CHAPTER XI. THE TOKUGAWA SHOGUNATE,-ITS POLITICAL RÉGIME
THE spirit of the coming age was loudly heralded by Nobunaga. Most of the hindrances which had persistently obstructed the national progress for a long while were cleared away at his peremptory call. Then out of the quarry opened by him the stones for the new pieces of sculpture were hewn out by his successor Hideyoshi. The blocks, however, which were only roughcut by the latter, were left unfinished, awaiting the final touch of wise and prudent Iyeyasu. The Shogunate which he set up at Yedo, now Tokyo, in the province of Musashi, continued for more than two centuries and a half. Not only was it the longest in duration among our Shogunates, but it exceeded most of the European dynasties in the number of years which it covered, being a little longer than the reign of the Bourbons in France, including that of the branch of Orleans and of the Restoration. During this long régime of the single house of the Tokugawa, Japan had been able to prepare herself slowly to attain the stage on which all the world witnesses her now standing.
The history of Japan under this Shogunate shows that throughout the whole epoch our country had not yet been entirely stripped of her medieval garments, but it is absurd at the same time to designate the period as essentially not modern. For long years we have been on our forward march, always dragging along with us the ever- accumulating residue of the civilisation of the past. If any one, however, should venture to judge us by the enormous heaps of these souvenirs of a bygone civilisation overburdening us, and should say that the Japanese had been standing still these two centuries and a half, then he would be entirely mistaken. The overestimation of Japan of the Meidji era by a great many foreigners is, though seconded by not a few Japanese, a fault which had its origin in this misapprehension about our country under the Tokugawa régime. The attention of these observers was engrossed, when they took their first views of the land and people, by those things which seemed to them strange and curious, being quite different from what they themselves possessed at home, or which were thought by them anachronistic, on account of having been abandoned by them long ago, though once they had them also in their own countries. As regards what they had been accustomed to at home, they took very little notice of it in Japan, and considered the existence of such things in our country as a matter of course, if they happened to come across them. Most of them came over to Japan, prepossessed already by their expectations of finding here a unique country, and were thus unconsciously led, after their view of the country itself, to depict it in a very quaint light, as something entirely different from anything they had ever experienced anywhere; an error which even the most studious and acute observer, such as Engelhardt Kaempfer, was not able to escape. No need to mention the rest, especially those missionaries who wished to extol their own merits at the expense of the Japanese. We are still suffering from misconceptions about our country on the part of Europeans,-misconceptions which are the legacy of the misrepresentation of Japan by those early observers. By no means, however, do I presume to try to exhibit Japan only in her brightest colours. Far from it, and what I ask foreign readers not to forget is that the history of Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate, the period which was essentially modern, should not be superficially judged by its abundance of feudal trammels fondly described by contemporary Europeans. In this chapter, I shall first make manifest which were the things medieval retained in the time of the Tokugawa, and then treat about the essential character of the age which should be called all but modern.
In the foregoing chapter I spoke about some resemblances between our later Ashikaga period and the Italian renaissance of the Quattrocento. In the successive phases which followed in the East and in the West, there might be found some other similarities. History, however, has not been ordained to run in streams exactly parallel to one another in all countries, and to be a counterpart of the age of the Reformation, the epochs of the Oda and the Toyotomi are not more appropriate than the age of the Kamakura Shogunate. A style in Japanese art, prevalent during and after the régime of Hideyoshi and called "the Momoyama" by recent connoisseurs had a striking resemblance to the Empire style, which followed the Rococo in Europe, and in some respects indeed the later Ashikaga period of our history might be likened to Europe of the eighteenth century, without gross inappropriateness, while at other points it might be compared to the Renaissance with equal fairness. It would be very stupid, however, to surmise that Japan in the Tokugawa period attained to a culture which in its general aspect belonged almost to the same stage as that prevailing in Europe in the early nineteenth century. Art, though an important cultural factor, cannot be made the sole criterion of the civilisation of any nation or people. It is quite indisputable that Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate had many things about which we could not boast.
