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Why not more ronin uprisings?
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msr.iaidoka
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2007 8:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
kitsuno,

Clothing probably played a part since a farmer could not easily get their hands on a nice of hakama and kimono. I also think that local samurai would all know each other and be able to pick out fakes. Samurai visiting regions where they were unknown might have to show some type of proof, like the scroll in Shichinin no Samurai.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2007 8:40 am    Post subject: passing Reply with quote
Anyone trying to pass themselves as samurai albeit ronin would surely be taking their life by the throat. The punishment if caught must be death. As film seems to shadow what could be, how about; Zatoichi's one armed brother that was being hunted for assuming samurai status. That would stop most people except those with nothing to lose already. This brings up the question though. In the film trilogy of Musashi the horse trader declares himself a student of Musashi and I guess Musashi liking his nerve agreed. Does this mean that the horse trader, using, in the movie, a 2 shaku sword, had been elevated? What rank must one have to promote someone as a retainer with samurai status? For example those commoners that distinguished themselves in battle. I guess ronin was the wrong description for early status of Nobunaga as 2nd son, still being a retainer and all. John
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2007 10:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
To answer two posts at once:
tatsunoshi wrote:
Ronin, on the other hand, were at least free to come and go as they pleased. The list of approved 'side jobs' they could take seemed to be pretty much on the easy (if tedious) side. It seems like there would always be enough merchants, inns, gambling bosses, and the like for there always to be something they could do to at least get room and board. A ronin could always give up their samurai status (or 'possible samurai status' if you prefer) and become a farmer/merchant/artisan. That fact that hardly any chose to become farmers tells me that while a ronin might not have had an easy life, they at least recognized they were better off than farmers.
I don't believe that (unlike the films) most ronin were able to lead "free and easy" lives, able to wander around unfettered, free-lancing, wherever they wanted to, and picking up jobs easily.

In the first place, most clans had checkpoints. Many of them barred ronin outright at these checkpoints, believing them to be troublemakers who would disrupt the peacefulness of their domains.

In the second place, most ronin had wives and/or children to support. It might be fairly easy to wander about as a single person. But not so easy dragging along a family, especially with young children.

In the third place, I would question the idea that most ronin were expert swordsmen (like in the films) where they would be qualified to be bodyguards or mercenaries. During the Tokugawa period, swordsmanship was not known as the way to advance in a career as a samurai. Most clan samurai practiced some fencing in their clan dojos, but most of them spent a lot more time performing bureaucratic tasks rather than studying kenjutsu. In fact (according to the sources I've read), many of the lower-ranked clan samurai even had to sell their sword blades, replacing the blades with bamboo underneath the sword fittings; this was for "show" to designate their samurai status. So if any of these Edo period clan samurai became ronin (whether or not they still had real blades), they would be hard-put to get a job wielding a sword with any sort of expertise. For that matter, many ronin, suffering in poverty, ended up selling their blades -- which would make them unqualified to take on a sword-wielding job.

There were certainly some ronin who managed to thrive, some of them even able to take jobs overseas. But I'm afraid that the vast majority suffered. Whether they suffered worse than farmers isn't certain. Though Fumazawa Banzin (17th century reformer) certainly thought so. He may have had his views colored by his own background; he was, himself, brought up in an impoverished ronin family.

Which brings us to another related point.
kitsuno wrote:
You know, I'm starting to wonder how one was "stuck" in a class - did Samurai have a passport or a secret handshake? Was it simply having "two swords" that made them Samurai, so if a farmer got two swords, suddenly they were a samurai (as long as they didn't tell anyone they were actually farmers)? Or did the language itself help to distinguish classes? Maybe farmers wouldn't be able to fake the high-level Japanese?
You have a very good point here. In many of the movies, a bushi seems to be able to dispense with his two swords, sell them off or whatever. And engage in a new career as a farmer or a merchant, or wandering yakuza. The movies also show farmers obtaining two swords, a hakama, and silk kimono -- voila! He's a samurai! I have serious doubts that this sort of class moblity was so possible in real life in Edo-period Japan.

There is a scene in SEPPUKU (yes, this is another movie, not a historical source). Where a desperately poor ronin goes to the laboring pool to hire on as a laborer. The labor boss shoves him out of the labor line, stating that he is not allowed to hire a "laborer with two swords." Now maybe this ronin could have trotted home, stashed his swords somewhere, ditched hakama and silk kimono, changed his hair style, and then returned to the labor pool looking just like a commoner. Could he have been hired? Or would he have to show some ID -- woudn't his ID identify him as being in the buke class? Or would he be betrayed by his accent and manner of speaking?

How would a ronin change his class? Does he go to some official bureau and sign papers? Turn in his swords and bushi dress, and walk out with an official paper designating that he's now a commoner? Would the document state which class that he had now enrolled in?

