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Japanese Studies, Vol. 27, No. 2, September 2007

Loyalty in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Samurai Discourse

OLIVIER ANSART, University of Sydney, Australia

Chu, usually translated as loyalty, is supposed to have been the paramount virtue of samurai, inspiring them to the seless service of their daimyo. Analyzing the understandings of this notion among samurai thinkers of seventeenth and eighteenth century Japan, this article stresses that, far from there being one understanding of chu, many interpretations were competing with each other; it examines the various dynamics that can explain this fragmentation. One, opening the possibility of higher values, was the necessity of justifying the demands of chu. Another was the competition from other moral notions, such as the concern for ones reputation. The problems that chu inevitably encountered in practicethe dilemma of conicting loyalties, or the rivalry from non moral goods like wealth and powerwere also powerful factors. Yet another dynamic was the weakening of the private feudal bonds and the subsequent recognition of the contractual nature of many social relationships. The cumulative effect of those dynamics explains that in the end chu could even become an object of incomprehension or derision. Ultimately chu only sur vived because it was enlisted to construct a relationship that could withstand any test, being, quite unlike that of samurai and daimyo, purely imaginary and empty: that between the Emperor and his subjects. A traditional view, still very popular, holds that in Tokugawa Japan the virtue of chu 1usually translated as loyaltyrequired from the samurai absolute and uncondi tional loyalty to their lord, and that this requirement was scrupulously honored in practice. Watsuji Tetsuro called this absolute and actual loyalty kenshin no dotoku, the virtue of total dedication.2 Early last century, Tsuda Sokichi argued that it was unknown in China.3 Scholars of feudalism added that it was absent in Europe: Marc Bloch and countless others stressed the lack, in Japanese feudal relations,4 of the contractual dimension so striking in the West, and which has been widely recognized as one of the ferments of the subsequent democratization of Europe.5 There is apparently plentiful evidence in support of this interpretation of the meaning of chu and of its importance in practice. The bushido literature typically describes the

But also chu setsu, chusei, chugi, gi, or giri. Watsuji, Nihon rinri shisoshi, 2 : 482 ff. 3 Tsuda, Bungaku ni arawaretaru kokumin shiso no kenkyu, 6 : 350. 4 Some object to the use of the term feudalism in respect to Tokugawa society. I do not need to enter the polemic here, and will just remark that, whatever the non feudal characteristicsurbanization, role of money, bureaucratization, absolutist tendencies in some shoguns, etc.,relationships within the elite strata, between shogun and daimyo, daimyo and retainers still retained that private dimension so characteristic of what we understand by feudalism. 5 Bloch, La societe feodale, 301, 320, 618.2


ISSN 1037-1397 print/ISSN 1469-9338 online/07/020139-16 # 2007 Japanese Studies Association of Australia DOI: 10.1080/10371390701494150

140 Olivier Ansart ideal retainer in the service of his lord as as if already dead, and a ghost, and vehemently rejects the idea that loyalty could be given in return for a favor.6 The author of the Hagakure, Yamamoto Tsunetomo (1659 1719), reports approvingly the remark that To serve while receiving the favor of the lord is not to serve. To serve when the lord is without heart or reason is to serve.7 And indeed many curious practices, from the junshithe ritual suicide upon the natural death of ones masterto the loyalist vendettas and the enthusiasm they provoked, suggest that chu was truly absolute in meaning and actual in practice. Partly because of its obvious political implications, this popular view has not gone unchallenged. However, critics wishing to make a case for the contractual nature of the relationships between retainers and their lords have all focused on the presence, or rather (for them) the absence, of such absolute chu in the actual behavior of the samurai, contrasting this with the hollow rhetoric of the bushido tracts.8 Certainly, their studies have convincingly suggested that most retainers, constantly and ercely resisting encroachment on their traditional privileges by their lord, were not greatly inspired to the sort of loyalty extolled in the Hagakure.9 While I share the skepticism of these critics about the traditional view, in this paper I take a different approach. The focus here is not on the actual behavior of the retainers, but on the evolution of the understanding of the concept of chu in samurai moral discourseand this mainly during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. More specically, my aim is to make a systematic preliminary survey of the varied dynamics shaping the interpretations of chu that is, its diverse possible articulations with other ideasin samurai moral discourse of this period.10 In such an approach there is little to gain, and a lot to lose, from framing the issue in terms of a gap between the meaning of an idea and its reection in actual behavior. It risks obscuring the fact that there was no agreement on what chu required. Further, what is important in understanding the dynamic of the evolution of the meanings of chu is not the docu mentation of a gap between the idea and instances of individual behavior. What is important is, rather, the explanation of the relationships between the very different understandings of this idea and the social practices (not the individual behavior) they were interacting with. This paper suggests how such relationships might be approached.

Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure, 230. Ibid., 503. 8 See Ienaga, Shuju dotoku no ichi kosatsu; Kasaya, Nihon kinsei shakai; Kitajima, Buke no hokonin, 74. The debunking of the myth has also been carried by popular writers; see Inoue, Fu chu shingura, and Sakaiya, Debunking the Myth of Loyalty. A very general overview in English is in Hurst, Death, Honor, and Loyalty. 9 But even in the most spectacular conspiracies and betrayals of the oie sodo (the internal quarrels in the daimyo houses) chu was likely to be invoked by all parties. I shall come back to this dimension of chu as a convenient device for justifying ones behavior. 10 The limitation of my enquiry to samurai discourse is justied by the importance of the issue for samurai. Some of the most prominent bourgeois thinkersIto Jinsai would be a good case in point had very little to say about loyalty. Others engaged in a sort of mimicry of samurai loyalty, inserting it in the world of economic and commercial relationships, but this is an altogether different issue. Samurai discourse was that held by those thinkers, many of whom appear in this paper, who saw themselves as belonging to the bushi group. The loyalty I am concerned with is the one retainers owed to their daimyo. I am less concerned by the loyalty owed by those daimyo to the shogun, because dynamics were slightly different. And loyalty to the Emperor, I will argue in the last section, was of a very different kind.7


