Daily Life in Japan
at the time of the Samurai, 1185 - 1603
Translated by Eileen M. Lowe
A problem I have with a lot of history books, especially Japanese history books, is that they are about the history of the rulers, concerned with war, power, and the "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous"!, and often have little to do with the actual lives of most people. For instance, I tire of reading something like ..."the Japanese ate little meat because of the Buddhist proscription against meat-eating".....the buddhist proscription was adhered to only by a small percentage of the Japanese people, and even then they found ways to circumvent it. Most Japanese ate any meat they could get their hands on!
So, if you interested in the Lives of the Poor and Unknown, Frederic's book can't be beat.
A full range of topics are included, life-stages from birth to death, city and country, occupations and crafts, the family system, the position of women in society, religion, and the way of the warrior. In each section he contrasts the lives of the upper classes with those of the lower, and what emerges is a very clear picture that their lives were very different. For instance, in the case of women's position, the women of the upper classes were little more than "borrowed wombs", but as one moves down through the classes women had more and more power and rights.
The source for a lot of the information about common people of the period comes from illuminated scrolls which were used by monks to teach, and therefore often illustrated daily life of the common people.
The book is also an excellent overview of a turbulent period of Japanese history.
An excellent book for peeking behind the modern veneer of homogenity in Japan.