Bunsei Reforms

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The Bunsei Reforms were one of a number of significant but ultimately ineffective efforts by the Tokugawa shogunate to reform society. Implemented in 1827, they included exhortations to peasants to return to agricultural efforts, and to avoid the distractions of urban entertainments. Peasant engagement in extraneous cultural pursuits such as painting, flower arrangement, or attending plays was nominally prohibited, and law enforcement was increased in the countryside.

A new post was created called the torishimari shutsuyaku. These inspectors were chiefly charged with traveling to villages to oversee the enforcement of the new regulations. However, in practice, they quickly came to serve as shogunate representatives to whom local village elders and the like submitted petitions and complaints. In villages surrounding post stations, village leaders often complained about the deleterious effect of prostitution, and of the urban culture of the post-stations otherwise, upon the integrity of their villages. This led to numerous raids upon post-station inns & brothels, and to pressure from post-station officials to ease up on enforcement of the new reforms; in the end, as with much shogunate policy, enforcement proved extremely sporadic and largely (in the broad scheme of things) ineffective.


  • Amy Stanley, Selling Women: Prostitution, Markets, and the Household in Early Modern Japan, UC Press (2012), 155-157.