The Japanese civilians were protected during the Samurai Wars


The Battle of Sekigahara, AD 1600

The non-samurai people during the feudal era in Japan were much more protected than the people in other feudal societies in the world.  As a general principle, the battles between the feudal clans were done between the samurais and the civilians were not involved. The Samurais were living under the strict code of ethics and their honor was considered more important than their lives.

There was a famous Samurai war which determined the course of the Japanese history called the battle of Sekigahara in AD 1600.  During this battle,  a number of civilians went to the nearby mountains to watch the battle from the higher ground.

In a publication called “Gienjugonikki” written by a Shingon Buddhist priest, Gien (AD 1558-1626) , it is noted that there were civilian spectators at the time of the battle of Fushimi Castle (AD 1600) lead by Ukita Hideie.

In a Edo-era painting depicting the battle of Kuisegawa called “Kuisegawa Kassenzu Ebyoubu” owned by Gyoda City in Saitama Prefecture, Japan, several non-Samurai spectators are drawn.  On the right panel, a man who seems to be a farmer is sitting on a box. On the second panel, one priest is depicted and on the third panel,  a merchant is selling rice wine to two soldiers.

Gyoda City’s Official Website


A Japanese castle surrounded by moats. (Matsumoto Castle, Nagano)

Itazaka Bokusai (AD 1578-1655) , a physician who searved the Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu
has also written in his book “Keicho Nenjuki” about the civilian war spectators during the feudal times. It is noted that the villagers were bringing their lunch and watching the battle of Sekigahara in the Kanondo building in Mitsui Temple.  It has also been written that the spectators were turning the “Gojyo Bridge” into a theater in the battle of Kyoto in  1300s.

These records are the proof that the battles in Japan were traditionally done between the soldiers and the general non-Samurai people were safe enough to be able to watch.  There were no “walled cities” in the feudal Japan because the villagers or the civilians were largely protected by the Samurai code of ethics.  Even if a Samurai clan lost a battle,  the people living in that land were not killed by the opposition.

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