a great household and were called oiemono. They often depicted a contemporary family intrigue or scandal, but the names were changed. The theatrical business tended to be romantic (wagoto), admonitory (ikengoto), martial (budogoto), or rough (aragoto). The first play about lovers' suicide was performed in Osaka in 1683. These gossip plays about current events were called sewamono. The history plays were called jidaimono and were more popular in Edo. Sakata Tojuro (1644-1709) was a Kyoto actor who specialized in playing a young gentleman who falls in love with prostitutes.
Sugimori Nobumori, who later took the stage name Chikamatsu Monzaemon, was born in the province of Echizen in 1653. Ten years later his samurai father lost his position and became a ronin. The family moved to Kyoto, and in 1671 Chikamatsu published some poetry. In 1683 he wrote The Soga Heir for Kaganojo's puppet theater and won over audiences by adding farcical elements to a traditional story of revenge. Chikamatsu wrote a kabuki play for Tojuro in 1684. He wrote the Joruri play Kagekiyo Victorious in 1686 for Kaganojo's young rival Takemoto Gidayu (1651-1714). Kagekiyo leaves his wife Ono and escapes his enemies by flying away. He swears he loves Akoya, but she discovers his love note to Ono and betrays him to his enemies. To stop soldiers from torturing Ono, Kagekiyo surrenders. Akoya and her two children visit him in prison to ask forgiveness. After he refuses and disowns the children, she kills their children and herself. Kagekiyo breaks free but returns to his cell to protect Ono. In the ahistorical ending the goddess Kwannon substitutes her head for Kagekiyo's, and he is reconciled with his enemy.
Between 1688 and 1703 Chikamatsu wrote mostly kabuki plays for Tojuro. Actors in these plays used improvisation, and only summaries of Chikamatsu's kabuki plays exist. However, complete scripts of most of his Joruri plays are extant. In February 1703 the 47 ronin committed hara-kiri, and twelve days later a kabuki play depicted the Ako story. Three days after the opening, the government closed the play and banned dramatizations of contemporary events involving samurai.
In May 1703 a young merchant and a prostitute committed suicide at the Sonezaki shrine in Osaka. Chikamatsu was visiting the city, and a month later his puppet play The Love Suicides at Sonezaki was produced. In his puppet plays Chikamatsu used dialog to portray realistic characters. He once wrote that art is between the real and the unreal. Between the lines of dialog the narrator describes the scene, actions, feelings and thoughts of the characters. In The Love Suicides at Sonezaki 25-year-old Tokubei tells the 19-year-old courtesan Ohatsu that he is refusing to marry the woman picked out for him and must return the money advanced to him. However, he loaned the money to the oil merchant Kuheiji, who denies this and says that Tokubei must have found his seal to put on the promissory note. They fight, and Ohatsu tries to stop them. While she is hiding Tokubei, she tells Kuheiji that Tokubei will commit suicide, her lover indicating he will. She joins him, and in the final scene Tokubei stabs Ohatsu and then cuts his own throat. The narrator concludes, "They have become true models of love."8
Chikamatsu's The Drum of the Waves of Horikawa was performed in 1706 and was based on events of the previous year. The villainous samurai Isobe is added and makes the plot more ironic. The samurai Hirokuro must leave his wife Otane to spend a year at Edo. He has adopted Otane's younger brother Bunroku as their son. Isobe tells Otane that he loves her and threatens to kill her if she does not give in. She pretends to go along and tells him to come back, but the drum teacher Gen'emon hears her. He gives her sake and uses this to seduce her. Four months later Hirokuro returns, and Otane's sister Ofuji gives him a sealed letter. He refuses to divorce Otane to marry her, and Otane jealously attacks her sister. Ofuji accuses Otane of being pregnant and taking abortion medicine. Hirokuro's sister Yura tells him that Isobe caught Otane and Gen'emon and clipped their sleeves, and the maid Orin admits she bought abortion medicine with bad coins. Bunroku says he sent men to kill Gen'emon but that he had returned to Kyoto. Otane in despair stabs herself, and Hirokuro finishes her off. In the third act Hirokuro, Bunroku, Ofuji, and Yura find Gen'emon and kill him, telling the neighbors who have them arrested that this is official vengeance. The play indicates that for adultery a family could notify authorities and enforce the harsh law themselves. The tragedy also shows the double standard that allowed a samurai to have a concubine while away from his wife, who was expected to remain faithful during his absence.
Yosaku from Tamba by Chikamatsu is based on a ballad and events of 1708 when it was performed. Ten-year-old Princess Shirabe is refusing to go to Edo, but playing a map game changes her mind. The eleven-year-old horse driver Sankichi learns that her governess Shigenoi is his mother, but Shigenoi refuses to accept him. Driver Hachizo demands that driver Yosaku pay him the money he owes. They fight, and the prostitute Koman intervenes. Sankichi hides Yosaku and steals for him, not knowing Yosaku is his father. An officer arrests Sankichi and looks for his accomplices. The chief retainer Honda lets off Sankichi, who then cuts off Hachizo's head and is arrested again. Yosaku learns that Sankichi is his son. The samurai Sanai explains that the princess has spared Sankichi's life, taken Koman into her household, and returned Yosaku to samurai status, preventing him from committing suicide.
Chikamatsu's Love Suicides in the Women's Temple was also produced in 1708 and takes place within the milieu of Shingon Buddhism. The Kichijo Temple on Mount Koya is a home for the secrets of pederasty, and page Hananojo is mocked as "the wife of the high priest." A messenger gives page Kumenosuke a letter from Oume, who wants him to join her; but she accidentally put this letter in the envelope to the high priest, and Kumenosuke gets the forged letter to the high priest asking to let him leave. The envoy Sen'emon tells Kumenosuke that he has not sought vengeance for his killing his brother only because he was going to become a priest. When the high priest reads the love letter, he orders Kumenosuke beaten. After Kumenosuke leaves the temple, Sen'emon ritually hits him with the back of his sword and says his grudge is ended in order to fulfill the samurai code. Her parents wed reluctant Oume to the merchant Sakuemon; but the lights are doused, and she escapes with Kumenosuke. They go to the women's temple, where they find his sister Satsu. Oume says he is dead, and they plan their double suicide. Kumenosuke kills Oume, and Satsu shouts, "Murder!" Then Kumenosuke cuts his own throat. Once again socially unacceptable romance ends in mutual self-destruction.
The Courier from Hell by Chikamatsu was first performed in 1711. Chubei runs a courier service, and his friend Hachiemon asks for his fifty ryo that has arrived. Chubei admits he gave it as a down-payment to ransom the prostitute Umegawa. Chubei's mother tells him to hand over the money, and he gives Hachiemon a jar of hair oil labeled fifty ryo. Chubei goes off to deliver 300 ryo to a daimyo but decides to see Umegawa. In the Shimmachi quarter Chubei overhears Hachiemon telling the whores what Chubei has done. Emotionally upset, Chubei gives fifty ryo to Hachiemon, who refuses to take it so that Chubei will not get in trouble. Chubei pretends that the 300 ryo is his own money and pays 110 ryo to ransom Umegawa. He admits the truth to her, and they realize that they must eventually kill themselves. They try to hide at the house of his father's neighbor Chuzaburo, whose wife goes looking for him. Chubei's father Magoemon slips in the mud, and Umegawa helps him. He knows his son is in trouble and says he would have provided the money. Chuzaburo arrives to warn Chubei and Umegawa, but they are captured. Chubei asks that his face be covered, and the narrator concludes that two more people gave their lives for love. This tragedy shows the increasing importance of finances and the dangerous temptations of capital.
