Lust, Commerce, and Corruption

Lust, Commerce, and Corruption: An Account of What I Have Seen and Heard,by an Edo Samurai

Mark Teeuwen
Kate Wildman Nakai
Miyazaki Fumiko
Anne Walthall
John Breen
Mark Teeuwen
Kate Wildman Nakai
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 496
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  • Book Info
    Lust, Commerce, and Corruption
    Book Description:

    By 1816, Japan had recovered from the famines of the 1780s and moved beyond the political reforms of the 1790s. Despite persistent economic and social stresses, the country seemed to be approaching a new period of growth. The idea that the shogunate would not last forever was far from anyone's mind.

    Yet, in that year, an anonymous samurai author completed one of the most detailed critiques of Edo society known today. Writing as Buyo Inshi, "a retired gentleman of Edo," he expresses a profound despair with the state of the realm and with people's behavior and attitudes. He sees decay wherever he turns and believes the world will soon descend into war.

    Buyo shows a familiarity with many corners of Edo life that one might not expect in a samurai. He describes the corruption of samurai officials; the suffering of the poor in villages and cities; the operation of brothels; the dealings of blind moneylenders; the selling and buying of temple abbotships; and the dubious strategies townspeople use in the law courts. Perhaps the frankness of his account, which contains a wealth of concrete information about Edo society, made him prefer to remain anonymous.

    This volume contains a full translation of Buyo's often-quoted but rarely studied work by a team of specialists on Edo society. Together with extensive annotation of the translation, the volume includes an introduction that situates the text culturally and historically.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53597-7
    Subjects: History, Religion, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-ix)
    Mark Teeuwen
    (pp. x-x)
    (pp. x-xi)
    (pp. xi-xi)
  7. MAPS
    (pp. xii-xvi)
    (pp. 1-34)

    What kind of society was Japan in the early nineteenth century? Many have contrasted Japan’s Edo period (1600–1868) to the Qing of neighboring China as an early modern era of progress, stressing that developments during that time prepared the country for its rapid rise in the world after the Meiji coup of 1868. Others have taken a negative view, portraying the period as an age of isolation and stagnation. These describe Edo Japan as a country caught in a time bubble, from which it could be saved only by a tidal wave of catch-up Westernization. One school of thought...


      (pp. 35-38)
      Buyō Inshi

      Ever since I reached the age of discretion, I have noticed that people’s dealings with one another are not straightforward. Some win and others lose, some make a loss and others gain. People’s desire to win and their competition for gain troubled me, and many a time I thought to find out the source of this mental disposition and to clarify where it might end.¹ Over the years, I have used my free time to mingle widely with people in the world. From farmers I learned about their hardships, and I reflected on profit by investigating market prices. I consciously...

    • Chapter 1
      (pp. 39-94)
      Buyō Inshi

      The customs of the world are as changeable as the clouds in the sky or the water in a stream. Their transformation is as unstoppable as the aging of the human body and continues day and night without a moment’s rest. As customs change, people become insincere, and the country moves toward disorder. Once the people’s dispositions have become fickle, it is hard to restore them to goodness; once the state has fallen into chaos, it is difficult to restore order.

      The history of ages past teaches us that order is difficult to maintain and disorder hard to put down....

    • Chapter 2
      (pp. 95-144)
      Buyō Inshi

      The people are the basis for the country; they are the root, the foundation that sustains the realm and the state.¹ Warriors entrust themselves to their lord, and the lord is assisted by his retainers; both are able to maintain their house’s honor by receiving the people’s tribute in taxes. Monks and priests totally depend on support from the world as a whole, while townspeople, idlers, and various craftsmen all survive by living off others. In contrast, the people follow the seasons set by Heaven, cultivate their crops according to the basic conditions of the soil, and do not depend...

    • Chapter 3
      (pp. 145-188)
      Buyō Inshi

      These days, because of the splendor of the times, monks know no hardship and enjoy the finest clothing, food, and housing, living lives of unequaled comfort. They have forgotten that they depend on the world for their nurture and are obliged to others for their well-being, and without exception they put on airs and behave arrogantly. As persons who left their households, monastics were originally solitary people. Being so unfortunate that they had no household of their own, they fled the world, cutting off all common attachments. Therefore a monastic should have no possessions and no desire for fame; he...

    • Chapter 4
      (pp. 189-231)
      Buyō Inshi

      The Way of yin and yang is a method to serve one’s own interests at the expense of others by revealing what is lucky and what is unlucky, what is profitable and what is not.¹ It includes fortune-telling based on feng shui or face reading, determining lucky and unlucky directions, performing rites to prevent misfortune associated with unlucky directions, and conducting rites to protect a building plot, a house, or a person. All these procedures lead people astray by encouraging them to speculate on what has not yet happened. Although the Way of yin and yang can be of use...

    • Chapter 5
      (pp. 232-308)
      Buyō Inshi

      Merchants are people with no steady livelihood and without a steady mind. Their status is low to the extreme, and they are inferior to warrior houses, farmers, and all others. They make a living by stealing a profit from the process of buying and selling. In the course of more than two hundred years of peaceful government, the profits that they have embezzled have accumulated to such an extent that nowadays the financial means of townspeople have become vast. There is a limit to the financial capacity of warriors, who offer their lives for the state. Farmers pay a large...

    • Chapter 6
      (pp. 309-367)
      Buyō Inshi

      It is difficult to depict in words the large buildings in the pleasure quarters, the grand multistoried bordellos, and the splendor of the bedchambers that go with the world’s affluence. The paper on the sliding doors to the sitting rooms is decorated lavishly with patterns in bright colors, gold, and silver. The alcoves and their decorative shelves for curios are made from rosewood, ebony, Bombay black wood, or other foreign trees, and rare Japanese or Chinese paintings or calligraphic hangings, incense burners, and vases are displayed there. Clothing, bedding, and nightclothes are made of gold brocade, damask, velvet, multicolored brocade,...

    • Chapter 7
      (pp. 368-434)
      Buyō Inshi

      Pariahs, outcasts, and others of their ilk, such as those known as hut dwellers and watchmen,¹ are on the increase not only in the three cities but throughout the provinces too. Their numbers are now vast, and they are invariably more ostentatious and arrogant than regular people.

      Take, for example, the Edo-resident chief of the pariah community, Danzaemon. His lifestyle is that of a holder of 3,000koku. The chiefs of the outcast community, Matsuemon and Zenshichi, are not far behind.² Those beneath them occupy different rankings, but all live the good life The pariahs of Kyoto and Osaka have...

    (pp. 435-440)
    (pp. 441-446)
    (pp. 447-448)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 449-474)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 475-480)