Power and culture in early modern Japan
“Alternate Attendance” was the
requirement, in early modern Japan,
(c. 1600-1860) that all provincial lords
travel to capital the serve the
military ruler, or Shogun.
Above: Tokugawa Ieyasu,(1543-1616) founder of the Tokugawa military government
While its purpose was to control
potential rivals, alternate attendance
had widespread effect on the
economy of the time and lasting
effect on Japanese culture.
About once every two years a provincial lord,
or daimyo, accompanied by his retainers,
marched to the capital, Edo.
The daimyo procession was both military maneuver and
The Tosa daimyo traveled with over 4000 people. However, some
processions were as small as several hundred.
A retinue might set out before dawn and stop only after dark, most
of the retainers travelling on foot.
Although the common people
were required to kneel when
the procession went by, many
went to see the the
A contemporary witness
reported seeing a formation
of marching retainers whose
height varied less than one
In addition to the expense of the march,
daimyo also had to maintain a large
residence in Edo.
These financial layouts deprived
the daimyo of resources that could be
used against the Shogun.
The wife and children of a daimyo were required to
live in Edo as hostages to his good behavior.
Service in the capital alternated
between daimyo of neighboring provinces,
depriving them of the opportunity to
plot effectively against the Shogun
while in their home provinces.