Looking for an English text covering the history of Japan, someone drew my attention to an essay written by a Japanese friend of his.

Not only was this text interesting to read, as it was written by a native Japanese, it also contained several most interesting details concerning daily life in ancient Japan.
Reason enough for me to contact the writer and ask permission to publish this text on our website.
Hashikake-san immediately agreed with my proposition. Not only did he agree, he also added an extensive part concerning the Meiji restoration to the text, making it even more interesting then it already was.

Please enjoy.

Click for Kochi, Japan Forecast

Japan’s history focused on Sakawa, Kochi, Japan

     As you know, Human beings are said to have first appeared on the earth around the ice age. In this age, as the Japan archipelago was connected with the continent. The Japanese ancestors came down to Japan archipelago chasing after big games such as Mammoths and Naumann Elephants.


 Around 10,000 years ago, as the glacial age ended, the earth was gradually getting warmer, the glacier had begun to melt and the sea level rose.


 The Japan archipelago was completely isolated from the continent. Around the beginning of the alluvial epoch, which is about 10,000 years ago, the Japan archipelago was almost the same shape as it is now through the movement of earth’s crust. Adjusting to change in environment, the ancient Japanese people developed the new stone culture called the “Jomon” culture. The Jomon period, or the Japanese Neolithic cultural period, extended from about 10,000 B.C. The Jomon culture was a bit different from the new stone culture in Europe and other parts of Asia in that they didn’t have any agriculture or livestock-farming.

 They gathered edible plants or fruits and hunted games. A large number of the Jomon People’s bones have been discovered so far and it could be concluded that they had almost the same racial features. This could be proved that the Japanese ancestors had already been formed in that period. Now I want to tell you about Jomon period in Kochi prefecture. There was no poverty and class system in this period. The Jomon people prayed for good harvests using incantations in recognition of the spiritual power in the natural phenomenon. They also prayed to avoid disasters.
A remain of Fudogayuwaya cliff and cave has been designated as the National Asset by Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.
The discovery of earthenware, stone implements, bone of animals such as wild boar and wolves in the cave, which is located about 4 km northwest from the Sakawa Town Hall , has proved that the Jomon people lived here in Sakawa at least 10,000 years ago, which belongs to the early part of the Jomon era. 

    Fudogayuwaya cliff ,Cave

 In 1964 the Sakawa Board of Education and the Japan Archeology association excavated the cave, and they concluded that the earthen vessels excavated in the cave were some of the oldest earthenware artifacts in Japan.

Chronicle of Japan
 20,000BC~600  Stone age・Jomon era・Yayoi era・Tumulus period
 600~709    Asuka period (592→)
 710~793    Nara period (710→793)
 794~900    Heian period (794→)
 901~1000  Heian period (794→)
 1000~1100  Heian period (794→)
 1101~1185  Heian period (794→)(→1185)
 1185~1200  Kamakura period (1185→)
 1201~1392  Kamakura period (→1333)・Nanbokucho (1333→1392)
 1392~1491  Muromachi period (1392→1491)
 1491~1602   Warring state period (1491→1573)・Azuchimomoyama
 period (1573→) 
 1603~1700  Edo period (1603→)
 1701~1800  Edo period (1603→)
 1801~1900  Edo period (1603→)(→1867) *Meiji period (→1868)
 1901~2000  Meiji period (→1912)・Taisho period(→1926)
 Showa period(→1926) * Heisei period (1989→) 
 2001~  Heisei period

 For thousands of years, many ethnic groups such as Koreans, Indonesians, Filipinos, Malaysians and people from the South China came down to Japan archipelago and mixed their blood naturally. This is the Japanese race. Philologically speaking, the Japanese language is similar to the Korean language and the Mongolian language, which belong to the Ural-Altaic Language group in their grammatical features. But Japanese manner, customs and faiths have a lot of similar points to those of Malaysia,

    Indonesia, south China and the Philippines.
    Ural-Altaic Language group

 During my first visit to the Northern part of Luzon Island in the Philippines in 1991,I was very surprised to see them cook red rice what we call “Osekihan” for celebrations. We, Japanese, have exactly the same custom as they have.
By classifying Japanese blood types, the largest blood type group is A which accounts for 37.3%. The Second largest group is O accounting for 31.5%. B accounts for 22.1% and AB accounts for 9.1%. According to the statistics of the blood types, the majority blood type group in the Japanese is A group which is very rare as the majority in the world. In this respect, when we classify the Korean blood types. The results are quite different. The largest blood type group in Koreans is O accounting for 28% and A with 19%.

