Journal - Volume 1, April 2010

Editorial Note

Yado and Kuchiire

urban society, periphery of social stratification, yado, employment agents, nakama guild

Explanatory Note

The paper 'Yado and Kuchiire' was originally included in the volume Mibunteki shūen to kinsei shakai 3: Akinai ga musubu hitobito (Periphery of Social Stratification and Early Modern Society Vol. 3: Social connection through trading activity) (Yoshikawa Kōbunkan, 2007), edited by Naofumi Hara. In this paper, the term yado refers to both lodging establishments and kuchiire, or employment agents. A group of eight editors, including me, organized a series of joint studies. Dozens of scholars participated in these studies and the resulting papers and records of discussion were published in a nine-volume series entitled Mibunteki shūen to kinsei shakai (Periphery of Social Stratification and Early Modern Society). As noted above, this paper comes from one of the volumes in that series. In 1990, Nobuyuki Yoshida, Osamu Wakita and I founded the 'Periphery of Social Stratification' Research Group. On the basis of studies conducted by members of that group, we published a book entitled Mibunteki shūen (Peripheries of Social Stratification), a six-volume series entitled Kinsei no mibunteki shūen (Early Modern Peripheries of Social Stratification), and the above-mentioned nine-volume Mibunteki shūen to kinsei shakai series.

Traditionally, early modern society was characterized as politically rigid, organized on the basis of a caste system of 'warriors, farmers, craftsmen, traders and discriminated eta and hinin'. However, as research on kōgi (public administration) and the early modern caste system developed in the 1980s, early modern society came to be understood differently. Scholars came to see it as a complex and multi-tiered society in which the bakufu, the overarching political entity that bound together the various feudal states of early modern Japan, and han, or feudal states, existed as regional powers and subordinate groups organized their own communities on the town and village level. Importantly, these scholars noted th at both regional powers and subordinate groups participated in the execution of public power. The participation of these groups, however, took place at different levels of society. During the 1990s, scholars conducted a range of studies on 'peripheral' social spheres. These studies focused on artisan and merchant guilds, religious and entertainment groups, and religious fundraising groups. In light of these new understandings, we can say that early modern Japanese society 'was composed of various social groups that existed in a multi-layered and compound manner. These groups had a tendency to seek public recognition while remaining under the authority of the ruling class.'

Based on the above understanding of early modern society, this paper examines employment agents (kuchiire), who acted as mediators between different social classes and groups. Employment agents organized themselves in an effort to gain an officially recognized position in early modern Edo's status system.

In working to develop a new understanding of early modern Japanese society, I have been strongly influenced by Nobuyuki Yoshida's work on urban social history. In a paper entitled 'Edo ni okeru yado no shosŁE (Different aspects of yado in Edo), Professor Yoshida examines the various types of lodging establishments in early modern Edo, such as kujiyado or ryojin-yado, hyakushŁEyado, which were used during trials and for official purposes, hitoyado and temayado, both of which provided employment mediation services, shōnin-yado, which were used by merchants, gureyado, which were used by poor monks, and kichinyado. Through an examination of the temporary lodging characteristics of each type of yado, Yoshida elucidates the network of social relationships that developed around Edo's early modern lodging establishments. Yoshida's research helped to shed light on a range of relationships and connections ignored or overlooked in previous research. Thus, his research deals not only with 'the various aspects of yado in Edo' but also with the range of relationships that linked the townspeople of Edo to one another. Inspired by Yoshida's analysis of Edo, I focused my attention on Osaka. Through my research, I demonstrated the existence in the 17th century Osaka of a group of employment agents that also provided lodging services. In the analysis below, I examine their development as a group.

Dreams of Sanetomo: His Portrait in the Azuma Kagami and the Legends of Prince Shōtoku

Japanese Medieval Literature, legend, Azuma Kagami, Minamoto no Sanetomo, Shōtoku Taishi

Explanatory Note

Minamoto no Sanetomo (1192-1219) was the third shōgun of the Kamakura period (which lasted from the end of the 12th century to the first half of the 14th century). In this period, which marked a fresh departure from the previous history in the medieval age of Japan, the bushi (warrior) class was able to run an independent government for the first time. It should be also noted that this government was located in Kamakura, near to the area now known as Tokyo, several hundred miles east of Kyoto. However, Sanetomo could not avoid being dragged into the fierce power struggles in the early days of the new regime as it consolidated its power and in the end he suffered a tragic death, assassinated at a young age by his nephew, a son of his elder brother Yori'ie, the second shōgun. This series of developments is described in the Azuma Kagami, a chronicle of this period which was written under the auspices of the Kamakura government.

However, Sanetomo's attitude toward the old aristocratic government in Kyoto, which had now been deprived of its centuries-long monopoly on sovereignty, was complicated; he had a deep understanding of the ancient traditions of the aristocracy, in particular waka poetry, and he had great affection for them. He himself composed many waka and was famous as a poet.

Given this background studies about Sanetomo have focused on his waka, if one excludes work by authors and literary critics. Consequently, researchers have searched in the Azuma Kagami for the portrait of Sanetomo as a poet. In other words, there is a tendency to see Sanetomo as a person who fled into the world of waka as a result of the pressure he was under from the HōjŁEclan (the family of his mother), who wielded the real power in the government.

In contrast to these studies, the present paper proposes to see Sanetomo placed in the context of folk literature tradition, rather than in the mainstream of waka poetry. To this end, it introduces a hypothesis that the legend of Shōtoku-Taishi (Prince Shōtoku) is reflected in the portrait of Sanetomo in the Azuma Kagami. Prince Shōtoku is said to have lived from the end of the 6th century to the first half of the 7th century. He had been an object of admiration for his idealistic policies based on Buddhism, and this legendary figure, like a saint in the West, had a great influence on both the political thought and the literature of Japan. This paper thus tries to see to what extent the description of Sanetomo in the Azuma Kagami overlaps the folklore about Prince Shōtoku.

What emerged as a result of this study is a portrait of Sanetomo as a man who was strongly aware of his role as a policymaker, and who has since been subjected to literary embellishment, which is in contrast to the portrait of Sanetomo painted in previous literary research. The new description of Sanetomo revealed by this paper also matches the picture of him that recent historical research has been revealing based on various Mandokoro Hakkyū Monjo, domestic documents issued by the shōgun's court.

As outlined above, the present paper brings a completely new perspective to interpreting Sanetomo, seeing the Azuma Kagami as an amalgam of history and literature. In this sense, it makes a great contribution to the study of medieval Japanese literature.