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The Samurai History in Japan Essay


Socio-economic Challenges that Kobushin Samurai Faced

Samurai faced a number of challenges, which were both economic and social. In the 19th century, Samurai was the respected royal class of Japan. However, its power faded so fast due to the public mistrust. This was mainly because of the stagnation of income owing to the fact that the society was undergoing change.

Members of the Samurai were unable to achieve their economic interests because of poor returns and oppressive policies. The daimyos and the shogun could not increase taxes because rice farmers were reluctant to appreciate the role of the samurai in society. This affected the Samurai in the sense that the populace lost trust to an extent of refusing to submit taxes, which were in a form of food.

The shift from agriculture as an economic activity to merchant trade affected many people since some individuals became poorer. They could not even sustain their families. This meant that they could not pay taxes to the Samurai. The daimyos had no option, but to increase tax rates for peasants. This complicated everything because the community experienced social disorder.

The rates of crime went up because of frustrations. Katsu noted that the peasants threatened to organize demonstrations, forcing the Samurai to change the strategy as regards to adjusting the tax rates upwards (71). The social position of the Samurai and its economic chances were insidious, which resulted in the internal and external conflicts.

This affected the existence of Kobushin because it was brought down. The royal class attained adequate power that placed it in the top position, with high culture and high social rank. This social position affected economic chances of the Samurai because the higher the social position, the better the chances for attaining high economic positions.

Another challenge that faced the Samurai was the issue of change because the leadership could not handle change. The role of the peasant was always to provide foodstuff and offer taxes in a form of food. However, there was a new trend whereby the society was changing from agricultural society to the merchant society.

The economic activity was changing because the community was adopting trade and quitting agriculture. Before the community changed its economic activity, merchants were viewed as the necessary evil because only unavailable products could be acquired from them. The society was growing at unprecedented rate because the challenges of urbanization were being felt for the first time.

People had to shift from mechanistic societies to what were referred to as organic societies. This was not an easy task (Vaporis 33). The Samurai was not allowed to engage in trade or any other activity that would benefit it economically. The society had become complex since everything relied on economics meaning that those with economic power controlled everything in society.

The Tokugawa laws stated that the Samurai had to offer guidance to the society, but not engaging in profit making activities. Merchants became very rich because the new social and economic trends favored them.

Some peasants benefited directly from the new laws because they engaged in trading activities with the merchants. The power of the Kobushin Samurai was at risk because its social status did not allow it to engage in trade. The society was changing at the rate that few people had anticipated meaning that traditional ways of doing things could no longer hold.

How Katsu Used or Abused his Status as a Samurai to Survive

Katsu had to abuse his status to survive because the society was changing so fast. The new dynamics of society demanded that every person adjusts his or her views to conform to the new trends. During Katsu’s era, there was a tremendous growth of agricultural production. Moreover, the population grew at an alarming rate because there was a reported seventy percent growth.

Tokugawa policies supported land reclamation, which supported agricultural production in various parts of the country. There was adequate peace because of the disarming of peasants and local leaders, which boosted development in various parts of the nation. It is reported that the land cultivated was increased by over one hundred percent meaning that there was surplus production.

Katsu could not sit back and watch the changes taking place without getting involved. Tokugawa regime introduced the use of fertilizers and modern farming techniques that improved people’s living standards. Katsu could not be a part of the changes because of his status in society.

He had to keep off from all economic activities that would make him rich. However, he changed his position when he decided to be a thief because the book reports that he stole and lied to many people to achieve his interests in society. He allowed himself to mingle with people of all characters including beggars, thieves, priests, merchants, gamblers, and the holy.

According to the samurai culture, this was unacceptable because the member of the royal class was expected to conduct him or herself in the manner that befits their status. In other words, Katsu was willing to do virtually everything to ascend to a higher economic status, including spoiling his own reputation and that of his family.

Instead of living in accordance to the culture of the Samurai, Katsu involved himself in activities that were contrary to the provisions of the traditional culture. For instance, he participated in producing goods that would generate profit. This was not allowed because it was considered exploitation.

