Japanese Sociological Review
Online ISSN : 1884-2755
Print ISSN : 0021-5414
ISSN-L : 0021-5414
Samurai Descendants and Social Mobility
Saburo Yasuda
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1969 Volume 19 Issue 4 Pages 21-40,104


The Meiji Restoration in 1868 emancipated Japan from feudal estate system. It is well known that the new Meiji government endevored to dissolve the discrimination based on feudal estate system and more than ninety percent of the total population was made to be equal, social as well as legally, although not economically, within a relatively short time.
However, our nation-wide sample survey of 1965, which offers us for the first time after 1904 figures concerning to population distribution of Samurai descendants and commoners, revealed that substantial difference between Samurai descendants and commoners still exists. The proportion of Samurai descendants occupying the higher position in occupation, education, and income is larger than that of commoners, although the differences are smaller in the present generation than in the preceding ones.
Why does social superiority, although not outstanding, of Samurai descendants still exist after one handred years since legal discrimination was abolished ? The answer would be divided into two parts.
The first part of my answer is that any revolutionary social change cannot entirely destory the old social class structure immediately, and this might be applied to the Meiji Restoration.
Let us assume that intergenerational mobility makes a Markov chain with two stages, high and low statuses :
and that the above transition probability matrix P works commonly in Samurai descendants and in commoners after modern revolution like the Meiji Restoration. It is demonstrated according to the property of the regular Markov chain that if the proportion of an estate occupying the higher position is larger than that of the other estates in the initial stage of a Markov chain, the difference does not vanish within a few stages, although it reaches null after enough many stages.
The second part of the answer is that the transition probability matrix P is not common in Samurai descendants and in commoners, but the matrix is more advantageous for Samurai descendants than for commoners. Our sample survey conducted in 1964 in Tokyo revealed percentages of mobility-oriented responses to various kinds of attitude questions and scales by the distinction of Samurai descendants and commoners, taking account of the influence from present occupation. One can say through sign test that Samurai descendants are statistically significantly more mobility-oriented than commoners.

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