Loyalty in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Samurai Discourse


Understandings of Loyalty My starting point is that there was no agreement among samurai authors about the meaning of chu that is since chu is a moral concept about what it required. True, all , saw chu as binding one individual to another. Contrary to our contemporary usage of loyalty which leaves room for loyalty to a cause, a country or even an idea, chu was deeply personal. The constant parallel with lial piety conrms this dimension. Other termsgi, michireferred to obligations toward the public good or higher morality. Of course there was also loyalty to o-ie, the daimyo house, but this house consisted necessarily of individuals. Still, this shared view of chu as an obligation to specic persons could not hide a lack of agreement as to the scope, the conditions, the objects of chu The simplest way to prove this point would seem to be a survey of the available . denitions for the term. On the one hand, there were those who, like Yamamoto Tsunetomo, took chu as absolute obeisance (not that he believed that the retainer should not remonstrate with his master and abdicate all judgment; but he stressed that he ultimately should obey, whatever the cost). Other works in the bushido tradition, like the Budo Shoshin Shu of Daidoji Yuzan (16391730) and the Bushi kun of Izawa Banryu (1668 1731), also afrmed repeatedly that a samurai does not belong to himself but to his master. On the other hand, Ogyu Sorai (16661728) expressed the visceral repugnance he felt for the idea that our bodies belong to our lords and are no longer ours, a view which he thought was good only for wives and concubines.11 He stated that chu was simply doing things for others as we would for ourselves.12 Such contrasted general denitions certainly give us a sense of the extent of the disagreements on the meaning of chu However, the divergences are best illustrated by the judgments . offered on specic instances of loyal or disloyal behavior. Only in these discussions and arguments appear the various concerns, the other moral notions, the considerations of all sorts that put chu in perspectivein very different perspectives, in fact. Two such cases generated considerable discussion. The most famous is that of the vendetta of the Forty Seven Loyal Retainers (ronin) who, in 1703, murdered a high ranking ofcial their own lord had tried in vain to kill an action for which he had been condemned to ritual suicide. A well-studied series of tracts, essays and replies, spread over two main waves in the eighteenth century, offers ample testimony to the divergent analyses of the episode. Some thinkers approved the conception of chu they saw implicit in the ronin actions; other criticized it, all for differ ent reasons. Among the critics, Yamamoto Tsunetomo harshly condemned their patience and calculations as conicting with the chu of authentic bushido.13 Ogyu Sorai believed that the private loyalty they had displayed could not override public interest.14 Dazai Shundai (1680 1747) was more severe, arguing that sages would totally reject their conception of loyalty that he also considered as clearly conicting with the imperatives of the government.15 Sato Naokata (16501719) similarly rejected the ronin view of chu but did so by arguing both from the Neo Confucian , riprinciple or reason of thingsand from a quasi legalist support for higher orders.16 Among supporters, whose degree of enthusiasm varied greatly, Hayashi11 12

Ogyu Sorai, Tomonsho, 190. Ibid. 13 Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure, 237. 14 Ozawa, Nihon shiso ronso shi, 261. 15 Dazai Shundai, Ako shijurokushi ron, 406 407. 16 Sato Naokata, Shijurokushi ron, 378379.

142 Olivier Ansart Hoko (16451732) claimed that if their chu was ethically correct, it still was liable to penal sanction.17 More supportive Muro Kyuso (16581734) argued that the ronin view of chu was moral, while Miyake Shosai (16621741) explained and justied their action as the result of purely spontaneous emotion.18 In all those cases, there were clearly different understandings at work: different interpretations of the requirements of chu and of its relationships with notions like public interest, laws, feelings, , natural order of things, morality, other focuses of obedience and so on. In this controversy around the 47 retainers, however, not only was the debate distorted by attempts of its protagonists to throw discredit upon other schools and thinkers, but the opposing interpretations of loyalty were also entangled in very different interpretations of both the facts and the intentions of the roninas a number of previous studies have shown.19 Even more revealing, because of the relative absence of disagreements on irrelevant matters, was the debate around the actions of the ancient Chinese Tang and Wu who, denouncing their kings as tyrants, had murdered them and founded the new dynasties of Shang and Zhou.20 Outright rejection of the actions of Tang and Wu certainly had a lot of support.21 Yamazaki Ansai (16181682), for example, as quoted by his disciple Asami Keisai (1652 1711), seems to have found it difcult to even envisage the case of a bad lord against whom one might consider disobedience.22 Others argued that in cases of wicked government continued remonstranceclearly ruled out in Ansais assumption that there simply could not exist such a thing as a bad lord and subsequent martyrdom were the only possible behavior and manifestation of true loyalty. This was the position of Kumazawa Banzan (1619 1691) who conspicuously left Tang and Wu out of the list of the most excellent sages, although he did include them as lesser ones.23 Others still advocated taking leave of ones wicked master, considering the ties of loyalty to be dissolved in such a case: It is the ancient way to leave [our lord] if our remonstrance has been ignored, said Yamaga Soko (16221685).24 Others, like Hayashi Razan, went further, believing that wicked lords who failed in their responsibilities exposed themselves to perfectly legitimate attacks.25 Ogyu Sorai was among the most outspoken supporters of Tang and Wu. Not only did he vigorously defend their inclusion in the ranks of the sages, he also afrmed that it was inevitable that the quality of leadership should worsen over time. It was in consequence only natural for low born men to displace theHayashi Hoko Fukushu ron, 372. , Muro Kyuso Ako gijin roku, 274 ff. For Miyakes position, see Ozawa & Imai, eds., Nihon shiso, 269 , 270. 19 I refer interested readers to the articles by McMullen, Bito and Smith published by Monumenta Nippo nica on the 300th anniversary of the incident: McMullen, Confucian Perspectives on the Ako Revenge; Bito The Ako Incident; Smith, The Capacity of Chushingura. , 20 This specic debate was not merely academic; it had been instigated by Tokugawa Ieyasu himself, before he attacked the son of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Obviously looking for justication, he had asked scholars whether actions such as Tang and Wus were permissible. 21 The kokugakusha were among the most critical of Tang and Wus actions. I do not consider their criticism here because most of them were chonin (commoner) thinkers and also because their object of loyalty was the Emperor. 22 Asami Keisai, Ko so shisetsu, 235. yu 23 Cf. Kumazawa Banzan, Shugi washo. On p. 21, he lauds people who chose martyrdom rather than rebellion, and who refused to serve those who had dislodged a wicked ruler; on p. 323, he makes a ranking among the sagessomething Sorai would vehemently reject as the height of arroganceand excludes Tang and Wu from the highest group. 24 Yamaga Soko Yamaga gorui, 6 (maki 15): 133. , 25 Hayashi, Bunshu 208. ,18 17

