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Japan to 1600

Japan to 1600: A Social and Economic History

William Wayne Farris
Copyright Date: 2009
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    Japan to 1600
    Book Description:

    Japan to 1600 surveys Japanese historical development from the first evidence of human habitation in the archipelago to the consolidation of political power under the Tokugawa shogunate at the beginning of the seventeenth century. It is unique among introductory texts for its focus on developments that impacted all social classes rather than the privileged and powerful few. In accessible language punctuated with lively and interesting examples, William Wayne Farris weaves together major economic and social themes. The book focuses on continuity and change in social and economic structures and experiences, but it by no means ignores the political and cultural. Most chapters begin with an outline of political developments, and cultural phenomena—particularly religious beliefs—are also taken into account. In addition, Japan to 1600 addresses the growing connectedness between residents of the archipelago and the rest of the world. Farris describes how the early inhabitants of the islands moved from a forager mode of subsistence to a more predominantly agrarian base, supplemented by sophisticated industries and an advanced commercial economy. He reveals how the transition to farming took place over many centuries as people moved back and forth from settled agriculture to older forager-collector regimes in response to ecological, political, and personal factors. Economics influenced demographics, and, as the population expanded, the class structure became increasingly complex and occupational specialization and status divisions more intricate. Along with this came trends toward more tightly knit corporate organizations (village, city, market, family), and classes of servants, slaves, and outcastes formed. In reflecting the diversity of traditional Japan’s economy and society, Japan to 1600 is well suited for both undergraduate and graduate courses and will be a welcome introduction to Japan’s early history for scholars and students of other disciplines and regions.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6304-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xx)

    This book examines the social and economic history of Japan from earliest times until 1600. Social and economic history encompasses numerous and diverse topics, including population and factors affecting mortality and fertility, specifically war, famine, disease, marriage, birth control, diet, and migration. The social and economic historian also investigates how people make a living and the technologies by which they do so. This book therefore addresses topics such as silk, cotton, and salt making; agriculture and fishing; ceramics; and construction. Another important economic sector includes commerce, markets, and money. Social history means the study of how society is organized and...

  6. 1 The Building Blocks of Japan, Origins to 600
    (pp. 1-26)

    Human history unfolds within a specific geographical and ecological context. In Japan’s case, that context has greatly influenced its economy and society. Japan consists of a long string of islands, extending from 45 degrees north latitude to 31 degrees south, roughly equal to the distance between Montreal and the Florida Keys. This archipelago is pressed between two giants, the world’s largest ocean (the Pacific) and its most massive continent (Asia). Most residents live on one of four main islands. To the southwest is Kyushu, the gateway to East Asia. Shikoku is a small, peripheral island that, together with Kyushu, helps...

  7. 2 An End to Growth, 600–800
    (pp. 27-52)

    In 589, Yang Jian, a general of mixed Chinese and nomadic blood, reunited the Chinese empire and the diplomatic situation in East Asia changed overnight. For the last 350 years, China had been divided between nomadic dynasties in the northern China plain and Han Chinese kingdoms based in the south. It mattered that Yang, who named his new dynasty the Sui (589–618), was from northern China because, during the centuries of disunity and strife, his land had suffered continuous upheaval from nomadic incursions, bouts with lethal epidemics, and refugees fleeing to the south seeking a better life.

    For these...

  8. 3 State and Society in an Age of Depopulation, 800–1050
    (pp. 53-80)

    From the late eighth century, Japan’s political system started to encounter problems. The most fundamental and far-reaching difficulty was that the government was not taking in nearly as much as it disbursed. Historians of the time portrayed the fiscal shortfall as the inability of a greedy elite to curb its desire to spend: on new capitals (Nagaoka and Heian), more temples and Buddhist ceremonies, the expeditions to subdue theemishi, and lavish aristocratic mansions and other fineries. In fact, the revenue shortfall resulting from sustained depopulation was at least as responsible for the government’s financial woes. By the late 700s,...

  9. 4 Rising Social and Political Tensions in an Epoch of Minimal Growth, 1050–1180
    (pp. 81-106)

    Since the Tomb era, an aristocracy had ruled Japan. It grew and became more elaborate over the centuries, but the essential idea of a hereditary class of noble-men and women administering the islands had remained unchanged. Beginning about 1050, however, the aristocracy—now exclusively civilian in function—was joined by two other elites: the clergy and the military. Each class had its own function, clientele, geographical base, and relation to the sovereign, which in conjunction provided legitimacy for the system. Further, members of each branch formed alliances with the others, and joined together in political factions. These three functionally distinct...

  10. 5 Economy and Society in an Age of Want, 1180–1280
    (pp. 107-135)

    Throughout the period 1160–1180, the Ise Taira under the able leadership of Kiyomori built their political and economic power, acting as the “teeth and claws” of the court. For most of that time, Kiyomori’s relations with the wily ex-emperor Go-Shirakawa were amicable, but in 1177 the Taira uncovered a plot against them in which Go-Shirakawa’s allies were implicated. After the conspirators were banished, Go-Shirakawa continued to operate behind the scenes to undermine the Taira. Finally, in 1179, Kiyomori had thirty-nine of Go-Shirakawa’s clients dismissed from office and placed the retired sovereign under confinement.

    Kiyomori then enacted policies having the...

  11. 6 The Revival of Growth, 1280–1450
    (pp. 136-163)

    The policies designed by Kamakura to thwart the Mongols had the paradoxical effect of strengthening thebakufuvis à vis Kyoto while placing new strains on Kamakura’s finances and manpower. On the one hand, Kamakura demanded and received rights to collect dues and raise troops in western Japan, extending its reach and denying courtiers and religious complexes much-needed tribute items and labor dues. On the other hand, increased resources were necessary to pay for expanded responsibilities, as the fear of a Mongol invasion continued unabated until the early fourteenth century. The added financial burden incurred preparing for another attack weakened...

  12. 7 Uneven Expansion in an Age of Endemic Warfare, 1450–1600
    (pp. 164-194)

    In 1441, a disgruntled daimyo assassinated the despotic shogun Ashikaga Yoshinori and ended the period of assertivebakufuleadership. Although the assassin was eventually caught and executed, the shogun’s army did not dispatch him, but a rival warlord coveting the assassin’s territory killed the murderer. Yoshinori’s death effectively brought to a close the period of shogunal autocracy that had begun under Yoshimitsu. Yoshinori’s successor died of dysentery at the age of three.

    The next shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, was only seven when he was chosen in 1443 and was dominated by first his wet nurse and then his wife’s family. Upon...

  13. Epilogue: The Seventeenth Century in Historical Perspective
    (pp. 195-200)

    This book has traced two major themes. Economically, it has shown how the peoples of Japan gradually moved from a forager-collector subsistence pattern to an agrarian base integrated with sophisticated industries and a booming commercial sector. Socially, it has described how three thousand years of population growth resulted in an increasingly complex and specialized class system characterized by more tightly knit corporate organizations. Important subthemes have included the growing power and increasing intricacy of the islands’ political structure, the development of sophisticated religious institutions, and the closer connectedness of Japan to East Asia and the world.

    The seventeenth century was...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 201-208)
  15. Suggestions for Further Reading in English
    (pp. 209-214)
  16. Index
    (pp. 215-227)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 228-228)