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What was a ronin's place (or lack thereof) in society?

 
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 3:46 pm    Post subject: What was a ronin's place (or lack thereof) in society? Reply with quote
Just looking for some clarification on what a ronin technically was and wasn't and how they were really viewed by the world at large. From what I understand a ronin is a masterless member of the buke class, but I am unclear if they remain a samurai or are no longer one. To be considered a samurai is a buke required to be employed by a lord?

Based on the answer to the above, what is the real social standing of ronin in both Sengoku and Edo society? Since I think he remains a buke, does that afford him a certain place in society, or does the fact that he has no employment mean in practical terms he is very much an outcast?
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lordameth
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 8:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
A very interesting, and important question. Strangely, I feel like I've scarcely ever come across anything much discussing ronin. Though, I'm sure there must be other people on the Forum here who have some knowledge of the subject.

One thing does come to mind, though - just because you're ronin does not mean you don't have employment. It just means you don't serve a lord. Marubashi Chûya, for example, was a ronin, but worked as a martial arts instructor. I'm not sure if he ran his own dojo, in which case I guess being self-employed doesn't quite count as being employed, but, in any case...

There are plenty of other examples of ronin who were employed in one fashion or another. As for their social status, well, I'd speculate that since the only way to be higher on the social ladder was to be in the service of a lord or the shogunate (or to be kuge or Imperial), I guess by definition ronin would have to be a bit lower on the social scale. But my gut says it's not so much about a stigma against the fact that they were ronin, but rather that it's more a matter of simply the fact that they had nowhere else to be. If you're not serving a lord, or the shogunate, then you're automatically lower in social status than those who are.

Still, that doesn't mean that ronin couldn't be quite successful and/or widely respected in certain circles. Hiraga Gennai was quite active in scholarly circles in Edo, and was highly regarded for his knowledge and scholarship in Rangaku and other fields. Chaya Shirojiro Kiyonobu was a ronin, and a very successful and wealthy merchant. Nagoya Sansaburo is regarded as one of the co-founders of kabuki, and thus quite the popular figure, albeit one of rather low social status, as entertainers were below even the merchants, or outside of the status system altogether. Yamada Nagamasa was the head of the Japanese community in Ayutthaya (Thailand), and of a samurai division of the Ayutthaya king's royal guard, so, quite high status over there in Ayutthaya, though, again, would quite possibly have not been particularly well regarded at all in Japan.

Hmm.. I wonder if others with more focus/expertise on ronin have anything to weigh in with. (Actually, I sense that this question has already been discussed on the forum somewhere... have you done a search?)
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shikisoku
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2012 7:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
In late Edo period, Ronin were the center of Sonno-Joi movement. They changed history.
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