 During the Jomon period, an agricultural civilization came about in China and they started using metal tools. That metal culture spread to other nations and reached Japan in about 300 to 200 B.C. A new agricultural society then appeared in the northern parts of the Kyushu region where they used metal tools.
This new culture is called “Yayoi” and features rice farming, the use of metal tools and Yayoi pottery fired at high temperature. The Yayoi period was named after the place where this type of pottery was discovered first in Yayoi machi, Chiyoda ward, Tokyo, and it is the period designating from about 200 B.C to 200 A.D.
It is said that rice farming had spread to Kochi about the 1st century. There are many remains and ruins of the period discovered all over Kochi.
 As the productivity of Agriculture increased, People in the area came to be able to stock their surplus products. This caused disparity in wealth and brought about a class system. Since the yayoi people didn’t have any writing system, when we study this period to know what the period was like, we use the Chinese chronicle called “Kanjochirishi” written in China in 1st century.
According to the Chinese chronicle, Japan consisted of over 100 countries and some of the large countries sent their delegations to China at regular intervals. We can find some interesting articles in this chronicle such as one about the savage people living in the Far East country or Japan, who tattooed their whole body and face.

 To the contrary, the Chinese in those days didn’t have the custom of tattoo. Men who had tattoo on the bodies were counted as criminals in China in those days.

    Picture of native Filipinos, who had tattoo on the body. Painted 1590

 When I visited Municipality of Kabayan , Benguet Province, I saw a beautiful mammies that had tattoo on the bodies. I think that the tattoo I saw in Kabayan looks probably like what ancient Japanese used to have.
By the Chinese way of thinking in those days, the Japanese were barbarians who didn’t have any civilization at all.
 In the 3rd century, it is recorded that 30 countries from Japan sent their missions to China. And it is also believed that Japan was unified by force by the Yamato Clan in the early 4th century. This Yamato Clan is considered to be the ancestor of today’s
Japanese Emperor.

 In the 5th century, as Kochi was one of the remotest regions in Japan, people in Kochi lived in the same condition as they had done in the Yayoi era.
 In 701 in the Nara period, the first Japanese statutes and laws called “Taihoritsuryo” codes were enacted, and this law system had a great influence to upon Japanese political and administrative organization for hundreds of years until the Kamakura period. In connection with these statutes and laws, Kochi was prescribed as the “country of exile”, punishment by a exile to remote Islands and regions. However people exiled from Kyoto which was the center of Japan in those days, were not criminal offenders but political offenders who were defeated in the struggled for supremacy.
 Since ” Tosanokuni” or Kochi was one of the remotest countries from Kyoto, such exiled people as the nobility were not able to return to Kyoto by themselves.
Even the ex-Emperor “Tsuchimikado” was exiled to Kochi in 1219. As the result of their exiles, they brought the newest and most up to date culture of those times to Kochi.
 Next I would like to tell you about our writing system “Hiragana and Katakana”. They are believed to have been invented in the 9th century and they were regulated by the middle of the 10th century.

 In Heian period which stated from 794 , Japanese people came to be able to express what they thought freely by means of Hiragana and Katakana. Hiragana is simplified Chinese characters written in a very cursive style of writing. Katakana is borrowed certain parts of Chinese characters and simplified them. 

  (Chinese character 以) (Hiragana い)    (Chinese character 伊) (Katakana イ)

 As you know, Chinese character is an ideogram, but Hiragana and Katakana are phonetic symbols. This contributes a lot to the Japanese language, because it is very easy to create new words by using Katakana and Hiragana.
Despite the spread of Hiragana and katakana, they still used Chinese writings among the aristocracy in official work until around the end of the 15th century.
In those times, Kana or the Japanese alphabet was only used among the court ladies.
In 930, the Provincial governor of Kochi whose name was Ki no Tsurayuki

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ki_no_Tsurayuki) was placed to Kochi by the central government. He lived in Nangoku city for a few years. When he returned to Kyoto after finishing his term in Kochi, he wrote his travel diary.
This diary called “Tosanikki” is the first literature written by a man using Kana.
By the way, probably some of you may have eaten “Tosanikki” which is famous Kochi’s cake named after it. When we read this diary nowadays, we can find many interesting entries. How long do you think it took to go back to Kyoto from Kochi?
It took 55 days to return to Kyoto. Of course he returned to Kyoto by a boat along the coasts of Aki, Muroto, Tokushima Prefecture and Awajishima Island.
The most interesting point of this diary is that the writer, Kino Tusrayuki pretended to be a woman in order to write this in” Kana” alphabet. I wonder if he felt a little effeminate and therefore pretended to be a woman in this diary.

