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A farmer tills his field

Pulling a wagon

Farmers led grueling lives during the Tokugawa Shogunate

During the Tokugawa era, farmers were viewed as the foundation of Japan and granted a social standing just below the samurai class. Yet the government made their lives oppressive and wretched. To keep farmers in the fields and away from urban centers, government forces severely restricted their ability to travel. Living under excruciating regulations, many farmers were taxed into poverty. Though they grew rice (the currency of the day), they were unable to keep much. Instead they lived meagerly on millet, wheat and barley. In certain areas the poverty was so intense that, after the birth of the first son, families killed off all subsequent male children. Girls were welcomed since they could be sold as servants or prostitutes.

Farmers were only allowed to wear simple clothes—cotton kimonos, loin cloths and straw sandals. Wealthy farmers sometimes wore an outer kimono with a design and geta, thonged footwear.

Top: Farmer/Todai Shiryo Hensanjo
Left: Farmer/Shunji Jonoshita

Farmers were in the "nomin" caste, just below the samurai in status.

After World War II, farmers' standard of living improved dramatically. Encouraged to get an education, many moved to the cities to take advantage of new work opportunities.

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