Week 13: Middle and late Tokugawa society and politics

This week we look at what has become of the warriors which dominated the previous centuries. How did they adjust to the long period of peace following the unification of Japan in 1600/1603? This series of short pieces of texts gives you some idea of their mental world. For materials culture, arts and entertainment, look to the material from week 12 and the upcoming week 14: samurai were one of the driving forces of the entertainment industry, in particular in Edo.

A particular incident worthy of our attention is the so-called Ako Incident of 1701, but it is better known as the case of the “Forty-seven Rōnin”. A rōnin was a masterless samurai; and these forty-seven were the retainers of Asano Naganori, the lord of Akō He was ordered to commit ritual suicide (seppuku) after he had assaulted a courtier. Asano’s samurai carefully plotted their revenge over many months. Their exploits were immortalized in the story Chūshingurai (“A treasure chest of loyal retainers”), one of the options for the response paper; two scholars of the Tokugawa period take sides on the court case in item nr. 1 in the list of course materials below.

Schedule:
  • Tuesday Zoom session 1pm (pink link on Canvas Homepage): check in with your classmates, talk about the course materials/readings, or about any of the assignments.
  • Tuesday: (anytime before midnight) reflection on course materials from week 12: this is a chance to show how you have consolidated your knowledge of this topic. How have your ideas changed through repeated interactions with peers and the course materials during the past week? What connections do you see with other course materials? What are the big lessons you learned, to carry forward through the rest of the semester?
          • Post on your blog, under the category HST267
          • Include the words “Week 12” in the title of your post.
  • Tuesday (anytime before midnight): First post on the Canvas discussion board due.
  • Wednesday (anytime before midnight) : Two responses to other students’ posts due, on the Canvas discussion board.
  • Thursday Zoom session 1pm (pink link on Canvas Homepage): “regular class”: we will go into more detail about the course materials for the week, based on the discussions.
  • Thursday (anytime before midnight) Below are two websites, randomly selected from the students in this course. Go to each website and give feedback on the reflection for week 11.
        • If one of the websites shown below is your own, or it is twice the same site, refresh the page, and you should get new sites; if the week 11 reflection is not there, find the reflection for a previous week on that student’s blog.
        • Use the hypothes.is add-on in your browser to give feedback to the post in the group HST267. Remember the Architect’s model of giving feedback! Be kind, be specific, and provide concrete suggestions for improvement.
        • Website 1:
        • Website 2:
Readings/course materials

Pick 2 of the following:

  1. Hayashi Hōkō. “On Revenge” and Satō Naokata. “Notes on the forty-six men”. In Sources of Japanese Tradition, Vol. 2: 1600 to 2000, Part One: 1600 to 1868, compiled by Wm. Th. de Bary, Carol Gluck, and Arthur E. Tiedemann, 359-368. Introduction to Asian Civilizations. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 2001. (PDF)
        • The case of the forty-seven (or forty-six) rōnin was extremely shocking to contemporaries throughout Japan, and spurred a lot of discussion.
        • These two documents give you two views on the revenge murder of Lord Kira, killed by the now masterless samurai (rōnin) of Lord Asano. Who is right? What kind of considerations did an eighteenth-century scholar, judge or samurai take into account when pronouncing opinions about such a case?
  2. “Preface to Elementary Learning for Samurai” and “The Way of the Samurai”. In Sources of Japanese Tradition, Vol. 2: 1600 to 2000, Part One: 1600 to 1868, compiled by Wm. Th. de Bary, Carol Gluck, and Arthur E. Tiedemann, 162-167. Introduction to Asian Civilizations. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 2001. (PDF)
  3. Yamamoto Tsunetomo. “In the Shadow of Leaves” (Hakagure) (excerpts). In Sources of Japanese Tradition, Vol. 2: 1600 to 2000, Part One: 1600 to 1868, compiled by Wm. Th. de Bary, Carol Gluck, and Arthur E. Tiedemann, 389-393. Introduction to Asian Civilizations. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 2001. (Google doc)
        • How do these sets of rules for the life of a warrior in Edo Japan compare to earlier ethics of the warrior (e.g. in the Tale of Heike), or with the codes for warriors seen in week 11 (PDF)?
  4. Kaibara Ekken: Precepts for Daily Life in Japan: “The Pursuit of Learning”. In Sources of Japanese Tradition, Vol. 2: 1600 to 2000, Part One: 1600 to 1868, compiled by Wm. Th. de Bary, Carol Gluck, and Arthur E. Tiedemann, 223-229. Introduction to Asian Civilizations. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 2001. (PDF, selection starts on p. 2 of PDF)
          • Ekken wrote this text in vernacular Japanese, so it was accessible to a wider audience. It provides a concise summary of Zhu Xi’s learning method.
          • What strikes you as important, strange, remarkable in Ekken’s view on education?