Chikamatsu's most popular history play, The Battles of Coxinga, was produced in 1715, ran for seventeen months, and was often revived. Coxinga was the European name for Zheng Chenggong, but only parts of the play are historical. In the court of the Ming emperor at Nanjing in May 1644 the Tartar (Mongol) prince Bairoku calls China a beast-land for failing to relieve hunger. Ri Toten cuts out his own left eye, and Bairoku is mollified; but Ri Toten is actually Bairoku's ally, and they attack. Go Sankei leads the Chinese forces, but Ri Toten and his brother Ri Kaiho seize the Emperor and cut off his head. Go Sankei kills Ri Kaiho and takes the sash and seal from the Emperor's body. After the fully pregnant Empress is killed by a bullet, Go Sankei cuts out the baby and then kills his own infant, putting it in the dead Empress's abdomen. The fisherman Watonai has a Chinese father and a Japanese mother, but learning of China's need from Princess Sendan he goes to help. His mother tames a tiger that attacked him, and with the tiger they defeat Chinese soldiers. They visit his half-sister Kinshojo. Her husband General Kanki refuses to help his wife's family; so Kinshojo kills herself. Kanki then joins Watonai and renames him Coxinga. In the fourth act Sendan and Coxinga's father Ikkan join Go Sankei. They escape on a bridge of clouds from the Tartars, who follow and die when the bridge collapses. In the final battle Coxinga is victorious; the Mongol king is beaten half to death and allowed to escape, and Coxinga beheads Ri Toten. The young prince is proclaimed emperor. This larger than life drama appealed to patriotic sentiments.
Gonza the Lancer by Chikamatsu was based on recent events and was produced in 1717. Gonza is a 25-year-old samurai who accepts a sash made by 18-year-old Oyuki as a token of their engagement. Osai, the wife of absent tea master Asaka Ichinoshin, urges her 13-year-old daughter Okiku to marry Gonza. To win over Gonza, Osai promises to teach him the secret tea ceremony. Osai complains of receiving love letters from the infatuated Bannojo. Oyuki's governess wants Osai to be go-between to arrange Oyuki's wedding with Gonza. Osai is enamored of Gonza but tells herself to put aside jealousy. In the evening she receives Gonza alone in the teahouse while Bannojo uses a barrel to sneak in through a thorny hedge. Osai sees Gonza's engagement sash and jealously throws it into the garden. She gives him her sash, but he throws it into the garden. Bannojo picks up both and accuses them of adultery. Gonza draws his sword and kills Bannojo's servant Namisuke, but Osai stops him from killing himself, saying that Bannojo is the criminal. She asks Gonza to become her lover so that her husband Ichinoshin can regain his reputation by killing them. In despair Gonza accepts her as his wife, and while escaping they get stuck in the barrel. Osai's father Chutabei finds her possessions delivered to his door. He orders them destroyed so that they will not pollute a samurai's house. In a chest they find Osai's two young daughters. Chutabei wants to kill Bannojo, but Ichinoshin persuades him not to and promises to defend Chutabei. Ichinoshin tells Osai's mother that he lost his position, and Osai's brother Jimbei shows Ichinoshin the head of Bannojo. Finally at a bridge Ichinoshin kills Gonza and Osai, showing that a samurai tea master could still wield his sword.
Chikamatsu's play, The Uprooted Pine, was first performed in 1718 during the New Year's holidays. In Osaka's brothel-licensed quarter of Shimmachi courtesan Azuma is in love with Yojibei and offers poor and infatuated young Yohei money to find another woman. When he rejects it, she takes off Yojibei's under-robe and gives it to him. Then he plans to use the money to start an oil business. Yohei quarrels with tobacco merchant Hikosuke, kicks him, and slashes his face with a dagger. Hikosuke shouts that Yojibei stabbed him, and Yojibei is put under house arrest. Yojibei's wife Okiku asks his rich father Jokan to help his son by paying off Hikosuke. Azuma brings a letter to Yojibei, but Okiku intercepts it, finding a razor and a double suicide proposal. Okiku blames Azuma for ruining her husband's life. Azuma says she only intends to save Yojibei from disgrace. Okiku then lets Azuma see Yojibei. Jokan by threatening suicide persuades his son Yojibei to escape even though his father may be punished for it. Yojibei runs off with Azuma but misses his wife and father. Yohei returns with his profits to ransom Azuma. Hikosuke with money from Jokan also wants to ransom her, and Okiku's father Jibuemon offers a sword for the same purpose. Azuma and Yojibei emerge from two trunks. Jibuemon makes Hikosuke inform the police that Jokan is innocent. Yohei ransoms Azuma and scatters his extra money as they all celebrate. This drama has a happy ending to celebrate the new year.
The Girl from Hakata by Chikamatsu was produced in 1719 and was inspired by news of arrested smugglers and prostitutes. On a ship near Kyushu the Kyoto merchant Soshichi tells Kezori and other smugglers that he plans to ransom the courtesan Kojoro of Hakata. Kezori suggests they throw him overboard, but Soshichi survives. Kojoro welcomes the destitute Soshichi, but Kezori and the smugglers come in and have ransomed six top courtesans. Kojoro persuades Kezori to loan ransom money for her. Kezori forces Soshichi to join the smugglers and finances his wedding Kojoro. In Kyoto all the furniture in Soshichi's house is sold at auction before his father Sozaemon arrives. Soshichi returns to find the house empty and gives his last money to the servants he dismisses. He learns that his father took a key document. Kezori with a sword demands this identification pass, and Soshichi manages to get it from his father. Kojoro thanks Sozaemon, who warns about dishonest gain and begs his son to be honest even if has to do menial labor. Soshichi is disinherited and leaves Kyoto with Kojoro. He is arrested and stabs himself. Then Kojoro is arrested and wants to die. Police have also arrested the smugglers, but the superintendent lets the courtesans go. The smugglers are to have their faces mutilated so that they can do no more mischief. This play indicates the serious consequences facing those who violated Japan's seclusion laws.
The long history plays took most of a day to perform. Chikamatsu's Twins at the Sumida River is set during the reign (1086-1107) of Emperor Horikawa and was produced in 1720. Yoshida's mistress Hanjo has given birth to identical twins, Umewaka and Matsuwaka. Yoshida sees two Lady Yoshidas and thinks he kills the goblin (tengu), but the remaining tengu says he killed his wife. Loyal Kanenari takes the blame by killing himself. Kageyu supports Lady Yoshida's brother Momotsura and says he has been ordered to plant one hundred thousand new cedars on Mount Hira for having felled sacred trees. Kageyu kills Yoshida and is then cut down by Gunsuke. Momotsura wants his son to succeed and says that Yoshida stole 10,000 gold pieces, but Takekuni counters that Toshikanu squandered it on a courtesan. Precedents are found for a woman inheriting the power, but Hanjo seems to be mad. By the Sumida River the ronin Sota has been reduced to selling children as slaves. Umewaka refuses to be sold farther from the capital, and Sota beats him to death. Takekuni comes looking for Umewaka. Sota admits he has been selling children to pay back 10,000 gold pieces he owes his master and then commits hara-kiri. Toshikanu kills himself to become a demon and find Matsuwaka. Hanjo is wandering in search of her sons and is helped by Sato's wife Karaito, who explains how Sato mistakenly killed his master Umewaka. Hanjo and Karaito pray at their graves, and a tengu says he guided Hanjo as a mountain priest and returns to her Matsuwaka. The narrator begins the last act with the comment, "Arrogance is the disease of fools; it brings its own calamity."9 Hanjo and Karaito use fireworks to attack stealthily Momotsura's forces. Finally Masafusa announces that the Emperor has decreed Matsuwaka the owner of Yoshida's estate.
Chikamatsu's The Love Suicides of Aijima was first performed in January 1721 and has been called his masterpiece. Tahei is competing with Kamiya Jihei to ransom the courtesan Koharu. A samurai suspects that she and Jihei intend a love suicide, but she asks for help in staying alive. Jihei overhears this and stabs through the lattice, but the samurai ties his hands. The samurai throws down Tahei. When Jihei is untied, he recognizes his brother Magoemon. Jihei says he has broken with Koharu and returns 29 written oaths, but Magoemon takes an important letter. Ten days later Magoemon makes Jihei sign an oath he has severed ties to Koharu, and his wife Osan is relieved. Osan reveals that she wrote a letter asking Koharu to give up Jihei; now she fears that Koharu will kill herself, and she asks Jihei to save her. Osan gives him money and their clothes to pawn so that he can ransom her before Tahei does. Osan's father Gozaemon arrives to take her home, telling Jihei to divorce her. Jihei replies that he is grateful to Osan and cannot divorce her. Gozaemon discovers the missing clothes. Jihei still refuses to divorce but says goodbye to Osan, who will not accept divorce either. Gozaemon forces her to leave with him as her children awake. Mogoemon tries to find Jihei, but he stealthily runs off with Koharu. She wishes that she could protect women of her profession so that no more love suicides would occur. Jihei tells her he has divorced Osan. At Amijima he cuts off his hair to be a monk and then cuts off her hair. Finally he stabs her to death and then hangs himself. This repeated plot of suicides with prostitutes seems to imply some romantic union in death as an escape from this world.