Loyalty in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Samurai Discourse


ones who had been in power too long.26 Tang and Wu were kings in another time and another country, but the polemic around their actions is striking testimony to the diversity of views among Tokugawa samurai thinkers. Although they all seemed to accept the idea of chu as the devotion of a servant to his master, they had fundamentally divergent visions of the scope, the conditions and the limits of this devotion.27 It is not necessary here to make an exhaustive inventory of the varied understandings of the explicit and implicit requirements of chu amongst the above-mentioned thinkers. But since chu was viewed in such different ways, it is clearly important to trace the dynamics inspiring those multiple interpretations and structuring the evolution of chu in the web of moral concepts. The Web of Rival Concerns A rst dynamic was purely philosophical. It did not directly shape any specic understandings of chu But it made them possible. Chu, after all, is a moral concept. One can certainly . use the word in a purely descriptive way, as a simple reference to one type of behavior. However, because the word is used to request or inspire the special type of behavior it denotes, it is also a moral concept necessarily exposed to the question of justication. As a moral concept it must assume that there is something larger than itself, that is, morality. Of course, some Tokugawa thinkers tried to avoid the problems looming here by subsuming, directly or implicitly, all moral issues under the concept of loyalty, thus transforming it into morality itself. One could thus deny any possibility of conict between chu and other moral obligations. Yamazaki Ansai, claiming that there simply is no such thing as a bad or wicked ruler, could pretend that loyalty was always good and right.28 Through a different argument, Yamamoto Tsunetomo reached a similar conclusion. Stressing that the ideal retainer, at one with his master, serves him [as selessly] as a corpse, he remarked that this absolute and seless loyalty entailed the abandonment not only of all self interest but also of all other ethical considerations.29 The loyal retainer does not follow his master because his master is good and doing the right things.30 He follows his master, leaving to him [all considerations of] good and evil and renouncing his own body, and does whatever he is asked to do, simply because he is his masters servant.31 In such an argument the specic notion of chu becomes morality itself.

The inclusion of Tang and Wu in the list of the sages is vigorously defended in Sorais Benmei, 255. The idea that the overthrow of regimes too old and corrupted is inevitable is in his Seidan, 365. Muro Kyuso approves similarly of Tang and Wu (Shokan, 302 ff.). On this controversy, see, in English, Tucker, Two Mencian Political Notions. 27 Lastly, it could be pointed out that these divisions went so far that, from the mid Tokugawa onward, some playwrights and novelists could even make loyalty into an object of ridicule and derision. Tsuruya Nanbokus (1755 1829) Yotsuya kaidan, Hoseido Kisanjis kibyoshi parody, Anadehon tsu jingura (1779), and Shikitei Sanbas Chu shingura henchikiron (1812) are all cases in point (see Smith, Chushin gura in the 1980s). If we consider how devoid of all heroic dimension, how prosaic samurai lives had become in Tokugawawitness that very common type of samurai, interested only in food, wine and gossip, portrayed in the memoirs of Asahi Bunzaemon (see Kaga, Genroku kakyu bushi no seikatsu, and Kosaka, Genroku otatami bugyo no nikki)they probably were not far from the mark. 28 See Asami Keisai, Ko so shisetsu, 235. yu 29 Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure, 221. 30 The forty seven ronin, as their correspondence revealed, had no clue as to why their master harbored a grudge against Lord Kira. They were not avenging or redressing a wrong; they were merely doing what their master had been prevented from doing. 31 Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure, 223.


144 Olivier Ansart This interpretation had, however, too many rivals to stay immune from challenge. Indeed, as the author of Hagakure so well perceived, in order to be sustained such an exaltation of chu called for a blind and obstinate disregard for anything else, for a sort of insanity. Chu is madness, said Tsunetomo, announcing his resolve to become a fanatic.32 Admittedly, this was an extreme solution. In more pensive moments Tsunetomo allowed that, as a moral concept, chu entailed something bigger than itself moralitywhich he called michi.33 This recognition of a higher morality, however, is the beginning of all manner of troubles. The concept is now part of a much bigger scheme where it articulates and vies with other concepts, and where it has to nd justication. In Tokugawa Japan moral notions did not constitute a unied and uncontroversial set of norms. They were a collection of ideas from very diverse origins, be they Shinto, Buddhist or Confucian, and each was likely to be interpreted in different ways. Thus, in any moral argument, chu was con fronted with rival or broader concepts. Immediately, different views of their relations became possible, each entailing a different view of chu . The higher good most likely to weaken the claims of loyalty was the good of the state and of its population. The house codes of Tokugawa Japan show very well that the ultimate justication of daimyo power was the good of their domain. Numerous statements by the lords of Okayama, Fukuoka, Yonezawa, Tsu, or Obama, for example, all clearly expressed the idea that only effective governance and care of the land and its people could justify their continued ownership of their domain.34 Implied here was the recognition that their retainers obedience and loyalty were conditional on this effective governance. Another powerful rival for the concept of loyalty, especially at the beginning of the Tokugawa period, was the notion of na, reputation and fame, usually understood as honor.35 True, the pursuit of fame through military exploits, which had been such an important dimension of the concern for honor before Tokugawa times, was no longer an option. The regime had no social ladder. Ranks obtained in 1603 were, for most samurai families, ranks that would be held for two and a half centuries. But na had been too closely identied with samurai behavior and self-representation to be easily discarded, and a more subdued dimension of nathe concern for ones reputationwas still very much alive. In fact loyalty itself could be subsumed under the concern for ones reputation when ones good reputation was thought to entail the reputation of loyalty. However, more often than not, relationships between the two ideals were tense. In the new political circumstances, to defend ones name and respond to the slightest hint of insult was to embark on private ghts, kenka. And private ghts contravened the famous daimyo and bakufu kenka ryoseibai policies, which imposed punishment on both parties to a private quarrel, whatever the rights or wrongs. A conict between32 33