So long as war is a calamity unavoidable in this world, it is folly to expect in any country that the cruelty of men to men will entirely cease. But if the intensity of cruelty in warfare be taken as being in inverse ratio to the progress of civilisation, as it generally used to be, then the Tokugawa period evidently should not be lauded as an age of great enlightenment. Until the end of the Shogunate of this house it had been the custom for a warrior on the battlefield to cut off the head of the antagonist whom he had slain. Though we have had no such demoralising sort of warfare in our history as that carried on by mercenary troops in medieval Europe, where defeated warriors were taken prisoners in order to obtain from them as rich ransoms as they could afford to pay, in other words, though the nature of warfare in Japan was far more serious in general than in the West, it was on that account far more dangerous for the combattants engaged. It was the custom in any battle to reward that warrior who first decapitated an enemy's head as generously as one who was the first over the wall in an attack on a fortress. Moreover, during the ceremony in celebration of a victory on a battlefield, all those enemy heads were collected and brought for the inspection of the commanding general of the victorious army. Such a custom in warfare, however efficient it might have been in stimulating the martial courage of warriors, cannot be regarded as praiseworthy in any civilised country, even where war is considered as the highest occupation of the people.
The Japanese manner of suicide called harakiri or seppuku, a custom of world-wide celebrity, is another thing which is well to be commented on here. If any foreigner should suppose that seppuku has been very frequently committed in the same manner as we see it practised on the stage, he would be greatly misled in appreciating the true national character of the Japanese. On the contrary, seppuku has not been a matter of everyday occurrence, having taken place far less frequently than one hears now-a-days about railway accidents. Moreover, when it was performed, it was carried out in decent ways, if we may use the word decent here, and not in the grotesque mode displayed on the Japanese stage, accompanied by sardonic laughter, with bowels exposed after cutting the belly crosswise. The reason why the Japanese warrior resorted to seppuku in committing suicide was not to kill himself in a methodically cruel manner, but to die an honourable and manly death by his own hand. For such methods of committing suicide, as taking poison, drowning, strangling oneself, and the like, were considered very ignoble, and especially unworthy of warriors. Even to die by merely cutting one's throat was held to be rather effeminate. The fear of the protraction of the death agony was looked on as a token of cowardice, and therefore to be able to kill one's self in the most sober and circumstantial manner, and at the same time to do it with every consideration of others, was thought to be one of the requisite qualifications of a brave warrior in an emergency. In short, for a suicide to be honourable, it had to be proved that it was not the result of insanity. Thus we can see that not the spirit of cruelty but martial honour was the motive of committing seppuku, and it would be unfair to stigmatise the Japanese as a cruel people because of the practice. Still I am far from wishing to vindicate this custom in all its aspects. The fact that this method of killing one's self continued during the whole of the Tokugawa régime as a penalty, without loss of honour, for capital crimes of the samurai show that the humane culture of the age left much to be wished for.
Class distinction was another dark spot on the culture of the age. All sorts of people outside the fighting class were roughly classified into three bodies, that is to say, peasants, artisans, and merchants, and were held in utter subjection, as classes made simply to be governed. But the often quoted tradition that warriors of that time had as their privilege the right to kill any of the commonalty at their sweet will and pleasure, without the risk of incurring the slightest punishment thereby, is erroneous, having no foundation in real historical fact. Those warriors who had committed a homicide were without prejudice called upon to justify their act before the proper authority. If they failed to prove that they were the provoked and injured party, they were sure to have severe penalties inflicted on them. On the whole, however, the common people in the Tokugawa age were looked down upon by warriors as inferiors in reasoning and understanding, and therefore as disqualified to participate in public affairs, social as well as political. That their intellectual defects must have been due to their neglected education was a matter clean put out of mind. As regards the respective professions of the above-mentioned three classes of plebeians, agriculture was thought to be the most honourable, on account of producing the staple food-material, so that warriors, especially of the lower classes, did not disdain to engage in tilling the lands alotted to them or in exploring new arable lands. The peasants themselves, however, were not so greatly esteemed on account of their engaging in a profession which was held honourable. Handicrafts in general and artisans employed in them had not been held particularly respectable by themselves, but as the profession was productive, it was recognised as indispensable, despised by no means. Moreover, many artistic geniuses, who had come out of the innumerable multitudes of artisans of various trades, have been held in very high regard in our country, where the people have the reputation of being one of the most artistic in the world; and those articles of rare talent unwittingly raised the esteem of the crafts in which they were engaged. That which was most despised as a profession was the business of merchants in all lines, for to gain by buying and selling was thought from times past to be a transaction approaching almost to chicanery, and therefore by no means to be encouraged from the standpoint of national and martial morals. Pedlars and small shopkeepers were therefore simply held in contempt. Great merchants, however, though not much esteemed on account of their profession, were generally treated with due consideration in virtue of their amassed wealth. Only too frequently had the Shogunate, as well as various daimyo, been obliged to stoop to court the goodwill of rich merchants in order to get money from them.