Anyway, these are all interesting issues to study.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2007 10:25 am    Post subject: Re: passing Reply with quote
shin no sen wrote:
Anyone trying to pass themselves as samurai albeit ronin would surely be taking their life by the throat. The punishment if caught must be death. As film seems to shadow what could be, how about; Zatoichi's one armed brother that was being hunted for assuming samurai status. That would stop most people except those with nothing to lose already. This brings up the question though. In the film trilogy of Musashi the horse trader declares himself a student of Musashi and I guess Musashi liking his nerve agreed. Does this mean that the horse trader, using, in the movie, a 2 shaku sword, had been elevated? What rank must one have to promote someone as a retainer with samurai status? For example those commoners that distinguished themselves in battle. I guess ronin was the wrong description for early status of Nobunaga as 2nd son, still being a retainer and all. John
Miyamoto Musashi lived in a period straddling the Toyotomi and Tokugawa periods. He was born before Hideyoshi's infamous "sword hunt" so during at least part of his life, farmers could wield swords. Though, unlike some film depictions, Miyamoto Musashi was not born a farmer; he was born the son of a retainer in the local clan, and his bushi bloodlines extended far back.

Also, during the Edo period, commoners were allowed to carry single swords of a shorter length than the katana that the bushi were allowed to carry. One of the ways that some ronin could earn a living during the Edo period was to teach martial arts to commoners (I've read that this was one of Musashi's occupations, being an itinerate sensei). In these Edo-period commoner dojos, the students (and usually the teacher) would use wooden swords (bokken) or bamboo swords (shinai, which are used in modern kendo).
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2007 10:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
msr.iaidoka wrote:
kitsuno,

Clothing probably played a part since a farmer could not easily get their hands on a nice of hakama and kimono. I also think that local samurai would all know each other and be able to pick out fakes. Samurai visiting regions where they were unknown might have to show some type of proof, like the scroll in Shichinin no Samurai.


平和,

マット
The Tokugawa Shogunate had extensive regulations on which classes could wear what clothing. So if a farmer (or merchant) wanted to get a silk kimono, hakama, and two swords, trying to become a bushi, he'd be taking his life into his hands if his real status were discovered by the authorities.

I also believe that there were regulations on what occupations that bushi could engage in. I'm not sure that a bushi needing a job could walk up to a labor boss and become a laborer. The labor boss would probably get in trouble with the government authorties.

In reality, the ronin were outside of the official class structure. Bushi were supposed to serve their daimyo. A bushi without a daimyo to serve was considered disgraced. Specific bakufu regulations prohibited a daimyo from taking on as a retainer a ronin who had been discharged from his clan. If a bushi's status as a lordless bushi was a result of his clan being abolished (rather than his being discharged), he was still disgraced; it was considered that he and his fellow retainers failed to serve their lord sufficiently to prevent their clan from being abolished.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2007 11:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I'm wondering if Musashi became famous long after his death - heck, he died alone in a cave, so I assume that he was virtually an unknown until he writings got out mixed with some hearsay and some old clan and temple records. I doubt if he was famous at the time. Sort of like a painter - fame comes postmortem.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2007 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
kitsuno wrote:
I'm wondering if Musashi became famous long after his death - heck, he died alone in a cave, so I assume that he was virtually an unknown until he writings got out mixed with some hearsay and some old clan and temple records. I doubt if he was famous at the time. Sort of like a painter - fame comes postmortem.
I believe that Musashi attained some sorts of fame, but not nearly as much fame as he attained postmortem.

I've read two definitive biographical works about Musashi. One is THE LONE SAMURAI (William Scott Wilson), the other is MIYAMOTO MUSASHI: HIS LIFE AND WORKS (Tokitsu Kenji). Both of them speculated on why Musashi remained a ronin, never officially serving a daimyo throughout his life. Wilson claims that Musashi was offered positions but declined them, wanting to dedicate his life to the musha shugyo (warrior's journey). Tokitsu wrote that Musashi did try to attain samurai positions more than once. And that, though many daimyo welcomed Musashi as a guest or temporary teacher, none of these daimyo really wanted him as a permanent retainer.

I tend to believe Tokitsu's theory. Musashi, during his life, was a typical, homeless, ragged, scruffy, unshaved, unwashed, fierce-looking ronin. According to most accounts, he was even more scruffy and fierce-looking than the typical ronin of that time. So therefore, though a daimyo might invite him as a guest, he wouldn't want such a ragged, unruly, grungy-looking man as a retainer.

At the end of his life, Musashi stayed with Lord Hosokawa, then decided to retreat into a cave. There is where he wrote his BOOK OF FIVE RINGS. Soon after finishing this book, he died.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2007 7:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
kitsuno wrote:
I'm wondering if Musashi became famous long after his death - heck, he died alone in a cave, so I assume that he was virtually an unknown until he writings got out mixed with some hearsay and some old clan and temple records. I doubt if he was famous at the time. Sort of like a painter - fame comes postmortem.


