Edo Period Japan From An American’s View

So- some of you may have known or noticed my growing fascination for Japan. And being a writer, I thought it would be AWESOME if I wrote a story based on Edo Period Japan.

I decided that researching this era of Japan on my last sick day was a perfect way to spend it.

And BOY OH BOY- I’m not exactly sure where to start.


Since I’m a girl, I guess I’ll talk about women’s rights.

They were crap, plain and simple.

The Edo Period was from 1600 to 1868, so the words “equal” and “woman” were never heard of in a sentence together (as it kinda was all throughout the world during this time). Women couldn’t inherit, couldn’t own property, and couldn’t work in government or the military. Education was a joke. You only had a hope of having basic literacy if you were born in the Samurai class, and you were prohibited from reading texts from philosophers, great works of literature, and anything that mentioned politics.

Your parents arranged your wedding if you were in the upper classes, and you had no say in the matter. You didn’t have the right to say anything. And your husband was correct if he decided to kill you because you were lazy with your household chores or if you weren’t a faithful wife and obedient mother.

Best of all- the women were taught to honor her parents-in-law first above HER OWN PARENTS, and also taught to be a kind, obedient, and a peacemaker for your husband. (little to no complaints here, right?) Well- the men were taught to listen and take care of the needs of his parents first, his children second, and his wife last.

Fun fact: Even though you could be killed by your husband on sight if you were caught in an affair, it was totally okay if your husband went out and visited the prostitute hanging out down by the street corner or his concubine. I guess it was considered the norm, and also a moderately respectable profession to be in as a woman.

 If you were a woman, you were screwed. Better start praying to be reincarnated as a male in the next life now.

Evidently, if you were also part of the Samurai class, you could even kill lower caste people if you thought they looked at you strangely or treated you rudely. One wrong move and you’re dead in Edo Japan.


Next, let’s talk about the caste system, since I’ve mentioned it and you’re probably wondering what it was like.

They have sub-divisions in the Japanese feudal caste system, so I’ll only briefly go over them.

First, there’s the Touchable class. (sounded weird to me at first, too) In order, it goes:

  • Samurai
  • Peasants / Farmers (which is split up into 4 more subdivisions)
  • Craftsmen / Artisans
  • Merchants

It’s interesting, because usually the merchant class is a really high social class in other countries because it brings in the phat stacks of cash. But in Edo period Japan, it’s lower on the list because the merchants do most of their business outside of the country and was seen as less important to the civilians of Japan. I think it should also be noted that Japan had a closed-door policy during the Tokugawa Shogunate too. Like, deathly so. If you somehow got out to travel abroad and weren’t a trader, and decided to come back home to Japan, you would be executed to decrease foreign “pollution.” (Does anyone else see a running theme of death here, or is it just me?)

ANYWAY. Next, we have the Untouchable class.

As bad as I want to giggle at the name because it sounds like a derpy spy movie title, what happened to this class of people is really quite sad. These guys were the shunned,  social rejects that nobody liked- the oppressed minority. They had a village or a hamlet all to themselves so that they couldn’t socialize with the upper classes, and stepping into their territory was akin to committing a crime back in the day. In no particular order, these guys were the:

  • Executioners
  • Slaughterhouse workers
  • Undertakers / “funeral home” workers
  • Tanners (no- not the tanning bed tanners! These guys work with animal skins)
  • Butchers

And it makes it even a little more sad when you realize that most of these people have to work around- here comes our favorite word for the day- death.

And yet, the very classes that held the MOST power during that time were the Shoguns, which are the equivalent of army generals in today’s society. And you know what army commanders have to deal with on a regular basis?

rainbow unicorns


Try figuring that one out.


Okay- so let’s try ending this post on a positive note. After all, I’d rather not leave you with bitter feelings towards Japan because they’re pretty cool nowadays.

  • Due to the printing and education advances in Edo Period Japan, their literacy rate was one of the highest than it had been in years past.
  • The Edo Period of Japan was relatively peaceful. It got so peaceful to where, towards the end of the period, the Samurai class was becoming irrelevant.
  • Due to the Edo period’s closed-door policy, Japan began to gain some stability. It also prevented outside sources influencing the nation’s history, so we have rich and colorful stories to learn and hear from them.
  • Art started to reallllyyyy take off in the Edo Period. That means we also get to see some of the beautiful pottery and interesting paintings that came from that era today.
  • Manufacturing became a booming industry; so silk, porcelain, paper, and alcohol gave way to a powerful mercantile class in the Edo period.


That’s some of the stuff I got to learn in my journey of researching. Most of the research I got into was marriage and every day life, SPOILERS PERHAPS? but I figured I wanted to leave you guys on a good note.

Because whooo-ieeee, everything that I read on marriages got depressing really quickly.

Don’t worry. If I ever end up publishing this little work in progress, It’ll definitely end nicely. I hate endings that make me want to chuck a book out the window and use the author’s name as a new cuss word.

VERONICA ROTH! I LEFT THE STOVE ON! Hope the house doesn’t burn down!





That’s about it…







If you could live anywhere in any point in history, where and when would you live?

Thanks so much for reading to the end of this post!

~Felicity Annora

3 thoughts on “Edo Period Japan From An American’s View

Add yours

  1. Thank you for this informative post. It’s always nice to learn more about a place like Japan. Even if what I learn makes me go “Yikes!”

    I would live in America in the 1980s in order to see if it’s as great as so many people seem to think it was.

    Glad to hear you’re continuing to write. As I start studying sign language, I’ve taken a break from writing for the time being.

    Liked by 1 person

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from concepts to final drafts - and everything in-between

Art of Annastacia Henry-Ramos

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An impatient 20-something learning to embrace life, her low-funtioning sociopathic dog, and a budget.

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