Table of Contents
永原 慶二、中世動乱期に生きる:一揆・商人・侍・大名、日本出版社、東京、1996 (Nagahara Kenji, Life in the Chaotic Medieval Era: Protest, Merchants, Samurai, Daimyō, Nippon Shuppansha, Tokyo, 1996)


永原 慶二、中世動乱期に生きる:一揆・商人・侍・大名、日本出版社、東京、1996 (Nagahara Kenji, Life in the Chaotic Medieval Era: Protest, Merchants, Samurai, Daimyō, Nippon Shuppansha, Tokyo, 1996)

At the local level, those who could be described as `pseudo` samurai belonged to the social rank of `jizamurai`. They were not of the same class as jitō, and as they did not possess a formal title for their status, they could be described as influential members of the myōshu class. As can be discerned from the name, the myōshu were of peasant status, for the peasantry had been an established social class since the Ritsuryō era. Yet by the Nambokuchō era, particularly powerful peasants had begun to accumulate yet more authority under their name.

For example, the tithes collected on shōen were originally meant to be paid on an individual basis by each peasant towards the landowner, yet gradually the landowners gave this responsibility to influential peasants on their property(ies). Of course, the peasants themselves could make demands, which were designated as `hyakushō uke` or `jige uke`. Those who were given the task of collecting tithes and receiving invoices from estate owners constituted the myōshu class. In order to partake in farming, the myōshu had to ensure rights to water and access to mountains and fields, and thus they became the focal point of village administration. Hence the myōshu fulfilled the role of solidifying village practices and ensuring the continued survival of the village.

On the other hand, the myōshu (or at least, some myōshu) were tied to those of kokujin and shugo status, and thus held hikaku status in their own right. To be in a hikaku relationship meant that one was subservient to a higher authority, hence although one was a peasant, one was also regarded as a `samurai`.(157)

The very concept of `samurai` had undergone a shift from the Kamakura era to the Muromachi. Whereas the Heian era (and after) had seen the establishment of samurai families with designated titles (Heieimon, Eimonfu – at the end of the Heian period, samurai were known as `tsuwamono no ke`), the Kamakura era saw the codification and consolidation of samurai status. In contrast to this, jizamurai, although they possessed samurai status, did not have such a clear relationship to either the court or bakufu, neither could they be said to have possessed a clear military role, hence their position was not confirmed. On the other hand, particularly powerful rural samurai were designated as kokujin, or else shugo and held a subservient relationship to central authority (whether they clearly acknowledged it or not) as `retainers`. Non-retainers, in other words jizamurai, were thus referred to at the time as being of `samurai bun`.

However, although the jizamurai were of peasant status, as they were samurai, they were given a surname. For members of the myōshu, holding a personal name was common, yet this gradually meant the adoption of a personal as well as a surname. Such people were described as possessing `samurai myōji`, and began to appear more frequently from among the villages. Such figures were not present during the Kamakura era, yet their presence was felt from the onset of the Muromachi era. On occasion, such figures did reach both shugo and kokujin level status.(158)

As myōshu resided in villages, their everyday activities resembled those of other peasants. Yet the jizamurai were responsible for the administration of the village harvest, for tithes, and property rights, which gave them real standing in the community and authority. If kokujin and shugo could create amicable relations with such figures, then their estates were kept in good stead, yet it was often the case that the two groups did not agree on methods nor amounts. The behaviour of the jizamurai could prove the key that would either disturb or confirm the degree of stability that a daimyo held over his territory. As the Muromachi era progressed into the Sengoku, the role of the jizamurai began to expand in importance, and was a large factor in events that emerged over time. All this despite the fact that the jizamurai were not a clearly designated ruling class. Whilst possessing status that would enable them to control local communities, they were still `half peasants`. Hence they were, in a sense, drawn between two worlds – on the one hand, they belonged to the commoners, yet on the other they were tied to the ruling classes. Hence they were of `the middling sort`.

© Greg Pampling. This page was modified in December 2011