The methods of taxation were very arbitrary, and the person and the rights of property of individuals were not very highly respected at that time, the common people under the Shogunate being often subjected to hard and brutal treatment, their persons maltreated and injured and their properties confiscated on various trifling pretences. Though the way to petition was not absolutely debarred to them, it was made very irksome and perilous for plebeians to sue and obtain a hearing for their manifold complaints. On the other hand, as they were not recognised as a part of the nation to be necessarily consulted, and as the vox populi was not heeded in the management of public affairs, their education was not regarded as an indispensable duty of the government. No serious endeavour had ever been made to improve the common people intellectually, nor to raise their standard of living. If a number of them showed themselves able to behave like gentle folk, as if they had been warriors by birth and, therefore, well-educated, they were rewarded as men of extraordinary merits such as could not be reasonably expected of them.
The status of the political organisation of the country during the Tokugawa régime was also what ought to be called medieval, if we draw our conclusions from the materials ranged on the darker side only. The country had been divided into parcels, large and small, numbering in all a little less than three hundred, each with a territorial lord or a daimyo as its quasi-independent autocratic ruler. The frontier line dividing adjacent territories belonging to different daimyo used to be guarded very vigilantly on both sides, and passage, both in and out, was minutely scrutinised. For that purpose numerous barrier-gates were set up along and within the boundary. Any land bounded by such frontiers, and conferred on a daimyo by the Shogunate as his hereditary possession, was by its nature a self-constituted state, the political system prevailing within which having been modelled after that of the Shogunate itself. At the same time the territory of a daimyo was economically a self-providing, self-sufficient body. To become in such wise independent at least was the ideal of the daimyo possessing the territory or of the territorial statesmen under him. In other words, the territory of a daimyo was an entity, political and economical. In each territory certain kinds of produce from those confines had been strictly prohibited by regulation to be exported beyond the frontier, for fear that there might sometimes occur a scarcity of those commodities for the use of the inhabitants of the territory, or lest other territories should imitate the cultivation of like kinds of produce, so that the value of their own commodities might decrease thereby. In case of a famine, that is to say, of the failure of rice crops in a territory, a phenomenon which has by no means been of rare occurrence in our country, the export of cereals used to be forbidden in most of the neighboring territories, even when they had a "bumper crop." Such an internal embargo testifies that not only had Japan been closed against foreigners, but within herself each territory cared only for its own welfare, adhering to a mercantilist principle, as if it stood quite secluded from the rest of the country. Very little of the cohesion necessary to an integral state could be perceived in Japan of that time.
Such was the condition of Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate presented to the eyes of, and easily noticed by, the foreign observers, who visited our country at the beginning and the middle of the period. Nay, many of the foreigners who wrote about our land and people seem to have shared nearly the same views as above. In truth, however, many important factors of the Japanese history of this epoch have been omitted by them, and the idea they could form of Japan from the one-sided and scanty material at their disposal was only a very incomplete image of modern Japanese civilisation. I shall, therefore, try to give a general survey of the political and social condition of our country from the beginning of the seventeenth century down to the Revolution of the Meidji, and then shall treat in brief about the civilisation of the age.
The Shogunate of the house of the Tokugawa was not an entirely new invention. It was a partial recognition of the old régime which Iyeyasu had inherited from Hideyoshi, as far as the territorial lords were concerned, who were installed or recognised anterior to the advent of Iyeyasu to power. Though a great many of the former feudatories, especially those who had been faithful to the House of the Toyotomi to the last, had been killed or deprived of their possessions after the decisive battle of Sekigahara, not a few of them survived, counting among them the most powerful of the daimyo, the House of Mayeta, who was the master of Kaga and two other provinces on the Sea of Japan. The lords of this kind had formerly been the equals of the Tokugawa, when the latter was standing under the protection of Hideyoshi, and it was difficult for the new Shogunate, in a country where the Emperor has ever been the paramount sovereign, to make those lords formally swear the oath of fealty to itself. The nature of the sovereignty, therefore, of the Tokugawa over the feudatories aforesaid was only that of primus inter pares. The daimyo who stood in this relation to the Shogunate were called tozaama.
