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In 1611, Ieyasu felt strong enough to exact an oath of fealty from the daimyo of central and western Japan, and in 1612 he imposed a similar covenant of submission on the daimyo of the northern provinces. The initial oath was taken by the daimyo at the Castle of Nijo in Kyoto. At that time the Toyotomi forces were in Osaka, and the capture of Osaka Castle was still four years away. In exacting these terms, Ieyasu had especially in mind the loyalty of those tozama daimyo who had been vassals of the Toyotomi. The oath was the first ordinance which defined the duties of the Tokugawa vassals. (Document 1).

Buke Shohatto (Document 2) was issued in 1615, a year before Ieyasu ‘s death. It laid down fundamental rules for the conduct of the entire military class. It was amended frequently, and here the amendments of Kanei (1635) which gave specific instructions on the system of alternate attendance (sankin kotai) are reproduced (Document 3). Otherwise the substance of Buke Shohatto remained the same and was reaffirmed on the accession of each new shogun It enjoined the samurai to the virtues of obedience, sacrifice, and frugality. Its attempt to lay down standards of dress and food reminds one of similar attempts made by Yoritomo, the Hojo Regents, and the sengoku daimyo (see Documents 3 through 6 in Chapter 7). Each of the articles was accompanied by comments drawn from earlier authorities, such as historical works and old laws. Frequently these comments consisted of appropriate quotations from the Confucian classics. The document was drafted by the Zen monk, Suden (1569—1633) in collaboration with other scholars. After approval by Ieyasu who was in his retirement, the document was sent to Shogun Hidetada. The second shogun in turn promulgated the laws in Fushimi Castle before the assembly of the daimyo who had also come to witness a performance of No.


1. Oath of Fealty, 1611

1. We will respect the laws and formularies established by the bakufu for generations since the time of the General of the Right (Yoritomo); out of concern for our own interest, we will strictly obey any regulations which may be issued by Edo hereafter.

2. If there will be anyone who violates the laws and regulations or goes contrary to the instructions given from above (Edo), we will not harbor any such person in our respective domains.

3. If any samurai or other subordinate officer in our employ is found guilty of rebellion or homicide, and that fact is reported to us, we pledge to each other that we shall not take the offender into our employ.

In case any of the foregoing articles is violated, upon investigation conducted by Edo, we shall be immediately liable to be severely dealt with in accordance with the laws and regulations.

Sixteenth year of Keicho [1611], fourth month, 16th day. Jointly signed by the daimyo in Kyoto


2. Laws of Military Households (Buke Shohatto), 1o152

1. The study of literature and the practice of the military arts, including archery and horsemanship, must be cultivated diligently.

"On the left hand literature, on the right hand use of arms"[1] was the rule of the ancients. Both must be pursued concurrently. Archery and horsemanship are essential skills for military men. It is said that war is a curse. However, it is resorted to only when it is inevitable. In time of peace, do not forget the possibility of disturbances. Train yourselves and be prepared.

2. Avoid group drinking and wild parties.

The existing codes strictly forbid these matters. Especially, when one indulges in licentious sex, or becomes addicted to gambling, it creates a cause for the destruction of one's own domain.

3. Anyone who violates the law must not be harbored in any domain.

Law is the foundation of social order. Reason may be violated in the name of law, but law may not be violated in the name of reason. Anyone who violates the law must be severely punished.

4. The daimyo, the lesser lords (shomyo), and those who hold land under them (kyunin) must at once expel from their domains any of their own retainers or soldiers who are charged with treason or murder.

Anyone who entertains a treasonous design can become an instrument for destroying the nation and a deadly sword to annihilate the people. How can this be tolerated?

5. Hereafter, do not allow people from other domains to mingle or reside in your own domain. This ban does not apply to people from your own domain.

Each domain has its own customs different from others. If someone wishes to divulge his own domain's secrets to people of another domain, or to report the secrets of another domain to people of his own domain, he is showing a sign of his intent to curry favors.

6. The castles in various domains may be repaired, provided the matter is reported without fail. New construction of any kind is strictly forbidden.

A castle with a parapet exceeding ten feet in height and 3,000 feet in length is injurious to the domain. Steep breastworks and deep moats are causes of a great rebellion.

7. If innovations are being made or factions are being formed in a neighboring domain, it must be reported immediately.

Men have a proclivity toward forming factions, but seldom do they attain their goals. There are some who [on account of their factions] disobey their masters and fathers, and feud with their neighboring villages. Why must one engage in [meaningless] innovations, instead of obeying old examples?

8. Marriage must not be contracted in private [without approval from the bakufu].

Marriage is the union symbolizing the harmony of yin and yang, and it cannot be entered into lightly. The thirty-eighth hexagram kuei [in the Book of Changes], says "Marriage is not to be contracted to create disturbance. Let the longing of male and female for each other be satisfied. If disturbance is to take hold, then the proper time will slip by."4 The "Peach Young" poem of the Book of Odes says "When men and women observe what is correct, and marry at the proper time, there will be no unattached women in the land." To form a factional alliance through marriage is the root of treason.

