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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Yoshimune strictly interdicted this practice


Of

course, credit was completely undermined by the issue of this decree. It is strange that such conditions should have existed under such a ruler as Yoshimune. But even his strenuous influence did not suffice to stem the current of the time. The mercantile instinct pervaded all the transactions of every-day life. If a man desired to adopt a son, he attached much less importance to the latter's social status or personality than to the dimensions of his fortune, and thus it came about that the family names of petty feudatories were freely bought and sold. Yoshimune strictly interdicted this practice, but his veto had no efficiency; wealthy farmers or merchants freely purchased their way into titled families. From this abuse to extortion of money by threats the interval was not long, and the outcome, where farmers were victims, took the form of agrarian riots. It was to the merchants, who stood between the farmers and the samurai, that fortune offered conspicuously favourable opportunities in these circumstances. The tradesmen of the era became the centre of extravagance and luxury, so that in a certain sense the history of the Yedo Bakufu may be said to be the history of mercantile development.

INDUSTRIAL PROGRESS

Yoshimune devoted much attention to the encouragement of industrial progress. Deeming that a large import of drugs and sugar caused a ruinous drain of specie, he sent experts hither and thither through

the country to encourage the domestic production of these staples as well as of vegetable wax. The feudatories, in compliance with his suggestion, took similar steps, and from this time tobacco growing in Sagami and Satsuma; the weaving industry in Kotsuke and Shimotsuke; sericulture in Kotsuke, Shinano, Mutsu, and Dewa; indigo cultivation in Awa; orange growing in Kii, and the curing of bonito in Tosa and Satsuma--all these began to flourish. Another feature of the time was the cultivation of the sweet potato at the suggestion of Aoki Konyo, who saw in this vegetable a unique provision against famine. Irrigation and drainage works also received official attention, as did the reclamation of rice-growing areas and the storing of cereals.

THE NINTH SHOGUN, IESHIGE

In 1745, Yoshimune resigned his office to his son, Ieshige, who, having been born in 1702, was now in his forty-third year. Yoshimune had three sons, Ieshige, Munetake, and Munetada. Of these the most promising was the second, Munetake, whose taste for literature and military art almost equalled his father's. Matsudaira Norimura, prime minister, recognizing that Ieshige, who was weak, passionate, and self-willed, would not be able to fill worthily the high office of shogun, suggested to Yoshimune the advisability of nominating Munetake. But Yoshimune had his own programme. Ieshige's son, Ieharu, was a very gifted youth, and Yoshimune reckoned on himself retaining the direction of affairs for some years, so that Ieshige's functions would be merely nominal until Ieharu became old enough to succeed to the shogunate.

Meanwhile, to prevent complications and avert dangerous rivalry, Yoshimune assigned to Munetake and Munetada residences within the Tayasu and Hitotsubashi gates of the castle, respectively, gave the names of these gates as family titles, and bestowed on each a revenue of one hundred thousand koku, together with the privilege of supplying an heir to the shogunate in the event of failure of issue in the principal house of Tokugawa or in one of the "Three Families." The shogun, Ieshige, followed the same plan with his son, Yoshishige, and as the latter's residence was fixed within the Shimizu gate, there came into existence "Three Branch Families" called the Sankyo, in supplement of the already existing Sanke.*


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