Shotoku no chi (political reforms) (正徳の治)

Shotoku no chi are the political reforms carried out mainly in the Shotoku era.

Shotoku is the name of an era ruled by the sixth shogun Ienobu TOKUGAWA and the seventh shogun Ietsugu TOGUGAWA when mainly Hakuseki ARAI, the shogun's teacher and Akifusa MANABE, the lord chamberlain took the reins of government. Based on the Confucianism concept in Hakuseki, they advanced various policies called civilian government. Most of the policies were revised during the Kyoho reform carried out by the eighth shogun Yoshimune TOKUGAWA.

Issuance of Shotoku gold and silver
Ienobu removed influential vassals in the previous government such as Yoshiyasu YANAGISAWA, the chief minister as well as Terusada MATSUDAIRA, the lord chamberlain, but only Shigenobu OGIWARA, the commissioner of finance stayed in his position since no other person fitted the position.

In the Genroku era, Ogiwara withdrew high-purity Keicho Koban (gold oval coins) and Keicho Chogin (silver oval coins) and issued Genroku koban and Genroku chogin, low in gold and silver content, and, under the reign of Ienobu, he issued Hoei koban and Hoei chogin anew on his own authority without obtaining permission from the Shogun as a monetary policy to make up a government deficit. As a result, a profit margin of about 5,000,000 ryo (a unit of gold currency) (Hakuseki ARAI's estimation) or 5,800,000 ryo (Shigehide OGIWARA's estimation) was produced and temporarily enriched the government. However, he repeatedly reminted coins by consistently degrading the purity of the gold and silver, and this caused inflation due to a significant imbalance of actual economic scale and currency circulation. In addition, there were endless corruption rumors for Ogiwara such as bribes from government contractors and enormous amounts of profit in relation with reminting the coins (in accordance with "Oritaku Shiba no ki" [autobiographical essay] written by Hakuseki ARAI).

Arai determined Ogiwara was "the slyest person in history" and "a devil" and submitted reports three times insisting on the dismissal of Ogiwara to his superior. Finally he threatened to assassinate Shigenobu if Ienobu didn't dismiss him and Ienobu had to dismiss Shigenobu in 1712.

At last Arai held an initiative on currency policy, and he insisted to return the original content ratio to the coins. At last, Arai gained the initiative on currency policy, and he insisted to return the content rate of the coins to the original rate. Famous Shotoku koban and Shotoku chogin were issued based on the proposal by Arai to the government, and this caused deflation. He understood the need to return the purity of currency in order to reduce currency circulation in the market, but he was also concerned about the immeasurable impact on business activities if the government carried out this at once. He understood the need to recover the purity of currency in order to reduce currency circulation in the market, but he was also concerned about the immeasurable impact on business activities if the government carried out this at once. In fact, the amount of reminted Shotoku koban and Ichibu kin gold coin during Shotoku no chi was about 210,000 ryo, comparing to Genroku and Hoei gold and silver circulated (total 25,450,000 ryo of kobans and 1,400,000 ryo of chogins), it cannot say that this reminting had much of an impact in creating deflation.

Kaihakugoshi shinrei (a law enacted in order to limit the amount of international trade)
Since a lot of gold and silver were used in the trade between Holland and Japan, Arai estimated that a quarter of gold coins and three quarter of silver coins circulated in Japan went overseas between the beginning of the Edo period to the Genroku era.
Arai developed a reform plan based on a proposal submitted by Kiyosuke OOKA, Nagasaki bugyo (the collective name of magistrates placed in important areas directly controlled by the government in the Edo period.)
Kaihakugoshi shinrei (also called Shotoku shinrei and Nagasaki shinrei) was implemented in 1708 and its basic policy was observed until the end of the Edo period.

The main features of this law were controlling imports and the propulsion of domestic production. It limited the number of foreign ships coming into Nagasaki as well as the amount of trade itself. In particular, the number of ships from Qing was limited to 30 and the trade amount to 6,000 kan of silver (kan is a unit of volume, approx.3.75 kg) per year, and ships from Holland was limited to 2 and the trade amount to 3,000 kan per year. In addition, Arai considered to promote domestic production of traditionally imported goods like cloth, raw silk thread, sugar, buckskin, silk cloth, etc and loosen the policy created under the traditional feudal system, which banned peasants from producing commercial crops except for cultivating rice.

Attention must be paid to the fact that Kaihakugoshi shinrei is a '例' (rei) or 'example.'
One of the revolutionary points of this law was to issue Shinpai (信牌) (port-entry permit) which set the next port entry due date and the enhanced trading management through administrative reforms in Nagasaki. In the first place, Arai's plan was developed based on the intention to implement trade controls originating from Confusion commerce suppression policy, so limiting the amount of trade simply followed the system developed in the Tsunayoshi era and his plan intentionally ignored the truth that the outflow of gold and silver had already stopped by Tsunayoshi's reform.

Reconstruction of Kanjoginmiyaku (a post in the Edo bakufu to support commissioners at the finance ministry)
Since Arai witnessed widespread bribery and arbitrary decision and execution by Shigehide OGIWARA who was dismissed, Arai revived Kanjoginmiyaku in 1712 that was abolished by Ogiwara earlier and assigned Yoshitsura SUGIOKA and Yoshimasa OGIWARA (both of them became kanjo bugyo [commissioner of finance] later) and strived for tightening up the official discipline in the finance ministry.

