Tales of Old Japan eBook

Algernon Freeman-Mitford, 1st Baron Redesdale
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 481 pages of information about Tales of Old Japan.
In return for these grants of land, the Hatamotos had in war-time to furnish a contingent of soldiers in proportion to their revenue.  For every thousand kokus of rice five men were required.  Those Hatamotos whose revenue fell short of a thousand kokus substituted a quota of money.  In time of peace most of the minor offices of the Tycoon’s government were filled by Hatamotos, the more important places being held by the Fudai, or vassal Daimios of the Shogun.  Seven years ago, in imitation of the customs of foreign nations, a standing army was founded; and then the Hatamotos had to contribute their quota of men or of money, whether the country were at peace or at war.  When the Shogun was reduced in 1868 to the rank of a simple Daimio, his revenue of eight million kokus reverted to the Government, with the exception of seven hundred thousand kokus.  The title of Hatamoto exists no more, and those who until a few months ago held the rank are for the most part ruined or dispersed.  From having been perhaps the proudest and most overbearing class in Japan, they are driven to the utmost straits of poverty.  Some have gone into trade, with the heirlooms of their families as their stock; others are wandering through the country as Ronins; while a small minority have been allowed to follow the fallen fortunes of their master’s family, the present chief of which is known as the Prince of Tokugawa.  Thus are the eighty thousand dispersed.

The koku of rice, in which all revenue is calculated, is of varying value.  At the cheapest it is worth rather more than a pound sterling, and sometimes almost three times as much.  The salaries of officials being paid in rice, it follows that there is a large and influential class throughout the country who are interested in keeping up the price of the staple article of food.  Hence the opposition with which a free trade in rice has met, even in famine times.  Hence also the frequent so-called “Rice Riots.”

The amounts at which the lands formerly held by the chief Daimios, but now patriotically given up by them to the Mikado, were assessed, sound fabulous.  The Prince of Kaga alone had an income of more than one million two hundred thousand kokus.  Yet these great proprietors were, latterly at least, embarrassed men.  They had many thousand mouths to feed, and were mulcted of their dues right and left; while their mania for buying foreign ships and munitions of war, often at exorbitant prices, had plunged them heavily in debt.




The word Otokodate occurs several times in these Tales; and as I cannot convey its full meaning by a simple translation, I must preserve it in the text, explaining it by the following note, taken from the Japanese of a native scholar.

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Tales of Old Japan from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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