An excellent history play is Chikamatsu's Lovers Pond in Settsu Province, which was first performed in early 1721. The subtitle claims it is from the Go-Taiheiki, a work known for criticizing the corruption of rulers and ministers that led to the fall of the Ashikaga and the civil wars. In 1564 at the Muromachi palace in Kyoto, younger brother Yoshiaki takes the place of Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiteru at court and is pulled down by the indignant Kuninaga. Brash Kanemori then grabs Kuninaga. Yoshiaki cuts off his hair and explains that his brother Yoshiteru is drunk. Ashamed Kuninaga goes to his father Chokei, who cuts off his head. Yoshiaki says he has his own reasons for following the spiritual path. Mikinoshin explains to Lady Yoshiteru that Chokei is planning to ransom the courtesan Oyodo, adopt her, and bring her to the palace as Yoshiteru's main consort. Kanemori attacks Oyodo's palanquin but finds her with Yoshiteru, who orders Kanemori beaten. Pregnant Lady Yoshiteru escapes while Kanemori slays one of Chokei's men. Mikinoshin presides at an investigation into the murder of a woman that evidence indicates is Lady Yoshiteru. Mikinoshin privately doubts this and rules her case is under Chokei's Miyoshi jurisdiction. Umegae tells how Oyodo and Yoshiteru had a woman beheaded for fun. Before she is killed, Umegae vows to pursue the demon-woman in future lives. Chokei has arrested a man, who admits that he killed Yoshiteru's wife for him, but Mikinoshin announces the arrival of Lady Yoshiteru. Chokei explains his plot. Fujitaka stabs Oyodo, who reveals Chokei's coup and confesses her reluctant sins before she dies. In the palace struggle Kiyotaki kills her father Iwanari. Matsunaga kills Yoshiteru, but Fujitaka escapes.
Mikinoshin travels with Kiyotaka, who gives birth on the roadside. Mikinoshin takes her to his father Bunjibei, who assures him many will fight against Chokei. Bunjibei learns that Kiyotaki is the daughter of Iwanari and tells Mikinoshin to kill Kiyotaki. She explains she was adopted by Iwanari, and Bunjibei's wife realizes that Kiyotaki is her daughter. Thinking they have committed incest like animals, Mikinoshin and Kiyotaki plan to drown themselves. However, Bunjibei explains that he is not the father of Mikinoshin, but his wife stops Bunjibei from drowning himself. Mikinoshin's father Komagata was killed, and he promises to avenge him. Then Bunjibei admits he killed Komagata to get his wife. Mikinoshin refuses to kill Bunjibei; but Bunjibei's wife cuts her throat, and Bunjibei commits suicide also. Yoshiaki has become the priest Keigaku. After Kanemori beats him for refusing, he returns to secular life. Fujitaka leads their forces, and Keigaku dreams of the palace. The spirit Shiragiku says, "Life in this world flashes past like a bolt of lightning. How could we waste time in hating others? Nor should we ever be sad."10 Yoshiteru and Oyodo are in agony, and then Keigaku wakes up and puts on armor to protect the young prince and overthrow Chokei. In 1569 during the battle Mikinoshin kills Matsunaga, and Kanemori slays Chokei with a spear. One theme of this play is indicated by Kanemori's comment that too great a gulf divides the low from those on high.
In August 1721 Chikamatsu produced The Woman-Killer and the Hell of Oil based on a recent murder. The young oil merchant Yohei gets into a fight over the courtesan Kogiku and splatters mud on passing samurai. One of them is his uncle Moriemon, who says he must cut off Yohei's head on their way back from the temple. Yohei's attractive neighbor Okichi is the mother of three, and she gives him a needed bath, angering her husband Shichizaemon. Moriemon catches Yohei on their return, but the samurai Oguri says that mud does not disgrace him unless it falls on his good name. Yohei's brother Tahei reads to their step-father Tokubei a letter from Moriemon who says he must restore his honor. Tahei tells Tokubei that Yohei needs discipline. Yohei lies to Tokubei that Moriemon needs money because he embezzled, and he offers to take it to him. His half-sister Okachi pretends to be ill and refuses to marry, but then she admits Yohei put her up to it. Yohei's mother Osawa makes him leave the house and disinherits him, and Tokubei complains that Yohei squandered what he has given him. The Boys' Festival is the last day to collect bills, and Shichizaemon gathers 580 me. Kohei tells Yohei he must pay the 200 me he borrowed or owe 1,000 the next day. Yohei asks to borrow this in new silver from Okichi, saying he would commit suicide except that his debt would ruin his parents. When she refuses, he stabs her to death and takes the 580 me. Moriemon tracks down Yohei, and evidence incriminates Yohei, who is arrested and dragged to the execution ground. Yohei's fate is learned by many, and the narrator hopes that it may be a lesson to all.
Chikamatsu's Battles at Kawa-nakajima was first performed three weeks after The Woman-Killer. In 1559 Shingen's son Katsuyori meets Terutora's daughter Emon at a shrine ceremony. Murakami has asked to marry Emon and accuses them of having a secret affair. Katsuyori and Emon escape. Shingen and Terutora find their retainers Heisuke and Kohei fighting and make them exchange loyalties. Both masters receive messages about the young lovers and agree to fight at Shinano. Katsuyori meets the ronin Kansuke, who is wounded by a wild boar that Katsuyori kills. Kansuke contemptuously kills Murakami's samurai Tota. Shingen wants Kansuke as his strategist and is interviewed by his clever mother. Shingen and Terutora unite briefly to defeat Murakami, who flees. After suffering a tactical defeat, Terutora wants Kansuke on his side and sends Sanetsuna with his wife Karaginu, who is Kansuke's sister. Kansuke's mother rejects Terutora's robe and kicks over a tray of food onto him. Kansuke realizes that he has been lured by his filial duty to his mother and blames his stuttering wife Okatsu for letting them mimic her handwriting. Okatsu blames Karaginu, and the two women fight with swords until Kansuke's mother takes their swords and stabs herself. She confesses her impropriety with the food tray and dies. Terutora blames himself, cuts off his hair, and changes his name to Kenshin. Kansuke cuts off his hair and takes the name Doki. Because Murakami has blocked Shingen from getting salt, Kenshin says he will send Shingen salt. After separating, in 1561 Katsuyori and Emon meet at a bridge. Shingen sees Emon and is grateful for the salt her father sent. Katsuyori fights Murakami and cuts off his head. In the fifth battle Kansuke is dressed like Shingen and is wounded by Kenshin. Kansuke offers his head to end the war. Kenshin and Shingen agree to stop fighting and pardon their children, who bring peace to their houses.
Chikamatsu's last contemporary play, Love Suicides on the Eve of the Koshin Festival, was produced in 1722. The old samurai Gozaemon says that a frugal government makes the people more comfortable by reducing demand and prices. He dismisses Hanbei for cutting up a large yam, but Hanbei gives a good explanation. Hanbei discourages homosexual lovers of his brother by asking who will join him in death. Ochiyo has been married twice before and is four months pregnant with Hanbei's child. She tells her older sister Okaru that she has been divorced again because of her mother-in-law. Ochiyo's father Hei'emon begs Hanbei not to divorce her. Hanbei says he has not divorced her and is ready to show his samurai spirit by killing himself. He promises never to send her away again. Hanbei's father Iemon is devoted to a religious life, but his wife (Hanbei's foster mother) dislikes Ochiyo and does not want her in the house. She tells Hanbei he must divorce his wife, or she will kill herself. So Hanbei tells Ochiyo he must divorce her, but he whispers he will follow her. They leave the house forever and go to the Buddhist festival. Momentarily Hanbei regrets the pain he will cause his family, but Ochiyo tells him to kill her. She prays for her unborn child, and then Hanbei stabs her to death before committing hara-kiri. That all of these romantic suicide plays were based on actual incidents indicates that Chikamatsu's dramatizations of them reflects a fad if not a trend in Japanese society in which the samurai code of self-discipline and ruthless violence has turned inward.
