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Even in feudal Japan, peasants proved to be a force of change

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I recently went to see an exhibition at Chido Museum in Tsuruoka, Yamagata Prefecture, the site of a protest movement during the Tenpo Era (1831-1845) of the Edo Period (1603-1867).

In 1840, peasants of the Shonai Demain, based in present-day Tsuruoka, rose in opposition against the Tokugawa government's order for three-way relocation of three feudal "han" clans to other domains.

Brandishing banners and blowing conch-shell trumpets, the peasants marched to Edo, chanting their battle cry: "Even peasants don't serve two masters."

Known popularly as "Sanpo Kunigae Sodo" (literally, three-way domain reorganization incident), it was triggered by the Edo government's arbitrary order to the heads of the Shonai, Nagaoka and Kawagoe clans to interchange their domains.


© The Asahi Shimbun