Patterns of Relief

“The state,” began a passage in Saitō Gesshin's account of the earthquake, “has decreed that for the sake of obtaining repose for all the wandering spirits resulting from those who have perished in the present calamity, rites to succor starving ghosts will be conducted at the following temples on the second day of the eleventh month. Each of these temples will receive fifteen pieces of silver and a grant of an additional ten pieces.”[1] The next entry in Gesshin's account lists twelve temples and a few other details.[2] By requiring this religious event at the one-month anniversary of the earthquake, bakufu officials likely intended to create what today we would call a sense of closure. The decree itself enjoins everyone in the city “without exception” to observe the solemnity of this event.[3] During the previous month, entities within the bakufu had been busily engaged in dealing with the results of the calamity.

Bakufu Assistance to Its retainers

The bakufu was primarily a military organization, and the bulk of its resources went to providing relief for stricken retainers. On the night of the earthquake, the overwhelming response of daimyō and other bakufu retainers was to make their way to Edo Castle to inquire about the wellbeing of Shogun Iesada, who had escaped to the Fukiage Garden within the castle along with his family.[4] The day after the main shock, the bakufu sent small teams of messengers to each daimyō mansion. The format was that of an inquiry about the daimyō's well-being, but these visits also served the purpose of a preliminary gathering of information about daimyō conditions. The senior councilor on duty on the third day was Kuze Hirochika, who had temporarily replaced Abe Masahiro because Abe's residence had collapsed. Somewhat oddly, Hirochika sent an order that all daimyō in the city report that evening to inquire on the shogun or to send a representative should they be physically unable.[5] This order clearly irritated many of those who had risked their lives and neglected their own households to visit the castle the previous night. This irritation forced bakufu officials verbally to excuse most daimyō from attending on the third, and only twenty-four showed up in person (the others sent messages). Realizing the desperate condition of many fudai daimyō households, the bakufu issued a directive on the fourth day permitting daimyō to return to their domains at their convenience.[6] On the seventh day, however, perhaps realizing that coastal defenses would be unmanned, the bakufu partially reversed itself. It decreed that all daimyō whose residences were salvageable should strive to remain in Edo.[7]

This flip-flopping was a surface manifestation of conflicting pressures behind the scenes. To take one example, Abe Masahiro advocated a generous policy toward daimyō, and he stayed away from Edo Castle on the seventh and eighth days to attend to his devastated household. He returned on the ninth day only after Hotta Masayoshi was appointed chair of the senior councilors, thus taking on many of Abe's duties. Mito Nariaki, whose household also suffered many deaths and severe destruction, was opposed to any leniency in standards. On the tenth day, Nariaki sent Masahiro a demanding letter, chastising him for allowing the daimyō to return to their home territories on account of the earthquake. The letter suggested that such a move would start a trend whereby daimyō would seek to be excused from their attendance duties.[8] In light of the relaxation of attendance requirements in 1862, Nariaki may have been prescient on this point.

The major source of bakufu aid to daimyō and other retainers came in the form of loans on generous terms, which the bakufu could ill afford to provide. The loans were at zero interest, repaid in installments over ten years. Authorization of loans began as early as the fourth day, and the order in which retainers received loans was based on the importance of their duties. Loan amounts ranged from 10,000 ryō in the case of some senior councilors to 2,000 ryō for lesser daimyō officials. The total amount disbursed to daimyō was 61,000 ryō. It was on the seventh day that bakufu officials decided on measures for lesser retainers, the bannermen and gokenin. The bakufu made a distinction between those with territories of between one hundred and ten thousand koku, who received ten-year, zero-interest loans. Those receiving direct stipends of one hundred hyō (bales of rice) or less received outright grants. Grants or loans were based on property damage only, not on the human toll. The total amount dispersed to bannermen of five hundred koku or higher was 89,177 ryō, with a total of 1,658 retainers receiving funds. [9]

  • [1] Saitō, Ansei itsubō bukō chidō no ki, 29. See also “Jifūroku” DNJS, vol. 2 (otsu), 539.
  • [2] This round of temple services was the second major religious intervention by the bakufu. On the seventh day of the tenth month, it paid thirteen shrines throughout the country to conduct earthquake prayer rites. See Noguchi, Ansei Edo jishin, 194.
  • [3] NJS, vol. 5, supplement 2, part 1, 69–70.
  • [4] For brief letters by retainers to the ōmetsuke, reporting on their actions the night of the earthquake, see “Bakufu satasho,” in DNJS, vol. 2 (otsu), 527–537. Some also include informal mention of losses incurred by the retainers. See also Kitahara, “Saigai no shakaizō,” 43–47, and Noguchi, Ansei Edo jishin, 83–84.
  • [5] NJS, vol. 5, supplement 2, part 1, 3.
  • [6] Ibid.
  • [7] Noguchi, Ansei Edo jishin, 181–184, and Kitahara, “Saigai no shakaizō,” 47–50.
  • [8] Noguchi, Ansei Edo jishin, 187–189, and Kitahara, “Saigai no shakaizō,” 46.
  • [9] For specific letters authorizing the loans and grants, including the dates and amounts of the loans, see Tōkyō shiyakusho, ed., Tōkyō shishi kō, kyūsaihen (Rinsen shoten, 1975), 457–467 and 160–163, for official entries regarding these matters. See also Kitahara, “Saigai no shakaizō,” 50–51, 67–68, and hyō 2-8, 2-9, and 2-10; Chūō bōsō kaigi, 1855 Ansei Edo jishin hōkokusho, 99; and Noguchi, Ansei Edo jishin, 184–188, including hyō 6, 7, and 8. See also “Jifūroku,” in DNJS, vol. 2 (otsu), 539.
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