Private Academies of the Tokugawa Period

Private Academies of the Tokugawa Period

by Richard Rubinger


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691613956
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 07/14/2014
Series: Princeton Legacy Library Series
Pages: 302
Product dimensions: 9.10(w) x 6.00(h) x 0.70(d)

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Private Academies of Tokugawa Japan

By Richard Rubinger


Copyright © 1982 Princeton University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-691-05352-3



We begin with a brief outline of the nature of han autonomy and the restrictions placed on inter-han travel, for it will subsequently be argued that the shijuku, alone of Tokugawa educational institutions, contributed significantly to breaking down regional barriers and to the development of a more unified, integrated, and "national" culture. By integrated we mean a widened sense of shared experience and community beyond the family, local village, or province which might be manifested at different levels — intellectual, religious, and so forth. The concept of "national integration" has been used by scholars in a great many ways. James E. Sheridan defines it as "the degree of cohesiveness of a nation, the extent to which its various elements interconnect to form a consolidated national unit." Sheridan goes on to suggest that "national integration" includes: (1) territorial integration — how closely regions are linked by economic and political transactions and by psychological and cultural similarities; and (2) social integration — the extent to which various strata of society are bound by common cultural and national loyalties, functional specialization and interdependence, and participation in national movements. "Cultural integration," as we are using it here, refers to a more limited process of cultural homogenization brought on, in part, by increased geographical mobility and opportunities to exchange ideas with scholars in different parts of the country.


With the defeat of their enemies at the Battle of Sekigahara (1600), the Tokugawa set about to ensure the loyalty of their vassals while granting them a large measure of autonomy in the governing of their domains. In the consolidation of their power, one of the central policies of the Tokugawa shoguns became the maintenance of a strategic balance between the shogun's own territories and those of potentially hostile daimyo to prevent the formation of hostile coalitions and to block routes of possible military attack on Edo and Kyoto. Tozama daimyo were situated on the periphery of the islands; fudai were placed at points of strategic importance, commanding the main highways and towns, and so situated with respect to the domains of possible enemies as to check any threat. Shogunal lands dominated the Kanto area and central Japan, and Tokugawa castles were maintained outside Edo, in Osaka, at Nijo in Kyoto, and Sumpu in Shizuoka. Areas of political importance such as Yamada in Ise and large commercial centers like Sakai and Nagasaki were placed under direct bakufu control.

The domains themselves were ruled by daimyo with full powers of local government delegated them by shogunal grant. The individual daimyo thus had full jurisdiction over the land and people. This local han autonomy had a long tradition behind it, and fears concerning encroachments upon its internal affairs went back to an ancient period. Thus, while strictly local matters were not interfered with, both bakufu and han placed restrictions on inter-han communication and contact for fear that the delicate balance of power would be upset. The guidelines for restrictions on inter-han travel and communication were set down in the fundamental document of Tokugawa domestic policy, the "Buke Shohatto" or "Laws Governing the Military Class," which was read to assembled daimyo in Fushimi Castle on August 30, 1615. Article 5 read: "Henceforth no outsider, none but the inhabitants of a particular domain, shall be permitted to reside in that domain. Each domain has its own ways. If a man discloses the secrets of one's own country to another domain or if the secrets of the other domain are disclosed to one's own, that will sow the seeds of deceit and sycophancy." Article 7 stated: "Immediate report should be made of innovations which are being planned or of factional conspiracies being formed in neighboring domains."

Information on inter-han communication and traffic was not left to casual observation but was strictly monitored by sekisho or "checking stations" provided at important points of land and sea travel to examine persons and material crossing han borders. These sekisho had been used from time to time in the past but proliferated under the Tokugawa and remained in active use until the end of the period. They were in evidence as early as the Taika Reform (645 A.D.) when they were used as temporary police facilities. They were used later, in the Heian period, to guard access routes to the imperial residence in Kyoto. With the advent of feudalism they were used to protect the domains of individual lords. They fell into disuse with the attempts at unification of Oda Nobunaga (1534–1582) and Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537–1598), and reappeared with the establishment of the bakuhan system of the Tokugawa.

Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543–1616), the first Tokugawa shogun, originally ordered the construction of sixteen checking stations at important land and sea routes, but by the middle of the eighteenth century there were some fifty, mostly in the eastern part of the country guarding access routes to Edo. Of these Sansom has written:

Barriers were maintained on the principal traffic routes so as to keep a check on the goings and comings of travelers. Passports were closely scrutinized. The examining officers had to guard in particular against "outward women and inward guns" because any vassal planning mischief was likely first to get his hostages out of Tokugawa domains and firearms into them. But in general traffic between fiefs was discouraged, because each wished to remain a self-contained unit, to lose none of its produce and to admit no possible spies.