    Trip Diary “Tosa nikki” written in Hiragana by Ki no Tsurayuki

 The 11th century began and Japan came to digest the Chinese culture and assimilated it into Japanese culture, creating its own peculiar culture. In the 12th century, armed vassal groups hired by the load of a manor to protect the manor, known as Samurai, became the dominant power in Japan.
The “Taira” clan or the “Heike” family and the “Minamoto” or the “Genji” family were two of the biggest powers in the middle of the 12th century. These two big powers clashed in 1159 in the Heiji war.
After this war, Tairanokiyomori (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taira_no_Kiyomori) and his family held the reins of government, but his clan’s prosperity didn’t last long. In 1181 Tairano Kiyomori died of illness and the Taira clan was defeated by the Minamoto family at Dan-noura, Yamaguchi prefecture in
1185. At that time, the Heike family was destroyed. In 1192 Minamoto Yoritomo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minamoto_no_Yoritomo) became Shogun and opened the Kamakura shogunate in kamakura city, Kanagawa prefecture. The rein of government passed into the hands of Samurai.
The Minamoto family which established the Kamakura shogunate was destroyed by Hojo Masako who was the wife of Minamoto Yoritomo who established Kamakura Shogunate. In spite of being a mother of Shogun,Minamoto Yoriie, she had him killed. She also killed her grandsons in order to get power for the Hojo family. This Hojo regency continued until 1333.
During the Hojo regency, Japan continued to have an Emperor, but the Emperor had no real power at all and was a only figurehead.
A strong Pro-Emperor movement became active to take power back from the Hojo family. Ex-Emperor Tsuchimikado and Emperor Chugyo tried to kill the Hojo family, but they failed. Ex-Emperor Tsuchimikado was exiled to Kochi in 1219. This is what we call the “Jokyu war”.

 One of the biggest events in the Japanese history were the Mongolian Invasions. They occurred in 1274band 1281. Both of them were occurred in Kamakura period.
The Mongolian troops attacked the Northern parts of Kyushu twice and landed there to invade entire Japan. The Japanese army organized by the Hojo family was hard pressed, but as heavy rains and storms hit Northern Kyushu both times in 1274 and in 1281. If there had been no such Typhoons, Japan would have been invaded by them and would have become a different country or might have been a part of China today.

        “Kamikaze” blew!

 Route of the Mongol Invasion of Japan

These typhoons that saved Japan twice are called “Kamikaze” or God Wind.

 During the Kamakura period, Samurai lived in their manors in Kochi with their farmers. When a enemy attacked, farmers had to take up sickles or bamboo spears and fought beside the Samurai. During times of peace, Samurai farmed along side the farmers.
As the Muromachi shogunate began, Kochi was temporarily rules by the Hosokawa family who had their head quarter in Nangoku city. Among the Hosokawa’s rivals, the Tsuno family and the Ohira family gradually came to predominate.
In this period, the Ashikaga Shogunate traded with China, exporting mainly copper, sulfur, gold, swords, fans, and lacquer-ware so on and importing copper coins, silk, cotton and silk fabrics. This contrasts greatly with today’s Japan, for Japan in those days exported raw materials.
At the end of the Muromachi period, Kyoto was burnt to the ground during the “Onin” civil war which lasted from 1467 to 1477 for 11years. During this civil war, ex-chief adviser to the Emperor, Ichijo Norifusa, moved down to today’s Shimanto city, counting on the Kochi ruler “The Chosokabe Family”, who were most powerful families in Kochi. The Ichijo family brought the aristocratic culture and life to “ Hata” area or western part of Kochi. You may notice that the “Hata” or the west Kochi area’s accent and intonation in the dialect is quite different from the standard Kochi dialect because of the Ichijos culture .Hata people speak with a different intonation is said that they lived under the influence of the Ichijo family for many generations.

