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Tsushima no Kami
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2007 9:23 am    Post subject: Why not more ronin uprisings? Reply with quote
This topic got suggested in the 47 Ronin discussion. During the entire Tokugawa period, there were numerous farmer uprisings and "rice riots." The farmers lived hard lives, hemmed in by numerous restrictions. Every so often, though they knew that they would lose their lives, they revolted. In all cases, these revolts were put down by the authorities and the perpetrators and the headmen were put to death, mostly in rather gruesome ways. Their extended families were also put to death -- and yet the revolts continued to happen.

Then we get to the situation of ronin. They had been cast off, separated from their clans for various reasons. The "ro" in "ronin" literally means "wave" as in put adrift in the waves of life. They usually ended up in poverty, living in harsh conditions. Fumazawa Banzin (a 17th century philosopher and political reformer) discussed the situation of ronin starving to death in his writings (found in SOURCES OF JAPANESE TRADITION). He said that, of all the people, the ronin were the worst off. Basically, in the Tokugawa class system, they really had no place at all. They were usually forced into marginal occupations. They could become outlaws, highwaymen. Or else become bodyguards for yakuza groups. Or if law-abiding, their options were quite limited. Mainly teaching commoners in schools. Or else engaging in handicraft piecework i.e. making umbrellas, fans, and other such implements. None of these occupations promised anything other than low earnings and continued lives of poverty. They could give up their bushi status and become commoners, usually as low-paid laborers and similar occupations. Some of them wound up as "heimin" (outcast status) becoming actors and entertainers, doing such things as sword-tricks for entertainment.

But as far as I know, there was only one ronin revolt. This was the one led by Yui Shosetsu, which was quickly aborted by the bakufu. So my question: if the farmers revolted, why not the ronin? Did ronin join in with the farmers? Or were they too proud and individualistic? Or too beaten down and afraid (despite the plethora of "noble ronin" films)?

Of course, when we get to the Bakumatsu period, there arose plenty of occasions for ronin to revolt -- which they did. But that's another topic for the Bakumatsu period forum. I want to discuss this topic within the context of the Edo (Tokugawa) period.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2007 9:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I know next to nothing about the Shamabara rebellion, but I assume Ronin were involved. I only know of one "political" protest off the top of my head:

http://wiki.samurai-archives.com/index.php?title=Nakahira_Zennoshin

Which was one option beloew outright rebellion. Speaking of rebellion, that would be a useful samuraiwiki category.

Osaka castle in 1615 would count as something of a "ronin rebellion", although it was before the caste system, so they were still left over from fighting with and serving a lord in war.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2007 11:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
kitsuno wrote:
I know next to nothing about the Shamabara rebellion, but I assume Ronin were involved.
Yes, I know that there were many ronin involved in the Shimabara revolt. This was a revolt by Christians who had taken over the deserted castle after persecution by the bakufu authorities. It's unclear how many ronin who rushed to join were actually Christians. Many of them simply wanted a chance to stick it to the bakufu and/or die gloriously rather than starve to death.
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I only know of one "political" protest off the top of my head:

http://wiki.samurai-archives.com/index.php?title=Nakahira_Zennoshin

Which was one option beloew outright rebellion.
This was a protest by a man who was protesting the prices paid to paper merchants. It wasn't an open ronin rebellion protesting conditions that the ronin faced.

There were times when ronin would get involved in others' revolts, such as at Shimabara or taking part in farmer revolts. Usually at the end of these revolts, if they survived at all, the ronin would walk away, sort of like what the ronin in SEVEN SAMURAI did i.e. "They won. We lost. We always lose."
Quote:
Speaking of rebellion, that would be a useful samuraiwiki category.
Quite agree. I need to find time to get involved in samuraiwiki. Cool
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Osaka castle in 1615 would count as something of a "ronin rebellion", although it was before the caste system, so they were still left over from fighting with and serving a lord in war.
And yet another account of ronin fighting for others, not themselves. These were the ronin mainly from clans recently abolished by the ascending Tokugawa shogunate. They wanted to "stick it" to the Tokugawas before dying.

