Edo Period Japan: 250 Years of Peace
Meg vanSteenburgh
Legal Systems Very Different From Our Own
Spring 2006
“Unreason is less than reason. Reason is less than law. Authority is greater than law, but heaven is supreme.”
-Tokugawa saying
The hallmark of the Tokugawa dynasty (1603-1867) was a strong belief in the Neo-Confucian ideals of morals, education, and strict hierarchical class structure in both government and society. After hundreds of years of civil wars, the fifteen Tokugawa shoguns made their foremost goals political stability and complete isolationism. The rice-based economy of Tokugawa period Japan was a complex form of feudalism. It was a country symbolically ruled by the emperor in Kyoto, while in actuality ruled by his shogun, or chief military advisor, in Edo.
The shogun implemented an administrative system which effectively organized Edo period society into a strict hereditary caste system in descending order of Neo-Confucian merit: warrior, farmer, artisan, merchant.[i] The different classes were separated by bungen, or lines of demarcation, which were almost impossible to cross. Below the merchants in the hierarchy were the eta, or untouchables, who were not actually considered people and were largely outside the purview of any governmental body. Another group, the buke, or clergy (both Shinto and Buddhist) existed outside of the regulation of the feudal government to a large extent. The buke were required to pay tribute to the feudal government but effectively regulated themselves and did not go to the shogunate for the settlement of disputes; which was one of the only ways that the peasant class ever interacted with the shogunal government. The Confucian system was based on the idea that superiors ruled by example; their subordinates had no rights, per se, but rulers had a moral duty to treat subordinates correctly. Theoretically, the law would only step in to punish a failure of this moral duty, not to vindicate the rights of the victims.[ii]
Shogunal power rested on three key strategies. The first was using divine power in the name of the emperor to maintain legitimate authority that was beyond question, though the emperor himself was little more than a puppet and was virtually imprisoned in the imperial palace in Kyoto. The second was complete control of the daimyo, or feudal lords, in order to prevent a repetition of the internal strife and intrigue that had plagued the country until its unification in by Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1603 after the battle of Sekigahara. And the third was isolation, or sakoku, from not only the West but also from the Chinese mainland to minimize the threat of foreign influence or inspired rebellion. In fact, by 1635 the Japanese people were forbidden to travel abroad and those who were already abroad were not permitted to come home.[iii] All foreign trade was suspended, except for trade with the Dutch[iv]. However, the entire Dutch trading mission was expelled to Dejima, an artificially made island in Nagasaki harbor.[v] When the Portuguese attempted to re-establish trade relations with the shogunal government their entire delegation was summarily executed upon arrival.[vi]
Another Western influence that the Tokugawa tried to eradicate was Christianity. In some village codes, which were largely a reflection of shogunal wishes, there appear articles like: “The peasants are investigated every month, and comings and goings are checked with the pertinent temple in each case to verify affiliation. Therefore, should there be a Christian in this village, not only his goningumi [village council] and the headman but the entire village will be punished.”[vii] Christianity was most likely viewed by the shogun as dangerous to the stability of the new nation because of its direct opposition to the Confucian ideal of maintaining the status quo that the shogun was attempting to instill in the people. Another problem with Christianity is that its influence had always been strongest in Kyushu and southern Honshu where the most powerful internal enemies of the shogun had their fiefs and the shogun did not want to allow those lords to gain the sympathy of and ally themselves with the Western powers in any way.[viii]
The stability gained by isolation and strict class control saw feudal Japan double its population from fifteen-million to thirty-million in the first half of the period as well as an increase in urbanization and the influence of the merchant class.[ix] Though Confucian ideals would rank merchants at the bottom of the class structure as economic parasites, since they did not actually produce anything, during Edo period Japan they became the creditors of overlords and samurai alike. While this did not officially increase their status in polite society, holding the purse strings of a powerful overlord could guarantee many perks in a society which continued to emphasize agrarian taxation and failed to tax the ever-expanding urban industries.[x]
Villages, which operated as largely autonomous units, were also expanding their industries with enterprises like silk production, textile weaving, and sake brewing.[xi] However, many of these entrepreneurial villagers failed at their endeavors, went into debt, and migrated into the cities to form the base of the unskilled labor force which fed the increasing urbanization.[xii] This growth and expansion peaked during the Genroku period[xiii] (1688-1704). Another interesting note is that between 1600 and 1720 the percentage of arable land in Japan nearly doubled.[xiv] This was most likely in part due to the fact that the lower classes could pursue their enterprises, be it sake brewing or irrigation projects, fairly single-mindedly since they were completely excluded from political activity outside the village unit.[xv] In fact the legal system of Tokugawa Japan had two very distinct jurisdictions which interacted very rarely: the shogunal government and the village government.