Tosa Ichijo clan

The emblem of the Tosa Ichijo clan
Roots Fujiwara Clan: Son of Fujiwara Fuhito whose father was Fujiwara Kamatari
Founder Ichijo Norifusa who escaped from Onin civil war and settled down in Hata area.
Class Buke (Samurai): Ichijo clan used be the nobility class, but become Samurai
Root of origin Kyoto: They used to live in Kyoto as one of the five regency families
Manor Hata, Kochi: Their main manor was located in today’s Shimanto city

 After the Onin civil war, Japan rushed into the period of warring states, with rival chiefs constantly fighting one another. Chosokabe Motochika who had his base in Nangoku city, subdued all his rivals in Kochi. The Ichijo family was overthrown by him in 1574. He finally reined over all of Kochi and defeated other influential rivals in Shikoku region and conquered the Shikoku Island in 1585. The period of civil war continued from 1477 until the unification of Japan by Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Oda Nobunaga was a mere feudal lord of today’s Aichi prefecture, but he had such an advanced way of thinking about the economy and tactics that he started using guns in his army.
The first use of matchlocks in the battle in Japan is called the battle of Nagashino, which was fought between Oda Nobunaga and Takeda katsuyori. Oda Nobunaga was such an aggressive and ambitious feudal lord that he killed recklessly every his opponents who lifted their hands against him. One of the most notorious stories about him is the massacre of the priest of “Hieizan temple”. He burnt all the temples in Mt. Hieizan. On the other hand, since he protected and encouraged various free economic activities, many merchants from all over Japan gathered in his castle town. In 1582 he was killed by his retainer “Akechi Mitsuhide” at “Hon-nohji” temple in Shiga prefecture, before he could realize his aspiration of unifying Japan.

 The man who took over Nobunaga’s dream was his retainer” Toyotomi Hideyoshi” who came from the farmer class. He avenged his Lord “Oda Nobunaga” on Akechi Mitushide in 1582, soon after the assassination of Oda Nobunaga. In 1590 Toyotomi Hideyoshi finally unified Japan.
Chosokabe Motochika or the supreme ruler of Shikoku Island was also defeated by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1585, soon after becoming the ruler of Shikoku Island, but Chosokabe Motochika was forgiven and his territory reduced. He became the Lord of Kochi under the control of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

・During warring state period in Japan, Kochi had been governed by the Chosokabe clan.
・The roots of the Chosokabe family is considered to have come from Korean peninsula.
・“Chosokabe” is said to have come from Hata family whose ancestor came from Paekche,
・Korea, (one of the ancient kingdoms of Korea). Only Kochi people among Japanese eat raw garlic has something to do with Chosokabe’s supremacy over Kochi??? We, Kochi people, eat “Katauo no Tataki” or lightly grilled, sliced bonito with sliced raw garlic. Koreans are fond of eating raw garlic as well.

    Statue of Chosokabe Motochika at Wakamiya Shrine, Kochi city

 Chosokabe Motochika became the ruler of Kochi in 1572. He defeated other dominant rivals in Shikoku and conquered Shikoku in 1583, but he was defeated by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1585, who brought Japan under unified rule. Chosokabe Motochika had his domain reduced to the size as large as today’s Kochi prefecture. His ambition of becoming the ruler of Japan was broken and died of sick in 1599.

 Spanish Galleon “San Fellipe” appeared in Urado Bay, Kochi

 In 1596 during the Chosokabe Motochika’s supremacy , a Spanish galleon “San Fellipe” happened to appear in Urado bay in Kochi city where the Sanbashi ferry port is now. They were on the route from Manila to Acapulco, Mexico, but damaged by storm and they wanted to harbor to Urado Bay, Kochi so that they could repair the galleon.


 Chosokabe Motochika had his men sent there to inspect the vessel. The Spaniard gave some presents to them. This was reported to Toyotomi Hideyoshi. He imadediately ordered the ship broken up, and its cargo was confiscated. The Spanish captain or navigator of the ship reportedly traveled to Osaka to petition Hideyoshi for compensation or redress for having his ship destroyed and his cargoes stolen.

 The affair is said to have rekindled in Hideyoshi a hostile attitude towards the Christians, and a fear of the religion's renewed popularity in Japan. The following year saw the crucifixion of six European Franciscans, three Japanese Jesuits, and seventeen Japanese Christian laymen This is called “San Felipe Incident”.
Propagation of Christianity in Sakawa, Kochi and Japan

 Now I’m going to touch on Christianity in Japan around this time. In 1543 a Portuguese sailing vessel happened to reach the coast of “Tanegashima” Island which is located about 40Kms south of Kagoshima prefecture. This was the first encounter for the Japanese with the Europeans. At that time, the first matchlock was brought to Japan. This came to totally change strategy in the battle field in Japan.