An interesting sidelight: Miyamoto Musashi participated in the Osaka Castle seige in 1615. There is a debate about which side he was on, the Toyotomi or the Tokugawa. But after it was all over, he was still a ronin.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2007 12:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Wave Tossed wrote:
kitsuno wrote:
I know next to nothing about the Shamabara rebellion, but I assume Ronin were involved.

An interesting sidelight: Miyamoto Musashi participated in the Osaka Castle seige in 1615. There is a debate about which side he was on, the Toyotomi or the Tokugawa. But after it was all over, he was still a ronin.


Proof and source please. I always heard this only as speculations.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2007 1:03 pm    Post subject: Rebellions Reply with quote
WARNING: THERE IS NOTHING FACTUAL TO BACK UP WHAT I AM ABOUT TO WRITE BUT PLEASE CONSIDER THIS.

I suspect that rebellions DID HAPPEN more than we know about. Just think about it. Times were periodically tough and farmers often got the short end of the stick. It is human nature, regardless of variances in cultural views towards respect to authority to protest in some form or another when one's back is up against the wall and there is a feeling that one has nothing to lose. So, I am under the belief that there were probably farmer rebellions once in a while that were probably aided by ronin or even helped supressed by ronin.

OK, if there were these rebellions, how come there isn't anything in the historical record?

Think about it. If you are a backwater han and have a small rebellion on your hands, what are you going to do? Broadcast it? Heck no--allowing a rebellion to foment in your domain is grounds for removing the daimyo, disbanding the clan and forfeiting all rights, land, everything to the bakufu. So, what are you going to do if the farmers aided by a few ronin are making noise? Answer: Quietly and quickly eliminate the problem--either by use of own han samurai but more likely by employing ronin to do the dirty work for you to keep things quiet. It wouldn't look good if han samurai got killed and it makes things more difficult to explain in reports to the bakufu's regional inspectors/magistrates. A few dead farmers and ronin won't raise the same amount of attention. I'd guess that there would be lots of ronin eager to do this dirty work in exchange for a promise of a chance to become retainers--even for annual stipends of a mere few koku so they can get their samurai status back-no matter the stipends are so low they would be living at a level near the poverty line. Pride and face were and still are strong motivating factors in Japan.

I think the above is plausible, but again, maybe it isn't. I'd love to hear the thoughts of other forum members about this.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2007 1:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Baian wrote:
Wave Tossed wrote:
kitsuno wrote:
I know next to nothing about the Shamabara rebellion, but I assume Ronin were involved.

An interesting sidelight: Miyamoto Musashi participated in the Osaka Castle seige in 1615. There is a debate about which side he was on, the Toyotomi or the Tokugawa. But after it was all over, he was still a ronin.


Proof and source please. I always heard this only as speculations.
If you read MIYAMOTO MUSASHI: HIS LIFE AND WRITINGS by Tokitsu Kenji, you will see all the discussion of his participation at Osaka and all the discussion of which side he fought on.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2007 1:24 pm    Post subject: Re: Rebellions Reply with quote
Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:
WARNING: THERE IS NOTHING FACTUAL TO BACK UP WHAT I AM ABOUT TO WRITE BUT PLEASE CONSIDER THIS.

I suspect that rebellions DID HAPPEN more than we know about. Just think about it. Times were periodically tough and farmers often got the short end of the stick. It is human nature, regardless of variances in cultural views towards respect to authority to protest in some form or another when one's back is up against the wall and there is a feeling that one has nothing to lose. So, I am under the belief that there were probably farmer rebellions once in a while that were probably aided by ronin or even helped supressed by ronin.
This isn't a historical source at all. But the film THREE OUTLAW SAMURAI depicts this very situation. A ronin decides to aid some farmers. The clan daiken decides to try and quietly supress the insurrection, hiring ronin rather than using the clan samurai. Of course this is just a movie. Just Kidding
Quote:
OK, if there were these rebellions, how come there isn't anything in the historical record?