9. The daimyo's visits (sankin) to Edo must follow the following regulations:

The Shoku Nihongi (Chronicles of Japan, Continued) contains a regulation saying that "Unless entrusted with some official duty, no one is permitted to assemble his clansmen at his own pleasure. Furthermore no one is to have more than twenty horsemen as his escort within the limits of the capital...." Hence it is not permissible to be accompanied by a large force of soldiers. For the daimyo whose revenues range from 1,000,000 koku down to 200,000 koku of rice, not more than twenty horsemen may accompany them. For those whose revenues are 100,000 koku or less, the number is to be proportionate to their incomes. On official business, however, the number of persons accompanying him can be proportionate to the rank of each daimyo.

10. The regulations with regard to dress materials must not be breached.

Lords and vassals, superiors and inferiors, must observe what is proper within their positions in life. Without authorization, no retainer may indiscriminately wear fine white damask, white wadded silk garments, purple silk kimono, purple silk linings, and kimono sleeves which bear no family crest. Lately retainers and soldiers have taken to wearing rich damask and silk brocade. This was not sanctioned by the old laws, and must now be kept within bounds.

11. Persons without rank are not to ride in palanquins.

Traditionally there have been certain families entitled to ride palanquins without permission, and there have been others receiving such permission. Lately ordinary retainers and soldiers have taken to riding in palanquins, which is a wanton act. Hereafter, the daimyo of various domains, their close relatives, and their distinguished officials may ride palanquins without special permission. In addition, briefly, doctors and astrologers, persons over sixty years of age, and those who are sick or invalid may ride palanquins after securing necessary permission. If retainers and soldiers wantonly ride palanquins, their masters shall be held responsible. The above restrictions do not apply to court nobles, Buddhist prelates, and those who have taken the tonsure.

12. The samurai of all domains must practice frugality. When the rich proudly display their wealth, the poor are ashamed of not being on a par with them. There is nothing which will corrupt public morality more than this, and therefore it must be severely restricted.

13. The lords of all domains must select as their officials men of administrative ability.

The way of governing a country is to get the right men. If the lord clearly discerns between the merits and faults of his retainers, he can administer due rewards and punishments. If the domain has good men, it flourishes more than ever. If it has no good men, it is doomed to perish. This is an admonition which the wise men of old bequeathed to us.

Take heed and observe the purport of the foregoing rules.

First year of Genna [1615], seventh month. 

[1] Traditionally left takes precedence over right.



3. Amendments of Kanei to Buke Shohatto, 1635

It is now settled that the daimyo, and shomyo are to serve in turns (kotai) at Edo. They shall proceed hither (sankin) every year in summer during the course of the fourth month. Lately the numbers of retainers and servants accompanying them have become excessive. This is not only wasteful to the domains and districts, but also imposes considerable hardship on the people. Hereafter suitable reductions in this respect must be made. However, if they are ordered to go to Kyoto, follow the instructions given. On official business, however, the number of persons accompanying him can be proportionate to the rank of each daimyo or shomyo.

13. When an occasion arises that the hostages given by subvassals to their lords can be punished by banishment or death, that punishment must not be meted out before receiving a consent order from the above (the bakufu). If the circumstances are such as to necessitate instant execution of a hostage, a detailed account must be given to the higher authority (bakufu).

15. The roads, post horses, ferries, and bridges must be carefully attended to ensure continuous service. Do not permit any impediment to efficient communication.

16. No private toll bars, or new toll bars over river crossings or harbors may be erected.

17. No vessels of over 500 koku burden are to be built.



The official policy of the Tokugawa bakufu was to emphasize agriculture to the neglect of commerce and industry. This in its idealized terms placed the samurai at the helm with farmers—who were primary producers—as second in the social hierarchy of four classes. In reality, farmers were nothing but pawns in the bakufu ‘s and daimyo ‘s quest for economic stability, and different measures were adopted to control them.

Document 4 was an order issued by the domainal lord of Echizen in 1632. It sought to establish a group of five (goningumi), which was given joint responsibilities in mutual surveillance to prevent crimes and absconding, and in the payment of taxes. In a modified form this was widely practiced throughout the country, including the urban areas (see Document 10). Document 5, dated 1603, gave the farmers the rights to move from one district to another, and to appeal to the higher authorities directly, if there were any wrongdoing committed by the domainal lord or the magistrate. In this way, farmers could be utilized to inform on the offending officials, and thus strengthen the control of the bakufu over them. Meanwhile the bakufu could continue to collect a set amount of annual taxes from the peasantry. An example of how the peasants were treated by their domainal lord and magistrates can be found in Article 7 of the same document.