The rest of the daimyo, together with the bodyguard of the Shogun, the so-called "eighty thousand" with their habitual residence at Yedo, made up the hereditary retainers or fudai. The nondomestic daimyo had nothing to do with the Shogun's central government, all the posts of which, from such high functionaries as the rôchû or elders, who were none other than the cabinet ministers of the Shogunate, down to such petty officials as scribes and watchmen, had been all filled with domestics of various grades. As far as these domestics or direct retainers of the Shogunate were concerned, the military régime of the Tokugawa can be held to have been a revived form of that of Kamakura. In the former, however, the disparity in power and wealth between the upper and the lower domestics of the Shogun was far more remarkable than it had been among the retainers of the latter, that is to say, the djito. The term "go-kenin," held to be honourable in the time of Kamakura, became, in the Tokugawa period, a designation of the lowest order of the direct vassals of the Shogun. A certain number belonging to the upper class of the fudai or domestics of the Tokugawa Shogunate were made daimyo, and placed on the same footing as feudatories of historical lineage, the former equals of the Tokugawa, and formed with them henceforth the highest military nobility of the country. The remainder of the domestics, who were not raised to the rank of daimyo, were comprised under the name of hatamoto, which means "under the standard," that is to say, the Body-guard of the Shogun. Among the members of this body there were indeed numerous scales of gradation. The lowest of them had to lead a very miserable and straitened life in some obscure corners of the city of Yedo, while the best of them stood as regards income very near to minor daimyo, and were often more influential. Their political status, however, notwithstanding manifold differences in rank among them, was all the same, all being equally, direct vassals of the Shogunate, and having no regular warriors or samurai as their own vassals. They, therefore, belonged to the lowest grade of the privileged classes in the military hierarchy, and in this respect there was no cardinal difference between them and the common samurai who were vassals of ordinary daimyo. That they were, however, the immediate subjects of the Shogun, and that they did not owe fealty to any daimyo, who was in reality subordinate at least to the Shogun, if not his vassal in name, placed them in a status like that of the knights immediate of the Holy Roman Empire or of the mediatised princes of recent Germany; in short, above the status of ordinary samurai attached to an ordinary daimyo. Strictly speaking, between these two there interposed another group of samurai. They were the vassals of the three daimyo of extraordinary distinction, of Nagoya in the province of Owari, of Wakayama in the province of Kii, and of Mito in the province of Hitachi. All these three being of the lateral branches of the Tokugawa, were held in specially high regard, and put at the topmost of all the other daimyo, so that their vassals considered themselves to be quasi hatamoto and therefore above the "common" or "garden" samurai.
The daimyo acted as virtual potentates in territories granted to them, and held a court and a government there, both modelled largely after the household and the government of the Shogun at Yedo. The better part of the daimyo resided in castles built imposingly after the architectural style of the fortresses in Europe at that time, the technic having perhaps been introduced along with Christianity, and they led a life far more easy and elegant, though more regular, than the shugo of the Ashikaga age. It has been ascribed, by the way, to the rare sagacity of Iyeyasu as a politician, that the territories of the two kinds of daintyo, tozama and fudai, were so adroitly juxtaposed, that the latter were able to keep watch over the former's attitude toward the Shogunate.
The daimyo were ranked according to the officially estimated amount of rice to be produced in the territory of each. In the time of Kamakura, the renumeration of the djito was counted by the area of ricefields in the manor entrusted to his care. By and by, the land which was the source of the renumeration for a djito came to be partitioned among his numerous descendants, and some of the portions allotted became so small, that it was but ridiculous to think of exercising the jurisdiction of military police over them. Area of land began to cease thus to be the standard of valuation of the income of a djito, when the office of djito meant only the emolument accompanying it, and no longer carried with it the responsibility incumbent on it at its first establishment. The ultimate result of such a change was that the quantity or the price of rice produced began to be adopted gradually as the standard of valuation of the income of territorial lords, and for a while the two standards were in use together till the end of the Ashikaga age. Moreover, infrequently part of the income of a shugo was reckoned by the quantity of rice, while another part of the income of the same shugo was assessed by the sale-price of the rice cultivated. This promiscuous way of valuation, however, caused great irregularity and confusion. For, added to the disagreement about the real quantity of rice produced and the amount registered to be produced, the price of the cereal itself had been so ceaselessly fluctuating according to the inconstant condition of crops, that there was no such thing as a regular standard price of rice, invariably applicable to any year and to any locality. Nevertheless, in an age when no uniform system of currency was established and to accept any coin at its face value was an impossible matter, in other words, when it was difficult to represent the price of rice in any sort of coin then in use, to make a standard of value, not of the actual amount of rice but of its unceasingly vacillating price, could not but cause a great deal of inconvenience and confusion. We can easily see from the above that the quantity of rice was by far the surer means of bargaining than the money, which was not only indeterminate in value but insufficient to boot. Hideyoshi, therefore, put a stop to the use of the method of indicating the income of a territorial lord by its valuation in money, and decreed that henceforth only the yearly estimated yield of rice, counted by the koku as a unit, should be adopted as the means of denoting the revenue of a territory, a koku roughly corresponding to five bushels in English measure. The land-survey, which he undertook on a grand scale throughout the whole empire, had as its main purpose to measure the area of land classed as rice-fields in the territories of the daimyo, according to the units newly decreed, and to make the estimate of the amount of rice said to be produced commensurate as nearly as possible with the average crop realisable. Withal, the inequality of the standard of estimate in different localities was rectified by this assessment of Hideyoshi's.