    Matchlocks drastically changed strategies at the battle fields in Japan

 A Spanish missionary Francisco Xavier came to Kagoshima 1549 and introduced Christianity to Japan, but he lived in Japan for only 2 years. Despite his short stay in Japan, Christianity spread rapidly all over Japan, mainly because Portugal didn’t trade with Feudal Lords who didn’t approve the propagation of Christianity in their territory. The three Christian Lords in the Kyushu region sent their delegations to the Pope in the Vatican in 1582 and they returned to Japan in 1590. The first Spaniards came to Hirado, Nagasaki in 1584 because they wanted to trade with Japan.

 There remain records concerning the Christian people in Nagasaki prefecture, Ohita prefecture and the Kinki region. In 1582 there were about 115,000 Christians in Nagasaki, 10,000 in Ohita, and 25,000 in Kinki region including Osaka.

 In 1587 when Toyotomi Hideyoshi dispatched his troops to Kyushu region, he banned the faith of Christianity and made a deportation order against the Portuguese and Spanish missionaries, but his prohibition policy against Christianity was not thorough and he also encouraged to trade with foreign countries so strongly that a large number of missionaries could easily be smuggled themselves into Japan. In 1590 it is said that there were about 200,000 Christians in Japan.
As the population of Japan in those days was estimated at about 15,000,000, 1.35% of the Japanese were Christians in those days.

 When Tokugawa Ieyasu became a Shogun, he left Christianity to take its own way at first, but in 1612 he totally prohibited Japanese people from believing in Christianity. In order to make the prohibition of Christianity understood, the Tokugawa Bakufu killed Christians who hadn’t changed their religion and some of the Christian Daimyo or feudal lords who hadn’t changed their religion were exiled to Manila, Macao so on.
 In the Edo period, most Christians arrested under suspicion of being Christians admitted that they were Christians and died on the rack or crucifix. Do you know why they confessed easily? They were tested to see if they could tread on a Fumie or a copper tablet with a crucifix or Virgin Mary on it in order to prove themselves non-Christians.

        The Copper Tablet with Virgin Mary

 Japanese Christians in those days had such strong faith that they could not tread on a Fumie, and instead, chose to die a martyr for their faith. Why do you think Tokugawa Shogun banned Christianity? There were tow reasons. One of them was the confusion caused by the exclusion of non-Catholics by the Catholic Church and the Catholic’s belief that theirs was the only true faith. The other was that the Edo Shogunate gradually began to think that Portugal and Spain plotted to colonize Japan by means of Christianity.
By 1616 25,000 Christians who refused to change their religion were killed on the rack. In1635 the Tokugawa shogunate prohibited the Japanese from going abroad and returning to Japan. Spanish and Portuguese vessels were also prohibited from coming to Japan in 1639. It meant that Japan closed its door to foreign countries in 1639.But the Dutch were allowed to stay on an Island,” Dejima” a man-made island in Nagasaki to trade, because the Dutch traded with Japan without the propagation of Christianity.

According to the records about the treatment of Christians here in Sakawa in 1615, 28 Christians were sentenced to death by decapitation.

 Christianity in Japan
   Name of Place Number    
1582 Nagasaki 115,000 Number of Christians in Nagasaki
1582 Oita 10,000 Oita
1582 Kinki Region 25,000 Kinki Region (Osaka area)
1615 Sakawa, Kochi 25 25 of Christians sentenced to death by decapitation in Sakawa, Kochi

 By 1873 in the Meiji period, although Japanese Christians had been persecuted by the Tokugawa shogunate, their belief in Christianity continued to be passed in secret from generation to generation.
After the death of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu emerged from among the Influential Daimyo, and in 1600, at the battle of Sekigahara, he defeated Ishida Mitsunari, who supported the son of the late Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Tokugawa Ieyasu finally became the new ruler of Japan and opened the Edo Bakufu in 1603.
The Lord of Kochi, Chosokabe Motochika , died in 1599. His son, Chosokabe Morichika, succeeded him and became the Lord of Kochi. However, as Morichika took the side of Ishida Mitsunari in the battle of Sekigahara, his territory “Kochi” was confiscated, but fortunately his life was spared on his father, Motochika’s old friend ,Yii Naomasa’s intercession. He started on a wandering journey and settled down in
Kyoto and became a priest.

In1614 when Toyotomi Hideyori tried to take power back from Tokugawa Yieyasu, he organized and raised an army. Chosokabe Morichika took the side of Toyotomi Hideyori, because Hideyori promised him that the territory of Kochi would be returned to The Chosokabes. Ironically, Chosokabe Morichika was fated to take side of the defeated once again and in 1614 he was decapitated at the Rokujo Kawara River in Kyoto at the age of 41. As I have said that before, the Chosokabes were expelled from Kochi after the battle of “Sekigahara”, and in 1601 Yamanouchi Kazutoyo was assigned to Kochi as a Lord of Kochi in recognition of his service at the battle of “Sekigahara”.

