By Takeshi Moriyama
Crossing obstacles in Tokugawa Society provides a bright picure of the lifetime of Suzuki Bokushi (1770-1842), an elite villager in a snowy province of Japan, targeting his interplay with the altering social and cultural setting of the overdue Tokugawa interval (1603-1868).
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Extra info for Crossing boundaries in Tokugawa society: Suzuki Bokushi, a rural elite commoner
Due to economic transformation on the one hand, and political intervention on the other, there were dramatic rises and falls in people’s fortunes. And, ultimately, unforeseen happenings and personal attributes also contributed to such vicissitudes. The Suzuki family’s metamorphosis from farmer to merchant, following the first change from samurai to farmer in the previous century, was clearly represented in physical form by their mercantile house, built in 1751 on the main street of Shiozawa. 20 A stark contrast between success and failure in the face of new economic opportunities is also seen in the next generation, in the behaviour of Bokushi’s father and uncle.
18 This view was expressed by Peter Burke in his 1991 review of the development of the so-called ‘new history’. According to Burke, ‘new history’ began with ‘reactions against the study of grand social trends, society without a human face’, and had begun to move towards a ‘synthesis’ of dichotomies such as ‘the high [culture] and the low [culture]’. 20 The socio-cultural schema represented as ‘above’-‘middle’-‘below’ 16 Howell, Capitalism from Within; Kären Wigen, The Making of a Japanese Periphery, 1750–1920 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), and A Malleable Map: Geographies of Restoration in Central Japan, 1600–1912 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010).
See also Watanabe Kōichi, ‘Zaikatamachi no toshikōzō o saguru’, in Aoki Michio and Hosaka Satoshi (eds), Shinshiten Nihon no rekishi, vol. 5 (Tokyo: Shin jinbutsu ōraisha, 1993), pp. 166–71; and ‘Zaikatamachi’, in Kinsei 2, vol. 12 of Iwanami kōza Nihon tsūshi (Tokyo: Iwanami shoten, 1994), pp. 348–68. In English, see Nakai Nobuhiko and James L. ), Early Modern Japan, esp. pp. 547–54. 30 Yoshida Nobuyuki, Seijuku suru Edo, vol. 17 of Nihon no rekishi (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 2002), pp. 32–33. beyond the locality 25 In theory, the ‘village’ was understood, by and large, as a communal unit developed on the basis of agricultural production (or fishing in some cases).