Politics, Government and Social Structure

The Bafuku
The shogunal government was called the bafuku, literally tent government, a term which was derived from the military structure of the shogunate. At the top of the command structure was the shogun himself[xvi]. Under the shogun was the tairo, or prime minister, who would occasionally be called upon to rule as a regent during the minority of a child.[xvii] Since the shogun was a military position a woman could not rule as regent like an empress could in the imperial court. There was a council of state composed of half a dozen roju (elders) who were appointed by the shogun and advised him on political matters and another half a dozen wakadoshiyori (junior elders) who dealt with the problems of petty vassals.[xviii] The hyojoshu, or judicial council, was formed by adding a few more members to the council of elders and was responsible for the various government departments such as finance, police, city government, and religious organizations.[xix] They functioned as both executive administrators and judges.[xx] The next level of government were the feudal lords.
The Daimyo
The Tokugawa also imposed a strict hierarchy on the daimyo (feudal lords). The first group of daimyo was shimpan. Shimpan were major branches of the shogun’s own family.[xxi] Shimpan families could supply a member to take over as shogun if the current shogun died without male issue.[xxii] The second group was called fudai (inside lords); these were the lords who had been friendly to or loyal to Ieyasu Tokugawa before the battle of Sekigahara.[xxiii] The last, and potentially troublesome, category of lords were tozoma (outside lords), who had been enemies of the Tokugawa before Sekigahara.[xxiv] While being a fudai lord had its privileges, it was often a significant financial burden because the shogun would use his most loyal vassals to keep watch over the tozoma lords, which often required moving their large estates around many times throughout the year.[xxv] In addition to being categorized as loyal and disloyal, daimyo were also ranked according to the assessed value of their rice production.[xxvi] In order to qualify as a daimyo the land must have an annual minimum yield of 10,000 koku (about 50,000 bushels of rice).[xxvii] The lesser vassals whose land was valued at under 10,000 koku were called hatamoto, or bannermen.[xxviii] In the early seventeenth century Japan produced an estimated 24.5 million koku annually from daimyo fiefs of 10,000 koku or more, and of this the Tokugawa held lands produced about 8.5 million koku.[xxix]
Tokugawa shoguns implemented several ingenious way of keeping control over their daimyo; the most well-known is the concept of sankin-kotai, which literally means alternate attendance. The shogun required each daimyo to spend four months out of the year, or sometimes every other year, in residence at Edo and the rest of the time at their own han (fiefs).[xxx] However they had to leave their wives and families at Edo as an insurance policy for their good behavior; since family was so important in that society there would be no point in overthrowing the shogun if you had no family to pass the honor or the position on to. The burden of alternate attendance also required heavy financial expenditures on the part of all the daimyo, usually about a quarter of the annual daimyo income, to travel in the custom that befit them and maintain at least two separate estates.[xxxi] The shogun knew that it would have been nearly impossible to finance an army without any extra income. The word “alternate” also referred to the idea that each category of daimyo was divided into two smaller groups, one was in residence at Edo while the other group was at their hans.[xxxii] So the tozoma lords were never all in the same place at the same time. In this way the shogun even further hampered collusive efforts to thwart his rule as well as providing an economic boon to the country in the form of frequent and expensive processionals to and from the shogunal capital which fed the growing towns along the Edo road. [xxxiii]
Other forms of shogunal control over the daimyo included bans on any repairs, strengthening, or enlarging of the fortresses of any daimyo without the express permission of the shogun, the constant surveillance of the metsuke (secret police), and compelling the tozoma lords to undertake public works projects as a further financial burden.[xxxiv] The daimyo were also forbidden any direct contact with the emperor or the imperial family in Kyoto to ensure that his divine power belonged to the shogun and only the shogun.[xxxv]