This method of estimating the income of a daimyo had come into general use since the beginning of the Tokugawa Shogunate. As there was then no system in our country of gradating the daimyo by titles, such as dukes, counts, and so forth, the estimated annual yield of rice in koku was used as the sole means of determining the rank of the lords of the various territories in the long queue of the Tokugawa daimyo, with the exception of a very few who had been placed in a comparatively high rank on account of their specially noble lineage or the unique position of their families in the national history, though most of the nobles belonging to the latter class were classed as an intervening group. The minimum number of koku assigned to a daimyo was ten thousand. As regards the maximum number of koku, there was no legal limit. One who stood, however, highest in order was the abovementioned House of Mayeta, the lord of Kaga etc., whose domain was assessed at more than a million koku. About tfiree hundred daimyo, who were ranged between the two extremes, were divided into three orders. All those worth more than two hundred thousand koku formed a class of the daimyo major, and those worth less than one hundred thousand were comprised in a group of the daimyo minor, while the rest, that is to say, those between one and two hundred thousand formed the middle corps.
In the Shogun's court, a seat was assigned to each daimyo in a specified room, according to the class to which he belonged. One could, therefore, easily tell the rank of a daimyo by the name of the room in which he had to wait when he attended on the Shogun. All daimyo, almost without exception, had to move in and out at fixed intervals between his terrtory, where his castle or camp stood, and Yedo, where he kept, or, to say more correctly, was granted by the Shogun, residences, generally more than two in number. The interval allowed to a daimyo for remaining in his territory varied according to the distance of that territory from Yedo, being the shorter and oftener for the nearer. He was obliged to leave his wife and children constantly in one of his residences at Yedo, as hostages for his fidelity to the Shogun. As to the vassals or samurai of a daimyo, there were also two sorts. By far the greater part of the samurai belonging to a daimyo had their dwellings in their master's territory, generally in the vicinity of his castle. These samurai were the main support of their lord, and had to accompany him by turns in his official tour to Yedo and back. The rest of the samurai under the same lord, a band which formed the small minority, lived constantly in Yedo, each family in a compartment of the accessory buildings surrounding the lord's residence like a colony. These were as a rule men who were enlisted into the service of a daimyo more for the sake of making a gallant show at his official and social functions at Yedo, than for the sake of strengthening his fighting forces. It was natural that men accustomed to the polished life of the military capital were thought better qualified to fulfil such functions than the rustic samurai fresh from his territories who were good only for fighting and other serious kinds of business. While a daimyo was absent in his territory, a samurai of his, belonging to this metropolitan group, was entrusted with the care of his residences and their occupants in Yedo, and also with the duty of receiving orders from the Shogunate or of transacting interterritorial business with representatives of other daimyo at Yedo. The meetings held by these representatives of the daimyo were said to be one of the most fashionable gatherings in Yedo. That the doyen of such functionaries had a certain prestige over others, was very similar to the usage among the diplomatic corps in Europe.
The samurai who had their abode in their lord's territory, however, represented the real strength of a daimyo, and were the soul and body of the whole military régime. The number of samurai in a territory differed according to the rank and the resources of a daimyo. Some of the powerful nobles counted more than ten thousand regular samurai under them, while minor ones could maintain only a few hundred as necessary retainers. In the latter case almost all of the samurai had their dwellings clustering around the castle or camp of their lord. If there were any samurai who lived outside of the residential town, they led an agricultural rather than a soldierly life. The relation of vassalage in such a territory was simple, for under the samurai consisting of a single order there was no swordswearer serving them. In the territory of the powerful daimyo, however, especially in those of the big daimyo in Kyushu and the northern part of Honto, comprising an area of two or more average provinces in Middle Japan, the relation of vassalage was very complicated, sometimes forming a feudalism of the second order. That is to say, the most influential samurai under those daimyo had also their own small territory granted by their lord, just as the latter had his granted or recognised by the Shogunate, and held several hundred swords-wearers, non-commissioned samurai, in their service. It was not rare that some of these magnates surpassed in income many minor independent daimyo, and had in their hands the destiny of a greater number of people, for their emolument rose often to twenty or thirty thousand koku. Their rank in the military régime, however, was indisputably lower than that of the smallest of daimyo, on account of their being only indirectly subordinate to the Shogun.