Think about it. If you are a backwater han and have a small rebellion on your hands, what are you going to do? Broadcast it? Heck no--allowing a rebellion to foment in your domain is grounds for removing the daimyo, disbanding the clan and forfeiting all rights, land, everything to the bakufu. So, what are you going to do if the farmers aided by a few ronin are making noise? Answer: Quietly and quickly eliminate the problem--either by use of own han samurai but more likely by employing ronin to do the dirty work for you to keep things quiet. It wouldn't look good if han samurai got killed and it makes things more difficult to explain in reports to the bakufu's regional inspectors/magistrates. A few dead farmers and ronin won't raise the same amount of attention. I'd guess that there would be lots of ronin eager to do this dirty work in exchange for a promise of a chance to become retainers--even for annual stipends of a mere few koku so they can get their samurai status back-no matter the stipends are so low they would be living at a level near the poverty line. Pride and face were and still are strong motivating factors in Japan.

I think the above is plausible, but again, maybe it isn't. I'd love to hear the thoughts of other forum members about this.
One thing I have noticed. There are a ton of films and novels and fiction about various "noble ronin" (who all have super-marvelous fighting skills) who fight against authority and defend farmers and other downtrodden sorts. However, the actual recorded history of ronin is quite scarce.

How many ronin can you name as actual historical personages? I can think of a few: Miyamoto Musashi, Yui Shosetsu, Fumazawa Banzin, the 47 Ako ronin. Other than the crowd of ronin during the Bakumatsu period, I can't think of any others in earlier times whose actual history has been recorded.

I'm afraid that the vast majority of Edo period ronin had to struggle and scrape for an existence. I'm also afraid that Fumazawa Banzin was correct when he wrote about the numbers of ronin who starved to death.

So here is an exercise: Tell the stories of actual individual historical Edo period ronin. Can you think of any? Can you find any accounts? Please do NOT tell us about fictional characters i.e. Ogami Itto. I want to know about actual ronin who really existed.

Or alternatively: speculate about why histories of such people don't exist.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2007 2:11 pm    Post subject: Re: Rebellions Reply with quote
Wave Tossed wrote:
One thing I have noticed. There are a ton of films and novels and fiction about various "noble ronin" (who all have super-marvelous fighting skills) who fight against authority and defend farmers and other downtrodden sorts. However, the actual recorded history of ronin is quite scarce.


Carl Jung would call that an "archetype".

Quote:

Or alternatively: speculate about why histories of such people don't exist.


Because there just weren't that many? How many dedicated vigilantes do we know about from the past 100 years in the USA (obviously outside of a war zone, and not counting the distraught parent who kills the killer of thier child or whatever)? None that I can think of, because people don't give up thier place in society to put thier life on the line to stand up to the bad guy to help Joe and Jane Innocent when there is nothing to gain from it. They are archetypes, the ideal - like Kwai Chang Caine. Even the historifictional William Wallace was on a vengeance spree. Mercenaries, on the other hand...
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2007 2:42 pm    Post subject: Re: Rebellions Reply with quote
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So here is an exercise: Tell the stories of actual individual historical Edo period ronin. Can you think of any? Can you find any accounts? Please do NOT tell us about fictional characters i.e. Ogami Itto. I want to know about actual ronin who really existed.


Many ronin were famous, just think about it. All those swordsmen like Itto Ittosai and the likes were all ronin.
If they were good enough, and the dojo earned enough, they didn't have to starve. Quite the opposite image of the poor ronin.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2007 2:44 pm    Post subject: Re: Rebellions Reply with quote
[quote="kitsuno"]How many dedicated vigilantes do we know about from the past 100 years in the USA (obviously outside of a war zone, and not counting the distraught parent who kills the killer of thier child or whatever)? [quote]

Would Bernard Getz, the NY Subway shooter, qualify? I think he was more like defending himself, but he was called the Subway Vigilante by the NY media.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2007 3:04 pm    Post subject: Re: Rebellions Reply with quote
Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:


Would Bernard Getz, the NY Subway shooter, qualify? I think he was more like defending himself, but he was called the Subway Vigilante by the NY media.