Revision on treatment of Chosen Tsushinshi (the Korean Emissary)
The relationship between Korea and Japan was destroyed by the Bunroku-Keicho War in the Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI era, but Ieyasu TOKUGAWA began the process of repairing the relationship through the So clan in Tsushima Province and the first Korean delegacy named Chosen Tsushinshi was sent to Japan in 1636. After that Chosen Tsushinshi came everytime the Shogun changed. When Ienobu became Shogun, the eighth Tsushinshi came to Japan for celebration in 1711.

There were two changes, one was "cost reduction", and the other was "to change the title of Shogun".

The delegation was organized with a senior envoy and 500 members and, when the attendants are included, there were over 1,000 people in the group. Furthermore, each domain took security responsibility during their journey from Tsushima to Edo, so the number of people involved was far more. Since the Joseon Dynasty was the government by law and reason rather than by military force, the envoy observed formalism so strictly that the Japanese government had to treat them more carefully than the Imperial order. Hakuseki estimated that the cost for serving the envoy would be around 1,000,000 ryo and these expenses may affect governmental finances, so he successfully restrained the cost to 6000,000 ryo.

Hakuseki also changed Korean sovereign's message to be delivered to "the King of Japan" instead of "Tycoon of Japan."

Although Seitaishogun (commander-in-chief of the expeditionary force against the barbarians, great, unifying leader) had authority in Japan, the role of Seitaishogun was unclear in abroad and also, the title of Tycoon was used for heir of prince in Korea, so Arai proposed to change the address to "King" that was used in sovereign's message in the Ashikaga period. The Hayashi family, one of the bakufu members opposing Arai's plan, insisted, "King means Emperor, therefore, Shogun should not introduce himself as King, this is an useless reform. This only causes a flutter in the dovecotes," and also Hoshu AMENOMORI, a Confusion scholar in Tsushima domain opposed it saying, "the Joseon Dynasty doesn't like sudden reformation. Please reconsider," but as a result, the changes were implemented.

Hakuseki designed an equal relationship between Korea and Japan.

The foundation of the Kaninnomiya family
At this time, there were three Miyake (houses of an imperial prince), the Fushiminomiya family, the Kyogokunomiya family and the Arisugawanomiya family, and only the prince who succeeded the family could be the Imperial Prince, and the rest of princes and princesses had to become priest or priestess. Considering the mutual benefit and harmony between the Shogunate and the Imperial Court, the Kaninnomiya family was founded to prepare for an emergency of the genealogy of the Imperial family. After a half century since the new Miyake was founded, Emperor Gomomozono died and no successor was in Miyake, but prince Tomohito from the Kaninnomiya family, the sixth prince of prince Sukehito, became Emperor Kokaku, and afterwards, continued to Emperor Kokaku, Emperor Ninko, Emperor Komei, Emperor Meiji, Emperor Taisho, Emperor Showa and the present Emperor as of now. The foundation of the Kaninnomiya family saved the Imperial family form extinction.

Buke shohatto (Laws for the Military Houses)
Arai revised Buke shohatto from difficult Chinese classic form to Kana (the Japanese syllabary) based form so that everyone could read and understand.

Repeal of Shorui-Awaremi-no-rei (ordinances of animal protection)
Shorui-Awaremi-no-rei was repealed 10 days after the previous Shogun, Tsunayoshi TOKUGAWA died and more than 6,000 people subject to the punishment were released.

Evaluation of the reform
Arai and Manabe's involvement in politics was very short and resistance from anti Kofu group and lineage were getting stronger after Ienobu's death
Therefore, they couldn't implement the reform thoroughly, thus it is difficult to evaluate. However, it has been said that Yoshimune who took over the reform after Shotoku no chi denied the contents of Shotoku no chi, but this is not necessarily true.

Certainly, Yoshimune brought back Buke shohatto to Chinese classic form based on Tenwa order (天和令) as well as the way to serve Chosen Tsushinshi, in brief, he brought back the title of Tokugawa Shogun to "Tycoon of Japan." Even huge amounts of political documents submitted by Arai in respond to Ienobu's request seems to have been scrapped.

However, it's generally understood that Yoshimune from the Kishu Tokugawa family showed his consideration for his 'supportive vassal' Masanao TSUCHIYA who hated the lord chamberlain government, so Yoshimune made changes to Arai's achievements mainly from a formality. On the other hand, since Yoshimune recognized the righteousness in many of the economic policies, especially the principle of high grade currency policy as well as the trading policy in Nagasaki, he took over such reforms from Shotoku no chi.
Yoshimune's vassals couldn't understand his act because they believed Yoshimune dismissed Arai as Yoshimune hated him (Of course, Yoshimune didn't value Arai himself, but valued his policies.)

This is obvious from the fact that Yoshimune appointed Yoshimasa HAGIWARA again who was first appointed by Arai. As a conclusion, it is not reasonable to think that there was a discontinuity between Shotoku no chi and Kyoho reforms. It is reasonable to understand that useful policies implemented in the former were succeeded by the latter and carried out under the reforms conducted by Yoshimune in succeeding years.