The two proscriptions of 1643 against the sale of lands in perpetuity are given in Document 6. These measures were issued in an attempt to prevent the appearance of large farmers who could in turn reduce small owner-cultivators into minor tenant farmers. The same fear of creating a large number of tenant farmers, and of rendering a once productive farm desolate, led the bakufu to issue an order prohibiting parcelization of land (Document 7). The commentary gives a rationale similar to the ones which advocated the institution of primogeniture (see Documents 26 and 27 of Chapter 6).

The main concern of the domainal lords was to have good farm workers who could bring in sufficient tax revenue for them. They would ask the farmers to work hard, and also ask the wives and family members to serve producing members in such a way as to ensure high productivity. Document 8 was written by one Naoe Kanetsugu, a retainer of the daimyo of Aizu by the name of Uesugi, in 1619. His injunctions show the attitudes of the lords over the peasants. There was no regard for their rights, and if the peasant ‘s wife was not useful as a worker, a divorce was strongly suggested. The regulations for villagers (Document 9) issued by the bakufu in 1643 give in minute detail what the peasants could wear and what they could eat. There was no room for luxury which would endanger the peasants' ability to pay taxes. Included in the categories of luxury was consumption of rice by the peasantry.


4. The Group of Five (Goningumi), 1632

1. If there is anyone in the group of five who is given to malfeasance, that fact must be reported without concealing anything.

2. If there is anyone in the group of five who fails to pay his annual taxes or perform the services required, other members of the group must quickly rectify the situation.

3. If there is anyone in the group of five who runs away, those who are remaining must quickly search for and return him [to the original domicile]. If the return of the runaway cannot be secured, the group of five will be rendered culpable.

4. No one in the group of five may ask to work outside the domain, or to work in a mine elsewhere. Even if he wishes to work within the domain at places such as Maruoka, One ... he must secure permission from the authorities ahead of time.

5. If there is anyone in the group of five who is exceptionally strong, that fact must be reported.

6. Members of the group of five must not permit anyone who absconds, or any stranger who is not beyond suspicion regardless of being man or woman, to lodge in his house. Nor can they provide lodging for any single person. However, if the stranger is an express messenger, lodging may be provided after his letter box is examined.

If there is anyone who violates any of the provisions above, that fact must be reported to the office of the village head (shoya) without delay. The village head must report the same to the tedai's (minor magistrate's) office immediately. If there is any violation of the above rules, we [as members of the group of five] shall be deemed to be culpable, and at that time we shall bear no grudges.

In witness whereof, we have jointly affixed our seals for the group of five.


5. Farmers and Annual Tax, 1603

1. If farmers leave the domains directly controlled by the bakufu or by the daimyo, because of wrongdoing by the magistrates (daikan)[1] and domainal lords, even if their former lords make report of the fact, they shall not be returned to the original domiciles arbitrarily.

2. If there is any tax due which has not been paid, the commissioner's office (bugyosho) shall determine the amount due by considering the rates established for neighboring villages. And once that payment of the tax is completed the farmer may be permitted to reside elsewhere.

6. If there is wrongdoing by the magistrates, without any prior report [to the local magistrate], a brief (meyasu) may be addressed directly to higher authorities.

7. It is forbidden that farmers be killed without cause. Even if a farmer has committed a crime, he must be arrested first and be placed under the judgment of the magistrate's office, before a sentence can be pronounced.

The above articles are communicated thus by the order of our superiors.

Eighth year of Keicho [1603], third month, 27th day.
Naido Shuri no suke
Aoyama Hitachi no sake
(Jointly Commissioners of Edo and of Kanto).

[1] The term "daikan" refers to magistrates of those areas under direct Tokugawa control (chokkatsuryo or tenryo).


6. Sale of Land in Perpetuity Forbidden, 1643

(a) Proscription Against Sale of Wet and Dry Fields in Perpetuity:

3. In view of the fact that those farmers who are well-off may purchase more wet and dry fields and become even wealthier, and those farmers who are not in good health are forced to sell their wet and dry fields, hereafter sale and purchase of wet and dry fields is forbidden while farmers are unable to tend to their own personal affairs.

(b) Penalties for the Sale of Wet and Dry Fields in Perpetuity:

1. The seller shall be expelled after a period of imprisonment. If the seller is dead his son shall be punished in the same manner.

2. The purchaser shall be imprisoned in lieu of other penalties. If the purchaser is dead, his son shall be punished in the same manner. However, the wet and dry fields so purchased shall be confiscated by the magistrate (daikan) or fief holder (jito).[1]

3. The one who witnesses the sale shall be imprisoned in lieu of other penalties. However, if the witness is dead, his son shall not be punished.

4. If someone acquires lands as a result of default of a mortgage, and takes away all the yields, and places the burden of payment of annual taxes on the mortgager, then the penalties shall be the same as for the sale of land in perpetuity....

Twentieth year of Kanei [1643], third month.

[1] During the Tokugawa period the term jito referred to those fief holders, including the hatamoto and those vassals under the daimyo, who exercised the right of collecting rent or taxes. They administered the lands granted to them.