Ibid., 237, 257, 265, 267, 155, 144, 188, 194. Ibid., 233. I take as characteristic of a moral obligation that it entails a broader picture of what human beings are, a picture where it nds an explanation. Without this, the obligation becomes a simple command backed solely by forcewhich is not what we can understand by moral obligation. 34 For Okayama, see Hall, Government and Local Power in Japan, 403. For Fukuoka, see Kuroda Nagamasa, Kuroda Nagamasa yuigon, 30. For Yonezawa, see Kasaya, Shukun oshikome no kozo, 252 ff. For Tsu and Obama, see Tahara, Kinsei chuki no seiji shiso, 300. 35 It is indeed striking that, in many early Tokugawa descriptions of samurai behavior, in novels and plays like Saikakus bukemono, or Chikamatsus jidaimono, honor always seems to loom larger than loyalty. Samurai seek fame and disregard gain. Merchants seek wealth and disregard honor writes Chikamatsu in Nebiki no kadomatsu, 279.

Loyalty in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Samurai Discourse


honor and loyalty could thus have no happy resolution. Honor demanded that provocation be answered, while loyalty forbade such answer. Death for all parties was the logical answer to an absurd predicament, and it took a while before patience in the face of insult, that is, loyalty to the lords wishes, was cleansed of any suspicion of dishonor.36 Clearly, just like the greater good of the state and of the population, honor was another rival concern that could check the claims of loyalty in samurai ethics. The Danger from Within Originating this time from within the concept of chu another dynamic explaining the , many views on what this concept required manifested itself whenever it was confronted with social realities. This was the problem of divided loyalties. No society can be so simple as to offer each of its members one and only one focus of loyalty. The popular Tokugawa slogan lial son, faithful wife, loyal servant (koshi, seppu, bokushin) rep resented three expressions of loyalty (as the Hagakure said, lial piety is chu this is ; the same thing)37 to three different foci. It was based on the simplest model of social organization, formed around the notorious three basic relations, but even in such an ideal, oversimplied scheme the problem of divided loyalties could not disappear.38 The difculty, indeed, was common knowledge. As a certain Nozawa Kanemori bluntly remarked, it was next to impossible to simultaneously fulll ones duties to ones lord, parents and family.39 In fact, more often than not, individual situations were much more complex than the three-party structure; opportunities for divided loyalties were multiplying, toward ones teachers, master, older mentor, benefactor, even friends and equals.40 This immediately allowed for multiple views of chu to emerge. Here again, some tried to get rid of the problem in the most radical way. When he was afrming that there was simply no such thing as a bad master or a bad parent, Yamazaki Ansai was excluding the mere possibility of conicting moral claimsassuming, as he probably did, that there was only one way to be right. This strategy of denial did not convince many. Others preferred to claim that there was no conict of loyalty because, for the samurai in the land of the rising sun, the lord had priority over all other possible foci of loyalty, including the father. The rules of the Sakai samurai house, sternly warning retainers that they should always put lord before father, provide one of the clearest expressions of this allegedly dening difference between Japanese and Chinese political culture.41 But this solution did not go unchallenged either. The Meikun kakun, attributed to Muro Kyuso claims that one should not betray ones parents, even if ,

See some striking examples in Ikegami, The Taming of the Samurai, 142 ff. Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure, 226. 38 Do we not nd in the compendium of lial actions by virtuous subjects collected by the Tokugawa authorities, the Kankoku kogiroku, the story of that boy who, being told by his father to take his geta to go out because it would be raining, and by his mother to rather take his zori because it would be sunny, put a geta on his right foot and a zori on his left? Conicting loyalties could not alas always be managed in this comical way. On the Kogiroku, see Ikegami, Koki Edo kaso chonin no seikatsu. 39 Quoted in Sawada, Practical Pursuits, 80. 40 Cf. the often quoted incident of the Otori Ichibyoes gang of kabukimono in 1612, when a servant murdered his master for having killed one of his friends, another of this masters servants. The subsequent investigation discovered the existence of a gang of kabukimono tied to each other by a pledge of mutual loyalty. 41 See Sakai ke kyorei, 59; other examples are found in Tsuda, Bungaku, 356. 37


146 Olivier Ansart they had acted contrary to the demands and laws of the daimyo.42 A similar declaration is found in the Tokugawa jikki.43 Yet other thinkers were unhappy with both answers, and very reluctant to prioritize those loyalties. In this group some recognized the possibility of divided loyalty, but refused to resolve the problem. A good example of such a position is given by Arai Hakuseki in his Oritaku shiba no ki, when he claims that it is impossible to assign any order of priority among the three foci of loyalty: the three basic relationships are the ones between lord and subject, parent and child, and husband and wife. Concerning those relationships, lord, parents and husband must all be equally respected.44 The unwillingness to prioritize the various foci of loyalty had a very high cost, however. The same Hakuseki tells the tragic story of a young woman who, worrying about her vanished husband, had unwittingly let the authorities discover that, unbeknown to her, her father had murdered him. Hakuseki then comments that, caught between two such loyalties, a true lady would have committed suicide.45 Obviously the most realistic solution was of the kind proposed by Yamaga Soko that defender of bushido, who , suggested that anyone caught in the dilemma of divided loyalties should consider the favors received and act accordingly.46 Tokugawa Mitsukuni (16281700), the famous Mito Komon, similarly left the decision to the individuals concerned.47 All these different views and analyses conrm that it would be futile indeed to look for any clear-cut, widely accepted denition and understanding of chu In the end, the word . was used in moral discourse as a useful, because socially accepted, and even obligatory notion to legitimize behavior that was most likely spurred by very complex motivations: moral convictions, emotions of love and gratitude, social pressures, purely selsh strategies. After all, most moral judgments are made through negotiations and rationalizations, and on a case by case basis. Protection of samurai na, honor, could easily be made to appear as real chu because incurring shame would bring dishonor to the , lord,48 and retainers could invoke real chu to get rid of masters who were, they said, endangering their house and its glorious history, or to justify a shift in the focus of allegiance.49 To come back to the point illustrated in the preceding sections, the reasons for the inherent instability of chu for the impossibility of a clear-cut understanding of the , notion, are clear. As a philosophical concept, chu was cast into the arena of philosophical dispute where it had to contend with other concepts and values. As a social norm, it was42 43