He was exactly one of my first thoughts, but he didn't go looking for them, he didn't defend anyone but himself, and he didn't do it again. I was thinking more along the lines of Frank Castle:

http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/Punisher.html

The brutal murder of his family made Frank decide to put his military training to good use. He concentrated on punishing criminals who were beyond the reach of the law. Frank eventually learned the identity of the gang who murdered his family. He hunted them down and eliminated all--before dedicating his life to punishing the entire criminal underworld. Though he uses lethal force against the guilty, the Punisher protects innocent people from harm and he never battles the police.

That's what I'm talking about. I can't think of anyone off the top of my head, Ronin or american or yugoslavian or anyone else anywhere in history who took "the protection of the innocent" on as a crusade against tormentors. At best it is a one time thing, or made against an oppressive regime. There are no Kwai Chang Caines of old japan who went from peasant village to peasant village defending against marauders, aside from Zatoichi, anyway Razz

Think about it, at best you'd be a pain or embarassment to the local government, at worst you'd be branded a criminal yourself. You'd be giving up your life for good, it would take a real anti-ghandi to go to that extreme.

I always used to wonder why no one ever became a "true" vigilante ala the Punisher, but my guess is aside from the fact that you'd be giving up any semblance of a normal life to put your life on the line for commoners who couldn't give you any appreciable reward, and because of the "bystander" effect - everyone thinks someone else will do something. Compounded with a legal system and a police force to take that "responsibility" off your shoulders, I guess. You'd have to basically be crazy in the clinical sense of the term.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2007 6:05 pm    Post subject: Re: Rebellions Reply with quote
Wave Tossed wrote:
THREE OUTLAW SAMURAI depicts this very situation. A ronin decides to aid some farmers. The clan daiken decides to try and quietly supress the insurrection, hiring ronin rather than using the clan samurai. Of course this is just a movie. Just Kidding


I'm totally ashamed to say that for all of my enthusiasm about samurai eiga, I've never seen Three Outlaw Samurai. Embarassed Oh, I know, as punishment I should give myself 50 lashes with a wet soba noodle. The weird thing is, as I was writing my above entry, I was thinking, "wow, this would make a great movie plot or what!" Sounds like I was thoroughly beaten to the punch! Patrick Galloway, author of Stray Dogs and Lone Wolves has been on my case to go out and buy this movie as well as he has also scolded me for not knowing much about Mizoguchi's films. The shame factor is building!!

Regarding famous Edo period ronin, even my mother-in-law, who knows her Japanese history and acts as my resource of last hope, is struggling to think of any. I think Kitsuno-san is right- the caste system came that came into being starting with Hideyoshi and was pretty much set in concrete once the Tokugawa Shogunate entrenched itself made it hard for any particular ronin to distinguish himself until the onset of the bakumatsu period.

Lastly, I am utterly shocked and confused to learn that Itto Igami is a fictional character. I read the manga, so it has to be true! I just feel like a kid who has been told that Santa Claus doesn't exist!!! Confused Next somebody is going to tell me that Zatoichi also didn't exist. Yeah, but I won't fall for that one so easily-- and if you are going to say that Zatoichi isn't a real character, I double dog dare you to show some proof! Wink
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2007 6:51 pm    Post subject: Re: Rebellions Reply with quote
Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:
Lastly, I am utterly shocked and confused to learn that Itto Igami is a fictional character.
Who in the hell is "Itto Igami"???!!! Just Kidding Just Kidding Twisted Evil
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2007 7:07 pm    Post subject: Re: Rebellions Reply with quote
kitsuno wrote:
...Mercenaries, on the other hand...
How many ronin, especially during the Edo period, were mercenaries? How many jobs were actually available for mercenaries -- and how many Edo period ronin could stride in town a la Yojimbo (in Kurosawa's film) and could quickly get a bodyguard or mercenary job because of their supremely excellent sword skills?