7. Proscription on Parcelization of Land, 1672

(a) An Order by the Bakufu, 1672:

No one is permitted to divide his land willfully by the amount of koku, if his landholdings do not produce approximately twenty koku in the case of a village headman, or ten koku in the case of a plain farmer. If anyone disobeys this, he is liable to be prosecuted. Notify all concerned.

(b) Exposition of the Above

Altogether the proscription [against parcelization of land] by farmers owning land which produces less than ten koku has been in force for some time. This is done in order to prevent division of land into small lots for children who are brothers. Otherwise, the position of the head family will be weakened, and later, all the brothers will become destitute peasants. This fact is understood initially, but as one gets older, he becomes indiscreet and wishes to divide land. The oldest son may have little discretion, and may feel that to contradict his father's unorthodox views, even for a moment, is to engage in an unfilial act. With this kind of mentality, he fails to warn his younger brothers, and the land which produced ten koku is divided into three portions, with the oldest son receiving five koku, the second son three koku, and the third son two koku. Meanwhile, the oldest son assumes the responsibility for ten koku, and on festive occasions everyone comes to him for gifts. There is no benefit accruing from the fact of inheritance. The second and third sons become independent and hold small pieces of land, and sooner or later they cannot maintain themselves. The same lot awaits the eldest son. Unless they can work together, their relations will be strained. If one must sell his own land, and become a tenant farmer, and receive scorn from other people, that comes from the old man's division of the land....


8. Injunctions for Peasants, c. 1619

1. Consider the Lord of your domain, the sun and the moon. Respect your fief holder (jito) or magistrate (daiken) as the patron deity (uji gami) of your place. Treat your village head (kimoiri) as if he were your own father.

2. During the first five days of the new year, pay respect to those around you in accordance with your position. Within the first fifteen days, make more than enough ropes needed to perform your major and minor public services (corvee labor for the year). After the first fifteen days, when mountains and fields are covered with snow, accumulate all the firewood needed for the year. Use a sleigh to pull night soil on the fields. At night make sandals for horses. Daughters and wives must sew and weave China-grass to make clothing for their menfolk. If there is a housewife who makes an excessive amount of tea to entertain others, visits around in the absence [of menfolk], and gossips, then she must have a hidden lover. Even if a man has a child with her, that kind of woman must be sent away....

5. During the fourth month, men must work in the fields from dawn to dusk and make furrows as deep as the hoe can penetrate. Wives and daughters must make meals three times, put on red headbands and take the meals to the fields.

Old and young alike must put the meals in front of the men who are soiled from their work. By seeing the wives attired in red, men, old and young alike, can be so encouraged ... to the extent of forgetting their fatigue. Once men are home after dusk, give them bath water, and let them wash their feet. Sisters-in-law and female cousins must put the chapped feet of the man on the stomach of his wife and massage them. Let him forget the toil of the day.

Near the end of the fourth month, put a harrow on the horse and rake the fields. Cut miscanthus grass from nearby mountains and put them on the China-grass field. If the field is located near a house, always check how the wind is blowing before burning the miscanthus grass. If time is appropriate, sew millet, barley, and wheat seeds.

13. During the twelfth month, if there is a notification from the fief holder or magistrate about a tax overdue, quickly make the payment. For this favor he renders you, send a bowl of loach fish soup accompanied by a dish of fried sardines. Although, according to the regulations, all that is expected of a farmer on such an occasion is a bowl of soup and a dish of vegetables, the ones [just suggested] are more appropriate. If no tax is paid after the due notice, you can have your precious wife taken away from you as security. Do not forget that in your master's house there are many young minor officials and middlemen who may steal your wife. To make sure that kind of thing never happens to you, pay all your taxes before the end of the eleventh month. Take heed that this advice is adhered to. You are known as a man of lowly origin. But even so, you do not wish to see your precious wife exposed to wild winds (misfortunes), being taken away from you, and stolen by younger men. In this fashion you may lose the support of the way of heaven, come to the end of the rope, be scorned by your lowly peer groups, and regret the incident forever. Always remember that such a misfortune can befall you. Be diligent in delivering your annual tax rice and in doing work for the magistrate. Once all the annual taxes are paid, prepare for the coming of the new year. Make the remaining rice into rice cake (mochi), brew same sake, buy some salted fish, and add another year to your life happily. New Year is the time you must be able to chant along with others: I set sail on this journey of longevity. May the moon also accompany me!


9. Regulations for Villagers, 1643

1. Hereafter, both the village headman (shoya) and higher village officials (sobyakusho) may not build houses which are not consistent with their stations in life. However, town houses (machiya) may be built under the direction of the fief holder (jito) or magistrate (daikan).

2. Concerning farmer's clothing, in accordance with the previous bakufu edict, the village headman and his family may wear silk, pongee, linen, and cotton; lower village officials (wakibyakusho) may wear only linen or cotton. Other materials may not be used to make the neckband (en) or waist sash (obi).

3. Neither the village headman nor the higher village officials may dye their clothing purple or crimson. Other colors may be used to dye clothing for wear but no design is permitted.