Chikamatsu's last and longest play, Tethered Steed and the Eight Provinces of Kanto, was produced early in 1724, the year he died. At the imperial palace in 988 Shogun Minamoto no Yorimitsu must choose his heir. Kocho tells the Shogun's brother Yorinobu that she is in love with him, but Yorinobu asks her to tell Eika of his love for her. Kocho jealously vows revenge against Eika. While Lady Yorimitsu conducts a vote with the lights out, Tomozuma molests Kocho, who cuts off his cap-string. However, Yorihira has everyone cut off their hat-strings. Yorinobu wins the election over his younger brother Yorihira. Kocho persuades Yorihira to sleep with Eika, who thinks he is Yorinobu. She accepts Yorihira and suggests they flee her Ebumi residence that is raided by brigands. Imperial guardians Tsuna and Kintoki kill the robbers. Iyo no Naishi is chosen to be Yorinobu's bride, and Kocho plots to kill her with a spider. Kocho spies on Yorimitsu for her brother Yoshikado by communicating through a water pipe; but she is wounded by Lady Yorimitsu, and Hosho cuts off Kocho's head. Yoshikado escapes. Yorihira catches a bandit but is captured by Yoshikado, who claims he is Shogun Taro. He threatens to kill Eika if Yorihira does not swear to join him. Yorihira agrees to attack his brother Yorinobu so that Yoshikado can revenge his sister Kocho. Yorihira and Eika are captured by Tsuna and Tomozuna and are taken to Yorinobu.
Yorimitsu sentences his brother Yorihira to death, and Eika's parents are demoted to commoners. An old warrior appeals directly to Yorimitsu and, when she takes off her clothes, is revealed to be Tomozuna's mother, Aunt Mita. She nursed Yorihira, and Yorimitsu promised her a favor; so he grants Yorihira a reprieve for seven days to change his loyalty. Tomozuna castigates Eika for not pleading with Yorihira. Aunt Mita pleads with Yorihira, who explains his honor is to keep his pledge to Yoshikado. Eika asks her mother Hagi to accept their karma, but Hagi wants to behead Yorihira to redeem her husband Ebumi. Eika tells her she will know Yorihira in the dark by his hair; but this results in Hagi stabbing Tomozuna. He tells Kintoki that her intention proves Hagi's loyalty and uses the embedded sword for hara-kiri. The dying Tomozuna explains that Yorihira saved his reputation after he had molested Kocho. He and Aunt Mita urge Yoshihira to break his vow to the enemy, and Yoshihira does renounce the pact. Taro Yoshikado is captured, but Yoshihira gets his life spared so that he can fight him as an enemy. Lady Iyo is ill and terrified by spiders. The women pray to Amida for the salvation of all lost souls and struggle against the malevolent spirit of Kocho in spiders. Yorinobu and Yorihira attack Yoshikado, and Kintoki fights millions of spiders with a broom. Finally Yoshikado and the evil spider are vanquished, and the brothers are reunited. Especially in this play the line between life and death is blurred as Chikamatsu portrays the working out of the karmic patterns. Perhaps his philosophy of government is summarized by the following words of Tsuna:
If there is love and compassion inside
and we keep a careful guard on the outside,
then we have no need to use the sword,
and people will follow the way of virtue and govern themselves.11
Takeda Izumo, Namiki Senryu, and Miyoshi Shoraku combined to write nine puppet (Joruri) plays between 1745 and 1749. Several of their plays have been adapted into kabuki and have been revived many times. The most popular three of these are Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy (1746), Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees (1747), and Chushingura or The Treasury of Loyal Retainers (1748).
Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy was presented in Osaka. Sugawara no Michizane was born in 845 and was appointed to the second highest position in the government as Minister of the Right in 899. The historical drama begins the next year. When a Chinese priest arrives at court, Minister of the Left Fujiwara no Shihei offers to stand in for the ill Emperor, but Sugawara objects and suggests Prince Tokiyo, who says that the Emperor wants Sugawara to transmit his calligraphy secrets to a disciple. Sakuramaru and his wife Yae arrange for a meeting of the lovers Yokiyo and Kariya, Sugawara's adopted daughter, and they are discovered. Sugawara's calligraphy disciple Mareyo tries to love the maid Katsuno, who resists. Genzo and his wife Tonami return to Sugawara's house after being banished for marrying without permission. To Mareyo's consternation, Sugawara passes his calligraphy secrets to the poor Genzo, who has been teaching school and is still banished. Sugawara is put under house arrest for plotting to place Tokiyo and Kariya on the throne. Mareyo changes his loyalty to Shihei, but Genzo knocks out Mareyo and kills Chikara.
Tokiyo and Kariya learn that Sugawara has been exiled to Yasui and plan to go there. Kariya asks Terukini to punish her instead of her father. Tokiyo parts with Kariya for the sake of Sugawara. Kariya's mother Kakuju arranges a farewell meeting with Sugawara, and Kakuju's oldest daughter Tatsuta tells her mother not to punish Kariya. Taro and his father Hyoe plan to abduct and kill Sugawara with a counterfeit escort that arrives early. When Taro's wife Tatsuta objects, Taro kills her. Hyoe gets a cock to crow early, and Sugawara enters the palanquin. However, Kakuju's servant Takunai traces the blood and finds Tatsuta's corpse in the pond. Taro pretends to investigate and accuses Takunai. Kakuji sees a scrap of Taro's robe in Tatsuta's mouth, borrows Taro's sword, and stabs him. Terakuni arrives with the escort, and the other escort leader brings back a wooden statue of Sugawara, but the living Sugawara gets out of the palanquin. Hyoe sees his son Taro wounded and admits he planned to kill Sugawara for Shihei. Terukini fights Hyoe, and the false escort flees from Terukini's men. Kakuju kills Taro and cuts off her hair to become a Buddhist nun. Terukini executes Hyoe.
The triplets Sakuramaru, Umeomaru, and Matsuomaru are associated with cherry, plum, and pine respectively. Matsuomaru is a groom for Shihei and is opposed by Tokiyo's groom Sakuramaru and Sugawara's groom Umeomaru. Their father Shiradayu was given tax-free land for them by Sugawara. Their wives celebrate Shiradayu's birthday with him, but the three sons are late. Matsuomaru chides Umeomaru for not having a stipend, but the wives stop them from fighting. Umeo asks to go to Sugawara, but Shiradayu tells him to find Lady Sugawara and her son Shahu. Shiradayu agrees to disown Matsuo and reprimands him for obeying his master regardless of good and bad. Shiradayu plans to go to Sugawara. Sakuramaru arrives and tells his wife Yae that he must die for causing the troubles of Tokiyo and Sugawara. Yae appeals to Shiradayu, but he explains that his prayers for Sakuramaru failed. Sakuramaru commits hara-kiri as Umeo and his wife Haru return.
Sugawara has a strange dream and goes to the Anraku Temple. Umeomaru tells Shiradayu that Heima plans to kill Sugawara, who beheads Heima. Sugawara explains that he must die and become a thunder god to clear his name at the capital. Lady Sugawara tells Haru and Yae that she also dreamt of the Anraku Temple and saw Sugawara going to destroy Shihei. Shihei's retainer Hoshizaka kills Yae, but a priest rescues Lady Sugawara. Sugawara's son Shusai is staying with Genzo and his wife Tonami and attending their school. Matsuomaru's wife Chiyo brings their son Kotaro to enroll in the school. Genzo says that Matsuo and Shihei's retainer Genba have ordered him to cut off the head of Shusai, but he tells Tonami he will cut off Kotaro's head. Tonami questions the retribution that kills a child and wonders if it is for misdeeds from a previous life. Matsuo arrives and lets the other children go but identifies his own son's head as Shusai's. Chiyo returns and explains that they offered their son to save Shusai. Matsuo says he has paid his debt to Sugawara and that he was the priest who rescued Lady Sugawara. Finally Tokiyo returns to court with a pardon for Shusai and the house of Sugawara from the Retired Emperor. Shihei tries to fight and decapitates Genba for negligence. Mareyo's body is burned by lightning. Shihei appeals to Buddha but is infested by snakes and dies as the ghosts of Sakuramaru and Yae appear.
