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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The former known as the Tensho koban and the Tensho oban


the same time (1583), land surveyors (kendenshi) were appointed to compile a map of the entire country. A similar step had been taken by the Ashikaga shogun, Yoshiteru, in 1553, but the processes adopted on that occasion were not by any means so accurate or scientific as those prescribed by the Taiko. The latter entrusted the work of survey to Nazuka Masaiye, with whom was associated the best mathematician of the era, Zejobo, and it is recorded that owing to the minute measures pursued by these surveyors and to the system of taking two-thirds of the produce for the landlord instead of one-half or even less, and owing, finally, to estimating the tan at 300 tsubo instead of at 360 without altering its taxable liability, the official revenue derived from the land throughout the empire showed a total increase of eight million koku, equivalent to about L11,000,000 or $54,000,000.

Hideyoshi has been charged with extortion on account of these innovations. Certainly, there is a striking contrast between the system of Tenchi and that of Toyotomi. The former, genuinely socialistic, divided the whole of the land throughout the empire in equal portions among the units of the nation, and imposed a land-tax not in any case exceeding five per cent, of the gross produce. The latter, frankly feudalistic, parcelled out the land into great estates held by feudal chiefs, who allotted it in small areas to farmers on condition that the latter paid sixty-six per cent,

of the crops to the lord of the soil. But in justice to Hideyoshi, it must be owned that he did not devise this system. He was not even the originator of its new methods, namely, the abbreviation of the tan and the expansion of the rate. Both had already been put into practice by other daimyo. It must further be noted that Hideyoshi's era was essentially one of war. The outlays that he was obliged to make were enormous and perpetual. He became accustomed, as did his contemporary barons, to look lightly at vast expenditure. Not otherwise can we account for the fact that, within the brief period of eleven years, he undertook and completed five great works involving enormous cost. These works were the Osaka Castle, in 1583; a palace for the retiring Emperor Okimachi, in 1586; the palace of Juraku, in 1587; the Kyoto Daibutsu, in 1586, and the Momo-yama Palace, in 1594. What sum these outlays aggregated no attempt has been made to calculate accurately, but the figure must have been immense. In fact, when Hideyoshi's financial measures are considered, it should always be in the context of his achievements and his necessities.


Another important feature of Hideyoshi's era was the use of coins. During the time of the Ashikaga shogunate, two kinds of gold coins were minted, and both were called after the name of the era when they first went into circulation; they were known as the Shocho koban (1428-1429) and the Tembun koban (1532-1555). But these coins were so rare that they can scarcely be said to have been current. As tokens of exchange, copper coins were imported from China, and were known in Japan as Eiraku-sen, Eiraku being the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese era, Yunglo. These were of pure metal, and side by side with them were circulated an essentially inferior iron coin struck in Japan and known as bita-sen. Oda Nobunaga, appreciating the disastrous effects produced by such currency confusion, had planned remedial measures when death overtook him, and the task thus devolved upon Hideyoshi. Fortunately, the production of gold and silver in Japan increased greatly at this epoch, owing to the introduction of scientific metallurgical methods from Europe. The gold mines of Sado and the silver mines of Ikuno quadrupled or quintupled their output, and Hideyoshi caused an unprecedented quantity of gold and silver coins to be struck; the former known as the Tensho koban and the Tensho oban,* and the latter as the silver bu (ichibu-giri) and the silver half-bu (nishu-gin.)

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