4. Farmers must be told that their normal meals must consist of grains other than rice and wheat. Rice especially must not be consumed indiscriminately.

5. In villages, hot noodles, thin noodles, buckwheat noodles, bean-jam buns, bean curds, and the like may not be traded. This is to prevent wasteful use of the five grains.

6. Sake (rice wine) must not be brewed in villages. Nor can it be brought from elsewhere to be sold locally.

7. Do not go to market towns to drink freely.

8. Farmers must be told that they must take good care of their wet and dry fields, and weed them attentively and conscientiously. If there are insolent farmers who are negligent, the matter will be investigated and the offenders duly punished.

9. If a single farmer is unmistakably overburdened, and cannot carry on his share of farm work, not only his five-man group (goningumi) but also the entire village must [in the spirit of] mutual help, assist in his rice planting, and otherwise enable him to pay his annual taxes (nengu).

10. From this year on, planting of tobacco on either old fields or new fields is strictly forbidden, because its cultivation wastes the lands that can be used to grow the five grains.

11. The village elders (nanushi) and higher village officials, both men and women, are forbidden to use any kind of conveyance.

12. Farmers must be told that no shelter can be given in the district to anyone who comes from another village and does not cultivate the fields, and is not reliable. If any farmer gives shelter to such a person, the gravity of his offense is to be investigated, and he becomes subject to arrest and imprisonment.

13. Wet and dry fields may not be sold in perpetuity.

14. Farmers may not, on account of disputes involving annual taxes and other matters, desert their places and take refuge with those who have absconded. Anyone who violates this, after an investigation, may be considered as committing a culpable offense.

15. If the jito or daiken administers the area so poorly that the farmers find it impossible to endure it any longer, they may first pay up all the annual taxes, and leave the village. They may even establish their residence in a neighboring county. If there is no tax overdue, the jito or daikan cannot punish them with banishment (kamae).

16. Even in the matters of Buddhist ceremonies and religious festivals, overindulgence beyond one's own status must be avoided.

17. Within the city limits of Edo, no one is to ride on top of a horse loaded with wood, hay, goods in straw sacks, and the like.

The above articles must be made known to all the villages, to secure immediate observance of their intent. Care must be taken continuously to conform to these injunctions.

Twentieth year of Kanei [1643], third month, 11th day.



Edo, the present-day Tokyo, was an insignificant fishing village in 1457 when Ota Dokan set out to build a castle there. In 1590 it became the headquarters for the Tokugawa, and in 1603 it became the political center of the country when the Tokugawa bakufu was established. It was inhabited by the retainer groups (kashindan), wives, and children of the tozama daimyo who remained there as hostages, as well as the merchants who served them. In the Kanei period (1624—1643) the system of alternate attendance (sankin kotai) became formalized and mansions for the daimyo were built along with houses to accommodate their retainers and families.

The bakufu also regulated the establishment of over three hundred cho (wards—or units within the city). The inhabitants of each of the cho (or machi) often consisted of traders or artisans of the same occupation. Initially the bakufu moved the merchants and artisans from Mikawa and other old domains belonging to the Tokugawa. These merchants and artisans in turn called other merchants and artisans from other domains to come and join them in Edo. The bakufu gave lands and official positions (machidoshiyori, or town elders and/or goyo shonin, or merchants by appointment to the bakufu to the leading merchants and artisans. They served under the town commissioners (machi bugyo), and became part of the system of control of commerce and industry imposed by the bakufu. This system was also employed in other castle towns and urban areas.

Document 10 contains regulations issued by the town commissioners of Edo. Note the functions played by the machidoshiyori and the group of five as well as the detailed regulations on family relations and on inheritance. Document 11 contains regulations on lawsuits which without fail favored those who were in the position of authority.


10. Regulations for the Residents of Edo, 1655

1. Parties engaged in public brawls and quarrels are punishable by death according to the law irrespective of whichever party is in the right or at fault.

If a murderer escapes, people in his township (chonin) and his guarantor (ukenin) must find him.

Anyone who is beaten by another is asked to forebear it and report the matter to the commissioner's office (bugyosho). After an investigation, the judgment can be quickly pronounced. If anyone else is implicated in the same crime, his sentence shall be the same as the original culprit.

2. If an official commits the crimes of public brawling and stealing, these crimes must not be imputed to his master. If there is no guarantor for the official, he must be arrested. After an investigation if he is found wanting, he must be placed under the custody of his master. If he runs away, people in his township and the relatives of the master must find him.

3. Quarrels between children need not be punished, and the parents of both parties may restrain them. However, if the parents enter the disputes, their acts shall be treated as culpable offenses.

4. If a child unintentionally kills his friend, he need not be put to death. However, if he is over thirteen years of age, he cannot escape the punishment.

5. Anyone who follows his own silly will, without consulting the town elders (machidoshiyori) and the group of five, is considered to have committed a culpable offense. However, if the town elders are at fault, the entire town may submit a petition. After an investigation, the judgment will be quickly pronounced.