The village school beheading scene has been criticized for extolling feudal loyalty, and the play was banned during the American occupation in the late 1940s.
Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees by Takeda, Miyoshi, and Namiki was first performed in Osaka in 1747. Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159-89) was the brother of Minamoto no Yoritomo (1147-99), who founded Japan's first military government in Kamakura but does not appear in the play. Emperor Go-Shirakawa retired as a priest in 1158 but still holds the power. Yoshitsune is suspected by Yoritomo of rebelling, and his irascible retainer Benkei accuses Tomokata of taking a Heike wife. Tomokata tells Yoshitsune that the Emperor wants him to attack his brother Yoritomo. Yoshitsune accepts the Hatsune drum from the Emperor but refuses to strike it. Heike general Koremori is believed dead, and his wife Wakaba no Naishi and her son Rokudai are hiding with a nun. Naishi learns that her husband is alive on Mount Koya. Tomokata's officer Inokuma intends to torture the truth out of the nun. At the Horikawa mansion Yoshitsune urges his wife Kyo no Kimi and his mistress Shizuka to restrain Benkei's rowdy behavior. Kyo's father Kawagoe asks Yoshitsune why he falsely claimed he had turned in the heads of the Tairas Tomomori, Koremori, and Noritsune, and Yoshitsune explains that he wanted people to believe that the Heike clan was wiped out in order to establish peace. Yoshitsune says that Kawagoe is a coward for not acknowledging he is the real father of Kyo, who was adopted by Taira Tokitada. Insulted Kawagoe tries to kill himself, but Kyo grabs the sword and cuts her throat. Kyo asks that her head be taken to Yoritomo to reconcile him with his brother. Kawagoe warns Yoshitsune not to fight Yoritomo's forces, and Yoshitsune restrains his men.
Yoshitsune reprimands Benkei for killing Kamakura men but forgives him for his loyal defense. Yoshitsune leaves Shizuka behind tied up with the drum. Tota finds her and takes the drum, but Yoshitsune's retainer Tadanobu rescues Shizuka. Tomomori gives up his disguise as the shipping agent Ginpei, serves Emperor Antoku, and aims to kill Yoshitsune. Tsubone, who had posed as Ginpei's wife Oryu, dresses the Emperor. They learn that Yoshitsune has defeated Tomomori. Yoshitsune grabs her and tells Tomomori that he will protect the Emperor. Tsubone considers Yoshitsune's Genji clan her enemy, and she cuts her throat. Tomomori is more philosophical and, before he drowns himself, says, "Yesterday's enemy is today's ally. But now my heart is at peace. I am happy."12
Koremori's retainer Kokingo is traveling with Naisha and her son, but Gonta cheats them out of twenty ryo in gold. Gonta's wife Kosen cannot persuade him to stop swindling. Inokuma mortally wounds Kokingo and is killed by him. Gonta's father Yazaemon finds Kokingo dead and cuts off his head. Yazaemon's daughter Osata wants to marry Yasuke, who is actually Koremori. Gonta pretends he was robbed and says he will commit suicide in order to get his mother to give him money, which they put in a sushi tub. Yazaemon wraps the head and puts it in a sushi tub also. Koremori tells Osata who he is and that he cannot marry her because he has a wife and child. He is reunited with Naisha and Rokudai, and he tells Osata he felt obligated to her parents. An officer gives Kajiwara orders, and Gonta tells Osato he is turning in Naishi, Rokudai, and Koremori. Yazaemon says he cut off Koremori's head and gives Kajiwara Kokingo's head. Gonta claims he killed Koremori and captured Naishi and her son. Kajiwara offers to pardon Gonta's father Yazaemon, but Gonta says he prefers money. Disgusted with his evil son, Yazaemon stabs Gonta, who explains that he turned in his own wife and son in order to save Naisha and Rokudai. Koremori cuts off his hair to become a Buddhist monk, and Yazaemon is distraught that he killed his own son.
Tadanobu and Shizuka travel through the Yoshino mountains. Chief priest Kawatsura learns that the Retired Emperor has ordered Yoritomo to hunt down Yoshitsune. Kawatsura tests his followers, tells them to give Yoshitsune refuge, but says he will kill him. Yoshitsune is reunited with Shizuka and Tadanobu at Kawatsura's mansion. Yoshitsune says that Shizuka may strike the drum, and she attacks Tadanobu, who is revealed to be a fox. Kawatsura captures Yoshitsune, who is rescued by his retainer Kamei. Yoshitsune confronts the Zen master Kakuhan by identifying him as Noritsune. Young Emperor Antoku says that Yoshitsune arranged the meeting. Noritsune fights Tadanobu. Yoshitsune runs in and says that Emperor Antoku is retiring to be a priest. Kawagoe arrives with Tomokata under arrest for advising the Emperor to make Yoshitsune attack Yoritomo. Finally Tadanobu decapitates Noritsune, vanquishing the Heike clan and bringing peace.
Two weeks after the 47 ronin were buried in 1703, a play about a night attack was presented in Edo; but authorities closed it after three performances. In 1706 Chikamatsu's Goban Taiheiki that included revenge against General Moronao in the 14th century was presented in Osaka, where censorship was less strict. Namiki wrote the play Loyal Retainers in 1732, but the famous Chushingura was written by him, Takeda Izumo, and Miyoshi Shoraku and was presented in 1748.
Chushingura uses the setting chosen by Chikamatsu and begins in 1338. Enya Hangan's wife Kaoyo identifies the helmet of the late Yoshisada by its smell of incense. When Moronao slips a letter into her sleeve, she throws it back at him. Wakasanosuke tells his retainer Honzo that he resents the tyrannical manner of Moronao, who was appointed advisor by Emperor Takauji. To prevent conflict, Honzo shows Moronao's retainer Bannai a list of gifts from Wakasanosuke. The young woman Okaru asks Kampei to return a poem to Moronao, and she pushes away Bannai for trying to be too familiar. Moronao apologizes to Wakasanosuke, and Hangan returns a letter box from his wife Kaoyo to Moronao, who ridicules Hangan. The insulted Hangan uses his sword to slash the head of Moronao, but Honzo stops him from doing more. Kampei wants to leave with Okaru and is able to fight off Bannai. Hangan is under house arrest, and Kaoyo blames herself for angering Moronao. The Shogun's envoy tells Hangan his lands are confiscated and orders him to commit seppuku. Hangan only regrets that he did not kill Moronao, and he asks for vengeance as he leaves his dagger to his chief retainer Yuranosuke. The envoy Yakushiji takes possession and orders the retainers to leave. Kudayu suggests turning over the mansion, but Yagoro wants to stay and fight. Yuranosuke advises they should not fight Ashikaga, but he promises to kill Moronao with the dagger.
Yagoro meets Kampei and tells him they are raising money for a memorial to Hangan. Kampei wants to be a samurai again and hopes to get money from Okaru's parents. The brigand Sakuro robs an old man on the road of fifty ryo and kills him. Kampei shoots at a boar but discovers he killed a man and takes his money. Ichimonjiya brings the other fifty ryo to buy Okaru for 100 ryo from her parents, saying he gave the other fifty to her father. Kampei arrives, and the money wallet indicates he may have shot his father-in-law. Ichimonjiya takes Okaru away, and hunters tell her mother that Okaru's father is dead. She blames Kampei. Yagoro and Goemon return the money to Kampei because Yuranosuke suspected it was wrongly obtained. Kampei stabs himself; but then Yagoro and Goemon realize that Kampei shot the highwayman and enroll him in their league before he cuts his throat.