In all territories throughout the whole country, the emolument of the samurai was granted in the form of land, or of rice from the granaries of the daimyo, or paid in cash. Sometimes we see a combination of two or three of these forms given to one samurai. Besides this pay a patch of ground was allotted to each samurai as his homestead, and a part of that ground used to be cultivated to produce vegetables for family consumption. In whatever form a samurai might receive his stipend, it was officially denoted by the number of koku, registered as his nominal income, and that very number determined his position in the list of vassals of a daimyo, unless he came from an extraordinarily distinguished lineage. As regards the maximum and the minimum number of koku given to samurai, there was no uniform standard applicable to all of the territories. Such powerful daimyo as Mayeta in Kaga, Shimatsu in Satsuma, and Date in Mutsu owned many vassal-samurai who were so puissant as to be fairly comparable to small daimyo, while in the territories of the latter, a samurai of pretty high position in his small territorial circle received an allowance of koku so scant that one of the lowest rank, if he were a regular samurai, would disdain to receive in big territories. Generally speaking, however, one hundred koku was considered to be an average standard, applicable to samurai under any daimyo, to distinguish those of the respectable or official class from those of the non-commissioned or subaltern class. Only the samurai above this standard could keep servants bearing two swords, long and short, as a samurai himself did. Not only all officers in time of war, but all high civil functionaries in the territorial government of a daimyo were taken from this body of orthodox samurai. The samurai below this level could keep a servant wearing only one sword, the shorter, and they had to serve their lord as officials of the inferior class, such as scribes, cashiers, butlers, etc.
The lowest in the scale of the military régime was the group of ashigarit, that is to say, of the light infantry. Those who belonged to this group, though wearers of two swords, were not counted as of the corps of samurai. Being legally vassals of a daimyo, they had yet very rare chances of serving him directly, and often they enlisted into the household service of a higher samurai. Between the ashigaru and the regular samurai, there was another intermediate group of two-sworded men, called kachi, which means warriors-on-foot. In feudal times all warriors, if of samurai rank, were presumed to be cavaliers, though in reality most of them had not even a stable, and skill in horsemanship was not rigorously required from the samurai of the lower class. The name kachi, given to those who in rank came next to the samurai, implied that this intermediate group of quasi- samurai was not allowed to ride on horse-back. This group was, however, much nearer to the samurai than to the ashigaru group.
So far I have given a rough sketch of the gradations in the military régime in the territory of a daimyo. It should be here noticed that, besides the classes above stated, there were many other minor groups below the regular samurai, and that there were also diverse heterogeneities of system in the territories of different daimyo. Needless to say that the gradations and kinds of hatamoto, who were samurai serving directly under the Shogun, were far more multifarious and complex than those of the samurai under a daimyo. There is no doubt, however, that the apex of the whole military régime was the Shogun himself, while at its foundation were the sundry samurai who numbered perhaps nearly half a million families in all.
All the lands of Japan were not allotted exhaustively to the daimyo by the Shogunate. On the contrary, immense territories in various parts of the empire, amounting to four millions of koku, was reserved to the Shogun himself. Important sea-ports, such as Nagasaki, Sakai, and Niigata, rich mines like those in the province of Iwami and in the island of Sado, the vast forest of Kiso in the province of Shinano, and so forth, were kept in the hands of the Shogunate, out of economical as well as political reasons. With the income from all these agricultural and industrial resources, the Shogunate defrayed all the governmental charges and the expenses of national defence, as well as the enormous civil list of the Shogun himself, who maintained a very luxurious court. The stipend for the lower class of hatamoto, who had no land allotted to them, was paid also with the rice raised in the Shogun's domain or bought with his money and stored in Yedo. As to the fiscal system and the direct domain of a daimyo in his territory, it is needless to say that everywhere the imitation of that of the Shogun prevailed, conducted only on a smaller scale.