I recently saw a film, called HANA MO MORI NAO (the title is a reference to Asano Naganori's death poem). In it, there is a ronin who lives in the slums along with the other commoner inhabitants. He keeps bragging to the hero about how many influential people he knows who will offer him a position among the Hatamoto. One of the commoners raises his eyebrows and tells the hero that "his tales get taller all the time." Later on, there is a scene which reveals that this ronin has bamboo swords. This guy was probably more like the typical Edo period ronin than all those "Yojimbo" characters in the films. Of course this was a film and not a historical account. Cool

Actually, I did come across a late-Edo period historical description of a skilled ronin who was "rather shabbily dressed, and was evidently very poor." He was challenged to a duel by three clan samurai. He ended up killing two of them and the 3rd guy thought better and ran away. The account gave no name for this skilled, anonymous ronin nor any indication of anyone offering a job to him, either with the clan or as a bodyguard or in any other position that a skilled swordsman could fill.

Here is the url:

http://home.att.net/~hofhine/Samurai.html
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2007 7:22 pm    Post subject: Re: Rebellions Reply with quote
Baian wrote:
Quote:
So here is an exercise: Tell the stories of actual individual historical Edo period ronin. Can you think of any? Can you find any accounts? Please do NOT tell us about fictional characters i.e. Ogami Itto. I want to know about actual ronin who really existed.


Many ronin were famous, just think about it. All those swordsmen like Itto Ittosai and the likes were all ronin.
If they were good enough, and the dojo earned enough, they didn't have to starve. Quite the opposite image of the poor ronin.
Itto Ittosai lived in the 16th century, well before the Edo period. Same with Tsukahara Bokkuden, who was even earlier, living in the 15th century.

In this discussion, I was trying to cocentrate on Edo period ronin, living in the 17th through middle 19th century.

Miyamoto Musashi is an example of a ronin who became a famous swordsman during the early parts of the Edo period, during the 17th century. Right now, he is the only well-known itinerate swordsman from the Edo period that I can think of.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2007 7:29 pm    Post subject: Re: Rebellions Reply with quote
Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:
Wave Tossed wrote:
THREE OUTLAW SAMURAI depicts this very situation. A ronin decides to aid some farmers. The clan daiken decides to try and quietly supress the insurrection, hiring ronin rather than using the clan samurai. Of course this is just a movie. Just Kidding


I'm totally ashamed to say that for all of my enthusiasm about samurai eiga, I've never seen Three Outlaw Samurai. Embarassed Oh, I know, as punishment I should give myself 50 lashes with a wet soba noodle. The weird thing is, as I was writing my above entry, I was thinking, "wow, this would make a great movie plot or what!" Sounds like I was thoroughly beaten to the punch! Patrick Galloway, author of Stray Dogs and Lone Wolves has been on my case to go out and buy this movie as well as he has also scolded me for not knowing much about Mizoguchi's films. The shame factor is building!!
I, as the Grand Shogun of the Edo Period forum, sentence you to commit seppuku with a wet soba noodle!!! Evil or Very Mad Evil or Very Mad Just Kidding Just Kidding
Quote:
Regarding famous Edo period ronin, even my mother-in-law, who knows her Japanese history and acts as my resource of last hope, is struggling to think of any. I think Kitsuno-san is right- the caste system came that came into being starting with Hideyoshi and was pretty much set in concrete once the Tokugawa Shogunate entrenched itself made it hard for any particular ronin to distinguish himself until the onset of the bakumatsu period.
Exactly my point. In many ways, it seems that the ronin were more down-trodden and oppressed than the farmers. Which is why the farmers found time and motivation to revolt every so often. Whereas most ronin seemed to just resign themselves to grinding and anonymous lives.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2007 7:39 pm    Post subject: Re: Rebellions Reply with quote
Wave Tossed wrote:
kitsuno wrote:
...Mercenaries, on the other hand...


