- The Association of Japanese Geographers
- 地理学評論 (ISSN:00167444)
- vol.27, no.5, pp.193-202, 1954-05-25 (Released:2008-12-24)
Geographers and historians have studied “Shinden” Settlemeats (or newly reclaimed lands) developed by wealthy merchants and landowners or by feudal lords and the Shogunate, but no one has reported as to those lands reclaimed by vassals (or lower class Samurai). Yet there are numerous examples in the economically stagnant regions of north-eastern and south-western Japan. This study deals with “Shinden” settlement in the domain of the Hirosaki clan (located in the western part of present Aomori Prefecture) where 522 settlements, viz. 62% of the total number of all settlements, were of this sort. Reclamation by vassals of the I irocaki clan was commenced in 1620 when an ordinance encouragting the roclamation of waste land was issued (by feudal lord) in order to rehabilitate the rural areas devastated by fare pine in 1618. Reclamation by vassals was prohibited in 1661. In the initial stage, the carrying out of the reclamation did not require very much expense, for waste land favourable for development and labor (the second and. third sons of farmers) were readily obtainable. Thus, either a lower class vassal or a wealthy merchant or landowner could take part in this type of development. “Shinden” settlement was accomplished, the person who had developed the land was given a portion of the newly reclaimed paddy fields and appointed a vassal (if he was merchant or landowner) or promoted to the next higher rank (if lie already held the rank of vassal). The remainder of the reclaimed land was continued in the posession of the original owner. Each “Shinden” Settlement way organized with one vassal (who served as the village official) and with the farmers owing allegiance to the feudal lord. “Shinden” settlement increased rapidly owing inpart to the rise of the price of rice. In the late stage, circumstances were reversed. Much money was needed. to establish a “Shinden” settlement. Expenses needed were invested jointly by many vassals, consequently a “Shinden” settlement which was opened in this stage was organized with many vassals and a few farmers. Such “Shin den” settlement added little to. the revenue of the feudal lord. Thus as more “Shinden” settlements were opened, the settlers were confronted with a scramble for irrigation water. At the same time, the financial status of the Hirosaki elan were increasingly difficult. The situation became critical, so teat the reclamation by vassals was prohibited in 1666. In 1685, the Hirosaki clan made an administrative reform confiscating the lands of the vassals and giving them stipend of rice ann-cally. Thus the Hirosaki clan was able to acquire much more revenue and promoted the reelamation project on the Iw aki river delta plain with its own f ands, comnmandeering the farmer's labor.