The relation of the Shogunate to the Emperor at Kyoto was on the whole but a continuation of the same status as in the time of Hideyoshi. Since the Fujiwara period state affairs had ceased to be conducted personally by the Emperor himself. The regent, who was at first, and ought to have been ever after, appointed during the minority or the illness of an Emperor, became identical with the highest ministerial post, and lost its extraordinary character. It is true that some of the able emperors, dissatisfied with such a state of things, tried to take the reins of government into their own hands again, and some succeeded for a while in the recovery of their political power, so far as their relations with the Fujiwara family were concerned. What they could recover, however, was not all of the prestige which had slipped out of the hands of their predecessors. For on account of the lassitude of the Fujiwara courtnobles, the power which they had once arrogated to themselves passed into the possession of the newly arisen warrior class, and what those emperors could recover was only a part of what still remained in the hands of the Fujiwara. The Emperor Go-Daigo was the last who tried desperately to resume the imperial prerogative once wrested from the Kamakura Shogunate, and he succeeded in his endeavour. He could not, however, prevent the advent to power of the new Shogunate of the Ashikaga. After that, through the most turbulent age in the history of Japan, which continued to the time of Hideyoshi, the imperial household could sustain itself only meagrely on the scanty income from a few estates. But however lacking in power and material resource the Emperor might have been, he still continued to be the source and fountain of honour as ever, and everybody clearly knew that he was, being held divine, indisputably higher than the Shogun, who was obliged to obey if the Emperor chose to command. What was to be regretted was that no Emperor had been strong enough to command. The saying "le roi régne, mais il ne gouverne pas" has never been accepted in our country as the constitutional principle. That the imperial prestige was never totally lost even in the depths of the turmoil of war may be proved by the fact that the Emperor often interceded in struggles between various daimyo, who waged weary and acrimonious wars against one another. The political situation of the Emperor, however, had been unsettled for a long while, only because the situation had remained for long not urgent enough to require to be made instantly clear. If it had had to be solved at once, without doubt it must have been solved in favour of the Emperor. Especially after the civil war of the Ohnin era, to restore the nominal power, of which the Shogun of the Ashikaga family was in possession, would have added nothing substantial to the real power of the then Emperor, for the Shogunate of that time was but a scapegoat in the hands of impudent and adventurous warriors. Even the prestige of the Emperor and the Shogun combined would not have sufficed to achieve anything momentous at that period, when the country had been so torn asunder as not to be easily united and pacified. What was most needed in Japan of that time was a fresh, strong, energetic military dictator.
Nobunaga, who came soon after the Ashikaga, was endued, at the height of his power, with a civil title belonging to the régime of court-nobles, and had not, until his untimely death, been invested by the Emperor with the Shogunate. Having sprung from a warrior family which had been originally subservient to one of the retainers of the Shogunate, he would perhaps have been loth himself to be looked on as an usurper even after he had ceased to assist the Shogun, who survived him. Moreover, during his whole life, it was impossible for him to become the virtual master of the whole of Japan. It was Hideyoshi, his vassal and successor, who succeeded at last in the unification of long-disturbed Japan by dint of arms. He, however, was also not invested with the Shogunate. It is said that he would have liked, indeed, to become one, but was dissuaded from it, having been reminded that he did not belong to either the Minamoto or the Taira, the two renowned warrior-families which were historically thought to be the only ones qualified to provide the generalissimo, the Shogun. After his death and the subsequent defeat of the partisans of his family in the decisive battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Iyeyasu Tokugawa, who gave himself out as the descendant of Minamoto-no-Yoshiiye, succeeded to the power as Shogun in 1603. With this political change the Emperor had really very little to do, except to give recognition to the fait accompli. The selection of Yedo by Iyeyasu as the site of the new Shogunate created a political situation like that of Kamakura by Yoritomo. It is even said that Iyeyasu himself in organising the new military régime made the system of the Kamakura Shogunate his model.
By the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate, no marked change occurred in the Emperor's position as supreme sovereign of the country as ever, but the Shogunate conducted the state business as the regent entrusted with the whole care of the island Empire, so that the government at Yedo had no occasion to refer to the court at Kyoto to obtain the imperial sanction. In this respect the Shogunate of Yedo was decidedly more independent of the Imperial Court than had been the Kamakura Shogunate. Kyoto, however, continued as before to be the fountain head of all honour. All the honours and titles of the daimyo were conferred in the name of the reigning Emperor, though through the intermediary of the Shogunate. The appellations of these distinctions were also the same as those given to court-nobles, only being comparatively low in the case of the former, if we take the real influence of the daimyo into consideration. For the emoluments of court-nobles in the time of the Tokugawa were generally very small, and the highest of them could only match materially with the middle class of the hatamoto or the high class vassals of some powerful daimyo. All the manorial estates which the court-nobles had retained until the middle of the Ashikaga period had since been occupied by warriors paramount in the respective regions, and they changed their master several times during the anarchical disorders at the end of the period, so that restitution became utterly impossible. The total amount which the Shogunate at Yedo had to pay to the court-nobles as annual honoraria was about eighty thousand koku.