6. If a person dies leaving behind accounts payable and other debts, officials on duty. and middlemen may ask for repayment. If there is no document of proof, then no claim can be made. If there is a son who is the heir, he shall be the one to make the repayment. It is natural that the father's debts be paid by the son. On the other hand, the father is not responsible for the debts incurred by his son. However, if the father directly places his seal [on the son's bond of debt), then he cannot escape from his obligation of making repayment.

7. Anyone who does not abide by his father's and mother's words of restraint or by the opinion of the town elders and of the group of five, will be called to our presence and be imprisoned. Thereafter if he does not change his mind, the parents shall disinherit him and banish him. If he still holds a grudge against his parents, he may be arrested by the people of the entire township and sent to us to be put to death.

8. A dispute involving a father and a son may be dealt with by the relatives and people of the township. However, if there is no consensus, and a brief is filed with the higher authorities and the two parties confront each other, after an investigation, if the father is found guilty, an appropriate judgment will be given. If the son is found guilty, depending on the father's disposition, he may be punished as one who is not filial, and either be imprisoned or disinherited and banished.

9. When a dispute arises between brothers, it shows that they lack respect for each other and that they are not given to reason. Thus once the two parties confront each other, the party who is found not given to reason must be quickly reprimanded.

10. In a dispute involving a husband and wife, as written in the regulations of former years, a divorced woman must quickly return whatever belongs to her husband, including the money from his store and clothing items he purchased for her. If she makes this difficult, then she is to be deemed as committing a culpable offense. If the woman dies, and there is a dispute over the disposition of money belonging to the store and over other matters, it can be treated in accordance with previous regulations.

11. When a merchant and his employee become involved in a dispute, they may file a brief with the higher authorities and confront each other. However, these acts will be regarded as lacking in respect for the relationship governing the master and servant. If the employee is found guilty, he shall be sentenced to imprisonment, and in addition, depending on the disposition of the master, other judgments may be rendered.

12. If the family property is first bequeathed to the oldest son and then again bequeathed to the second son, it is usually caused by the alienation of the oldest son from his father while the latter was living. Therefore, when the oldest son brings a suit, if the youngest brother has a document giving a later date, the father's will must be respected. However, if on account of the stepmother's slander the oldest son has been disinherited without having committed an unfilial act, then the family property must be equally divided.

13. If the father and mother do not agree [on the disposition of their property], and the daughter without reason steals from her parents and otherwise commits all sorts of questionable acts, then the man [in her life] must be reprimanded.

14. If a wife receives her husband's family property, she must adopt one of her husband's relatives as her son, or otherwise find an heir for the husband. If a widow seeks a second husband not long after [the death of the first husband], it is to be considered one of her most unrighteous acts. However, if a widow is still young, the relatives and township may consult each other to determine what may be permissible for her.

15. If a husband dies without leaving an heir, the widow may remain in the house. If she commits adultery with an employee soon after her husband's death, it is a clear sign that she is a woman ungrateful to her late husband, and is not respectful of her relatives. She must be expelled from the town, and the husband's relatives may decide who may inherit the household.

16. In case a man is seeing another man's wife secretly, and the man and woman are found together, then without any further ado, bring forth clearly other available evidence. After an investigation, both the man and the woman may be punished with the same punishment. This being the case, a private revenge is not permitted.

17. Arson is a crime originating in one man's malice which can give hardship to many people, and it is one of the worst crimes. Especially if a person first commits robbery and then engages in arson, heavy penalty must be imposed. In accordance with the precedents set, the culprit's father, sons, and brothers may also be punished with the same punishment.

18. When a lawsuit (kuji) is brought to the township and both parties do not wish to abide by [its verdict] and an appeal is brought forth, render a judgment as soon as possible after both parties confront each other. This is a means to show justice to the disagreeing parties. 

19. If there is anyone who engages in forgery to documents and seals, as soon as that crime is reported, a severe punishment must be given. Of course, the person who helps in the writing of such documents will be punished with the same punishment.

First year of Meireki [1655], tenth month, 13th day.


11. Regulations Regarding Lawsuits (Kuji), 1633

1. On matters relating to the succession to a townsman's (chonin) profession, during the lifetime of the said townsman, the group of five (goningumi) must be consulted, and the decision must be put in a record book before three town elders (machidoshiyori). If the heir proves to be insolent, again the succession issue may be brought up for decision. At the deathbed, the townsman must not make his last will inconsistent with reason.

2. Any dispute arising between a master and his servants must, of course, be judged in favor of the master. However, if the master is found to be culpable in certain respects, then judgment may be rendered in accordance with reason.

3. Any dispute arising between a parent and a child must be judged in favor of the parent. However, if the parent is found to have committed an unrighteous act, he must be duly reprimanded according to reason.