My father-in-law (who absolutely despises Musashi for the unwarranted attention he garners) was born in 1920 and has been an enthusiastic student of Japanese history since around 1925. According to him, Musashi was primarily known to the Japanese people for his sculptures, drawings, and paintings until (as he puts it) ‘that stupid book’ was serialized in Japanese newpapers during the thirties. ‘That stupid book’, of course, being the famous novel ‘Musashi’. That’s when the whole ‘Musashi as master swordsman’ ball gained popularity in the public eye.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 2:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Back to the question of class mobility and/or lack of it during the Edo period: Shikisoku, in the Bakumatsu forum, described a process where a member of the buke class could have himself made into a "kinou" i.e. a farmer rather than a bushi. Does anyone know how this happened? Would a bushi have to go to a government official, have papers drawn up describing him as a bushi-turned-farmer? This is something new to me. So I'm very curious.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 3:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Tatsunoshi wrote:
kitsuno wrote:
I'm wondering if Musashi became famous long after his death - heck, he died alone in a cave, so I assume that he was virtually an unknown until he writings got out mixed with some hearsay and some old clan and temple records. I doubt if he was famous at the time. Sort of like a painter - fame comes postmortem.


My father-in-law (who absolutely despises Musashi for the unwarranted attention he garners) was born in 1920 and has been an enthusiastic student of Japanese history since around 1925. According to him, Musashi was primarily known to the Japanese people for his sculptures, drawings, and paintings until (as he puts it) ‘that stupid book’ was serialized in Japanese newpapers during the thirties. ‘That stupid book’, of course, being the famous novel ‘Musashi’. That’s when the whole ‘Musashi as master swordsman’ ball gained popularity in the public eye.
Oh yes. Yoshikawa's serialized novel. Unfortunately, too many people accept this piece of fiction as authorized fact. Rolling Eyes Just Kidding
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 07, 2012 12:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Hoo-boy is this an old thread. Well, thread voodoo resurrection, GO!

Here's something I just came across that I thought interesting, and that I'd really never heard before.

Quote:

[Due in large part to strict regulations about the conditions under which a daimyô could name an heir, and the complexities of formal procedures for doing so,] sixty-one daimyo lords were thus attaindered between 1600 and 1650, representing 5,179,000 koku of domain omotedaka, or roughly about a fifth of the assessed production of Japan. About 150,000 samurai, one-fifth of all in Japan, lost house and home by these events, and large numbers of them traveled to Edo, hunting for new employment at the residences of successful lords. Many of these lordless samurai (ronin) did not find new positions, and they were indigent, culturally violent men who were skilled in the use of weapons. They committed crimes in the cities and elsewhere, and in 1614-1615 and 1637-1638 many joined the anti-Tokugawa forces at the battles of Osaka and Shimabara.


-Luke Roberts. Performing the Great Peace. University of Hawaii Press, 2012. p76.

I had no idea that there were quite so many ronin in the early decades of the Tokugawa reign; the idea that there was a "ronin problem" now comes into sharper light.

The question of why there were not more ronin uprisings during this period, or later throughout the Edo period, is not answered here. But, Roberts goes on to explain (or assert) that the Keian Uprising of 1651, led by Yui Shosetsu and Marubashi Chuya, was not simply an example of an uprising, but rather that this rebellion, specifically, was rather significant. Along with many other smaller incidents, incl. countless crimes and incidences of violence in the streets of Edo, the Keian Uprising served as an impetus for the chief shogunal advisors, such as Sakai Tadakiyo and Abe Tadaaki, to seriously consider how to resolve the "ronin problem."

(My apologies if the wording of the following matches very closely my words from the S-A Wiki; I guess I just tend to think/write the same way as myself, even if I'm writing it over again without looking directly at it or using copy/paste)

In one gathering/meeting of senior officials and advisors, held in late 1651, Sakai suggested banishing all the ronin from the city, thus preventing future attempted overthrows of the sort Marubashi & Yui plotted, and eliminating the crime and violence caused by these ronin in the city. However, Abe Tadaaki asserted that removing the ronin from the city would only bring that crime and violence to the countryside, and that furthermore, for most ronin the big cities were the only places they could hope to find work.

The Elders agreed at that meeting not to take any drastic action against the ronin, but announced the following day a new set of procedures and policies making it easier for daimyô to name their heirs and avoid attainder. The occurrence of attainders due to lack of an heir dropped to nearly none for the rest of the Edo period, and one can assume that the number of samurai newly becoming ronin thus dropped dramatically as well. Fewer ronin means fewer ronin who wish to organize uprisings... so, that's certainly something...
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2012 2:26 pm    Post subject: Ronin Reply with quote
This is really interesting .
If i remember correctly i am somewhat sure this snippet is in Bodart Bailey's bio of Tsunayoshi ,Anyway the short of it is that Tsunayoshi became so concerned with the amount of Ronin especially in Edo that he set up job training programs whereby Ronin could learn artisan skills or the chance to train to become a merchant or farmer .

The majority of Ronin actually took up this option and in time most Ronin entered the private sector thus pretty much solving the Ronin problem .
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2012 5:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Interesting...
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