Online ISSN : 2424-2616
Print ISSN : 0018-2478
ISSN-L : 0018-2478
The Aizu Yah-Yah Uprising : A Reconsideration of Peasant Movements during the Meiji Restoration
Kimitsukasa Tasaki
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1994 Volume 103 Issue 2 Pages 188-216,315-31


In this paper the author first discusses the scheme set up by SASAKI Junnosuke for explaining in concrete terms from the standpoint of early modern history the period of change in Japan spanning the last years of the Tokugawa shogunate and the early years of Meiji. While lauding SASAKI's scheme called "a social revival situation" (yonaoshi jokyo 世直し状況), the author points to its limitations in depicting an historical image of peasants movements from the end of Tokugawa all the way through to the free peoples rights (jiyu-minken 自由民権) movement. Occupying a particularly important place in Sasaki's social revival situation scheme is the Yah-Yah Uprising that occurred following the break up of Aizu-han as a result of its defeat in the Boshin Civil War of 1868. Also, Sasaki's concept of yonaoshi draws heavily on the research of SHOJI Kichinosuke carried out 37 years ago. However, the Yah-Yah Uprising is indeed an excellent starting point for studying peasant movements during the period, because it occurred in the same region (western Fukushima Prefecture) that produced the free peoples rights movement-related Fukushima (Kitakata) Incident of 1882. The task of the present paper is to reconsider Shoji's work in the light of newly discovered source materials and show the errors inherent to Sasaki's "yonaoshi" scheme. These newly discovered source materials collected throughout the Aizu region produce a very different contour of the Yah-Yah Uprising in 1)broadening the geographic location of the uprising that Sasaki has termed the "Aizu five-county civil disturbances" (to actually six counties) and 2)clarifying the number of participants, their social class and the amount of damages wrought in the uprising. As a result of his reconsideration of the Yah-Yah Uprising, the author comes to the following conclusions. First, the evidence makes clear that the uprising developed out of the four northern counties (gun 郡) of Kita-Aizu, Yama, Kawanuma and Ohnuma rather than the southern county of Minami-Aizu as formerly believed. Secondly, the Yah-Yah Uprising, while exhibiting the same contradictions characterized by the later Fukushima Incident, was inevitably an anti-authoritarian action, because it was set off by external factors caused by the Boshin War, but it soon developed into a situation that surpassed the original intent of the peasants, forcing the Meiji government to begin searching immediately for a new regional governance policy. Thirdly, Sasaki's over-emphasis on the significance of the Bureau of Civil Affairs (Minsei-Kyoku 民政局) as the end to the "first stage" of the uprising should be reconsidered in light of the proven relationship of the action taken by local peasants following the outbreak of the uprising to the establishment of the Bureau and an outlook that views the transition to modernity from the more dynamic aspect of clashes between the Meiji government's regional governance policies and local residents. In relation to this final point, through the process of rebuilding the local community political organization (so 惣) within the Uprising, localites where former community leaders were restored to positions of authority…specifically, the development process from former headman to policeman to new village headman among the leaders in the four central counties of the Uprising…attained an important link to their involvement in the free peoples rights movement of the following decades. The author's investigation of the community of Nozawa in Kawanuma County is a classic example of what he terms "the return to the Tokugawa-style local leadership". Finally, the author emphasizes the need to grasp the transition from early modern to modern society in Japan as a process of local socio-economic reform lasting from the Restoration through the people's rights movement era…a process that

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© 1994 The Historical Society of Japan
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