One of the trademarks of the Tokugawa bafuku was government by documents. Legal disputes which were appealed from the village level to a shogunal intendant had to be written in the proper form, which was difficult since many villagers did not know how to write the most basic characters, let alone a legal document.[xxxvi] The bafuku also required kokudaka (tribute) data from all the villages and daimyos.[xxxvii] This data consisted of a complete national census every six years by the 1720’s as well as copies of the village population registers in order to be sure that the appropriate amount of tithe was being passed up the ladder. [xxxviii] The amount of required tribute, determined by the daimyo and based on this data was imparted to the village headman by the bafuku intendant in a document called the nenguwaritsukejo, or yearly tribute rate letter.[xxxix] Villages were required to acknowledge, in writing and with the seal of the headman, that they had received this and any other daimyo directives.[xl]
To clarify the roles of bafuku intendants the shogun promulgated the Kujikata Osadamegaki in 1742. The Osadamegaki, which was based on the ritsu-ryo, a set of administrative codes drawn up in the eighth century and largely imported from Tang China, was a “secret” manual issued to administrators only which consisted of two books.[xli] Book one listed eighty-one rules and directives and book two listed the penalties for violating those rules (both civil and criminal).[xlii] The shogun also had a large contingent of metsuke who were concentrated in Edo, but also spread throughout the countryside to report any subversive plots or incipient rebellions to the shogun.[xliii]
The bafuku also adopted status legislation aimed at separating the peasant class from the warrior class. The most well-known example of this is the Keian no Ofuregaki, issued in 1649. The first few articles deal with the governmental hierarchy, the middle section is largely advice to peasant farmers such as: “One should sharpen hoes and sickles every year before the eleventh day of the first month.” and “...the poor who do not own large fields should think well about a means of living throughout the year; for instance, if there are many children in a family, some can be given away and some can be sent out as servants.”[xliv] And the last few articles address themselves mainly to issues of tribute with a touch of sage Confucian advice thrown if for good measure. For example, the last article begins with “If we are right-minded, no one treats us badly. If someone treats us badly, that is because our heart is not in the right place. The same is true for all relationships between intendants and peasants, masters and servants, parents and children, husbands and wives, fellow peasants, and headmen and peasants.”[xlv]
Peasants were also forbidden to carry long swords or use surnames in public or on official documents.[xlvi] The peasants could and did have last names, but daimyo identified the peasants with the land they occupied rather than with their lineage.[xlvii] Peasants were also only allowed to wear cotton garments and were required to dismount when encountering a samurai.[xlviii] In fact samurai had the right to kill any peasant at will who had offended them. Bafuku legislation, while tirelessly precise on the subjects of crime (including status crimes) and taxes was not meant to govern the peasants’ interactions with each other. The level of governance dealing with inter-village matters was the village council.

The Village
The village had its own hierarchy which was dictated by the bafuku through regulations like the Keian no Ofuregaki, but was also a product of custom. Villages were largely autonomous and were only incorporated into the bafuku system insofar as their regulation was necessary to keep the tributes flowing smoothly uphill. At the top of the village hierarchy were the titled peasants or honbyakusho who held a communal interest in grassland, mountain land and of course the most important village property interest; water for irrigation.[xlix] The honbyakusho were the official tribute deliverers and were also eligible to be members of the goningumi, or group of five, which were appointed by the local overlord.[l]
The goningumi were an intra-village alliance of families that were responsible not only to help each other and settle village disputes but also to keep an eye on each other as a sub-level of metsuke.[li] For the latter reason it was decreed that the goningumi should not be too closely related by familial ties.[lii] The goningumi acted as a village council that was under the authority of the local daimyo, but was allowed to settle village problems and draw up codes and regulations regarding local governance.[liii] The heads of each goningumi family were called kumi, and they acted as council for the village headman or nanushi.
