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  • Japanese: 蔵米知行 (kuramai chigyou), 蔵米 (kuramai), 俸禄 (houroku)

In the Edo period, retainers to the daimyô of a domain, along with hatamoto, earned their income either from subinfeudation (i.e. being granted their own lands in fief) or in the form of stipends. Goyô shônin and other elite commoners & peasants were also sometimes invested with stipends by a daimyô, the shogunate, or another authority.

Stipends were paid out from a central granary at the castle town (or, at Asakusa in Edo, in the case of hatamoto)[1]. Due to the way in which it was paid out, and the fact that many if not most samurai enjoyed government posts, the stipend resembled a government salary in certain ways; however, it was consistently conceived of as an investiture, a fief in monetary rather than territorial form. Though the vast majority of domains invested their retainers only in stipends, the 20% which continued to subinfeudate some of their highest-ranking retainers through the end of the Tokugawa period included the largest domains, controlling between them roughly half the land area of the archipelago.[2]

While measured in koku of rice, stipends were typically paid out in a combination of rice, other grains, and specie. Generally, stipends paid entirely in rice were of higher prestige, while those paid primarily in domainal fiat money were the most subject to inflation and the most difficult to convert or exchange for more widely accepted forms of currency. Samurai are believed to have generally enjoyed only about 35% of the face-value of their stipends, with the rest being paid to retainers, servants, or otherwise not coming into the samurai's own personal wallet.[3]

The level of samurai stipends were dramatically unequal, with the lowest-ranking samurai earning less than the servants of some of the wealthiest samurai retainers. But, attempts at reform were extremely difficult, as the size of one's stipend was considered a key part of one's patrimony, which bore a certain degree of authority against the interference of any outside power (such as the daimyô or shogunate).

Samurai who traveled outside their lord's domain and who were able to be active in Osaka or Edo often deposited their stipends with rice brokers, who would hold it for the samurai similar to a bank account, issuing scrips, paper forms akin to a personal check, to allow the samurai to pay out of his account. Alternatively, the rice brokers would convert the rice, grain, or other goods into coin.

Meiji Period

In the Meiji period, the government gradually abolished the stipends, along with the samurai class itself. In 1873, the government began taxing stipends, and offered samurai the option to convert their stipends into bonds, valued at five to fourteen times the annual stipend, at 5-7% interest; around this time, the paying out of stipends consumed as much as half of all state revenues. In 1876 this conversion became mandatory, and samurai lost 10 to 75% of their incomes.[4] This, along with the loss of other elite privileges, would be the key impetus for the shizoku rebellions which followed.

As the daimyô became members of the kazoku, the new European-style aristocracy, and returned their fiefs to the Emperor, they were granted stipends equal to 10% of their former kokudaka.[5]


  • Mark Ravina, Land and Lordship in Early Modern Japan, Stanford University Press (1999), 62.
  1. These stipends for samurai resident in Edo were paid out in three installments over the course of a year. One-quarter of the annual stipend was paid in spring, one-quarter in summer, and the remaining one-half in the winter. Craig, Teruko (trans.). Musui's Story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai. University of Arizona Press, 1988. p.xv.
  2. Ravina, 64.
  3. Craig, xv.
  4. Andrew Gordon, A Modern History of Japan, Oxford University Press (2013), 64-65.
  5. Ravina, 203.