The checking stations at sea points like Uraga checked for weapons being transported by ship into Edo Bay without permission. There was one also in Nagasaki which checked foreign ships and regulated association with the Dutch and Dejima. It was at this checking station that a young German doctor named Siebold, the first foreign shijuku teacher (see Chapter IV), was discovered with a forbidden map of Japan, a discovery that caused his banishment, as well as death or imprisonment for the Japanese who were accused of complicity.

The checking stations clearly served to restrict travel among the han during the Tokugawa period. They were abolished early in the Meiji period but were still going strong in the Bakumatsu period as illustrated in this description by Marius Jansen concerning emissaries going from Mito to Tosa to seek support for the loyalist cause:

Their reception [the emissaries'] in Tosa illustrates both the effective way in which the realm was kept separated from its neighboring areas and the limited degree of knowledge of political affairs that Sakamoto Ryoma had developed. The Mito emissaries were unable to gain admittance to Tosa at the Tachikawa border station. Instead a small party of Tosa men, headed by Sakamoto, came to meet them. ... After a talk at the border Sakamoto and his party returned to Kochi to see if they could arrange entry into Tosa for their guests, but two days later word was sent back that it could not be done. Failing in this, the guests waited at the border for some days to see what response might come to the letter they had given Sakamoto. None was forthcoming, however, and so they gave up hope of cooperation and moved on.

In addition to bakufu controls on inter-han communication, the han themselves had regulations which show clearly their guarded and even hostile attitude towards those from outside. Some han codes forbade all communication with persons in other han and when strangers were admitted they were closely examined and supervised. A sampling of the various han regulations provides numerous examples of the restrictions placed on those coming into a han from outside. The general attitude is indicated in one of the decrees which states that employing ronin (masterless samurai) from other provinces was like eating fugu sashimi — tempting to try but one may have cause for regret.


For about two hundred years it appears that feudal controls were strong and the various edicts and checking stations performed their function of restricting the movement of people. In addition there was apparent acceptance of the strong legal and ideological pressures inhibiting inter-han movement, as well as the mixing of classes (merchants and samurai for example were restricted to separate residential districts in the towns and contact between them was discouraged).

By the beginning of the nineteenth century, however, people had begun to move about in significant numbers. Recently, scholars have begun to study in depth the growth in enthusiasm for travel by investigating travel diaries and the numerous travel guides that were passed about. They have described a new "energy" and self-confidence and a yearning for a wider world on the part of both commoners and samurai. Yokoyama Toshio has examined the regulations governing the behavior of common people in selected han and found that by the nineteenth century efforts to check widespread movement of both commoners and samurai were in vain.

By the end of the eighteenth century the edicts constantly exhorted the people to refrain from luxury and laziness. People were apparently gathering in large numbers for gambling and amateur theatricals (with large numbers of samurai in the audience), although these activities were banned in every han. Peasants were occasionally drifting into the castle towns to shop, to go to the barber, and to visit the small tea houses and restaurants which had become popular. The street or tsuji was regarded by the authorities with particular concern, for it was here that the four classes could mingle, with the possibility that manners and customs would become indistinguishable. Thus, loitering, dancing, playing music, wrestling, and talking loudly were all prohibited. But the frequency of the bans suggests that such activities were increasing and becoming more popular. Itinerant travellers were of course forbidden entry to a han. They were condemned by the decrees as being "strange" and "suspicious," but this indicates that such people existed in sufficient numbers to warrant attention by the authorities, and suggests too that feudal controls were not completely effective in dealing with them.

As surveillance and control intensified, travel became an even more cherished interlude in the lives of many ordinary people. They found loopholes in the decrees restricting travel and invented all sorts of pretexts for going on trips — business on behalf of court families, visits to hot springs for "medical cures," and religious pilgrimages — for it was known that permission was routinely granted for such reasons. In the nineteenth century, pilgrimages to the Great Shrine at Ise (known as "Ise-Mairi") became so widespread that granting permission to commoners was a practical impossibility. Farmers, townspeople, employees of all kinds, and housewives took leave without permission in such numbers that the phenomenon was given a special name, "Nuke-Mairi."

Travel provided relief from the confines of feudal control, from the responsibilities of the family system, from the rigors of work with which most people lived. On the road, the distinctions of the feudal world disappeared to a large extent, and male and female, rich and poor, high and low mingled freely. The Ise pilgrimage of 1830 is reported to have been a particularly spectacular event. The elaborate system of control apparently broke down and there were cases of people engaging openly in every form of taboo — men impersonated women and vice versa, people bagged, and engaged in "free love."