Muro Kyuso Meikun kakun, 77. , See entry for the 30th day of the 7th month, 1659. While it is tempting to see here the inuence of Confucianism, such an explanation begs the question why the Confucian argument was accepted in the rst place. Confucianism simply offered arguments to people who were looking for some in the rationalizing exercise I shall shortly mention. 44 Arai Hakuseki, Oritaku shiba no ki, 339. 45 Women were typical victims of the syndrome of conicting loyalties. They were going from one family to another and acquiring a new loyalty without renouncing the former, since it is only to the extent that they were retaining ties with their original family that matrimonial alliances had any meaning at all in samurai society. 46 Yamaga Soko Yamaga gorui: 6 (maki 17): 212. , 47 Tokugawa Mitsukuni, Instructions of a Mito prince to His Retainers, 126. A good overview of the problem of divided loyalties is in MacMullen, Rulers or Fathers?. 48 See the incident reported in Ikegami, Taming of the Samurai, 214 ff. 49 See the use of the notion in the famous case of usurpation of power in the Saga domain by the Nabeshima house, in Okuda, Oie sodo, 47; a case also studied in Takano, Kinsei daimyo kashindan to ryoshusei, 26 ff.

Loyalty in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Samurai Discourse


confronted with the destabilizing inuence of honor and other motivations, emotions and desires. And as a political principle supposed to organize the community, it was threatened by the sheer complexity of society and divided by different foci. None of the above reasons, however, explain the specic evolution of the understandings of chu We do not nd over time a random distribution of the different interpret. ations of loyalty, as absolute and unconditional, as obedience to ones lord, or to ones parents, as professional conscientiousness, as a moral attitude informed by higher concerns, or as return of favor. What we see rather is that an initial emphasis on absolute loyalty to ones lordas expounded by Yamazaki Ansai and the warrior house codes is later more and more likely to be confronted by the more complex or weaker accounts provided by Hakuseki, Soko or Kyuso and eventually, as we shall see, emptied of all , , content by Kaiho Seiryo (1755 1817) in the late eighteenth century. In the late seven teenth century the Hagakures position, as the lamenting tone of its author suggests, is already quite exceptional. This direction that specic interpretations and evaluations of chu were taking is explained by yet another sort of dynamic, found this time in social practices and real life.

Loyalty as a Function of Economic Dependency My starting point here is a remarkable statement by Torii Mototada (1539 1600), a retainer of Tokugawa Ieyasu. His lord had asked him to hold back the advance of enemy troops in the year of Sekigahara, 1600. When everything possible had been done, and as he was about to commit suicide to avoid capture, Mototada sent his son a famous last letter. There he mentioned that in order for the Torii family to continue loyal service to the Tokugawa, it was imperative not to become a daimyopresumably a fudai daimyo of the Tokugawa clan. Large landholders like daimyo, thought Mototada, even though they pledge allegiance to their overlord, the shogun, cannot be loyal retainers. This was because too muchpresumably wealthwas at stake.50 What Mototada is implying here is that loyalty is a function of economic dependence. With economic and hence military autonomy comes the end of loyalty, because the weight of self-interested considerations simply becomes too heavy. If one desires to be a loyal retainer, one has to put oneself in circumstances where the will is naturally constrained in this direction. Mototada was stating a well-known truth. Pre-Tokugawa samurai were indeed customarily divided into miuchi and tozama. The former were much like house servants; the latter were warriors with a measure of military and economic autonomy. Whereas treachery from miuchi was seen as shameful, it was accepted that more powerful samurai, even though they had pledged allegiance to a greater lord, were simply pursuing their own interest, at whatever moral cost. No absolute loyalty could be, or ever was, expected of them. Ho Shigetoki (11981261) had stressed this fundamental distincjo tion between dependants and semi-autonomous retainers a long time before, when he remarked that while dependants could be easily manipulated, one had to be especially cautious about the semi-autonomous retainers.51 Studies of medieval samurai who choose to stay loyal to their lords to the bitter end conrm that they were almost always their blood relatives or dependants.5250 51

Torii Mototada, Torii Mototada isho, 29. Hojo Shigetoki, Hojo Shigetoki kakun, 314315. On the distinction between miuchi and tozama, see Sato, Kamakura bakufu sosho seido no kenkyu. 52 See evidence quoted in Ikegami, The Taming of the Samurai, 110.

