Japanese Laws Governing Military Households

(1615)

Explanation and Analysis of the Document

The Laws Governing Military Households was promulgated by being formally read to a gathering of Japan's daimyo at Fushimi Castle, outside Kyoto, on July 7, 1615. The document consists of thirteen articles. Each begins with a statement of exhortation or prohibition. There then follows a brief explanatory section, often drawing upon classical sources (both Chinese and Japanese) or traditional principles to support the argument. This was to be expected. In the year previous to the laws' issuance, Suden and numerous associates among the Buddhist priesthood and Kyoto nobility had been busily engaged in copying and studying such classical sources from the country's libraries, all at Ieyasu's behest. Close analysis also reveals that precedents for most of the articles can be found in previous law codes; many, in fact, originated with the daimyo “house codes” (laws governing the behavior of a daimyo's retainers or vassals) of the Warring...