Japanese history

Samurai was Salaryman in Edo era!?①:An expatriate in Edo

Samurai, is the representative Japanese culture. Perhaps you imagine that there would have been men who went to war with Katana and were very stoic.

That is certainly true. As I mentioned in this article on the African samurai, the samurai of the sixteenth century were what you might imagine them to be. But since the 17th century, Japan had been a very peaceful country and had not had a war for 300 years. That’s why there was no samurai like the “Last Samurai”. The real “Last Samurai” were the kind of men who ate something in restaurants, got drunk complaining about their boss, and worked in offices. Wouldn’t you like to know what their day was like? It’s a normal everyday life that I’m sure you can relate to.

If you want to know it in Japanese, I recommend this book.

Samurai living in an era of peace

In 1853 Japan had already passed the era of peace for 200 years, all the Japanese forgot about war, however the United States came to Japan to start the business with Japan and threatened it with warships. Because of this historical event, some extremist samurai started to commit the attacks, insisting on killing foreigners. In 1860 Tairo, was working as the prime minister of the Samurai government, was killed by some Samurai terrorists. In this year that the era of peace was to be broken a Samurai moved to Edo for his work. This man is called Sakai Bansiro, he is the protagonist of this article.

https://rekishi-den.com/edo/69/ El asesinato de Tairo

Since this is a man who came to Edo at a time like this, would you have thought that this man might actually be a spy? Unfortunately, he is just a poor samurai. He had to live in Edo for work, leaving his daughter and wife in his hometown for a year and six months on a business trip. He was like a Salaryman.

As such, this man is not a “last samurai” at all. He was very interested in the great city of Edo, and was the kind of person who would go to restaurants to drink and watch the latest plays. Since he was not so rich, he wrote down the money he spent and complained about his work in his diary as well.

But it is thanks to this diary he writes about whining and money that we know about his life. I have to thank him. Now, before we hear him complain, let’s study a little about Japanese society at this time.

Edo:The Cosmopolitan City

To begin with, Japan was not a unified nation at that time. It was divided into smaller countries, such as the European Union, and some 300 feudal lords ruled their territories. Basically, each culture was very different because ordinary people needed a passport called a “ticket” to leave the territory, and the Japanese languages were also as different as like between Spanish and Italian. The Japanese language I am speaking now is a new language created after the establishment of a unified Japan.

The famous Tokugawa family was the family that ruled this feudal Japan. The Tokugawas granted land to 300 feudal lords, which allowed them to gain legitimacy for their domination. Therefore, the lords had to swear loyalty to the Tokugawa family, and to prove it, they sometimes moved to Edo to live for every 1-2 years.

Therefore Edo was

独り身大国」江戸と現代の知られざる共通点 | ソロモンの時代―結婚しない人々の実像― | 東洋経済オンライン | 経済ニュースの新基準

like Washington D.C.

There were many embassies in Edo for these feudal lords, and they were called “Hantei”. The embassy officials who also moved to Edo stayed at the Hantei, naturally Sakai also lived here. By the way, he was a vassal of a very famous feudal lord, so the embassy was very big. Imagine what the staff of an English or French embassy would be like. So what did he do in Edo? Now let’s look at it.

Young stylist

man wearing black crew neck top
Photo by Máximo on Pexels.com

He was a samurai, but his job was as a stylist. He prepared suitable clothes for various diplomatic functions and religious ceremonies so that the Lord would not be embarrassed. At this time he was not as a manager, his stylist uncle came to Edo too. Other times, Samurai fashion was a very cool style for townsman, so Kimono brands wanted to know the latest fashion and Sakai taught new fassion to Kimono salesmen


It was like working with HERMÉS

Now you know his work and the Japan he lived in. So in the next article, we will read his diary to learn more about his life.

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