Restoration of the Status Order and the Limits of Townsperson Culture in Saikaku

April 15, 2024
by Noriyuki Morimoto

The actions of Aoto Fujitsuna, as described by the Edo period writer Ihara Saikaku, could be seen as a precursor to Keynesian economic theory. Fujitsuna, who had lost some small coins in the river, thought it would be a loss to society if the coins were left there. So he offered a large sum of money to commoners to find them, happy that the money he gave them would circulate in society. In fact, the commoners spent the money immediately to hold a feast.

Public investment includes many projects for which the necessity of the intended use is unclear, and even if the project has no practical use, the huge sum of invested money is expected to circulate among the people and drive expanded economic reproduction. This is not much different from the logic behind Fujitsuna spending a large sum of money to find small change. It can be said that behind Fujitsuna’s act, the growth of capital through its circulation was anticipated.

In fact, however, no coins had been found; one of the commoners had just falsely presented the coins in his possession. When Fujitsuna found out about the injustice, he stripped the man naked and made him spend 97 days looking for the coins. This means that Fujitsuna, as a member of the ruling class, restored the order of domination by forcing a commoner to do hard labor for 97 days.

Moreover, the person who had protested the fraud was found to have been a samurai disguised by circumstances, and was given back his status. Again, what was restored was the status-based order of samurai rule.

As a townsperson, Saikaku was strongly bound by the status order of the Edo period, with the samurai at the top, and rather than being critical of the 97 days of futile hard labor imposed on a man of the same class, he affirmed the rule of the samurai and expressed support for the imposition of punitive hard labor as an enforcement of that value system. This was the limitation of the Edo period’s culture of townspeople.


[Category /Work-Style Reform]

Noriyuki Morimoto
Noriyuki Morimoto

Chief Executive Officer, HC Asset Management Co.,Ltd. Noriyuki Morimoto founded HC Asset Management in November 2002. As a pioneer investment consultant in Japan, he established the investment consulting business of Watson Wyatt K.K. (now Willis Towers Watson) in 1990.