Beneath the honbyakusho in the hierarchy were the mizunomi byakusho, literally water-drinking peasants.[liv] The mizunomi byakusho were pure tenants with no land right whatsoever.[lv] Beneath them were the cho-nai, or co-residents.[lvi] The cho-nai were women, children and other dependants of either mizunomi byakusho or honbyakusho.[lvii] Next in line came indentured servants (genin)[lviii] and then lifetime servants (fudai).[lix] At the bottom of the chain were the non-peasants, people like craftsmen and doctors who moved into the village but were not attached to the land.[lx] Unlike samurai status which was passed down to all the descendants of a samurai, only one of the honbyakusho’s sons could inherit their title.[lxi] The other sons would form branch families, or kakae, to the main titleholder and would be subordinate to the main titled family.[lxii]
Village laws functioned largely as a supplement to bafuku regulation.[lxiii] The local daimyo kept track of the tribute owed to him by requiring village population registers which were updated yearly.[lxiv] These registers recorded the person’s name, social and legal status, and by 1665 their religious affiliation.[lxv] Villagers had to approve, or at least legitimize the registers, along with the village laws, or zensho goningumi, by affixing their seals; many of which were kept by the nanushi.[lxvi] The male head of the household had legal authority over all of its members[lxvii] and the typical village consisted of only a few hundred people.[lxviii]
Village law also severely restricted intra-village mobility by requiring an okurijo, or certificate of leave, whenever one wanted to move from one village to another.[lxix] This is because the disappearance of a household would change the distribution of tribute owed to the daimyo, and would presumably leave the land that the household had vacated uncultivated, thus lessening overall production for that season and increasing the tribute burden on everyone else in the village.[lxx] This was further complicated by the fact that the daimyo could, and frequently did, raise tribute levels to suit their needs. Therefore, without a proper okurijo it was impossible to leave one’s own village legally or be added onto the village population register of one’s new village. Even temporary employment elsewhere would be noted in the registers, but would not require an okurijo.[lxxi] In some village codes it is required that even people who wish to stay overnight somewhere else for business or a pilgrimage must report the details of the trip to the goningumi.[lxxii]
Another form of tribute required aside from rice tribute was a service tribute called yaku. Individual peasant households were responsible for national duties such as portage duties at the various way stations along the main roads for the daimyo’s yearly processions to and from Edo.[lxxiii] They could also be mobilized to serve in the grand shogunal processions to Ieyasu’s shrine in Nikko.[lxxiv] According to eyewitnesses these shogunal processions were so large that they stretched the entire length of the road form Edo to Nikko, a distance of nearly 145 kilometers, and required 250,000 porters along the way.[lxxv] Peasants could also be responsible for non-combative military service, although no such military nationalization was ever required except for the quashing of the Shimbara rebellion in 1637[lxxvi].

The Kawata
There were people who existed outside the tightly regulated structures of both village and bafuku, the untouchables, or eta, were considered non-human, and unlike the status of hinin, or beggars (who were also considered non-human) the classification of eta was hereditary.[lxxvii] Eta means “plentiful dirt” or polluted, however this class of people referred to themselves as kawata which means leather worker.[lxxviii] The main function of the kawata was skinning and disposing of dead livestock and making leather out of the hides, but they were also employed by villages and bafuku to catch criminals, guard and execute prisoners[lxxix], and policing festivals and markets.[lxxx] Kawata lived in their own communities, separate from the villages that they served and were under no authority from local village heads.[lxxxi] Since these communities were set apart from the rest of society it was not uncommon for fugitives to seek refuge in them.[lxxxii] The bafuku largely left them alone, but they did have a representative in Edo who would settle disputes between different kawata communities.[lxxxiii]

Geisha & Prostitution[lxxxiv]
Geisha, which literally means “person of the arts”, were professional female entertainers, quite distinct from prostitutes and were a completely self-regulating community. In Tokugawa period Japan the chonin, or townsmen, who were largely imperial administrators, shogunal administrators, or rich merchants were the most frequent patrons of the pleasure quarters. Formal family life and arranged marriages were still the norm and there was no polite mixed society outside the family, so geisha became the only female company that it was appropriate for a man to be seen with in public other than his family. While a geisha may have a sexual relationship with one or several of her clients, it is not her primary purpose and she has no fixed price, like a common prostitute. Sexual favors from geisha would be doled out in response to a particularly lavish gift, but there would be no quid pro quo. The only time a geisha would accept money for sexual favors would be her first sexual experience, as part of a ritual during which her virginity is sold to the highest bidder in a ceremony called mizuage (red water).