The Imperial Household had a civil list amounting at first to one hundred thousand koku, which was more than three times what it had been at the time of the Ashikaga. A little later it was increased to three hundred thousand koku, and the sum remained stationary at that figure for more than half a century. Then an annual subsidy in cash between thirty and forty thousand ryô was added. The Empress had to be provided for separately. When there was an ex-Emperor or Crown Prince, then he also was entitled to a separate allowance from Yedo. If we include, therefore, the emolument paid to the court-nobles, and estimate them all together by the number of koku, the Shogunate had to pay to Kyoto an annual sum of between four and five hundred thousand. Extraordinary expenditures, such as the rebuilding of the imperial palace, were also part of the burden of the Shogunate. On the whole, the financial condition of the court at Kyoto was somewhat more straitened than that of the most powerful daimyo.
With his income as stated the Emperor maintained his court, and performed historical ceremonies, each prescribed for a certain day of a certain season. He did not need to trouble himself about state affairs, for all such matters had been delegated de facto to the Shogunate, or rather the Shogun behaved himself as if he were the sole agent of the Emperor. To have direct communication with the Emperor had been forbidden to all daimyo. The Shogun, on his part, entrusted everything concerning local affairs to the daimyo. As to the judicial procedure, that of the Shogunate was taken as the model by all daimyo. There still prevailed a great many peculiarities in each particular territory in the ways of legislation and its enforcement, so that Japan of that time presented a most motley aspect as regards legal matters, like France under the ancient régime. The power of the daimyo to impose taxes and raise contributions was restricted by no explicit law, and therefore had been exercised rather arbitrarily. When in financial stress, he could freely make applications, approaching to commands, to some of his well-to-do subjects, whatever the cause of his pecuniary embarrassment might be. Besides he could coin money, if its use were limited to his own territory. No need to say that notes were also abundantly issued by his treasurer for circulation within his territory as substitutes for the legal tender. In time of peace the samurai under a daimyo served their lord in his territorial government as civil officials. They, however, being warriors by nature, had to be constantly trained in military arts, with various weapons, among which swords and spears were preferred as the most practical. Archery had not been abandoned entirely, and the bow and arrow was still held to be the emblem of the noble calling of warriors, but this sort of weapon had never been used on battle-fields since the beginning of the Tokugawa period, so that the art had become on the whole ceremonial. The use of fire-arms introduced at the end of the Ashikaga epoch became rapidly general all over the country. Gunners were employed, as archers formerly had been, in opening a battle, and then made way for the attack of the infantry. Shooting was considered in the Tokugawa period to be more practical than archery, but as there was little space for showing personal bravery in the practice of this art, it was not highly encouraged among the samurai. Though fighting on horseback had not been prevalent on the battle-field since the middle Ashikaga, commanders at least continued to ride, so that horsemanship was a requisite art of the samurai in the Tokugawa age, especially among its higher grades. It should be here well noticed the jûjutsu, which is now very celebrated all over the world as a military art originated and cultivated by the Japanese, did not much attract the attention of the orthodox Tokugawa warriors, for it was thought to be an art useful in arresting culprits, and therefore good only for lower samurai or those below them in rank, who were generally in charge of the police business in all territories.
With such military accomplishments, the samurai of the period were to serve their territorial master in time of war as leaders and fighters, for it was still the age in which all warriors were expected to display a personal bravery, parallel to their ability to lead and command troops, as in medieval Europe. As there had been neither external nor civil war, however, for more than two centuries since the semi-religious insurrection at Shimabara in Kyushu was subdued in the year 1638, war was prepared for only as an imaginary possibility, and not as a probable emergency. The samurai of all territories, therefore, though said to be on a constant war footing, were not trained as they should have been. We see indeed the division of them into fighting groups and the appointment of a leader for each group in times of peace. But there was no manœuvring nor any training of a like kind in tactical movements. The only military exercise approaching it was the hunting of wild game or the sham hunting which ended in cruelly sacrificing dogs, and even these sports were not practised frequently. That those pieces of Japanese armour, which foreigners can now see in many museums in Europe and America, had been long found to be a sort of thing rather inconvenient to wear in this country, yet had nevertheless continued to be a furniture indispensable to every household of samurai and to be embellished with an exquisite workmanship, proves how academically war had been regarded in those far- off days. It can be easily gathered from the above statement that the samurai of the time were more civil functionaries than lighting men. Their real status, however, being warriors and not civilians, they were constantly subjected to martial law. They had to serve their master always with all their might, holding themselves responsible with their lives, as if they were on the battlefield facing the enemy. Many examples may be cited from the history of the age of samurai suicides, committed on account of some misdemeanour or the mismanagement of the civil administration confided to him. In effect, an armed peace reigned throughout the Empire.