Members of the ruling class were not expected to exploit the poor by disposing cheap goods at an exorbitant price (Yoda 89). Katsu posited that he engaged himself in the making of lanterns, care parts, and umbrellas. Moreover, he accepted to take up cheap jobs that were contrary to his culture such as car painting, gate keeping, and plastering.

Katsu commented that he was willing to live in accordance with the provisions of the culture, but he would not be able to live a comfortable life. Living a pious life would not bring any greatness to his family hence he decided to engage in activities that contravened the culture.

The Realities of the Urban Life

Urbanization was one of factors that forced Katsu to readjust his view as regards to the traditional culture. The emergence of cities posed serious challenges to both the mighty and the working class. The city life presented new opportunities, as well as challenges to individuals. Katsu was forced to adopt a new way of life whereby he would interact with individuals perceived to be impure.

Katsu lost greatly due to the emergence of the cities because he was always paid in fixed stipends, which were disbursed in terms of rice. The stipends were paid based on an individual’s social position in society. Urbanization contributed to the increase of prices of commodities, which was not commensurate to the increase in production.

The new trends of the city demanded that people pay out their bills in monetary terms meaning that the samurai was to exchange the rice received with money. This would not be enough because the living costs had gone up yet taxpayers could no offer more taxes. The Samurai existed at the mercy of the moneychangers and the merchants who had taken over the economic systems of various towns, including Osaka and Edo.

In the market, there was an unstable price for rice, meaning that moneychangers could decide the price at which they could buy the major product. The economy was growing so fast, yet the Samurai was not allowed to engage in farming and commerce. This was a challenge because the leadership of the city was becoming weaker and weaker while traders, who were ranked low socially, were the economic powerhouses.

The emergence of the cities presented new challenges to the Samurai in a number of ways because they were forced to engage in activities that were forbidden culturally. Contacts between people were official meaning that individuals did not meet just to talk about the social problems. For instance, an individual needed an appointment with any of the merchants to discuss any issue.

The role of the Samurai was diminishing because the city had complex challenges that demanded effective forms of administrations. For instance, the Samurai was expected to act as an example to other members of society regarding morality.

Other members of society would follow the ways of the Samurai in terms of observing cultural rules and regulations. Moreover, other forms of crimes emerged due to the urbanization, for instance, prostitution, muggings, kidnapping, and carjacking emerged as new forms of crimes that would not be prevented. Even the Samurai was not spared.

Dilemma of the Low Ranking Samurai in the Tokugawa Regime

The Samurai was expected to follow the culture that was so strict on its members, whereby each individual was supposed to keep off from activities that would hurt the members of society. During the Tokugawa regime, it was very difficult to convince people to live in accordance with the values of the Samurai’s culture because of the changes that were taking place in society.

The changes were taking place rapidly. The Tokugawa regime tried to disseminate information regarding the life of the Samurai through promotion of education and increasing literacy. The Samurai belonged to the royal class whose major aim was to defend the community during war. To the Samurai, death was considered normal because it was inevitable.

To preserve unity in Japan, involvement of the Samurai was crucial because it was respected all over. It became extremely difficult to convince people to appreciate the role that the Samurai played in the Japanese society. This was the dilemma of governmental officials because they found it difficult to abolish the role of the Samurai.

There was divided loyalty among government officials as regards to the role of the Samurai. Some believed that the Samurai had no role to play since its members had abandoned the fundamental ideals that characterized the royalty.

Some Tokugawa officials noted that the Samurai motivated the soldiers because they were regarded as the highest family in the land. To be a good soldier, an individual had to forfeit all other things and concentrate on serving the nation. Therefore, the role of the Samurai was important.

Works Cited

Katsu, Kokichi. Musui’s Story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai. Tucson: The Univ. of Arizona Press, 1995. Print.

Vaporis, Constantive. “To Edo and Back: Alternate Attendance and Japanese Culture in the Early Modern Period.” Journal of Japanese Studies, 23.1 (1997): 25–67. Print.

Yoda, Tomiko. “A Roadmap to Millennial Japan.” South Atlantic Quarterly, 99.4 (2000): 629–668. Print.

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"The Samurai History in Japan." IvyPanda, 12 Dec. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/the-samurai-essay/.

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