A geisha trained for five to seven years usually from the age of five or six in the arts of poetry, dance, music, and banter. At this same time the geisha in training, or maiko, would act as a maidservant in the teahouse in which she lived. The maiko would also be taken under the wing of an older geisha, usually in the same teahouse, but not always, who would act as a big-sister and introduce the new maiko to the subtleties of the floating world. This apprenticeship system was a large part of the disciplinary system of the pleasure quarters. The maiko’s failure was a disgrace, not only for her, but for her big sister as well. A geisha’s reputation was her only true currency. She did not own anything else, not even her clothing, which was usually the property of the teahouse she was bonded to; even her make-up and undergarments were not her own. If a geisha lost her reputation and was unable to earn her way, she would be kicked out with absolutely nothing, forced to sell herself or beg on the streets. “A geisha lives on the edge of a knife, one false move or even a rumor could end her career”.
The floating world, as the pleasure quarter was called, was its own jurisdiction and guarded its secrets jealously. Any geisha who attempted to go outside the confines of the floating world for justice would find herself unwelcome in any reputable teahouse in the district, effectively banished from society and denied her only means of income. Geisha who were banished from the reputable teahouses would either leave the city in search of another pleasure quarter where their reputation had not preceded them, or they would become common prostitutes. While it was completely acceptable for even a high-ranking official to be accompanied to the theatre or a sumo match by a geisha (or several), visiting a prostitute was something that one did secretly.

Law and Punishment
“Samurai fight with weapons, peasants with lawsuits.”
-Tanaka Kyugu, 1721
There was no word that directly translated as “rights” in Tokugawa period Japan.[lxxxv] When Japanese scholars went abroad during the Meiji Restoration to translate European laws in an attempt to create a new legal system one of the central concepts in each of these systems was the idea of personal rights. The translation, as with most new words, was a new combination of Chinese characters. The first character, ken, means quantity or measure, and the last character, ri, means good circumstances or benefit.[lxxxvi] However in Tokugawa period Japan the bafuku used the Dutch word regt to denote the foreign concept of rights. [lxxxvii]

The Village: Finding the Culprit
The bafuku considered village justice to be a secondary and separate form of justice, not a part of its own judicial mechanisms, and allowed local administrators to deal with village disputes as they saw fit except in the case of certain serious crimes.[lxxxviii] Manslaughter, theft, gambling and arson are among the crimes that must be reported to the bafuku intendant. [lxxxix]
An interesting facet of criminal justice in Tokugawa Japan is the idea of irefuda, or fighting crime by voting on the culprit. If there was a recurring crime like theft or arson, that villages were not allowed to punish but were required to report to the bafuku authorities, a vote could be taken within the village to determine the identity of the offender.[xc] The person who received the most votes would be incriminated along with anyone who did not participate in the voting process.[xci] Then the “guilty” party and his supporters, if any, would be thrown in jail.[xcii] If the crimes kept on occurring however votes would continue until the crime spree stopped with each vote incriminating a new culprit.[xciii] Oftentimes the villagers would be required to swear oaths before the gods or drink holy water prior to each balloting.[xciv] Another interesting slant on this entire process is the idea of rakushogisho, literally “dropped oaths before the gods.”[xcv] An anonymous written accusation would be dropped in front of a shrine, and whoever had the misfortune of picking it up first was obliged to implement it, since rakushogisho were seen as true signs from the gods, not merely mortal accusations.[xcvi]
Another way of ferreting out guilt and deciding disputes in Tokugawa times was trial by ordeal. For example, in 1619 there is a documented case of a border dispute between two villages in the Aizu domain which had escalated into an armed conflict.[xcvii] The local officials had taken many depositions but the facts were still in dispute, so they ordered the two villages to a fire ordeal at the local Shinto shrine.[xcviii] Each village had a representative who donned ceremonial dress and were required to grasp a red-hot iron as many times as they could while holding the kumanogoohoin, a ceremonial document used for solemnifying oaths.[xcix] The loser’s hands and feet were cut off and he was buried in a tomb which served as the new border marker between the villages.[c]
The Village: Punishment
Capital punishment was reserved for the bafuku and was only doled out for the gravest offenses.[ci] The most serious form of punishment available to the village authorities was banishment. Banishment, or kyuri, was not only a punishment for the criminal; it was also a way to ensure the other villagers against vicarious liability (enza) which was an inherent part of the Tokugawa legal system.[cii] Occasionally the relatives, the village head, or sometimes the entire village could be punished for the crimes of one of its members.[ciii] Kyuri needed to be sanctioned by the parents, the village officials, and the bafuku representative who would take the name of the absconder off the population rosters.[civ] It is important to note that kyuri could not be enacted against a status superior such as a parent and it made the disinherited person a legal non-person.[cv] You could also banish someone in absentia if they had fled after committing a crime, however you could only do this after a real effort, officially six periods of thirty days, had been made to apprehend the person in question.[cvi] However, the most common form of punishment was ostracism, since it required no permission from the intendant or goningumi heads.[cvii]
