Name and Honor

Luke Roberts

in Recreating Japanese Men

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780520267374
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520950320 | DOI:
Name and Honor

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Established cultural distinctions between status groups of merchants, samurais, peasants, and others were dominant in seventeenth-century Japan. These groups seemed to have a distinctive way of life and set of values appropriate to the peaceful middle period of the Tokugawa period. This chapter explores how these status groups developed culturally and socially during the changes of the seventeenth century as the period of civil war disappeared from living memory. It aims to modify Eiko Ikegami’s notion of the “taming of the samurai” by suggesting that seventeenth-century pacification involved a much more general “taming of masculinity”. It also discusses the “samuraization” of the populace. In this chapter, the focus is on Enomoto Yazaemon’s autobiography. His accounts provide a glimpse into his life as a merchant as well as into the issue of self-representation. In particular, the chapter dwells on the two issues of honor violence and family headship by following his life through four stages, characterized as wild youth, learning restraint, midlife crisis, and paterfamilias. Throughout his career Yazaemon was concerned with gaining worldly respect, and the achievement of a secured inheritance in competition with his younger brother was the main drama of his life. The first stages of his life involved honor violence and gaining the respect of his parents; the latter stages were marked by control over his household and by problems with his health and physical vigor. Challenging the common notion that only the warrior class praised manly virtues, this chapter examines the rhetoric of masculinity within the merchant class.

Keywords: cultural distinctions; status groups; seventeenth-century Japan; masculinity; samuraization; honor violence; family headship

Chapter.  8872 words. 

Subjects: Gender and Sexuality

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