5. After the seal on the back of a brief (meyasu) by the plaintiff has been affixed for so many days, and after being notified in writing [of the pending lawsuit], if the party does not appear, then he is to be imprisoned. However, five days must be allowed to elapse before witnesses can be summoned to confront each other.

9. Briefs (meyasu) involving retainers (kyunin) of the office of the magistrate (daikansho) and townsmen and farmers must be judged by the commissioner (bugyo), magistrate, or their retainers in the same jurisdiction, and their judgment must be accepted. If their judgment is found improper, an appeal may be made to Edo. However, if a suit is not first brought before the commissioner, magistrate, or their retainers, even though reason may be on his side, no judgment can be given.

10. Briefs involving retainers and townsmen and farmers under the jurisdiction of domainal lords may be settled by the domainal lord of that particular domain.

11. Briefs involving farmers residing in territories belonging to shrines and temples are to be brought to the magistrate in the same jurisdiction, and his judgment must be accepted. If his judgment is found improper, an appeal may be made to Edo. If a suit is not first brought to the magistrate, no judgment can be rendered.

12. Disputes involving temples must be settled in accordance with the judgment rendered by the main temple. If the judgment of the main temple is found improper, an appeal may be made [by a branch temple] to Edo. If a suit is not first brought to the main temple, even though reason may be on its side, no judgment can be given.

13. Without making an objection [at the time of the trial], and later making an appeal on the ground of unreasonableness is an offense punishable by death or imprisonment in the jurisdiction [in which the suit is brought].

16. Anyone bearing false witness may be subjected to the death penalty or to imprisonment, in accordance with the gravity of the offense.

Tenth year of Kanei [1633], eighth month, 13th day.



Memories which were still fresh when the Tokugawa bakufu came into existence were those of monk soldiers, economic and spiritual powers exercised by religious institutions, along with the threat they posed against the temporal power. Thus exercising strong control over the temples became one of the important tasks for the bakufu. It did so (1) by restricting the right held by the imperial court to grant the highest Buddhist ranks (purple robes, and the title of shonin) after 1615, making temples and monks far more responsive to the will of the Tokugawa bakufu, and (2) by eroding the financial bases of the major temples. Strict regulations were also imposed on the conduct of monks. which are given in Document 12 below.

On the other hand, the temples were given the function of keeping census records, which had the effect of making them an administrative subdivision of the government, initially, the idea of registering with the temple of one's own faith was put forward as a means of suppressing Christianity (see Document 16). However, in later years the original intent was lost and the temple registry simply noted the parishioners' names, dates of births and deaths, marriages, and movements from one place to another. While this measure nominally increased the rolls of the temples; it had very little religious significance. Most of the temples were made economically dependent on their parishioners. Article 4 of the document given below must be read in this context.


12. Regulations for Temples in Different Domains, 1665

1. The doctrines and rituals established for different sects must not be mixed and disarranged. If there is anyone who does not behave in accordance with this injunction, an appropriate measure must be taken expeditiously.

2. No one who does not understand the basic doctrines or rituals of a given sect is permitted to become the chief priest of a temple. Addendum: If a new rite is established, it must not preach strange doctrines.

3. The regulations which govern relationships between the main temple and branch temples must not be violated. However, even the main temple cannot take measures against branch temples in an unreasonable manner.

4. Parishioners of the temples can choose to which temple they wish to belong and make contributions. Therefore priests must not compete against one another for parishioners.

5. Priests are enjoined from engaging in activities unbecoming of priests, such as forming groups or planning to fight one another.

6. If there is anyone who has violated the law of the land, and that fact is communicated to a temple, it must turn him away without question.

7. When making repairs to a temple or a monastery, do not make them ostentatiously. Addendum: Temples must be kept clean without fail.

8. The estate belonging to a temple is not subject to sale, nor can it be mortgaged.

9. Do not allow anyone who has expressed a desire to become a disciple but is not of good lineage to enter the priesthood freely. If there is a particular candidate who has an improper and questionable background, the judgment of the domainal lord or magistrate of his domicile must be sought and then act accordingly.

The above articles must be strictly observed by all the sects.

Fifth year of Kanbun [1665], seventh month, 11th day.



Between 1633 and 1639, the Tokugawa bakufu issued a series of edicts which effectively closed the country from the outside world—with the exception of the Dutch and the Chinese—until 1853 when Commodore Perry reached the shores of Uraga. Fear of the spread of Christianity and the belief that Christianity was the vanguard of aggression by the Spaniards and Portuguese were among the reasons which prompted the bakufu to embark on the policy of seclusion, which lasted for 214 years.

The desire to monopolize all the benefits from foreign trade in the hands of the bakufu also played a part. Nagasaki was directly governed by the bakufu, and a strict monopolistic control was enforced there. The bakufu could set the price on the raw silk it acquired from foreign traders, and then set quotas for its distribution to merchants from five cities (the ito wappu system). In 1609 the western daimyo were forbidden to maintain large ships. In 1635, prohibition of Japanese ships going overseas became total (Document 13).