The new lord of Kochi is very famous for his wife’s devotion. As most of you have been to Kochi castle, I think, you might have noticed that there is a statue of a woman standing by horse when you go up the stone steps to the castle. That statue was the wife of Yomanouchi Kazutoyo. When she married him, they were so poor that he couldn’t buy a horse to ride in battle. She made up her mind to spend her secret savings, which she kept in her mirror box. She broke it and took out the money to buy a wonderful horse for her husband. Thanks to the horse, Yomanouchi Kazutoyo performed incredible feats of bravery on the battle fields and finally succeeded in becoming the lord of Kochi. Nowadays in Japan, a wife who is extremely devoted to her husband is said to be like the wife of Yamanouchi Kazutoyo.


In 1601 shortly after Yomanouchi Kazutoyo came to Kochi as the new lord of Kochi, he began to have his new castle built. According to the records of those days, he made about 1200 people built his new castle every day until 1611. It took 11 years to complete. He paid them 1050 grams of rice a day for their wage, which, in today’s terms, would be about ¥ 400.
The Kochi castle we can see today was rebuilt in 1727, after the former castle had been burnt down. There were about 17,000 of population in the castle town in 1661. Farmers and peasants were not allowed to live in the castle town. They had to live in a farm village and had no freedom to travel without permission.


In the Edo period, farmers, peasants, merchants and craftsmen had to obey the regulations relating to things such as food, clothing and shelter. For example, they were not allowed to wear anything except for cotton materials. They were not allowed to eat rice except on special occasions such as the New Year’s holiday or Obon. Obon is the Buddhists souls Day which is usually celebrated in August.

    Proportion of the Class Components in Edo period (1850)

 They were not allowed to drink tea and they had to make straw sandals and straw mats as night work. This regulation covered such private matters and controlled farmer’s life. As I’ve mentioned a bit before, farmers in the Edo period can be divided into tow types, one of them is “Hombyakusho” or farmers who had their own fields. The other is “Mizunomibyakusho” or peasants who didn’t have their own land.
The harvest tax in the Edo period was levied on both groups and they both paid the same percentage, One-third of their harvest was taken away as a harvest tax and in addition, peasants had half of their remaining harvest taken away also. The peasant group label “Mizunomibyakusho” metaphorically means that they could drink no more than water freely. In this way, in the Edo period, the Tokugawa shognate completely separated Samurai, agricultural, industrial, and mercantile classes in order to strengthen the power of the Tokugawa Bakufu. Since they also needed to fix people’s social positions to maintain the position of Samurai as rulers, the Tokugawa government made a strict distraction between Samurai and other classes. Samurai were allowed to carry swords and have their own family names.
Samurai were also given the privilege of being able to kill people who belong to a lower class when those people humiliated them or did anything which might be construed as damaging to the honor of Samurai. This privilege is called, ”Kirisutegomen”.

During Edo period, Kochi was called Tosa and retainers of Yamanouchis were divided into two groups. One of them was composed of an upper class Samurai called “Joshi” whose ancestors came to Kochi with Yamanouchi Kazutoyo. They naturally occupied important positions in the Tosa. The other was composed of a lower class samurai called “Kashi” or lower class samurai, by the lord of Tosa “Yamanouchis”. Their typical jobs were stable hands and gatekeepers and so on.

 Samurai Class System in Tosa Han (Kochi)
(Upper Class Samurai)
Lord Yamanouchi
Karo The Fukaos The Gotos
Shimoseki umamawari Goto Shojiro /Yoshida Toyo Itagaki Taisuke
(Lower Class Samurai)
Shirofuda Takechi Juizan
Goshi Sakamoto Ryoma/Okada Yizo
Jigeronin Iwasaki Yataro
(Founder of Mitsubishi )

 In spite of belonging to the samurai class, Joshi and Kashi were strictly distinguished.
Therefore, the lower class samurai or Kashi had been growing increasingly dissatisfied with Tosahan’s government. This discord which arose between upper class samurai and lower class samurai made lower class samurai organize the Tosa Royalists party in order to make a new Japan which would be reined not by the Tokugawa Bakufu but by the Emperor of Japan. That movement actually caused the downfall of the Tokugawa Bakufu and became the motive power of the Meiji Restoration. The Edo period which lasted about 260 years was called a peaceful reign. A Tokugawa Shogun was the greatest daimyo in Japan and reigned Japan as well.