148 Olivier Ansart With the coming of Pax Tokugawa this logic initially imposed the quasi unanimous exaltation of loyalty, because the degree of dependency of retainers upon the daimyo (and of the daimyo on the shogun) had suddenly increased in extraordinary measure. Just as the daimyo had to make an oath of allegiance to the shogun in order to inherit their ef, and could even, in some cases, see the ef transferred or conscated, retainers pledged allegiance to their lord and were at his mercy. They were usually living in the castle town, and they were impoverished, if not by the expenses sustained in urban life, at least by the diminishing price of rice. More importantly, they often were no longer land-owning samurai, but salaried bureaucrats whose livelihood depended on the coffers of the ef. Granted, the traditional picture of a vast and all encompassing trend toward such bureaucratization of the retainers group is probably too simple: kuraimaitori, that is stipended and not enfeoffed samurai, were indeed the majority, but the chigyotori, enfeoffed samurai, received more than half of the income of the samurai group. Even allowing for this, however, it is clear that the Tokugawa chigyotori cannot be com pared to the independent-minded samurai of the Sengoku period. These tozama or tozama hopefuls had always been looking for an opportunity to wrest their autonomy from their nominal master. By contrast the land of most Tokugawa chigyotori was useless as a power base, because it was commonly divided into non contiguous parcels (bunsan chigyo, tobichi), so much so that often a single village and a single paddy eld were under different chigyotori. The extent of the rights they enjoyed on their land varied a lot, but as a rule even the basic land tax was not decided by them, and many enfeoffed samurai had no power of justice over the inhabitants of their efs. In such conditions chu was a mere moralistic veneer on a conduct that was largely imposed by rational self interest.53 Rebellion was simply unthinkable. The Contractualization of Feudal Relationships How, then, was it that the vigorous afrmation of unconditional loyalty, well explained by these new conditions of the social order, could not be maintained over time? The paradox is that the very same dynamic toward a greater dependency of the retainers on their daimyo would, in the longer term, undermine the understanding of chu as absolute loyalty, and eventually empty the concept of all substance in the eyes of many in the samurai group. While the transformation of the warrior class into a peaceful stipended bureaucratic corps increased the dependency on each next-higher level, and made loyalty the rational choice that it had not always been in the previous period, it also rendered more and more obvious the contractual nature of the relationships. Two interrelated factors were probably at play here: peace, and the role of the merchant economy. One consequence of the Pax Tokugawa was a new distance between daimyo and their retainers: because of the sankin kotai (alternate attendance) system54, of the bureaucra tization of samurai status and of the ceremonial pomp, most retainers simply did not have any personal contact with the daimyo they were supposed to serve under a personal bond. Another important consequence of peace was that it encouraged rational selfinterested behavior. True, pre-Tokugawa samurai were obviously no strangers to egoistic


This shift toward loyalty after the golden age of opportunists had in fact started before the establishment of the Tokugawa regime. The powerful warlords had largely consolidated and xed their domains and the resident population at the end of the sengoku jidai. 54 The feudal lords had to spend part of the year in Edo and leave there their family as hostage when they returned to their land.

Loyalty in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Samurai Discourse


considerations. In the Nanbokucho period (13361392), Kitabatake Chikafusa railed against the warriors who behave like merchants asking for reward after the smallest contribution to the loyalist cause.55 In fact, in the Middle Ages, the term chu was even used in the sense of action or merit worthy of reward. Samurai would thus talk of the loyalty (chu setsu) of taking an enemy head, of arriving at encampment, of building arrow storehouses, of being wounded, of having lost sons, and thus make lists of their alleged chu in their petitions for rewards.56 And in the early Tokugawa period even statements purporting to express the idea of absolute devotion to a master more often than not let creep in the idea of an exchangeand of conditional loyalty: in the Shinshu Kawanakajima gassen by Chikamatsu (a chonin author to be sure, but of samurai descent), one character asserts, to throw ones life away on the battleeld, and receive the favor of a ef, such is the way of chu 57 This tendency is quite striking in the selection of quotations that . Tsuda offers as evidence for the weight of the idea of absolute loyalty.58 There we see that, according to the Shokoku monogatari and the Fu Gunbai-uchiwa, samurai gave ryu a life in exchange for a ef (chigyo ni kaheraretaru ichimei, or roku no kahari ni hozu beki mi). This extraordinary resilience, in statements which purport to express the notion of absolute loyalty, of the concept of an exchange between a service given, hoko or chu and a reward, goon, or go hobi, should not surprise us. It is indeed very difcult , to justify the obligation of a totally unreciprocated serviceprobably because, as even Kant had to acknowledge in his analysis of the antinomy of practical reason, it is impossible to make sense of a moral duty that would not, in some way, lead to a good for its author. Still, even if we thus have to make a large place for self-interested considerations in the behavior of pre-Tokugawa samurai, we may also imagine that, in times of incessant battles and turmoil, strong emotional feelings of solidarity between masters and retainers could often hide, to a certain extent, the self-interested nature of their relationship. Historians of mentalities have often documented what Elias called the different emotional structure in men and women of the Middle Ages.59 Feelings of intense devotion could thus motivate warriors ghting for their lordbut could also be followed by sudden explosions of resentment and betrayal. In the Pax Tokugawa however, the calculating and self-interested dimension of chu could no longer be hidden by the emotions and feelings of solidarity forged in the drama of heroic battles. Among the samurai, especially those who were employed and who were offering concrete services for which they would be paid, a pragmatic, self-interested conception of their relationships with the daimyo would eventually dominate. As I mentioned at the outset, we do not lack testimonies about this development of selfinterest in samurai mentalities. Yamamoto Tsunetomo might be the grumpy old man lamenting the passing of better times and better men, but his remarks on calculating and self interested samurai nd too many echoes to be summarily discounted.60 An intriguing work, Bushi toshite wa, even advised samurai to lie and deceive in order to avoid being involved in kenka, as they were only a source of troubles.61 Self-interest triumphed, unhindered by other more sentimental or heroic passions.See a letter by Chikafusa added to his Jinno shotoki, 459. Cf. Conlan, Largesse and the Limits of Loyalty in the Fourteenth Century, 3965. 57 Chikamatsu, Shinshu Kawanakajima gassen, 500. 58 Tsuda, Bungaku, 6: 308. 59 Elias, The Civilizing Process. 60 Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure, 223 224. Another good example is Niime Masamoto, Mukashi mukashi monogatari: 397. 61 Quoted in Ujie, Edo hantei monogatari, 18.56 55