Moronao has sent Bannai to the capital to spy on Yuranosuke, who has been drinking with prostitutes. Heiemon reports to Yuranosuke that he went to try to kill Moronao but could not get near him. Yuranosuke's son Rikiya learns that Moronao is returning home. Kudayu suspects that Yuranosuke is pretending to be dissipated to attack his enemy but tells Bannai that Yuranosuke even ate octopus on the anniversary of Hangan's death. Yuranosuke asks Okaru to be his wife even if only for three days. Her brother Heiemon tells Okaru that her father and Kampei are dead. Because she read the secret letter, he offers to kill her; but Yuranosuke stops her from killing herself. Yuranosuke drives his sword between mats to skewer Kudayu, who was listening below the floor, and he has Heiemon slash Kudayu all over his body. Honzo's wife Tonase wants her daughter Konami to marry Yuranosuke's son Rikiya, but his mother Oishi rejects the marriage. Konami refuses to marry anyone else, and Yuranosuke approves her marriage to his son. Oishi wants Honzo's head for having stopped Hangan from killing Moronao. Honzo comes in and pushes down Oishi, and Rikiya wounds Honzo with a lance. Yuranosuke says that Honzo got his wish to be struck down by his son-in-law. Yuranosuke follows the Confucian idea of hating the crime, not the offender. He reveals two monuments that portend his death and Rikiya's. Tonase and Oishi apologize to each other, and Honzo gives Rikiya a plan of Moronao's mansion.
The merchant Gihei helps the ronin get supplies and is tortured by the police, who threaten his son. Gihei is willing to strangle the boy himself when Yuranosuke stops him, commending his determination. To save Gihei's daughter from being married, Yuranosuke cuts off her hair. Yuranosuke tells his men that they only intend to kill Moronao. Jutaro captures him alive, and they all cut off Moronao's head. Yuranosuke gives the top honors to Jutaro and Kampei. Yuranosuke says they should withdraw to die at Hangan's tomb, but while escaping they kill Yakushiji and Bannai. This revenge play indicates how the samurai code of honor could result in extensive violence, most of it self-inflicted and not shown, as the group seppuku is left to the audience's imagination.
When Tokugawa Yoshimune (r. 1716-45) became shogun, he had already learned much as the daimyo of Kii, having handled debts, a costly visit from the Shogun, disastrous fires, and a tsunami. He dismissed Arai Hakuseki and replaced him with Muro Kyuso. In implementing major reforms he governed himself and urged direct appeals to him. Yoshimune restrained spending because of the depleted Bakafu treasury. He reversed the debased currency by minting pure coins, and he proclaimed a moratorium on financial suits by merchants against samurai. In 1716 he announced that no suggestions had been helpful and that unsolicited opinions would now be punished; but this policy was reversed three years later, and a suggestion box was put out three times a month starting in 1721. Some 21 officials had their stipends confiscated in 1719 to reimburse the government for embezzlement.
The process of codifying Bakufu laws began in 1720, and it was completed in 1742. To reduce the number of lawsuits, Yoshimune encouraged the settlement of disputes by the mediation of headmen. He lifted the ban on foreign books in Chinese translations except those on Christianity. The Shogun assigned twenty agents to gather information on daimyos and shogunate officials. His 1721 decree stopped the practice of automatically charging with complicity the families of the common people guilty of serious crimes. Banishment sentences were commuted to fines. A five-year census started in 1721, the year Yoshimune began licensing merchant associations (kabunakama). The craft guilds for artisans were called nakama. Yoshimune ordered officials to reduce the expenditures of their departments, and he called upon daimyos and hatamoto to be more frugal in their private spending.
After two poor harvests, in 1722 Shogun Yoshimune reduced the stipends of the bannermen (hatamoto) and housemen (go-kenin). When the price of rice shot up to 80 momme per koku, he called upon the daimyos to contribute one percent of their revenues to the Bakufu to pay the debts of his housemen and bannermen; but he reduced the alternating attendance requirements of the daimyos to six months every other year. He urged land reclamation and the growing of new crops. Wealthy merchants were invited to finance drainage and embankments to provide more cultivable land, and specialists were employed to improve irrigation. In 1723 the Shogun ordered that raises in stipends for promotion be temporary and conditional in order to make bureaucrats more accountable. In 1727 the tax on crops was raised from 40% to 50%. The next year the Shogun made a procession to the Nikko mausoleum of Ieyasu, whom he emulated, and he canceled the one percent tax on daimyos' revenue. In 1729 the government announced that because of the low price of rice, those on rice stipends would only have to pay five percent interest on their debts. The price of rice reached a low of 22 momme, and this especially affected the military class, which received their stipends in rice. Yoshimune ended the monthly rotation of roju duties and appointed a finance commissioner; by 1735 that was the largest government office.
In the summer of 1732 an attack of locusts destroyed crops in western Japan. More than two million people suffered hunger, and the government supplied rice from large storehouses; yet more than ten thousand died of starvation. Market prices shot up to 150 momme per koku and caused riots in Edo and other towns in 1733 because angry citizens believed that speculators were withholding food. For the first time urban riots in Japan turned to property smashing (uchikowashi). That year the Bakufu sanctioned warehouse notes by establishing its own rice storehouse at Osaka. A good harvest the next year brought the price back down, but that squeezed the military class. In 1734 the Confucian scholar Aoki Konyo proposed growing sweet potatoes. In 1735 the government set a base price of one ryo for 1.4 koku of rice. Nonetheless the price of rice fluctuated wildly for the next decade despite government efforts. In 1736 the Bakufu debased the currency again to stop the price of rice from falling. In the next ten years six billion copper coins were minted, more than doubling what had been issued before. No more gold or silver coins were issued until 1819.
Yoshimune set fixed agricultural taxes and had them rigorously collected. Since the taxes were fixed for several years in advance, farmers by increasing their yields could lower their tax rates. This also eliminated exacting annual assessments. The Roju in charge of finance, Kan'o Haruhide, said, "Peasants are like sesame seeds. The more you squeeze them the more oil you get."13 These efforts increased government revenues to a high of 1,800,000 koku in 1744. However, in 1739 about 84,000 peasants rebelled in Iwakitaira, and later that year it took troops from thirteen daimyos to put down a revolt by silver miners at Ikuno. The new law code of 1742 allowed peasants to sell their land for the first time since 1643. Yoshimune had an observatory constructed in Edo in 1744. He retired in 1745 and was guardian for his son Ieshige until his death in 1751.
Ieshige (r. 1745-60) became shogun at the age of 35, but he stammered and let his Grand Chamberlain Ooka Tadamitsu speak for him. Land taxes increased government reserves from one million gold pieces in 1742 to 2.5 million in 1753. After two poor harvests, peasants in Dewa asked for grain in 1747; but after the rice was dispensed, the leaders were questioned under torture and executed by orders from the Bakufu. In the 1750s several prominent daimyos were accused of misrule and had their estates confiscated, and 32 officials were dismissed or had their stipends withdrawn. One month after Ooka Tadamitsu died in 1760, Ieshige resigned and let his son Ieharu become shogun. Ieshige died the following year.
Shogun Ieharu (r. 1760-86) began ruling at the age of forty, but his favorite Tanuma Okitsuga (1719-1788) rose to become the senior chamberlain by 1767. Matsudaira Takemoto was president of the elders council and restrained Tanuma somewhat until he died in 1779. Tanuma gained as a mistress a friend of Ieharu's favorite woman, and through her he bribed ladies-in-waiting and concubines. He considered the bribes he received indications of loyalty. Tanuma encouraged commercial activity and gained revenue by licensing more trade associations. He established monopolies on silver, copper, lime, and vegetable oil. Foreign trade at Nagasaki was promoted by exporting more copper as well as dried shark fins, sea slugs, and seaweed from Hokkaido. The Sumitomo house served as agents for the copper monopoly in the Kansai area. By 1761 Japan had more than two hundred large commercial houses. That year the Bakufu prohibited daimyos from issuing promissory notes they could not redeem, and in 1767 Osaka merchants were ordered not to accept such notes. Taxes burdened the people, and in 1764 about 200,000 people from Mushashi and Kozuke marched on Edo to protest a special tax imposed to pay for the Shogun's visit to Nikko. Most were appeased, but many roamed the country and smashed storehouses in Kumagai before the disorder was suppressed in Kanto. Peasant uprisings spread to other areas. Daimyos called on neighboring domains for help, but they were forbidden to use firearms until the riots in Hida became more serious in 1773. The Bakufu rewarded spies by raising them into the samurai class.
