Episode 382 – Flipping the Script

This week, we’re going to stay in the Sengoku but take a step away from all this samurai action to ask: what’s everybody else up to? From farmers in the countryside enjoying the fruits of a more commercialized economy (while fearing being raided by marauding armies) to merchant towns asserting their authority against warlords, it’s a fascinating look into a neglected piece of the era’s history.


Osamu, Wakita. “The Social and Economic Consequences of Unification.” In The Cambridge History of Japan: Volume 4, Early Modern Japan. Edited by John Whitney Hall.

Whitney Hall, John, Keiji Nagahara and Kozo Yamamura, eds. Japan Before Tokugawa: Political Consolidation and Economic Growth, 1500-1650.

Pearson, Richard. “Japanese Medieval Trading Towns: Sakai and Tosaminato.” Japanese Journal of Archaeology 3 (2016).


Song dynasty coins from China like these became the backbone of the Sengoku commercial economy.
A copy of Hideyoshi’s expulsion edict in 1587, which contains his assertion that all of Japan’s land belongs to him.
Iwashimizu Hachiman Shrine was one of many religious institutions that came to dominate powerful market towns (Oyamazaki, in this case).
Sakai was a major center not just for merchant trade but gunsmithing — which also helped it keep its independence, for a time at least.
A map of shoen estates in the vicinity of Nara from the 800s CE. Up to the Sengoku period, shoen estates were the main method by which land was organized in Japan.