Codification of Law and Status in Early Tokugawa Kyoto

Tite, David A. (2007). Codification of Law and Status in Early Tokugawa Kyoto PhD Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Tite, David A.
Thesis Title Codification of Law and Status in Early Tokugawa Kyoto
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2007-04
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Worringer, Renee E.
Subjects 430000 History and Archaeology
Formatted abstract This dissertation examines the establishment of Tokugawa judicial and administrative
authority in Kyto at the start of the 17th century, particularly Tokugawa policies for
the governance of the general population of the city and the development of warrior
and commoner law. The initial focus is on the position of the early 17th century
administration of Kyto within the Tokugawa system of dual government, unique
because of the city’s importance as the economic and cultural capital of Japan, but
primarily because it was home to the emperor, whose cooperation was vital to the
legitimation of the Tokugawa regime. Tokugawa Ieyasu entrusted the establishment of
administrative and judicial systems in the Kinki region to Itakura Katsushige, a minor
daimy and former priest, installing Katsushige as Military Governor of Kyto. The
persistent authority in the capital of existing ruling elites worked to restrict the
authority of the Military Governor. Like former incumbents, in the resolution of
disputes, Katsushige faced a mindset based on personal ties with people in authority.
Katsushige’s response was two-fold. Firstly, he incorporated into the Tokugawa
administrative and judicial structure groups who had formerly undertaken policing
roles in Kyto, creating a structure of authority unique to the capital region. Secondly,
he formulated the Shinshikimoku, a confidential legal code with roots stretching back
to the era of Ritsury law, but derived largely from Sengoku Period bunkoku law, while
he also issued a number of regulations publicly to the people of the city.
This dissertation engages Katsushige’s Shinshikimoku in two ways. Firstly, it analyzes
the code as the original internal Tokugawa regulations governing the behaviour of the
low to mid level officers who dealt directly with the common people of the Kyto region
on a day-to-day basis. The Shinshikimoku reveals for the first time in detail, how the
Tokugawa approached the provision of justice and punishment for the common people of Kyto. As such, Katsushige’s Shinshikimoku provides hitherto unseen evidence of
the construction of the Tokugawa state apparatus and the practical application of
Tokugawa ethics in urban government.
Secondly, a substantial portion of the Shinshikimoku is devoted to the handling of civil
and commercial disputes. Generally speaking, as a government, the Tokugawa sought
institutionally to distance themselves from the resolution of disputes among
commoners. However, it was recognized that the assistance of the public authorities
should be granted if a dispute could not be resolved among the interested parties and
their own social groups. Katsushige’s laws provide a unique perspective on the types of
civil and commercial disputes that arose in Kyto at the start of the 17th century and
how such disputes were resolved. The dispute resolution methods described by
Katsushige show some variance with accepted historical perceptions of Tokugawa civil
law, suggesting that a revision of those perspectives and a more sophisticated approach
to Tokugawa periodisation and the uniformity of Tokugawa law are required.
Discussion then turns to the codification of customary law by established merchants in
the city as seen in the chshikimoku, laws that some merchant blocks in Kyto were
able to establish from the late 16th century on to control daily life and living
arrangements. The chshikimoku show how the wealthier merchants of Kyto began
working actively at the outset of the early modern era to codify customary laws
ensuring their own security and livelihoods while excluding those of lower status from
the urban community environment.

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