Japanese history

The samurai was Salaryman in Edo era!?②:The daily life of a Samurai and his last war

Many foreigners believe that the life of a samurai was stoic, but this is not true. The life of the samurai described in this article, “Sakai”, consisted of going to music classes and eating in restaurants every day. It is nothing like the life of a stoic man. Today I tried to find out in his diary what kind of life this samurai led.

May 29th: He has arrived in Edo

I arrived in Edo at 8 in the morning. I changed my clothes to the more formal ones and went to greet the boss. After that I went to buy some things for Edo’s life and ate Soba because I was hungry.

Sakai didn’t have much money and wasn’t an important person. That’s why nobody was preparing things for life in Edo and he went shopping in Yotuya city. I also went to the supermarket to buy a saucepan when I arrived in Milan. Sakai’s act was completely the same as mine. After the shopping he went to eat Soba. It’s a buckwheat paste, and it was a Fast Food like Mc’Donald’s. The price of Soba was about 4 dollars, and this price still doesn’t change much.

Sakai was able to find out where there are Soba stand because one of his friends left a manual to live in Edo. This book was called “Edo Jiman”, meaning “The Pride of Edo”. The Samurai who arrived in Edo read it so they didn’t look like rednecks. In fact Sakai said that the Matsuri of Edo was three times more animated than the one in his hometown. Perhaps there were many interesting things for him.

Soba stand

September 20: He went to Asakusa

Now, beyond the cafes and restaurants of Mukojima, there are many beautiful villas. What envy! If I had the money, I would buy a house like that. Anyway, I had a cup of tea, ate some Sakuramochi, and then went to Sensoji.

Sakai didn’t have much work. Apparently, he only worked ten days a month, so he was very bored. According to his diary he was always going to a restaurant or sightseeing. This day he went to Asakusa.

In this era Asakusa was a very lively and new district like Shibuya today. There were many famous restaurants and theaters. But sometimes there were scams, for example a man said “In my building there is a very big Itachi (the weasel)”. Of course, people entered this building to want to see it, so there was a bloody table (Ita). When people complained to the owner, he said only “Well, there was Ita and chi! There were always swindlers. By the way, he went into a cafeteria to see a pretty waitress. He was not at all stoic.

October 26: His roommate ate his fish

Today I drank Sake until 10 o’clock at night, and I had a lot of fun. I came home singing, so my uncle scolded me: “What are you thinking! It’s very late, why don’t you think about the neighbors who are sleeping?” Hah… I don’t have good luck. Besides Tamisuke and Naosuke(his roommates) ate my fish!

I repeat that this man did not work much. He went to work only 10 days a month, so he couldn’t earn much but he had plenty of time, that’s why he always cooked. This day I went to the restaurant to drink the Sake so his uncle scolded him. If you have experienced sharing an apartment, you can imagine this scene, right?

That’s right, his life in Edo was very normal and peaceful even though there were many attacks in Kyoto. We can understand that in the chaotic era people lived as usual. On purpose Sakai worked in Edo for a year and six months, and returned to his native land Wakayama, however there is one more episode after returning to the village.

Five years after his life in Edo, he went to war.

In 1865 the war came close to his life, before there were only a few attempts to assassinate important politicians, but already a feudal lord “The Mouri family” decided to fight with Tokugawa. That’s why Sakai received the call to arms.

From this day on the contents of his diary seem a little dark. Some rich samurai left their work to flee from the war, but Sakai and the poor samurai could not flee for their wives and children. Before going to the front, he went to the bar and drank a lot of alcohol. He would have wanted to forget something.

The war became very miserable, except for some terrorist Samurai, all the people did not know the war and fell to the ground with cruelty. In these days the content of the diary was totally different from the days before writing: “Today my friend has died, also tomorrow I have to go ahead. When can I go back to Wakayama? I don’t want to die in a place where I don’t know anything. “Fortunately Sakai could return to his home without being wounded. And after this war he did not leave his native land Wakayama, he lived thinking about poetry.

After knowing a life of Samurai, what have you felt? He was not so different from us and felt fear or happiness. Do you identify with Sakai?

(1) Comment

  1. What a poor soul. luckily my country does not have war, like many countries in 2020. I can’t say the same for certain other countries.

    Thank you for translating this story for us.

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