Ostracism was called murahachibu, which literally means eight parts out of ten.[cviii] Those who had been ostracized from their village could not be assisted by the community for eight out of the ten traditional parts of community life.[cix] Those eight parts were coming of age ceremonies, weddings, memorial services, births, sicknesses, floods, travel, and building and repairs.[cx] They could also not be greeted and could not participate in village festivals or meetings.[cxi] They could, however count on the rest of the village for assistance during a fire and in the preparation of a funeral, the remaining two parts of community life.[cxii] However, those who were ostracized also did not have to perform yaku and were unable to pay tribute.[cxiii] While ostracism was a form of inter-village unofficial banishment, there was also extra-village unofficial banishment.[cxiv] This could be triggered when someone was accused of a crime and as a result of a vote, and often without material proof, the person would be expelled from the village, but not removed from the population roster.[cxv]

The Bafuku: Punishment
Punishment in Tokugawa period Japan was incredibly harsh. Theft, for instance was punishable by banishment, at the lightest end of the scale, or banishment accompanied by mutilation such as cutting off the ears and nose.[cxvi] Female culprits were usually not physically mutilated, but rather paraded through the village naked, which for a woman at that time was likely just as bad.[cxvii] Other possible punishments included ostracism, special identifying garments, or forced village service like field guard duty or sake expenses at festivals.[cxviii] Interestingly enough, though theft was a crime, so was not reporting it.[cxix] If a theft was discovered and had not been reported, the victim of the theft would receive the same punishment as the thief.[cxx] There were also different punishments for the same crime depending upon the status of the individual.[cxxi] And torture was a completely acceptable method of getting a confession.[cxxii]
There were about half a dozen death penalties which were graded according to the status of the victim and the perpetrator, the motives, and the degree of participation.[cxxiii] For instance, killing a status inferior was punished by banishment, and so was executing a contract murder, but if the murder had been premeditated and for gain it carried the death penalty as did contracting a murder.[cxxiv] If there were accomplices, the one who struck the first (but not necessarily the killing) blow would be executed, and the others who physically participated would be banished.[cxxv] Death penalties were always beheadings, but depending on the nature of the crime various other aspects could be added like crucifixion, gibbeting, confiscation of the criminal’s property, or making the corpse available to the local samurai for sword practice.[cxxvi]
There was no distinction between contract and tort in Tokugawa Japan.[cxxvii] And frequently punishments for crimes and settlements of civil suits were interchangeable. The bafuku had very little patience for civil suits since they were largely divorced from the main shogunal goal of maintaining the hierarchy and seeing that tributes flowed smoothly.[cxxviii] While crimes were dealt with from the top down, it seems that civil matters were exactly the opposite. It is important to remember that villagers almost never dealt with strangers so most conflicts could be, and were, settled by mediation and social pressure inside the village system.[cxxix] In fact some goningumi zensho which specifically mention lawsuits seem to make this preference clear with articles like: “People who... like quarrels and lawsuits, or do all kinds of bad things should not be hidden.” and “In the case of quarrels and disputes, the locals have to gather, put a stop to them, and settle the matter.” [cxxx] However, occasionally there was just no way for the village to settle a problem and they would have to appeal it to the local bafuku intendant who would then decide whether or not to help, since bafuku involvement was completely discretionary.[cxxxi] Even when the bafuku intendant stepped in, it was usually as a mediator rather than a judge.[cxxxii]
Jurisdiction ran with the land in Tokugawa Japan so the local daimyo was the first and last resort for any kind of appeal, unless it was a diversity suit, which were fairly uncommon but were heard by the bafuku in Edo.[cxxxiii] Any conflict over dowry, succession, border dispute, or land sale was likely to be settled in the village because it was widely understood that bafuku justice was mostly about what was good for the bafuku, not necessarily what was the right solution to the problem. There were no restrictions on land sales among peasants.[cxxxiv] However, a samurai who was unable to find a samurai buyer and wanted to sell land to a peasant had to report the price to a samurai council who could re-set the price as they saw fit and attach certain privileges and restrictions to the land sale.[cxxxv] Land disputes received preferential treatment from the bafuku when hearing complaints, most likely because those were the only civil disputes which directly affected tribute.[cxxxvi]
By the middle of the Tokugawa period most merchants had organized themselves into self-regulating guilds which handled their own disputes much like the villages without resorting to bafuku justice.[cxxxvii] In the few and tightly knit trading cities on the coast a bargain was enforced largely by threats to reputation, reneging would be economic seppuku.[cxxxviii]

Towards the end of the Tokugawa period the villages became less and less autonomous as the pressures of urbanization and the swollen bureaucracy of the bafuku closed in on them. The strict class structure gave way to the more modern entrepreneurial spirit of Japan that we see today, even though history and tradition still play a large part in Japanese family life. The Meiji restoration brought a still antiquated Japan into the glare of the modern world and old traditions like the samurai and eta faded away along with status restrictions and wars fought without guns. Isolationism may have been the best way to bring order to a country which had suffered from civil strife and turmoil for so long, but in the end the temptations of trade and modernity were too much for Japan to resist.

