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By Richard Rubinger

The focal point of Richard Rubinger's learn of jap literacy is the least-studied (yet vast majority) of the premodern inhabitants: the agricultural farming type. during this book-length old exploration of the subject, the 1st in any language, Rubinger dispels the misunderstanding that there are few fabrics to be had for the examine of well known literacy in Japan. He analyzes a wealthy number of untapped resources from the 16th century onward, drawing for the 1st time on fabric that enables him to degree literacy: signatures on apostasy oaths, diaries, agricultural manuals, domestic encyclopedias, rural poetry-contest entries, village election ballots, literacy surveys, and kin account books.

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Extra info for Popular Literacy in Early Modern Japan

Sample text

Those left behind faced a more restricted and limited world than they had known before, and their field of vision narrowed as samurai, artisans, and merchants departed. But this new world was one in which the farmers themselves would have a greater say in village affairs. 26 Village administrative autonomy was a pillar of the Tokugawa shogunate’s and its vassal daimyo domains’ political organization. Consequently, the village leadership class had to shoulder new responsibilities. It is on account of administrative requirements imposed from the top down that the spread of literacy in Tokugawa villages began.

A kyo¯gen or comic drama of the early seventeenth century, titled Hara tatezu (Just call me patience), portrays farmers trying to persuade an itinerant priest to remain at their village as a writing teacher: 72 VILLAGERS: Can you write? PRIEST: I can’t really write well. My letters look like worm trails or sparrow tracks. That’s about it. VILLAGERS: You’re much too modest. We want you to be a writing teacher for our small children. PRIEST: A writing teacher for little kids, you say? That’s right up my alley!

In the early Tokugawa era, the population surveys and the religious investigation registers were prepared separately. From the middle of the period, however, census figures were absorbed into the temple registers, and the two documents came to be known together as shu¯mon ninbetsu aratame-cho¯. Compiled throughout the country every spring, they listed for each household the name of its head, its members (specifying their ages and relation to the head), its kokudaka, and even the number of the horses and cattle owned by it.

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