Actually, I did come across a late-Edo period historical description of a skilled ronin who was "rather shabbily dressed, and was evidently very poor." He was challenged to a duel by three clan samurai. He ended up killing two of them and the 3rd guy thought better and ran away. The account gave no name for this skilled, anonymous ronin nor any indication of anyone offering a job to him, either with the clan or as a bodyguard or in any other position that a skilled swordsman could fill.

Here is the url:

http://home.att.net/~hofhine/Samurai.html


I remember reading that. Sakujiro Yokoyama was born in 1864, so what he witness most likely happened during the Bakumatsu. He couldn't have been older than 4 at that time (1868 being the first year of Meiji).
Although it could have happened until 1871, I doubt it. Edo Bakumatsu was much more turbulent and likely to have brawls.
It makes me wonder how accurate his memory was at that time if he was indeed that young.

An interesting story nonetheless.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2007 8:10 pm    Post subject: Re: Rebellions Reply with quote
Baian wrote:
Wave Tossed wrote:
kitsuno wrote:
...Mercenaries, on the other hand...


Actually, I did come across a late-Edo period historical description of a skilled ronin who was "rather shabbily dressed, and was evidently very poor." He was challenged to a duel by three clan samurai. He ended up killing two of them and the 3rd guy thought better and ran away. The account gave no name for this skilled, anonymous ronin nor any indication of anyone offering a job to him, either with the clan or as a bodyguard or in any other position that a skilled swordsman could fill.

Here is the url:

http://home.att.net/~hofhine/Samurai.html


I remember reading that. Sakujiro Yokoyama was born in 1864, so what he witness most likely happened during the Bakumatsu. He couldn't have been older than 4 at that time (1868 being the first year of Meiji).
Although it could have happened until 1871, I doubt it. Edo Bakumatsu was much more turbulent and likely to have brawls.
It makes me wonder how accurate his memory was at that time if he was indeed that young.

An interesting story nonetheless.
You have a very good point. Yokoyama Sakujiro lived from 1864 - 1914. I wonder if this was a story he may have heard from someone in his family. Or else he was just a young boy. Rolling Eyes
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2007 11:00 pm    Post subject: famous ronin Reply with quote
Hi All, With a little research it may be found that many famous people started their careers as ronin, but that part of their history is obscure. Someone mentioned Musashi. Well that brings to mind Sasaki, who was ronin until being made a retainer when taking his teachers position. Nobunaga, ronin ashigaru? All those teachers that started new schools of swordsmanship, ronin and relatively famous? These would be few in this category. Most ronin would have become farmers and some artisans. When reading some family histories of some modern families, that are farmers with land due to the reform, it is surprising that there were so many with samurai roots. How many became bonze? A few of them became famous. BTW, famous here is being used broadly. Fame in most cases fades with time. John
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2007 11:05 pm    Post subject: Re: famous ronin Reply with quote
shin no sen wrote:
Nobunaga, ronin ashigaru?


Huh? His father was a head of one faction of the Oda clan, not a ronin.
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Obenjo Kusanosuke
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2007 11:08 pm    Post subject: Misspellings, and seppuku with a wet soba noodle Reply with quote
Wave Tossed wrote:
Who in the hell is "Itto Igami"???!!! Just Kidding Just Kidding Twisted Evil


Oops, I even spelled Itto Ogami's name wrong! 私の頭はちょっと悪くになりました!Watashi no atama wa chotto waruku ni narimashita! It should have been Ogami instead of Igami. Well, time to commit seppuku with the wet soba noodle. I'm going to do this online. Here is my death poem which I am borrowing by altering one of the poems of my mentor, Yamauchi Yodo:
Yesterday, drinking south of the brdige; today, drunk north of it.
While there is sake, let me drink it till I'm drunk.
The spectacle of my seppuku is grand but before I cut, let me have another cup.
I turn around to call for sake, but already it has come.
Is this not delight, drinking to one's heart's content?
With this wet soba noodle I do now cut, but alas, I am now quite drunk!