150 Olivier Ansart Another factor likely to facilitate the spread of a very pragmatic understanding of the relationship between vassals and daimyo was the diffusion of urban life and the money economy, and the subsequent reshaping of human relationships. The spread of the money economy went hand in hand with the diffusion of contractual relationships. Relations based on mutual benet and a self-conscious quest for prot were becoming the norm. Merchants and artisans were paradigmatic examples of this form of life, but so were the ubiquitous wage laborers, day laborers, domestic servants, shop clerks, palanquin bearers and others who received money in exchange for a service, usually stipulated in a contract. And samurai, after all, were living in the same towns as those people. As Kaiho Seiryo (17551817) wryly remarked, they were even engaging with them in commercial relationships, selling rice, and buying all the commodities and services necessary to the sustenance of life in towns. Furthermore, many among them had to supplement their stipend with productive work. Buyer/seller relationships were inltrating the samurai group itself as retainers were also paying wages to their own servants, called hokonin. The latter increasingly consisted of dekawari hokonin, or temporary house servants, replacing the older hereditary servants or fudai hokonin as the measures taken initially to discourage employment of the dekawari hokonin in samurai householdsfor example the prohibition of short contractsbecame a dead letter.62 In his Seidan, Sorai remarks that the dekawari hokonin were part and parcel of what he called the life in inns (ryoshuku)that is, this urban life where samurai, away from their roots in the land, had to use money even to get a toothpick.63 He proclaimed that the consequence of those contractual relationships now established between masters and employees in samurai houses was that there was between them no more feeling than between two strangers passing each other on the way.64 Samurai thus were not immune to the spread of contractual relations, and they saw themselves more and more as offering a service and being rewarded with a salary. Negotiations for employment of samurai illustrate well this mentality. Ronin looking for reem ployment (always possible in spite of the bakufus attempts to limit or forbid this) prepared a curriculum vitae, stated their merits and, explicitly or implicitly, made their claims.65 We have thus examples of monetary negotiations which amply demonstrate that both parties were thinking in terms of contract, of offer and demand, especially in the case of specialized positionslike those of Confucian jusha. Arai Hakuseki was recruited in the House of Kai, that of the future shogun Ienobu, after negotiations

Kigoshi, Buke hokonin no shakai teki ichi. See also Tokoro, Edo no dekaseginin. Ogyu Sorai, Seidan, 295 ff. 64 Ibid., 275, 293. True, we have also cases where hokonin furnish examples of a loyal attitude that was getting rarer among samurai. Most probably we have here cases of mimicry whereby despised lowly persons uphold the ethics of the group they want to assimilate into, to the point of surpassing in this respect the average representative of the group. The most famous example is that of the 47th ronin of the Ako vendetta, Terasaka Kichiemon, the lowest ranking, the only ashigaru, of the Forty Seven Loyal Retainers, who wasincorrectly believe most historians todaysuspected not to have been part of the revenge, because he was the only one to escape after the attack and to avoid punishment. 65 More and more, technical merits were appreciated. This may be the reason why the famous explanation in Hasegawa Nyozekans article Yuibutsu shikan Ako gishi and Tamura Eitaros Ako roshi, of the Forty seven loyal retainers vendettaHasegawa and Tamura claimed that they were only trying to boost their chances to nd reemployment after the death of their lordis not entirely convincing. Daimyo may not have been terribly impressed by this sort of attitude, unless they in turn wanted to make some statement about the morality of their retainers.63


Loyalty in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Samurai Discourse


over salary that he mentions in his autobiography.66 Yamaga Soko for his part, was , letting the world know that he would only accept a stipend of 10,000 kokuofcially the lowest for a daimyo!for the immense service he had to offer.67 Eventually someone had to articulate this very novel conception of human relationships. It would be, at the very end of the eighteenth century, the thinker of samurai origin Kaiho Seiryo: Since antiquity, the relation between lord and retainer is [like] the way of the market. [The lord] gives a ef to his retainer and has him work for him; the retainer sells his strength to his lord and buys his rice. The lord buys his retainers, the retainer sells to his lord. This is buying and selling. Buying and selling is good.68 How can we make sense of such a drastic transformation of the perceptions of the relationships between lord and retainer? In any society, humans need representations of what they are and of what sort of society they make. They need this social imaginary in order to make sense of their lives. Traditional, inherited representations have the obvious advantage of seeming to be conrmed by time and generations. However, when what humans must do in order to survive sits so uncomfortably with the available social imaginary, some of them at least will revisit the old representations and recast them so as to better justify their actual practices. A pure absolute chu could still be invoked reg ularly as a rhetorical claim, as a poor justication of parasitism on the part of the samurai, a nostalgic expression of happier times, or as one those deluded self-representations that people, after all, so frequently entertain about themselvesbut many choose to look elsewhere. A theoretical framework is needed to explicate the variety and complexity of the links between the contractual practices spreading through Tokugawa society and the different representations of human relationships, but that must remain an objective for another occasion. In any event, Seiryos statements on the mercantile nature of samurai relations show clearly the extent to which the old concept of loyalty had been undermined by the facts of life in Tokugawa society. However exible and elastic the interpretations of chu had been, they all had to retain the core meaning of some personal devotion to another. This core meaning, in the eyes of many at least, had lost all serious, consistent reference in real life, and chu was a ghost vessel drifting at sea. The concept, it seemed, was all but doomed, and not even the watered down interpretations offered by Soko , Hakuseki and Sorai could save it. Against all odds, however, chu survived. Another Focus of Loyalty It survived indeedbut only once it had found again this once almost forgotten alternative focus: the Emperor. Having done so, it then not only survived but thrived as never before, it seems, in the fanatical loyalism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The reinstatement of the Emperor as the prime focus of loyalty is fascinating when we consider the powerful forces that had so effectively, for many minds at least, emptied

Arai Hakuseki, Oritaku shiba no ki, 203204. Hinting also at the contractual nature of the relationship, Arai mentions in another passage (p. 200) that retainers were asking to be relieved of all duties and were leaving their lord when he was reducing their stipends because of hardships. 67 Yamaga Soko, Haisho zampitsu, 75. 68 Kaiho Seiryo, Keiko-dan, 222.