After two years of drought, Edo suffered a major fire in 1772 that was followed by a year of floods. The next year an epidemic took about 200,000 lives and spread north to Sendai, where 300,000 died of starvation and disease. Conspiracies to give the imperial court at Kyoto more power were punished in 1766 and 1774, and Matsudaira Sadanobu exposed peculation there in 1778. Floods affected Kyoto and Kyushu that year and were followed by the eruption of two volcanoes. In 1781 merchants set quality standards for silk and cotton, issuing certificates in the market towns of Musashi and Kotsuke and charging examination fees. However, buyers refused to pay the higher prices, and three thousand peasants attacked the examination stations and marched to the castle of Takasaki. The examination stations were abolished. The great Temmei famine began in 1782 and spread to most provinces, lasting until 1787. Rioters burned down warehouses and residences of dealers, whom Tanuma had allowed to buy up rice supplies during the famine. Tanuma's son Okitomo was murdered in 1784. Russians had requested trade in 1777, and in 1785 Tanuma sent a commission to investigate how to promote northern trade with Russia by developing Hokkaido and Sakhalin. He also encouraged Dutch studies. Government reserves reached a high of three million gold pieces in 1770 but fell to 2.2 million by 1788. Shogun Ieharu died in 1786, and the next year the Roju councilors replaced Tanuma with Shirakawa's daimyo Matsudaira Sadanobu, who during the famine had prevented any deaths by starvation in Shirakawa by providing rice.
During the first six years of Ienari's long reign (1787-1837), Yoshimune's grandson Matsudaira Sadanobu (1758-1829) directed policy and tried to go back to his grandfather's era by restricting trade. After the riots of 1787, the Roju approved of Sadanobu's reforms. The next year there were 117 revolts. He suppressed bribery and other corruption that characterized the Tanuma regime. Former finance commissioners and some top councilors were fined and reduced in rank; other guilty officials and merchants were executed or banished. In 1788 the Bakufu government faced a deficit for the first time, and so Sadanobu reduced expenditures. To pay for rebuilding the palaces that had been burned in the fires at Kyoto, in 1789 he revived Yoshimune's method of making the daimyos contribute. He canceled samurai debts and reduced the rate of interest that the brokers (fudasashi) charged for loans to the Shogun's retainers. Yet in 1795 the hatamoto rioted against the brokers in the streets, and the Tokugawa samurai had to punish their own people to restore order.
Sadanobu supervised the Osaka rice merchants and ordered all daimyos to set aside rice reserves to prevent famine. He eliminated most of the corvée labor imposed on the peasants. However, his efforts to stop peasants from moving into the towns or inducements offered for them to return to the land from Edo and other cities had little effect, as did his attempts to get farmers to reduce their subsidiary crops such as tobacco and indigo. Village officials and mutual responsibility groups (goningumi) were ordered to take special care of pregnant women in order to increase rural population, and in 1800 the Bakufu government spent 150,000 gold pieces trying to rebuild rural Japan. Instead of helping the poor directly, wealthy farmers and merchants were loaned money, and the interest was used to help orphans and others.
In 1790 Matsudaira Sadanobu tried to exclude doctrines that deviated from Zhu Xi's teachings at the Confucian college (Shohei Gakumonjo). Pornography and books ridiculing the government were also banned. In 1791 the comic writer Santo Kyoden was punished, and works by Hayashi Shihei that mentioned the Russians in the north were suppressed. However, the new restrictions on foreign books were reversed by 1811, when the Bakufu established an office for translating western books in the shogunate's astronomical observatory. In 1792 annual examinations for samurai began. Mogami Tokunai (1755-1836) led the exploration of the northern islands, and he emphasized the need to conciliate the indigenous Ainu, who were rebelling. In 1792 a Russian vessel reached Nemuro to return Japanese castaways. Adam Laxman was informed that the Russians must apply for permission to enter Japan at Nagasaki. Sadanobu reacted in 1793 by ordering coastal defenses prepared, and the next year he resigned his office. He wrote a memoir (Uge no hitogoto) of his public service to instruct his descendants.
Ienari came of age and began ruling for himself in 1793. He spent money liberally and did not try to control commerce.
Nishikawa Joken (1648-1724) was an astronomer in Nagasaki, and he wrote the popular Bagful for Merchants (Chonin bukuro) in 1719 and the Bagful for Peasants (Hyakusho bukuro) in 1721. He offered much practical advice that included warning people about consuming red meats and wines as Europeans do. He saw all human beings as part of the natural order with the same inner connection with the absolute. Therefore he rejected the social hierarchy and inequality. He argued that commerce served the entire country, and he believed that money belonged to everyone. He found that nature blessed everyone without prejudice so that none were inherently inferior or wicked. In 1728 Kada Azumamaro submitted a memorial to the Bakufu government for a school of national learning.
Ogyu Sorai (1666-1728) became an advisor to Yoshimune and published his Political Essays (Seidan) in 1727, urging reforms but under the absolute authority of the shogun. He studied the ancient classics of China, and he criticized Jinsai for missing the original teachings in the Analects of Confucius. He valued the study of history and considered it the ultimate form of scholarly knowledge. He believed that human history is not natural because it is created artificially. Sorai emphasized the importance of separating selfish desires by keeping them in the private sphere and out of public service. He challenged hereditary systems and urged that appointments be made based on ability. He criticized the domination the Hayashi family had over state education. He observed that the men in authority lacked the virtue to govern, and he predicted that men of talent and wisdom emerging from below would overthrow the order. He was still holding the Confucian view that merchants contributed little, but his student Dazai Shundai (1680-1747) believed that a money economy would produce economic growth. In his book on political economy (Keizairoku) Dazai proposed creating wealth by trading plentiful goods to where they are needed.
Ishida Baigan (1685-1744) was a merchant from Kyoto, but he combined Shinto beliefs with Buddhist and Confucian ideas to form a new religion he called Heart Learning (Shingaku). He urged people to accept the four social classes as natural and recommended each person fulfill one's duty with diligence, love, and honesty. Baigan taught that exchanging goods of reliable quality developed trust between people and benefited society. He affirmed the human spirit that found aspects of all the major religions valid. Ando Shoeki (1707-55) urged identification with nature, and he affirmed the indigenous community in northern Japan. All are human, and he believed that status distinctions between male and female or high and low should not exist.
Tominaga Nakamoto (1715-46) studied at the merchant academy in Osaka. Many of his writings were lost because of the Prohibition Act of 1790, but his Historical Survey of Buddhism (Shutsujo kogo) and Testament of an Old Man (Okina no fumi) survived. In the lost book, Failings of the Classical Philosophers (Seppei), he had criticized the ancient Chinese philosophers. This book caused him to be expelled from his father's Confucian school and from his own home before he was even twenty years old. At the Zen monastery of Uji he got a job proofreading the enormous Buddhist scriptures in the Tripitaka. This enabled him to write his Historical Survey in which he observed how additional contributions helped the religion to spread. Thus innovations constantly change religion as different schools, sects, and denominations form. He was skeptical of universal statements and argued that ethical texts should be understood in the context of their cultural history.
Tominaga Nakamoto also analyzed how Confucian rhetoric tended to distort knowledge by exaggerating, generalizing, reducing meaning of specific cases by using abstractions, and using contrasts in deceptive ways. Nakamoto criticized the mysticism in Buddhism, the scholasticism of Confucianism, and the superstitions in Shinto. He also questioned whether the cultural history of one country could be transferred to another. He noted that Buddhism was distorted as it moved from India to China and Japan, which he felt also suffered from adopting Chinese scholasticism. He suggested that the way of truthfulness could be found in ethical filial relationships among the living rather than from past texts. In his Testament of an Old Man, Tominaga tried to synthesize the three religions into an ethical culture of true fact. The old man found it pitiful and ridiculous that ignorant people become partisans of one teaching and start violent controversies. He also criticized Shinto for devising secret transmissions for selfish gain.
