A Middle Class Samurai Warrier’s Diary in Edo Period

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4121007409      How much do you think I paid for this book? I bought it for only one yen through Amazon! It’s Genroku Otatami Bugyo No Nikki, written by Jiro Kosaka in 1984. This book is based on a diary written by a samurai warrier in the middle management position in Edo period. I bought this book because the lecturer had mentioned it in a lecture about Shirakabe area in Higashi-ku, the eastern place from Nagoya Castle, the other day.

     It was snowing so hard that day that I hesitated to go outside. But I went to the lecture and had a wonderful time. The lecturer talked about many interesting things, especially, about people who used to live in Shirakabe area, such as Sakichi Toyota, the founder of Toyota Motor, and Akio Morita, the founder of Sony. But who I got interested in the best was the writer of the diary: Bunzaemon Asahi. TS3N0012

     Bunzaemon was a samurai warrier in the middle class and a kind of facilities department chief in Owari, now Nagoya, in Edo period. He loved going to the theater, gambling, and poems, indulged sex and alcohol, and suffered from hysterical his wife and lover. He was interested in martial arts and became a disciple of many of them, but he had no physical and mental power and no sense for them.

     Such a worthless samurai had written journals for 26 years and eight months until he died! They’re 37 books and called Omu Rochuki. He was an ordinary samurai. He didn’t do anything special in his time, except for writing his own diary. He recorded the social situation, prices of commodities, the weather, astronomical observation, from small to big affairs, theater criticism, gambling info, even indictment against the government and the lord.

     After the lecture, I ordered this book at Amazon. There are many interesting descriptions in it as follows: TS3N10310001

“July third. I went shooting. I fired 13 shots, but no hit.”

“At the wedding, many people drank too much and threw up at the table.”

“I drank too much last night. I have a stomachache and feel sick. I threw up twice this morning. I shouldn’t drink too much from now on.”

“It’s fine today. I drank too much and threw up terribly last night. I really feel sick. I mustn’t drink much from now on. I’ll stop drink for a while from tonight.”

     He ended up dying from liver ailment.

     What I’m surprised at his diaries is how much people committed suicide. Japan is notorious for large numbers of suicide and I’d thought it was just a present problem. But it seems a kind of tradition and habit for Japanese. There are lots of descriptions of variety of suicide in Bunzaemon’s diaries.

“May 31. Juzaemon Arakawa died. He had opened a gambling house in secret for many years because he was very poor. This time, because many of his customers had been arrested, he killed himself by eating lots of cold noodles and jellies and 500 plums. He had a lover and a 13-year-old boy.”

“A wife in Dekimachi took a part time job at a liqueur shop. The wife and the brewer had a love affair. The wife’s husband noticed it and killed the wife and brewer, and then killed himself by the sword today.”

“Gohei Tori’s wife died on August 29. During Gohei’s absence on business in Edo (now Tokyo), she had a love affair. She killed herself at the toilet before her husband’s return.”

“An old woman cut her throat with a razor in the daytime. She was very poor. She had no relatives and places to go.”

“A farmer in Nozaki, killed himself because he had no rice for tax. He went out of his house, became naked, sit on a straw mat, and cut his neck with a knife.”TS3N10330001

     Most of the suicide people chose their death because of poverty in the era. Couldn’t they live truly? They didn’t die from starvation. They killed themselves. Many of them did for fear of revelation of their secrets. Did they really need to die? Why did they choose to try to solve their problems without killing themselves? Japanese people tend to choose suicide easily. Nothing has changed on people’s life and thinking way, I thought when I was reading the book. It’s not only about suicide but also many things.

     Why don’t you read the book? You can buy a second handed one for only one yen through Amazon!

元禄御畳奉行の日記―尾張藩士の見た浮世

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