Do you know what a Daimyo is? A Daimyo is a feudal lord who was given an estate worth more than 10,000 goku by a Shogun. A goku is a unit of weight of rice. The estate of 10,000 goku was a rice field which could produce about 1,650 tons of rice a year. In the Edo period, Tosahan was said to be a country of 240,000 goku. A Tokugawa Shogun was also a Daimyo of 5,000,000 goku.
A Daimyo gave rice to his retainers as salary in proportion to their position and retainers sold rice to wholesale store of rice to get cash.
Though merchants were the lowest rank in the social system throughout the Edo period, they became predominant over samurai in the economy. Most Daimyo and even the Tokugawa Bakufu came to borrow large amounts of money from the wealthy merchants in the 19th century. In the 19th century, the samurai’s inability to break free of their debts to merchants and their resulting agitation began to emerge in a political idea. In 1892, China under the Ch’ing dynasty was defeated by the United Kingdom in the Opium war and had its door opened, and a combined fleet from France and the United Kingdom came to Okinawa to ask for trade. In 1844, a trade mission with an official letter from the King of Holland came to Japan to ask Japan to open its door to Holland, but the Tokugawa shogunate turned down the request to maintain the isolation policy of Japan. This closed door was finally opened by America.

In 1853, America’s East Indian fleet’s Commodore Matthew Galbraith Perry appeared in Uraga, Kanagawa prefecture with four steamships and an official letter from President Millard Fillmore to have Japan open its door. The Tokugawa Shogunate was overwhelmed and had him return to America as a temporary measure on the condition that Japan would reply the next year. In January, 1854, Commodore Perry returned to Japan in accordance with Japan’s promise commanding 7 battleships and strongly urged the Tokugawa Shogunate to open its door to trade. The Tokugawa shogunate yielded under the pressure of America and concluded a peace treaty with America. This treaty was an unequal treaty which was coerced exemption of Americans from Japanese law in Japan and most favored nation treatment of America by Japan. At last, Japan’s more than 200 years isolation policy was ended. In 1858, American consul Harris asked the Tokugawa shogunate to conclude the treaty of amity and commerce.
The Tokugawa shogunate reluctantly concluded the treaty and opened the ports of Yokohama, Nagasaki, and Kobe to trade with America.
However, antipathy against these unequal treaties made people call for the expulsion of the westerners, lower class samurai in Choshu (Yamaguchi prefecture),

Satsuma (Kagoshima prefecture), and Tosa (Kochi prefecture) began to advocate the principle of expelling foreigners and revering the emperor to fix the situation. However, they realized that expelling foreigners was very difficult and inexpedient, so they quit it and changed their course to advocate the restoration of Imperial rule and the overthrow of the Tokugawa shogunate.
Though Satsuma and Choshu came to support this new principle, they had been in cut-throat competition because they both wanted to take the initiative in making a new Japan. The men who succeeded in going between Choshu and Satsuma were Sakamoto Ryoma and Nakaoka Shintaro of Tosa (Kochi). Tosa also played an important role in restoring the reigns of the Tokugawa government to the Emperor, which was one of Japan’s biggest turning points. Sakamoto Ryoma and Nakaoka Shintaro made a great contribution to this event.

Sakamoto Ryoma (http://everything2.com/index.pl?node=Sakamoto%20Ryoma) was born in 1834 to a low class samurai family which ran a grocery business in a castle town of Kochi . He took part in the Tosa royalist’s party soon after it was organized, but he was a little different from the other royalists in that he always thought about what Japan should be in the future. This way of thinking was inspired by his master Kawada Shoryo who in turn was inspired by John Manjiro with his up-to-date knowledge of the world. 


John Manjiro was a man of Tosashimizu, Tosa. In 1841 at the age of 14, his fishing vessel was wrecked by a heavy wind and landed on Torishima Island, where he was rescued by a U.S whaler and brought to America. He became the first Japanese to land on America.
After taking high school education in America, in 1851 when he was 24 years old, he returned to Japan. It was just 2 years before America’s Commodore Perry’s coming to Uraga, Kanagawa prefecture. The man of Tosa played an important role in having Japan bring into Meiji restoration. America’s 30th President, Coolidge, was later to say, “when john Manjiro returned to Japan, it was as if America had sent its first ambassador to Japan. Our envoy Perry could enjoy so cordial a reception because John Manjiro had made Japan’s central authorities understand the true face of America.”