Goi Ranju (1697-1762) followed the philosophy of Kaibara Ekken and taught merchants in Osaka. He disagreed with the elitism of Sorai that most people could not understand certain truths. Ranju, like Ishida Baigan, believed that all people could grasp the order of nature and understand ethical values. He believed that human goodness could be realized more by daily interactions than by solitary meditation.
Nakai Chikuzan (1730-1804) was a merchant in Osaka and a student of Goi Ranju. In his book on political economy (Sobo kigen) he called for major reforms, including abandoning the hostage system for regional daimyos at Edo and terminating guaranteed stipends for the aristocracy. He proposed a unified school system for all classes with promotion based on ability and achievement. He suggested educating students in Edo for administration, and in the Kyoto-Osaka area he recommended cultural studies to include history, ethics, and literature. Chikuzan's brother Nakai Riken (1732-1817) agreed on the value of universal education, but he argued that the decline of virtue because of warlords seeking power in conflict with an imperial center was not inevitable. Riken condemned the betrayal of the Tokugawa shogunate and withdrew to become a scholarly recluse.
Yamagata Daini (1725-67) agreed that ambitious men betrayed the privileged aristocracy, but he advocated action to change the system. He proposed that a popular army could be raised to revolt against the Bakufu government. He believed that the government's punishing people was illegitimate and thus criminal behavior. In 1767 his plot to burn down Edo was discovered, and 22 people were arrested and punished, most being banished to the islands of Idzu. The Bakufu convicted Yamagata of treason and beheaded him.
Japanese intellectuals began studying Dutch books, and in 1745 Aoki Konyo produced a Dutch-Japanese dictionary. Miura Baien (1723-89) studied Dutch science, and he offered the economic theory that social utility is what creates economic value. A lantern that can light homes is more useful than precious stones in a mighty castle. He reasoned that gold, silver, and copper could be replaced by paper money. Baien urged local peasants to organize themselves into mutually helpful communes in order to nurture life from below, instead of waiting for political generosity from above. His skeptical analyses encouraged scientific thought, and his disciples Waki Guzan and Hoashi Banri would recommend the use of western science in the 19th century. In 1791 the Dutch specialist Hayashi Shihei wrote a book that urged developing European military technology to defend the north against the advancing Russians with the education of samurai while bringing about domestic reforms in agriculture and trade. The Bakufu ordered Hayashi arrested and destroyed the blocks that printed his book.
Motoori Norinaga (1730-1801) found deep emotion (mono no aware) in the ancient legends of the Kojiki and in Murasaki's medieval novel The Tale of Genji. He spent 34 years studying and reconstructing the Kojiki to reveal Japan's ancient way. He believed that an authentic life experienced deep emotion, and he criticized Buddhism for dismissing feelings and renouncing the world. He believed that love is the most powerful emotion, and that is why most poetry is about love. Poetry is a natural way to express one's deep feelings. Norinaga found emotion to be spontaneous, and he believed that humans had little rational control over good and evil. However, he suggested that people could act morally by following natural Shinto and thus be mystically guided by the gods (kami).
Sugita Gempaku (1733-1817) and others translated Dutch books. Sugita studied medicine and became a surgeon. He wrote The Beginnings of Dutch Studies (Rangaku Kotohajime). He found that Dutch studies of anatomy were more accurate than Confucian concepts, and in 1771 he observed the dissection of a condemned criminal's corpse. Otsuki Gentaku (1757-1827) opened a school for studying Dutch and western subjects, publishing his Explanation of Dutch Studies in 1788. After surveying for seventeen years, Ino Tadataka (1745-1818) made an accurate map of Japan. Kaiho Seiryo (1755-1817) gave up his samurai status and moved to Osaka. He lectured on his Daoist philosophy of play and wrote on economics, urging the samurai government to gain wealth by commerce just as the king of Holland benefited from commercial ventures. He argued that merchants precisely measure exchanges of value in their profit calculations. He believed that the polity should be reformed so that high and low are united in a community that is dedicated to the peace and well being of all.
Honda Toshiaki (1744-1821) believed the seclusion policy was a mistake and urged Japan to develop its northern frontier by allowing colonization. He compared the advancing scientific and technical knowledge of the western nations with the moral aphorisms of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Shinto, which he denounced as pedantic and superstitious. In 1798 he wrote Secret Proposals on Political Economy (Keisei hisaku) in which he recommended manufacturing explosives to use for creating ports, waterways, and rice fields as well as for military purposes. Second, he proposed mining metals to increase national power. Third, he suggested constructing a national merchant marine for centrally owned trading. Finally, he advised applying technology to explore neighboring islands for defensive purposes. He warned that western naval powers could soon be encroaching on Japan. He recommended that the western alphabet be used for writing instead of the numerous Chinese characters. He believed that Japan could become like England by developing scientific technology. Toshiaki summarized the duty of the prince as alleviating the people's suffering. He emphasized the need to produce more food in order to prevent starvation of increasing population. He blamed private merchants and the failure of the government for making the economic conditions of the samurai and farmers worse because of lack of sea transport. He observed that famines caused people to turn to crime, and he hoped that better government would lead to prosperity.
The Osaka banker Yamagata Banto (1748-1821) managed the finances of the Sendai domain. He studied the Nakai brothers and was fascinated by western science. He rejected dreams and believed that universal principle did not favor one country or region over another. He criticized the Confucian hierarchy that placed the aristocracy on top and the merchants on the bottom.
Sato Nobuhiro (1768-1850), like Honda Toshiaki, was also from the north. He studied Dutch books on science and history and then traveled around urging daimyos to apply agricultural improvements. He wrote a brief history of the western powers and found that scientific ideas undermined out-of-date Confucian theories. Sato worked on developing firepower for weapons and ships. He recommended having departments of education, religion, and justice. Under these would be the six bureaus of agriculture, natural resources (forestry and mining), manufacture, finance, army, and navy. He suggested that universities teach philosophy, religion, social institutions, music, law, military defense, medicine, astronomy, geography, and foreign languages. Soto was concerned about infanticide and abortion, and he estimated the number of children killed each year was sixty or seventy thousand in Mutsu and Dewa alone. He found that infanticide was rare in Echigo, where prostitution of girls over the age of seven was widespread. He believed that scientific agriculture could help produce abundant harvests. He warned that if the state did not improve, divine punishment was inevitable. If the wealth of the nations was shared by all, then no harm would come from having a large family. In his Outline of Heaven's Law (Tenkei yoroku), he advocated uniting the whole world in peace. Thus geography needs to be studied in order to save the people. However, in his plan for world unification Soto argued that Japan should subjugate China, Burma, and India and could command all the nations. After retiring, Soto became interested in the ideas of Hirata Atsutane.
1. Hagakure Book One in The Way of the Samurai by Yukio Mishima, p. 110.
2. Ibid., p. 113.
3. The Life of an Amorous Woman by Ihara Saikaku, p. 208.
4. Choja Kyo in The Japanese Family Storehouse by Ihara Saikaku tr. G. W. Sargent, p. 241.
5. The Japanese Family Storehouse by Ihara Saikaku tr. G. W. Sargent, p. 96.
6. This Scheming World by Ihara Saikaku tr. Masanori Takatsuka and David C. Stubbs, p. 25.
8. The Love Suicides at Sonezaki by Chikamatsu, tr. Donald Keene, p. 56.
9. Twins at the Sumida River by Chikamatsu, tr. C. Andrew Gerstle, p. 114.
10. Lovers Pond in Settsu Province by Chikamatsu, tr. C. Andrew Gerstle, p. 194.
11. Tethered Steed and the Eight Provinces of Kanto by Chikamatsu, tr. C. Andrew Gerstle, p. 348-349.
12. Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees by Takeda Izumo, Namiki Senryu, and Miyoshi Shoraku, tr. Stanleigh H. Jones, Jr., p. 130.
13. Quoted in A History of Japan 1615-1867 by George Sansom, p. 166.
14. Quoted in A History of Japan, Volume 3 by James Murdoch, p. 454.
15. Takasu, Shinron kowa, p. 198 in Sources of Japanese Tradition, Volume 2, p. 96.
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