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Mizunomi

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  • Japanese: 水飲 (mizunomi)
  • Other Terms: 頭振 (atamafuri), 雑家 (zakke), 無縁 (muen), 真脇 (mawaki), 間人 (mouto)

Mizunomi (lit. "water drinkers") was a term used in the medieval and early modern periods to refer to villagers who possessed no taxable land. In much of the Maeda clan lands in Kaga and Noto provinces during the Edo period, they were known as atamafuri (lit. "head shakers"), while in other parts of the archipelago, these individuals or families were known by a variety of other terms, including zakke ("various houses"), muen ("unconnected"), môto ("gate men"), and mawaki ("on the side").

Histories have generally represented these individuals as a particularly poor sub-group within society, as they had no significant agricultural production. However, historian Amino Yoshihiko suggests that focusing on agricultural production as the measure of wealth gives a mistaken impression of wealth or economic status. To the contrary, Amino suggests that many mizunomi families were in fact quite economically active and financially well-off, working as craftsmen, local merchants, or engaging in larger-scale commercial shipping and coastal/maritime trade. He cites the example of the Shibakusaya family of Noto, who were wealthy enough as a result of their mercantile activities to be able to lend at one point upwards of one hundred ryô to the Tokikuni family.

References

  • Amino Yoshihiko, Alan Christy (trans.), Rethinking Japanese History, Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan (2012), 13-14.
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