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a truly national culture. Thus, for example, the daimyos and their followers from throughout the country who regularly visited Edo were the
disseminators of what became a national dialect or “lingua franca” and,
ultimately, the standard language of modern Japan.5 They also fostered
the spread of customs, rules of etiquette, standards of taste, fashions,
and the like that gave to Japanese everywhere a common lifestyle.
Tokugawa society was officially divided into four classes: samurai,
peasants, artisans, and merchants. The main social cleavage, however,
was between the ruling samurai class—whose members, from Hideyoshi’s
time on, had been called upon to leave the countryside (if they had not
already done so) and take up residence in the castle towns and cities—
and the commoners. The samurai received fixed annual stipends based
on the rice harvest of their former fiefs and enjoyed a variety of special The Flourishing of a Bourgeois Culture 169 privileges, including the exclusive right to wear swords and to cut down
on the spot any commoners who offended them.
During the age of provincial wars there had been much social mobility
among warriors. By their wits and fighting prowess alone, many men,
including some originally from the peasant and merchant classes, rose
from obscure positions to high levels of military command. Saitò Dòsan
(1494–1556), for example, started as an oil merchant but eventually became daimyo of Mino province, marrying his daughter to Nobunaga; and
Hideyoshi, as we have seen, made the unprecedentedly spectacular climb
from peasant to national hegemon. Determined to prevent the kind of
social upheaval that had made possible the careers of men like Dòsan and
Hideyoshi, the Tokugawa instituted a rigid status system among warriors.
This system, which prescribed distinctions of the most minute kind for
all manner of things, including style of residence, type of clothing, form
of transportation, size of retinue, value of gifts given and received, and
even, in the case of daimyo...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13