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The Artisans of Feudal Japan

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Matt Funk

on 27 April 2011

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Transcript of The Artisans of Feudal Japan

When warfare was widespread in feudal Japan, artisans were needed to supply the samuri The samurai warrior class dominated feudal Japanese society, they were only 10 percent of the population but wielded enormous power. If an artisan refused to bow to a samurai when he passed, the samurai were entitled to chop off their head.
The artisan crafted a variety of products including art, cooking pots, fish hooks, farm tools, utensils, ship anchors and swords. The artisans, who were well-known for their exceptional swords, were highly respected. However, on the whole, this class was not as respected as peasants because they did not produce food. Although artisans produced many beautiful and necessary goods, such as clothes, cooking utensils, and woodblock prints, they were considered less important than the farmers. Swordsmiths were very important because samuri valued their weapons Even skilled samurai sword makers and boatwrights belonged to this third tier of society in feudal Japan. Merchants and craftsmen were the people who supported Edo's prosperity. Craftsmen included carpenters, coopers, lumberers, and cutlers. These people were very important in making and providing goods for the castle town and not only for trade within the castle town, but outside as well. This brought in new things and let the people enjoy different goods. The merchants and craftsmen accounted for 3% of the population. 70% of them lived in nagayas. There was large difference between wealthy merchants and poor merchants. Wealthy merchants were even richer than samurai. Since the samurai had such high ranking status, it said a lot for the wealthy merchants. Merchants and craftsmen usually lived in rows of houses called "Nagaya". Nagayas had sizes of about 9.8 cubic meters, and and there were ditches in the center of the lanes. Wells, restrooms, and dumps were used often and were common in most nagayas. Lanes were a common place for children to play, women to chat, and merchants to sell their goods. Swords were thought to have miraculous powers and lives of their own. As a result a strict code of etiquette was developed for handling and maintaining swords. Swords were thought to have miraculous powers and lives of their own. Soldiers defeated in battle prayed at the shrines of the war-god Hachiman, asking why their swords had lost their spirit. Many stories have come down about the spiritual powers of notable blades as well as the keen sharpness of the blade. Because of the importance of the sword and the mystical significance attached to them, the sword makers were an honored class, and they approached their task with great solemnity. It was believed that only those with the purest of hearts and the highest moral standards, could become a master swordsmith. Thus, those who mastered the art were honored and highly respected by their feudal lords. The Making of the Blade
Before forging the blades, the swordsmiths underwent fasting and ritual purification. They then worked at their anvils in white clothes, like the robes of the priests. There efforts were well rewarded; as early as the 13th Century, Japanese swords were recognized as far superior than any made elsewhere in the world. Not until the development of modern scientific metallurgy in the 19th century, could steel be made that would challenge the quality of that made by these Japanese swordsmith 600 years earlier.
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