Playing on the bakufu ‘s fear of the subversive nature of Christianity, the Dutch skillfully maneuvered the bakufu into taking the position of excluding all their trading rivals. The British earlier found their Japan trade not profitable and closed their factory (1623), while the Spaniards found themselves expelled from the country (1624). The Portuguese were excluded from Japan in 1639 (Document 14), and when they sent an embassy from Macao in a futile hope of regaining trading privileges, the envoys were put to death (Document 15). The fear the Japanese felt toward Christianity is well reflected in the renunciation of the Christian faith reproduced in Document 16. incidentally, the prohibition of Japanese ships to trade overseas (Document 13) did eliminate one important source of competition—the Japanese-run overseas commerce—against the Dutch trade, and Dutch duplicity in this respect must be noted. The nature of the Dutch trade is given in an account by Engelbert Kaempfer (165 1—1 716) (Document 17), a German doctor, who served the Dutch traders at Dejima between 1690 and 1692.


13. The Edict of 1635 Ordering the Closing of Japan: Addressed to the Joint Bugyo of Nagasaki

1. Japanese ships are strictly forbidden to leave for foreign countries.

2. No Japanese is permitted to go abroad. If there is anyone who attempts to do so secretly, he must be executed. The ship so involved must be impounded and its owner arrested, and the matter must be reported to the higher authority.

3. If any Japanese returns from overseas after residing there, he must be put to death.

4. If there is any place where the teachings of padres (Christianity) is practiced, the two of you must order a thorough investigation.

5. Any informer revealing the whereabouts of the followers of padres (Christians) must be rewarded accordingly. If anyone reveals the whereabouts of a high ranking padre, he must be given one hundred pieces of silver. For those of lower ranks, depending on the deed, the reward must be set accordingly.

6. If a foreign ship has an objection [to the measures adopted] and it becomes necessary to report the matter to Edo, you may ask the Omura domain to provide ships to guard the foreign ship, as was done previously.

7. If there are any Southern Barbarians (Westerners) who propagate the teachings of padres, or otherwise commit crimes, they may be incarcerated in the prison maintained by the Omura domain, as was done previously.

8. All incoming ships must be carefully searched for the followers of padres.

9. No single trading city [see 12 below] shall be permitted to purchase all the merchandise brought by foreign ships.

10. Samurai are not permitted to purchase any goods originating from foreign ships directly from Chinese merchants in Nagasaki.

11. After a list of merchandise brought by foreign ships is sent to Edo, as before you may order that commercial dealings may take place without waiting for a reply from Edo.

12. After settling the price, all white yarns (raw silk) brought by foreign ships shall be allocated to the five trading cities and other quarters as stipulated.

13. After settling the price of white yarns (raw silk), other merchandise [brought by foreign ships] may be traded freely between the [licensed] dealers. However, in view of the fact that Chinese ships are small and cannot bring large consignments, you may issue orders of sale at your discretion. Additionally, payment for goods purchased must be made within twenty days after the price is set.

14. The date of departure homeward of foreign ships shall not be later than the twentieth day of the ninth month. Any ships arriving in Japan later than usual shall depart within fifty days of their arrival. As to the departure of Chinese ships, you may use your discretion to order their departure after the departure of the Portuguese galeota (galleon).

15. The goods brought by foreign ships which remained unsold may not be deposited or accepted for deposit.

16. The arrival in Nagasaki of representatives of the five trading cities shall not be later than the fifth day of the seventh month. Anyone arriving later than that date shall lose the quota assigned to his city.

17. Ships arriving in Hirado must sell their raw silk at the price set in Nagasaki, and are not permitted to engage in business transactions until after the price is established in Nagasaki.

You are hereby required to act in accordance with the provisions set above. It is so ordered.

Kaga no-kami Hotta Masamori et al., seals.

To: Sakakibara Hida no-kami, Sengoku Yamoto no-kami


14. Completion of the Exclusion, 1639

1. The matter relating to the proscription of Christianity is known [to the Portuguese], however, heretofore they have secretly transported those who are going to propagate that religion.

2. If those who believe in that religion band together in an attempt to do evil things, they must be subjected to punishment.

3. While those who believe in the preaching of padres are in hiding, there are incidents in which that country (Portugal) has sent gifts to them for their sustenance.

In view of the above, hereafter entry by the Portuguese galeota is forbidden. If they insist on coming [to Japan], the ships must be destroyed and anyone aboard those ships must be beheaded. We have received the above order and are thus transmitting it to you accordingly.

The above concerns our disposition with regard to the galeota.


With regard to those who believe in Christianity, you are aware that there is a proscription, and thus knowing, you are not permitted to let padres and those who believe in their preaching to come aboard your ships. If there is any violation, all of you who are aboard will be considered culpable. If there is anyone who hides the fact that he is a Christian and boards your ship, you may report it to us. A substantial reward will be given to you for this information.

This memorandum is to be given to those who come on Chinese ships. (A similar note to Dutch ships.)