1. TyrannusRex
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    TyrannusRex Member

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    Life in Feudal Japan

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by TyrannusRex, Sep 20, 2016.

    What can anyone tell me about the everyday life of your average citizen in feudal Japan?
    If you can give anything about marriage or the life of a couple, please, and how war/military service might affect this.
    (In my story, our lovely young couple haven't been married a month before Mister is called off to war. It'll focus on the struggles of him away fighting and her lonely at home.)
     
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  2. cydney
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    cydney Banned

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    I love Japan. I don't have anything to offer but I'll be watching this closely!
     
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  3. Infel
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    Infel Active Member

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    This is a great documentary if you've got a few hours of your time to devote to it.
     
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  4. Safety Turtle
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    Safety Turtle Senior Member

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    Normal life I can't help with but if you have any questions regarding arms, armour, warfare, soldier life etc I'd be glad to help.
    Have been studying Sengoku Jidai Japan as a hobby for some 10 years or so.
     
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  5. NoGoodNobu
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    NoGoodNobu Senior Member

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    Okay, I didn't click the video, but to be clear the Tokugawa Shogunate was an era of peace (and predominantly propaganda, where the concepts of "bushido" were invented/forced to give a reason for the displaced warrior class in this time of peace to feel inherently superior to the rising merchant class who held all the wealth and the debt of the samurai; basically the Tokugawa were clever in taking their two greatest threats--the dissatisfied samurai who could attempt a military overthrow, and the middle class merchants that held all the wealth & consequent power--and played them against each other).

    My Japanese history is limited to what little was passed down from my family and what I learnt in very specific classes (for instance, my studies in classical Japaness theatre).

    However, there are a lot of inherent misconceptions of the samurai of feudal era due to the later propaganda campaigns that painted these warriors in a light more favorable to the ones currently in power.

    I wouldn't suggest writing on a subject that you have little knowledge in personally, but if you at least know the time period (and province) I would suggest maybe reading stories or histories of samurai from there.

    There's the common conflict of giri/ninjo, or social obligation vs. individual passion, that seems like the sort of issue you're aiming for and falls in nicely of you know how to utilize it
     
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  6. Francis de Aguilar
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    Francis de Aguilar Active Member

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    Read Shogun.
     
  7. Safety Turtle
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    Safety Turtle Senior Member

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    Feudal Japan is indeed a dangerous place to tread infomation wise...lots f wrong infomation out there.
     
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  8. TyrannusRex
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    TyrannusRex Member

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    I'm not really sure what time period it should be set in, but the setup I've begun to develop is that the Shogun presiding over the area has begun fighting with another lord, and, rather unfavorably, many young men are being drafted. My MC is not a wealthy man, not a noble or a samurai, essentially a farmer who, like nearly all the men of his village, is being made to serve.
    What kind of equipment might your typical infantryman/man-at-arms have, and what training would he receive?
     
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  9. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    Have you read Shogun by James Clavell ?
     
  10. Dr. Mambo
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    Dr. Mambo Active Member

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    There are a few things you'll need to consider from the get-go to ensure your premise is plausible/historically accurate.

    First, as @NoGoodNobu already pointed out, you've got to set your story pre-1600s because there wasn't much going on militarily in the Tokugawa Era. The ruling class actually disarmed much of the populace to ensure their inability to revolt. Similarly, there wasn't a Shogun until 1180 or so (operating from memory, but it's around then) which may affect your premise.

    Second, you're further limiting yourself to a specific time period when you mention your MC being drafted to fight in a war. For much of Japan's history conscription didn't exist because the peasants weren't part of the Samurai class and were therefore unworthy of doing battle. When the most hell was going down between rival daimyo (warlords/governors, essentially), it was aristocrats doing the fighting.

    Third, when Shoguns and powerful daimyo did begin conscripting peasants (bigger armies beat smaller armies, after all), it was in large part due to the advent of firearms and gunpowder technology, so then you're talking about a whole different type of warfare than you might have in mind.

    Fourth, if you wanted your MC to be a Samurai, there's this whole business called "wakashudo" most Japanese Samurai participated in that has been decried by some as an institutionalized type of homosexual pedophilia. So that may or may not be something to pay attention to depending on what angle you take with your story. If you were to write about a Samurai man, for instance, he could still marry a woman and love her, but he'd also take on an apprentice (wakashu) which brings you to wakashudo.

    It's been pointed out, but writing in a historical time period is going to require a lot of research.

    (Source for my intel: Japan was one of my focus areas when I was in school to become a history teacher, and I still study the feudal era from time to time.)
     
