During the Tokugawa Period in Japan, artisans and merchants were important in society, yet they were at a low social status. An artisan, also known as a craftsman, made items useful in daily life such as swords, weapons, houses, tables and clothes. Some artisans had the privileges of a samurai (the top of the social status) and even lived with the emperor or a high ranking daimyo because of their skills in sword-making or weapon-making. Merchants were not vital to society. Most people of the city did not want to be around a merchant. Merchants made a fortune off of the goods made by others. If you were born as the son of a merchant, you probably would not enjoy the life and ways you were treated by the whole rest of the city you live in.
Merchants- considered parasites who make money off of the work of other people
Spent time in Ukiyoe, also known as “the floating world
Ukiyoe - districts of restaurants, theaters, game houses & bars.
When merchants traveled, they would travel in a kago, or a passenger-box that is carried on poles by 2 men. This was found in the book The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn, by Dorothy & Thomas Hoobler.
Motto of merchants: “Work hard and do not waste time or money on irrelevant pursuits.”
Artisans were ranked 2 nd lowest with merchants directly below. Artisans were ranked higher than the merchants because artisans produced goods that were used in daily life.
Sword makers most likely the highest ranked artisan. Weapon makers were ranked quite high with artisans. Blacksmiths, sword-sharpeners, silver-smiths, scabbard-workers, lacquerers, shaft-makers, & workers of cypress wood were also highly valued by samurai. Some artisans were more commonly employed: dyers, sake-brewers, carpenters, sawyers, plasterers, coopers, shinglers, thatchers, paperers, tobacco-cutters, tillers and mat-makers.
Apprentice: a person who wants to follow a certain profession but has not yet learned the skills that were needed in that job; usually a son of a family living in the same village as the master.
The apprentice lived in the house with his master and was expected to be very obedient.
The master's true son would learn the trade along with the apprentice, however his goal was to be the heir to the workshop when his father's working days were over.
While the master's son inherited an occupation, the apprentice was expected to fend for himself after his training period of seven or eight years had come to an end. After his training period, the apprentice has three options before venturing out on his own: his master may give him a small portion of his wealth to get him started, or he may work harder to be known among employers of artisans. The third option is to continue working for his master as a journeyman, or a trained craftsman.
The apprentice not only learned the techniques and skills needed for his trade, but the history and the terms of the trade. An apprentice could use this knowledge to communicate with other craftsmen.
Sometime around the early 1800's, Japan experienced a speedy development of various cities & towns all over the country, causing a larger population.
About 6% of the population was made up of samurai & other members of the "upper class". These "upper class" members were mostly located in castle-towns in Edo.
In these castle-towns, merchants, as well as workers in other trades, were needed to meet the requirements of the castle-towns' occupants.
Before this evolution, the city of Kyoto had been largely recognized as a major trade center and the capital of Japan. After the evolution, however, the city of Edo became what was possibly the largest city in the world at the time, with a population of almost a million people.
Osaka, located near the inland sea, was another city that challenged Kyoto's popularity. Osaka became a large trade center as well, with a population of about 400,000 people.
A daimyo's castle-town held anywhere from a few thousand inhabitants to 100,000 inhabitants depending on the size, rank, and wealth of the daimyo. Obviously, many of these inhabitants were merchants.
While artisans and merchants were hated, they were a very important part of Japanese life. All the amazing architecture, the valuable swords, the magnificent armor, and much more wouldn’t be in Japan without the Artisans. Japanese culture was greatly affected by artisans. Merchants, although despised and thought of as parasites, were very important to the economy of Japan. Without merchants, there would be no trade in Japan. This would make Japan different from all other countries. The merchants brought goods from one place to another, selling them as they went. It would be very hard to get items like paper, tea, and rice from one place to another. Most people probably didn’t realize how important artisans and merchants were to Japan and how the existence of artisans and merchants did affect their everyday lives.