Life of Early Japanese Peasants (Rice Farming is a B*ch) | History of Japan 37

Life of Early Japanese Peasants (Rice Farming is a B*ch) | History of Japan 37


Getting married was different in Heian Japan. The husband and wife didn’t immediately
move out and live together. In fact, they couldn’t. They’d die, they’d die instantly. They’d walk into their new house and bleh,
dead. Okay not that fast, but they’d die. And here’s why. I would die, of starvation without your generous
support, so please consider supporting the channel. So we’re talking about peasants in this
video, the common man and woman. The Heian era is known for art and culture
and nobles living posh lives. But let’s be clear, those idiots made up
a tiny speck of the population. Almost the entire aristocracy lived in the
capital of Heian-kyo. Japan at the time had a population of 6 to
7 million people. The capital had 100 to 150 thousand people. And the aristocracy made up only 1 to 2 percent
of the capital’s population. Even more amazing, the people who held any
actual influence in the government numbered only 100 to 125 men. Outside the capital, Japan was still an agrarian
culture based on rice farming. They didn’t really have villages even. Peasants lived in loose settlements, I guess
you could call them hamlets, and households were mostly independent. It was common for a house to be more than
100 meters away from the next house. Because of their independence, households
were pretty big, about 8 to 10 people. Marriage arrangements among the peasants happened
like this. It was similar to aristocratic marriages. The wife kinda got the short end of the stick
with regards to responsibility. The husband basically visited to make sperm
deposits, then went on his merry way. Newlyweds didn’t move into a new home. They stayed separate, living in their own
parents’ households, like they had been before marriage. The husband would visit his wife once in a
while at night, because, you know, babies. Then he would just go back home. Children were raised in the wife’s household. This phase of living separately wasn’t permanent,
most of the time. Although in some communities, it would last
for the entire marriage. But usually it lasted 5 or 6 years, after
which they would finally move in together. This marriage situation gave them some interesting
family dynamics. On the up side, kids were raised in a home
where there were always people to take care them. Mother could go work on the farm while grandma
and her sisters watched Junior. The wife had more freedom than if she had
lived in the home of her husband’s or the in-laws’. On the down side, the husband had less freedom
because he still lived under his parent’s roof writing angsty poetry. This also gave the older generation a lot
more control over the lives of the younger generation. So why didn’t a new couple just move out
and escape their parents’ control? Because wet rice farming is a bish. Let me tell you how to grow rice. You know those pictures of people in Asia
in the rice paddies? You know what they’re doing? It’s called transplanting. In the Heian Period, this process became widespread. The old way of planting rice was pretty easy,
you just threw down a bunch of seeds, water, and let them grow. This was called direct seeding. Transplanting was different. Now the idea was introduced well before the
Heian, but it required so much work that many people said eh screw it. Here’s how it works. First, you plant the seeds and grow them in
a dry seedbed. Then you prepare your field making everything
even. When the seeds grow into seedlings, you flood
your field and take out each seedling and plant them one by one in the field in neat
rows. These were huge fields, imagine planting each
seedling one by one to fill the entire field. Not only that, you gotta do it fast. The soil can’t be too dry or wet. Too wet and the seedlings won’t take. So you have to fill the entire paddy with
seedlings, and you have a limited time. The paddy is drained midseason for the rice
to mature in dry soil, then it’s harvested. Flooding the fields gives you higher yields
because of less competition from weeds. Rice likes water, weeds don’t. But transplanting required more people than
one family had, so families had to hire help. And this is why couples couldn’t have survived
if they had moved out immediately after marriage. You needed a lot of people. A large household still had to rely on hiring
outside labor. A married couple, a household of two, was
way too small to run a farm. By staying with their own families, it kept
the family labor supply stable. As if farming life wasn’t tough enough,
the Japanese court did something that made life even tougher, but the hardy peasants
turned a bad thing into something that made them even more successful. One of the responsibilities of the state was
to ensure the public could freely use uncultivated land. The rich could not reserve free land for their
own use. Commoners used free land for all kinds of
things like grazing animals, collecting wood, and catching pokemon. But over time, the state started giving more
and more uncultivated land to temples, shrines, and powerful clans. These land grants shrunk the amount of land
available for grazing, forcing people to keep their animals inside stables all year because
they couldn’t go out to graze. People either had to teach their horses to
live on peasant suffering, or find another food source for them: rice stalks. Remember only the tip of rice stalks contains
rice grains, just the tip, the rest can be used as animal feed. These animals were mostly work animals rather
than yummy animals, and likely very few farmers had them. This actually introduced a new source of income
for farmers, selling hay to animal owners. Keeping animals at home all year allowed owners
to collect their poo for fertilizer. It had a huge effect on peasant life. The availability of poo increased crop yields. Usually fields went fallow after planting
crops for one or a few years. Manure, and the widespread use of a relatively
new technology, the plow, allowed people to use their fields every year. Another effect of keeping animals at home
all year was that it kept families together. Taking animals out to graze was a big deal. Someone had to take time out of the year leading
them to pasture. Without that, the animals and family members
were available all year long at home. In theory, the labor cost of transplanting
and the monetary cost of plows should have encouraged people to form closer and larger
communities, but we don’t see that in the Heian. There were some hamlets with houses built
close together, but they were the exceptions. Peasant households remained independent in
the Heian. Closely cooperating communities will pop up
in the subsequent Kamakura Period. Hey guys, wanna see more history videos? Check em out on the side here. See ya there. Shoutout to the two new patrons this week,
Muinko and rika. Thank you so much, you guys. Alright much love, y’all. Spread the knowledge.

38 Replies to “Life of Early Japanese Peasants (Rice Farming is a B*ch) | History of Japan 37

  1. Poo doesn’t get enough credit.

    The Heian Period (overview): https://youtu.be/9z8ZZezVmfw

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  2. The real poverty is not people are farming rice. But when the land are barren that is difficult to take edible food, summary it's natural resources that determine how rich people are.

  3. Rice cultivation might be tough, however, I learnt this from a man who grew up among paddy fields, that made me appreciate why rice is an important staple. According to the man, rice seedlings can survive in dry storage conditions for up to 5 years. But once the seedlings come in contact with water, they sprout almost immediately. If the sprouts are not transplanted quickly they are as worthless as weed 😅

  4. You see, this shit is why we used to have 14 kids per household; but its 2019 people, we gotta stop pumping out little recourse sucking goblins every third minute and start dying off.
    Let's get with the program

  5. Sounds like its the same as today.
    D.c. only accounting for a tiny fraction of the population but getting 99.9 % of the riches

  6. Few things never change in world
    Less than 5% will hold 95% of power resources and Luxuries
    Where as 95 will suffer let it be any culture any era or country or which timeline it is its always same

  7. Sir I @3:12 think you are wrong in the procedure of rice transplanting, actually the seedling are also planted in a wet paddy not dry, after they grow about 3 to 4 inches the paddy is flooded to soften the soil, after that transplanting will begin.

  8. Another great video. It's not that uncommon to see families living separately even today in Japan. It's usually temporary because of work. I had several students that were 'business bachelors' when I was an ESL teacher there. It's also still a tradition for expectant mothers to return to their family's home towards the end of their pregnancy to have the baby and get help with the infant.

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