152 Olivier Ansart loyalty to daimyo of all substance. But it is also unsurprising when we realize that those forces were totally ineffective against the new focus. The spread of the money economy, the bureaucratization of the samurai group, the inuence from the contractual practices prevalent in the chonin world, had all worked well against the concept of loyalty to the daimyo because the relationship between daimyo and retainers was a real relationship between real people. As such, its expressions in daily life were constantly subjected to the test of power relationships and shifting interests. And, as it happened, the traditional absolutist understanding of loyalty could hardly make sense of the actual relationships and the exchange of services that were going on between samurai and their daimyo employers. Things were different in the case of the Emperor, simply because, quite unlike that between samurai and their daimyo, the relationship between the Emperor and his subjects was purely imaginary. Consequently, it could be viewed in the most fanciful ways, become the subject of the grossest exaltation, and stand immune from any refutation. Its emptiness itself ensured its almost unchallenged glorication.69 Conclusion My aim was to make a preliminary survey of the different dynamics at work behind the fate of a specic concept. Deliberately leaving aside, as a residue too difcult to properly analyze, the personal or idiosyncratic dimension of individual attitudes, I have traced on the one hand the structural weaknesses of the concept that explain why it could be interpreted in very different ways (the moral dimension, the competition from others norms, the inner division between conicting loyalties), and on the other hand, the external and social circumstances (the inuence of peace, of bureaucratization and of the spread of money economy) which pushed interpretations of chu in specic directions. Attempting to explain the evolution of this moral concept, I have used a philosophical approach, a historical perspective on the evolution of ideas and social structures, and a sociology of knowledge. Much remains to be done in each of those three approaches to get nearer to a satisfactory account of what happened to chu but particularly in the , third, that of a sociology of knowledge. The next step in this endeavor will be to provide a theoretical account of the relations between the idea of loyalty and the social circumstances of those who were grappling with the concept. As I have suggested here, a fuller understanding of the complex and shifting character of the concept of chu is the rst step in explicating the mental landscape of the elite in Tokugawa society.

ReferencesArai Hakuseki, Oritaku shiba no ki (Told round a Brushwood Fire) in Nihon koten bungaku taikei (Compendium of Classical Japanese Literature) 95. Iwanami shoten, 1964. (English translation by Joyce Ackroyd, University of Tokyo Press, 1979).69

This does not explain the shift in the focus of loyalty. It is tempting to ask whether there was any dynamic, any mechanism at work between the two foci of loyalty, so that the weakening of the one would lead to the strengthening of the other. Without entering into a discussion of this issue, it is worth remarking that as prestigious as samurai morality may have been, it could only affect a small part of the population. Loyalty to the daimyo, or to the shogun, could not have much meaning for the chonin (although some of their thinkers tried to import the notion into the commercial enterprise). Even daimyo could look at the Emperor as a desirable counter balance to the power of the shogun (as witnessed by the hostility caused among daimyo by Arai Hakusekis attempts to elevate the prestige of the shogun through the use of imperial regalia).

Loyalty in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Samurai Discourse


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Loyalty in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Samurai Discourse OLIVIER ANSART, University of Sydney, Australia Chu ¯, usually translated as loyalty, is supposed to have been the paramount virtue of samurai, inspiring them to the selfless service of their daimyo. Analyzing the understandings of this notion among samurai thinkers of seventeenth and eighteenth century Japan, this article stresses that, far from there being one understanding of chu ¯, many interpretations were competing with each other; it examines the various dynamics that can explain this fragmentation. One, opening the possibility of higher values, was the necessity of justifying the demands of chu ¯. Another was the competition from other moral notions, such as the concern for one’s reputation. The problems that chu ¯ inevitably encountered in practice—the dilemma of conflicting loyalties, or the rivalry from non moral goods like wealth and power—were also powerful factors. Yet another dynamic was the weakening of the private feudal bonds and the subsequent recognition of the contractual nature of many social relationships. The cumulative effect of those dynamics explains that in the end chu ¯ could even become an object of incomprehension or derision. Ultimately chu ¯ only sur- vived because it was enlisted to construct a relationship that could withstand any test, being, quite unlike that of samurai and daimyo, purely imaginary and empty: that between the Emperor and his subjects. A traditional view, still very popular, holds that in Tokugawa Japan the virtue of chu ¯ 1 —usually translated as loyalty—required from the samurai absolute and uncondi- tional loyalty to their lord, and that this requirement was scrupulously honored in practice. Watsuji Tetsuro ¯ called this absolute and actual loyalty kenshin no do ¯toku, the virtue of total dedication. 2 Early last century, Tsuda So ¯kichi argued that it was unknown in China. 3 Scholars of feudalism added that it was absent in Europe: Marc Bloch and countless others stressed the lack, in Japanese feudal relations, 4 of the contractual dimen- sion so striking in the West, and which has been widely recognized as one of the ferments of the subsequent democratization of Europe. 5 There is apparently plentiful evidence in support of this interpretation of the meaning of chu ¯ and of its importance in practice. The bushido ¯ literature typically describes the 1 But also chu ¯setsu, chu ¯sei, chu ¯gi, gi, or giri. 2 Watsuji, Nihon rinri shiso ¯shi, 2 : 482 ff. 3 Tsuda, Bungaku ni arawaretaru kokumin shiso ¯ no kenkyu ¯ , 6 : 350. 4 Some object to the use of the term feudalism in respect to Tokugawa society. I do not need to enter the polemic here, and will just remark that, whatever the non feudal characteristics—urbanization, role of money, bureaucratization, absolutist tendencies in some shoguns, etc.,—relationships within the elite strata, between shogun and daimyo, daimyo and retainers still retained that private dimension so charac- teristic of what we understand by feudalism. 5 Bloch, La socie ´te ´ fe ´odale, 301, 320, 618. Japanese Studies, Vol. 27, No. 2, September 2007 ISSN 1037-1397 print/ISSN 1469-9338 online/07/020139-16 # 2007 Japanese Studies Association of Australia DOI: 10.1080/10371390701494150
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