Online ISSN : 2424-2616
Print ISSN : 0018-2478
ISSN-L : 0018-2478
Price-cut Movements of the Fertilizer-use Night Soil in Edo and "Ryoryo-Sodai"
Toru Kumazawa
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1985 Volume 94 Issue 4 Pages 482-511,562-56


Amidst the wave of research that is furthering our understanding of blocs of consolidated villages (kumiai mura 組合村), which have been seen as middle level control mechanism within all the territories ruled by the Tokugawa Bakufu, this paper takes up widespread legal petitioning movements carried out by agricultural villages throughout the environs of Edo. In the eleveth month of 1789 (Kansei 寛政 1), a confederation of villages around Edo lodged a complaint with the Bakufu's Taxation and Judicature Functionary (Kanjo Bugyo 勘定奉行) in a legal attempt to bring about reductions in the price of fertilizer-use night soil. At its height, this legal battle brought together a total of 1016 villages, thus rivaling in scale provincial level legal struggles (kokuso 国訴) carried on in the Kinai region of western Japan. The night soil which had accumulated in the townships (machikata 町方) and samurai residential areas (yashiki-kata 屋敷方) of Edo proper was under contract (shimo-soji keiyaku 下掃除契約) collected by surrouding peasants as a valuable source of crop fertilizer. However, during the latter half of the eighteenth century, there appeared certain persons who attempted to capture night soil collection rights from peasants through contract price competition, which resulted in substantial increases in the contract prices offered to the residents of Edo proper. In response to this inflationary situation, the surrounding villages petitioned the Bakufu, based on such intervillage resolutions as bans on such competitive practices and the return of collection rights which had been taken away through such practices. The demands made to the Taxation and Judicature Functionary aimed at an autonomous system of night soil collection and included 1)official recognition of inter-village resolutions, 2)the prohibition of night soil collection by townsfolk not under the control of village administrators, and 3)recognition of contract price reduction negotiations and their dissemination throughout Edo proper. Four years later in the sixth month of 1792 (Kansei 4), a decision was handed down, which refused to recognize inter-village resolutions, but which prohibited townsfolk involvement in collecting and contracting activities, and recognized full agricultural villager control of night soil. Also during this four years period, organized groups of villages were successful in reducing through negotiation the contract price of night soil. After offering a general outline of the litigation movement as a whole, the author turns to the question of how this movement was organized. The most outstanding characteristic of this organization is the fact that it was a total consolidation of villages according to regional units called "ryo" 領 (territories) and irregardless of differences between various feudal lords which ruled over the regions. Ryos were middle level administrative units within the Edo environs and had been organized for the exaction of the various dues to be performed in relation to samurai falconing grounds. Various directives (furetsugi 触次) had been issued to these ryos concerning the control of their villages ; however, execution of these directives was left to a council of village adminitrators within the ryo (ryochu hyogi 領中評議). In the case of the night soil collection rights legal struggle of 1788, a total of 37 ryos took part and a group of 21 petitioning representatives were set up. These representatives, from their bositions on a representative council (ryoryo hyogi 領々評議), both looked into the policies taken by the movement and gave guidance to the villages in drawing up their resolution documents. Therefore, it was through the three levels of village assembly (mura yoriai 村寄合) --- ryo council (ryochu hyogi) --- ryo confederation council (ryoryo hyogi) that the demand of the peasants was taken up and a consensus was reached concerning an autonomous system of night soil collection. This consensus was reaffirmed th

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© 1985 The Historical Society of Japan
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