Bresler has described travel in the Tokugawa period as an important form of recreation that provided for many people a much needed release from the often suffocating demands of everyday life. It was also an important learning experience, the nature and extent varying greatly, of course, with the person and the circumstances. In some cases it may have been merely the satisfaction of a curiosity about the world outside one's local area, in others a desire to share local customs and folklore with people in different areas, and in still others a chance to exchange information on agricultural methods and technology — an activity known to have taken place in youth groups and agricultural associations that were formed. Learning, in the broadest sense, also took place when a wife went home to her native place on festival days and shared her experiences of the town, when a salesman traversed the country peddling clothing and small accessories and exchanged anecdotes with his customers, when actors and singers visited villages to perform their folk plays and songs, when groups came together on the highways while on religious pilgrimage, when old people travelled to the country hot springs to ease their pains, and when samurai masked their faces with towels and watched forbidden joruri performances. All of these people, while enjoying themselves on the one hand, were at the same time widening their experience and enlarging their cultural frames of reference. When these travellers returned home and shared their experiences with others, they acted as educators in a broad but real sense.


There were others travelling however for the express purpose of going to a school in another han — those seeking employment with Confucian scholars, intellectuals visiting colleagues, and students going to schools in Edo, Osaka, Kyoto, and the provinces. Those going to schools in other han are referred to as yugakusei, and the process as yugaku. Included in yugaku are both those sent officially by their han and those who went on their own.

The existence of yugaku in a society such as Tokugawa-Japan where restrictions on travel and inter-han communication were strong is significant for it indicates that in the field of education and learning there was personal contact and an exchange of ideas taking place across political borders. The chance to attend schools outside one's own han provided both samurai and commoners with advanced learning opportunities which made it possible for those returning to be promoted to leadership positions in the han. Most han yugaku programs expanded as foreign pressures increased late in the period, and thus functioned to accelerate the breakdown of regional barriers and the standardization and homogeneity of intellectual life. The young men who were travelling developed a wider outlook by exchanging views with others in various shijuku and an embryonic system of nationwide communication and scholarly exchange developed. It is in this sense that yugaku contributed directly to the development of a more integrated culture.


Excerpted from Private Academies of Tokugawa Japan by Richard Rubinger. Copyright © 1982 Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission of PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS.
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Table of Contents

  • FrontMatter, pg. i
  • Contents, pg. vii
  • List of Figures, pg. x
  • List of Illustrations, pg. xi
  • List of Tables, pg. xiv
  • Acknowledgments, pg. xv
  • Prefatory Note, pg. xvii
  • Introduction, pg. 1
  • I. Cultural Integration and Education: The rugaku System, pg. 15
  • II. Chinese Studies Shijuku of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, pg. 41
  • III. Nineteenth-Century Chinese Studies ShiJuku: Hirose Tanso's Kangien, pg. 60
  • Introduction: Overview of Dutch Studies in Tokugawa Japan, pg. 101
  • IV. Dutch Studies Shijuku in Edo and Nagasaki, pg. 106
  • V. Dutch Studies Shijuku in Osaka: Ogata Koan's Teki Juku, pg. 126
  • Introduction, pg. 155
  • VI. Kokugaku Juku: Motoori Norinaga's Suzu no Ya, pg. 158
  • VII. Schools of the "Practical" Arts: Military Juku, Schools of Calligraphy and Calculation, pg. 174
  • VIII. Direct Action Juku, pg. 187
  • IX. Conclusion: Shijuku and Patterns of Tugaku in the Creation of a Modernizing Elite, pg. 208
  • A. A Historiographical Note on Schools in the Tokugawa Period, pg. 227
  • B. A Note on the "Shijuku-Terakoya Chart" in Nihon Kydiku-shi Shiryo (JMKSS), pg. 229
  • C. Development of the Kangien Compound, pg. 231
  • D. A Note on Currency and Shijuku Fees, pg. 232
  • E. BriefBiographies of Selected Kangien Students by Career, pg. 233
  • F. Entrance Fees at Dutch Schools in Edo, pg. 239
  • G. Biographies of Selected Students from Ogata Koan's TekiJukuMentionedintheText, pg. 240
  • H. Biographies of Selected Students at Shoka Sonjuku, pg. 242
  • I. Outlines of Educational Backgrounds and Careers of Selected Early Meiji Leaders Mentioned in the Text, pg. 245
  • Glossary, pg. 255
  • Bibliography, pg. 266
  • Index, pg. 275

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