Appendix 1
1603 Battle of Sekigahara: Tokugawa Ieyasu becomes shogun, establishes the Edo shogunate.
1619 The hishigaki kaisen (cargo ships) begin to sail regularly between Edo and Osaka.
1635 Shogunate forbids Japanese to travel overseas. Start of the sankin kotai
1637 Shimbara Rebellion.
1639 Entry of Portuguese ships forbidden. Start of sakoku, a period in which Japan was closed off to the outside world.
1641 Dutch Trading Mission is moved to Dejima in Nagasaki which becomes the only port in Japan where foreign trade is allowed.
1649 Promulgation of the Keian no ofuregaki, a document outlining the duties and conduct of the farmers.
1657 Great Edo Fire.
1669 Ainu rebellion in Ezochi (Hokkaido).
1671 Kawamura Zuiken opens eastern sea route. Western sea route is opened in following year.
1688 Start of Genroku Period (to 1703).
1732 Kyoto Famine. Rice stores broken into as prices on rice soar.
1853 Admiral Perry arrives in Uraga and demands that Japan opens its ports.
1854 Japan concludes friendship treaties with the United States, Britain, Russia, France and the Netherlands. The ports of Hakodate, Shimoda and Nagasaki are opened to foreign trade.
1868 Meiji Restoration. Edo's name is changed to Tokyo ("Eastern Capital").

[i] Henderson & Torbert Traditional Contract Law in Japan and China, 5, University of Washington Press, March 1992.
[ii] Id. at 3.
[iii] Meyer, Japan: A Concise History, 102, Rowan & Littlefield 1993.
[iv] This may be explained by the fact that the Dutch, unlike the Portuguese, were not evangelical and were seen as less of a threat to the Confucian hierarchy.
[v]Id at 101.
[vi] Morton, Japan: Its History and Culture, 122, McGraw-Hill 2005.
[vii] Goningumi Rules, Shimo-Sakurai, Kita-Saku District, Shinano, 1640. Article 2.
[viii] Morton, at 122.
[ix] Meyer, at 107.
[x] Id. at 109.
[xi] Id.
[xii] Id.
[xiii] Named after the reigning emperor.
[xiv] Ooms, Tokugawa Village Practice, 103, University of California Press 1996.
[xv] Id.
[xvi] Although, in theory, the emperor had control over the shogun, the Tokugawa kept the imperial family isolated in Kyoto and all visitors had to clear appointments to see the emperor through the shogunal bureaucracy.
[xvii] However, this post was sometimes left vacant by the shogun as an additional safeguard against assassination.
[xviii] Id. at 98.
[xix] Morton, at 121.
[xx] Id.
[xxi] Id.
[xxii] Morton, at 120.
[xxiii] Meyer, at 98.
[xxiv] Id.
[xxv] Morton, at 120
[xxvi] Meyer, at 99.
[xxvii] Id.
[xxviii] Morton, at 120.
[xxix] Meyer, at 99.
[xxx] Morton, at 119.
[xxxi] Meyer, at 98.