        Statue of John Manjiro in Tosashimizu city

 Kawada Shoryo also had a world map which John Manjiro gave him. I think in those days there were only a few world maps in Japan. Sakamoto Ryoma always visited his master’s house to discuss the notion of democracy which was totally unknown to the Japanese in those days and to talk about the world map.
In this way, Kawada Shoryo taught Sakamoto Ryoma the newest information of the world that he heard from John Manjiro. This was around 1853 just when Commodore Perry came to Japan to open Japan’s door. At that time, John Manjiro returned to Kochi from America after a 12- year absence.

I’m going to tell you an interesting event which occurred in the Urado Bay of Kochi city on July 5th, 1866. A steamship flying the Union Jack at its masthead appeared in the Urado Bay on that day and anchored off Katsurahama Beach. Kochi castle town was an overturned anthill. Since John Manjiro was in Kochi at that time, he was called to Katsurahama Beach to act as an interpreter. He approached the steamship in a small boat and said “Good day sir”. They were very surprised to hear him speak English so fluently. John Manjiro asked them why they had come to Kochi.
They said that they were looking for the best place to build a lighthouse and just came by to see. John Manjiro scolded them for their impoliteness in coming to an independent country without permission. They admitted their impoliteness and invited John Manjiro and Goto Shojiro on the steamship, and they were treated to whisky on the ship.

In those days, there were two opinions in Tosa regarding the Tokugawa shogunate.
One of the opinions was that samurai of the Tosa should overthrow the Tokugawa government and build a new samurai world. The other was that they should persuade the Tokugawa shogunate to restore the reigns of government of the Emperor. The former opinion was abandoned and they began to think of restoring the reigns to the emperor without violence.
Sakamoto Ryoma, who succeeded in allying the Satsuma and Choshu and wrote the manuscript of the Restoration of Imperial rule. This included the idea of a national assembly and the appointment of officials on the merit system. I do believe that the basis of this way of thinking came from John Manjiro.
In 1857, the 15th lord of Tosa, “Yamanouchi Yodo” realized that the Tokugawa government was destined to be overthrown, and addressed the petition for the restoration of the Imperial rule to the fifteenth Shogun “Tokugawa Yoshinobu”. This petition was written on the basis of Sakamoto Ryoma’s ideas. The Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu accepted Yamanouch Yodo’s petition.
On October 14th, 1867, Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu finally restored the reigns of government to the emperor and the Tokugawa shogunate which lasted 264 years was put to an end. On this date, Satsuma and Choshu had just decided to march their allied army into Edo (Tokyo) to attack the Edo castle in which the Tokugawa shogun lived. However, the timely efforts of the Tosa helped prevent a civil war and there was no match on Edo.

Sakamoto Ryoma and Nakaoka Shintaro were assassinated in Kyoto by someone who wanted to maintain the samurai world. They were killed just one month after this event, so they were not able to see a new Japan or the Meiji restoration of 1868.
The Meiji government was established in 1868. Most important government positions were occupied by men from Satsuma, Choshu, Tosa, and Hizen (today’s Saga prefecture in Kyushu), and also a few men from the peerage. So, Meiji government was called a clan government, because the Meiji restoration was accomplished by the lower class samurai from these countries.
Even Town of Sakawa produced some great men who held positions such as the grand chamberlain for the Meiji Emperor and the Minister of the Imperial household in the Meiji era and so on.

    Tanaka Koken  
The grand chamberlain for the Meiji Emperor and the Minister of the Imperial household. Born in Sakawa 1843.

Japan then entered the era of civilization and enlightenment. The social position system was abolished and men also abandoned their topknot hair style.

Now I want to emphasize that Japan was the first state, which adapted a compulsory education system in Asia. I think this has led to Japan’s prosperity.
In 1874, Itagaki Taisuke, who was a former retainer of Tosa, developed the democratic rights movement and spread it all over Japan in order to reflect public opinion in politics. I think some of you have seen his statue standing his left hand raised in Kochi Castle Park. This movement led to a constitutional monarchy atate and had Meiji government open the imperial diet. In 1881, Itagaki Taisuke organized the Liberal party and became the president of the party. Nowadays, it is said that “Liberty in Japan originates in the mountains of Kochi.” In 1890, this movement opened the imperial diet.


Japan made plans for an increase of production and defense to catch up with European countries. In 1894, Japan defeated China in the Sino-Japanese war and in 1904, defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese war. In 1910, Japan annexed Korea. Japan experienced World War I and rushed into World War II.
Well, as I have told you too much and I don’t have enough time to tell you about the Showa era specially, I want to finish now. Thank you.

Written by Naoma Hashikake
Sakawa - Kochi