By 1816, Japan had recovered from the famines of the 1780s and moved beyond the political reforms of the 1790s. Despite persistent ecomic and social stresses, the country seemed to be approaching a new period of growth. The idea that the shogunate would t last forever was far from anyone's mind.Yet, in that year, an anymous samurai author completed one of the most detailed critiques of Edo society kwn today. Writing as Buyo Inshi, a retired gentleman of Edo, he expresses a profound despair with the state of the realm and with people's behavior and attitudes. He sees decay wherever he turns and believes the world will soon descend into war.Buyo shows a familiarity with many corners of Edo life that one might t expect in a samurai. He describes the corruption of samurai officials; the suffering of the poor in villages and cities; the operation of brothels; the dealings of blind moneylenders; the selling and buying of temple abbotships; and the dubious strategies townspeople use in the law courts. Perhaps the frankness of his account, which contains a wealth of concrete information about Edo society, made him prefer to remain anymous.This volume contains a full translation of Buyo's often-quoted but rarely studied work by a team of specialists on Edo society. Together with extensive antation of the translation, the volume includes an introduction that situates the text culturally and historically.
Mark Teeuwen is professor in Japanese studies at the University of Oslo. He is a historian of Japanese religion, with special focus on the history of Shinto. Kate Wildman Nakai is a professor emerita at Sophia University, Tokyo. Her research focuses on Tokugawa and modern history, with an emphasis on intellectual developments.Miyazaki Fumiko is professor of Japanese history at Keisen University in Tokyo. Her research focuses on Tokugawa religion and society. Anne Walthall is professor of Japanese history and director of the Center for Asian Studies at the University of California, Irvine. Her research focuses on society and gender during the Tokugawa period. John Breen is a professor at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies, Kyoto, where he edits the journal Japan Review. His research focuses on issues of state and religion in Japan.