[xxxii]Morton, at 119
[xxxiii] Meyer, at 99.
[xxxiv] Morton, at 120.
[xxxv] Id.
[xxxvi] Ooms, at 41.
[xxxvii] Id. at 314.
[xxxviii] Id. at 13-14.
[xxxix] Id. at 112.
[xl] Id. at 235.
[xli] Dean, Japanese Legal System: Text and Materials, 65, Cavendish Publishing Ltd. 1997.
[xlii] Id. at 87.
[xliii] Meyer, at 98.
[xliv] Keian no Ofuregaki, Articles 7 and 18.
[xlv] Keian no Ofuregaki, Article 35.
[xlvi] Ooms, at 132.
[xlvii] Id. at 133.
[xlviii] Id. at 132.
[xlix] Id. at 31.
[l] Id. at 18.
[li] Id.
[lii] Goningumi Rules, Shimo-Sakurai, Kita-Saku District, Shinano, 1640. Article 1.
[liii] Ooms, at 13.
[liv] Id. at 25.
[lv] Id.
[lvi] Id.
[lvii] Id.
[lviii] Genin were limited to a term of ten years of service.
[lix] Id.
[lx] Id.
[lxi] Id. at 168.
[lxii] Id. at 25.
[lxiii] Id. at 196.
[lxiv] Id. at 12.
[lxv] Id. at 13.
[lxvi] Id. at122.
[lxvii] Id. at 14.
[lxviii] Henderson, at 4.
[lxix] Ooms, at 16.
[lxx] Id.
[lxxi] Id. at 24.
[lxxii] Goningumi Rules, Shimo-Sakurai, Kita-Saku District, Shinano, 1662. Article 24.
[lxxiii] Ooms, at 93.
[lxxiv] Id. at 96.
[lxxv] Id.
[lxxvi] Where some 20,000 Christian peasants were executed.
[lxxvii] Id. at 244.
[lxxviii] Id. at 243.
[lxxix] In Tokugawa times executions were not public spectacles, they were done in the prison yard to avoid the disruptive potential of a large emotional crowd.
[lxxx] Id. at 250.
[lxxxi] Id.
[lxxxii] Id. at 291.
[lxxxiii] Id. at 253.
[lxxxiv] All descriptions of geisha custom are taken from the accounts of life in the floating world as described to me by Hosogai Naoko.
[lxxxv] Feldman, The Ritual of Rights in Japan: Law, Society, and Health Policy, 16, Cambridge University Press 2000.
[lxxxvi] Id.
[lxxxvii] Id.
[lxxxviii] Ooms, at 196.
[lxxxix] Id. at 197.
[xc] Id. at 223.
[xci] Id.
[xcii] Id.
[xciii] Id.
[xciv] Id. at 231.
[xcv] Id. at 225.
[xcvi] Id.
[xcvii] Id. at 231.
[xcviii] Id.
[xcix] Id.
[c] Id. at 233.
[ci] Goningumi Rules, Shimo-Sakurai, Kita-Saku District, Shinano, 1662. Article 4.
[cii] Ooms, at 44.
[ciii] Id.
[civ] Id.
[cv] Id. at 45.
[cvi] Id. at 48.
[cvii] Id. at 197.
[cviii] Id. at 216.
[cix] Id.
[cx] Id.
[cxi] Id.
[cxii] Id.
[cxiii] Id. at 219.
[cxiv] Id. at 221.
[cxv] Id.
[cxvi] Id. at 226.
[cxvii] Id.
[cxviii] Id.
[cxix] Id. at 228.
[cxx] Id.
[cxxi] Id. at 326-7
[cxxii] Id. at 330.
[cxxiii] Id. at 39.
[cxxiv] Id.
[cxxv] Id.
[cxxvi] Id.
[cxxvii] Henderson, at 10.
[cxxviii] Id. at 329.
[cxxix] Henderson, at 7.
[cxxx] Goningumi Rules, Shimo-Sakurai, Kita-Saku District, Shinano, 1662. Articles 16 and 18.
[cxxxi] Henderson, at 9.
[cxxxii] Id. at 7.
[cxxxiii] Id. at 9.
[cxxxiv] Ooms, at 206.
[cxxxv] Id.
[cxxxvi] Henderson, at 10.
[cxxxvii] Id. at 8.
[cxxxviii] Id.