<<hiccup>> Here it goes...ichi, ni, san.... EEEEYAAIIII!!!! Oops. <<hiccup>>. Like dudes and dudettes, I think I broke the soba noodle....I have no second...what to do....<<hiccup>> Let me try again...okay...Yosh!!!! EEEIIYAAAA!!!Nah, I think I'm just giving myself a rash! Any other ideas? Should I try a wet udon noodle? <<hiccup>>.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2007 2:31 am    Post subject: Re: Rebellions Reply with quote
Wave Tossed wrote:
How many ronin, especially during the Edo period, were mercenaries?


Some Ronin made their way overseas and became hired mercenaries for armies in other countries (I believe one of Kitsuno's friends is publishing a book that concerns this). Others became pirates and raided the Chinese and Korean coasts, although this would be probably be more pre-Edo.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2007 2:38 am    Post subject: Re: Rebellions Reply with quote
kitsuno wrote:
Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:


Would Bernard Getz, the NY Subway shooter, qualify? I think he was more like defending himself, but he was called the Subway Vigilante by the NY media.


He was exactly one of my first thoughts, but he didn't go looking for them, he didn't defend anyone but himself, and he didn't do it again. I was thinking more along the lines of Frank Castle:

http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/Punisher.html

The brutal murder of his family made Frank decide to put his military training to good use. He concentrated on punishing criminals who were beyond the reach of the law. Frank eventually learned the identity of the gang who murdered his family. He hunted them down and eliminated all--before dedicating his life to punishing the entire criminal underworld. Though he uses lethal force against the guilty, the Punisher protects innocent people from harm and he never battles the police.

That's what I'm talking about. I can't think of anyone off the top of my head, Ronin or american or yugoslavian or anyone else anywhere in history who took "the protection of the innocent" on as a crusade against tormentors. At best it is a one time thing, or made against an oppressive regime. There are no Kwai Chang Caines of old japan who went from peasant village to peasant village defending against marauders, aside from Zatoichi, anyway Razz

Think about it, at best you'd be a pain or embarassment to the local government, at worst you'd be branded a criminal yourself. You'd be giving up your life for good, it would take a real anti-ghandi to go to that extreme.

I always used to wonder why no one ever became a "true" vigilante ala the Punisher, but my guess is aside from the fact that you'd be giving up any semblance of a normal life to put your life on the line for commoners who couldn't give you any appreciable reward, and because of the "bystander" effect - everyone thinks someone else will do something. Compounded with a legal system and a police force to take that "responsibility" off your shoulders, I guess. You'd have to basically be crazy in the clinical sense of the term.

That's pretty much it-a 'full time' vigilante would have to be pretty wealthy to begin with (which is why Batman is a rich man). I suppose someone could do it in their 'free time' Just Kidding. Not to mention that a legal system and police force takes a very negative view of this sort of behavior and usually tries to punish vigilante behavior more harshly than outright criminal behavior.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2007 2:56 am    Post subject: Re: Rebellions Reply with quote
Wave Tossed wrote:
Exactly my point. In many ways, it seems that the ronin were more down-trodden and oppressed than the farmers. Which is why the farmers found time and motivation to revolt every so often. Whereas most ronin seemed to just resign themselves to grinding and anonymous lives.


I have to disagree with this. While I'm sure there were isolated instances where a ronin had things worse, farmers as a whole were much, much worse off than ronin. In theory, farmers were tied by law to their caste and land (after Hideyoshi)-if things went bad, they couldn't just pack up and move. They could bust their butts all year bringing the harvest to fruition, and if it was a bad year not have enough to cover their rice tax and end up working the whole year just for the privelege of owing more. Having to sell a daughter into prostitution was common. During times of war, they would see samurai armies steal or burn their harvest. And if you've never cultivated rice (particularly the old fashioned way)-it was exhausting, labor intensive work. Even in Japan today, you can see many elderly people who obviously spent a lot of time in the fields-crippled and in a more or less permanently bent over position.
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.
All in all, if I had been living in Edo Japan and had my choice-I would want to be a filthy (rich) merchant.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2007 8:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
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?
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