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  11. TyrannusRex
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    TyrannusRex Member

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    I like the idea of potentially bringing gunpowder into the story... it's food for thought.
    Edit: What were the "rankings" of samurai? I've read about "lower-ranked" samurai which seemed to have far less responsibility.
    Double Edit: I had done some brainstorming that one of his ancestors was a samurai/other warrior, as he has his sword, but the MC isn't a soldier. What might a samurai have done to get his family disgraced?
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2016
  12. NoGoodNobu
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    NoGoodNobu Senior Member

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    To be frank, I think from where you're starting you need a lot more thorough research than little snippets or some ups that members can provide you. A lot of this information you need & are requesting is in-depth lecture worthy and not quite bullet point notes.

    I would go to a state university library to get the background information & histories you'll require, as they are free access to the public and would have the research texts & articles. I would definitely forego on Internet searchers, unless you're specifically going to an already known academic site.
     
  13. Safety Turtle
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    Safety Turtle Senior Member

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    I agree with NoGoodNobu, there's a heck of a lot of infomation here.

    How he would fight, whether or not he would be drafted, how he would be armed, who for and why he thought etc all depends on the period.
    Though it does sound like we are pre-1600 here, as others have mentioned.

    If he is a farmer drafted for war he would be an Ashigaru, his equipment would be slightly different depending on what lord drafted him.
    But at least a helmet (kabuto or jingasa) and a chest plate of some form (do/dou).
    Weapon again will vary, but an Arquebus (teppo), spear (Yari) or a bow (yumi) would be the most used.

    Some points I think is important though:
    Never, ever mention bamboo armour, this is a myth, Japanese armour was made either of thick rawhide laquered scales (mostly early armour) or bands of laquered steel.
    Swords were also not just for Samurai, they were used by all types of warriors in Japan.
    You should also be very careful about the notion of Bushido, many people today think that it's a strict code of conduct for a samurai, but that didn't come into play till the 1600 hundreds.
    Before then, Bushido was a bit of a loose term, mainly to do with personal honour and not "you must do this thing and if you don't, kill yourself".
    Also, ritual suicide wasn't nearly as widespread as people make it out to and a Samurai would have no qualms shifting sides if the other lord would pay him more...you have to remember that these guys are trained, professional soliders and though some may have thought primarily for their idea of honour, most did it to get paid.

    Edit: Oh yeah, and no ninjas! for the love of all that is holy, leave ninjas out of the story! ^^

    Feudal Japan is a very interesting topic, but as with all historical periods also a very wide topic that would require a lot of research to get right in a book.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2016
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  14. Dr. Mambo
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    Dr. Mambo Active Member

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    Samurai was a class of people, not a profession. As with any class in any society, standing was based on many things including wealth, influence, power, and the like. Stratification in Japanese society was pretty rigid though. Peasants didn't have much opportunity to "become" Samurai, just as any old Samurai didn't have much opportunity to become a daimyo, and any old daimyo couldn't just be Shogun someday. Something like 85% of the population were peasants, ~10% might be merchants or artisans, and only 7-8% were Samurai.

    A Samurai without a master is "ronin." Ronin were not respected. Sometimes a Samurai became a ronin through no fault of his own (i.e. his lord was assassinated), and sometimes it was because his lord cast him off, which could be done for disloyalty, failure to uphold his duties, etc.--pretty much anything is plausible. Masterless Samurai were sometimes picked up by other lords as "free agents" of sorts, but simply being a ronin was hugely damaging to one's reputation, so their opportunity for future employ was not good.

    As an aside, I remember watching some badass old Samurai film about a ronin who shows up on a daimyo's castle doorstep claiming he'll commit harakiri if the daimyo doesn't hire him. It's all a ruse, of course, so when the daimyo forces him to disembowel himself with a wooden sword it sets a whole other set of events in motion. Damn, I wish I could remember the name of that movie.
     
  15. Safety Turtle
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    Safety Turtle Senior Member

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    The whole roning thing though, during the Sengoku Jidai, ronin were extremely rare as there were always a Lord willing to pay you for your service...it become more of a thing during the Tokugawa shogunate.

    Although it was rare, one could rise in the system.
    Toyotomi Hideyoshi started as a sandal bearer ^^

    For inspiration I highly recommend Ran and Kagemusha, great movies.
    Twilight Samurai is a newer movie and a personal favorite of mine.

    I would also recommend reading the books of Anthony J Bryant, lots of infomation and he's one of the few who was a member of the Japanese armour appreciation and restoration society and have studied under a Japanese armourer, his knowledge of Japanese history was incredible.
     
  16. Dr. Mambo
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    Dr. Mambo Active Member

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    Yeah I should have clarified that. Both good points.
     

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