The ordinary peasant in the Tokugawa period (1609-1868) observed many years of gradual change in their feudalistic society. When we consider the political, economic and social roles they have held within their society, we can see how vital the peasants were to the Tokugawa Shogunate. Peasants were everything from self sufficient farmers and pioneers of new and useful technology, to impoverished workers that would often suffer famines. Many times peasants would not even be able to support their own family because of heavy and unequal tax burdens imposed on them by the shogunate. Peasants were compared to sesame seeds by the shogunate finance magistrate "The harder you squeeze them, the more you can extract from them" (Furushima pp.495).
In the Tokugawa period there was a system of centralized feudalism, which meant that the peasants had a "subservience of vassal to lord, which all lands owned by the lord were in fief to the vassal working the land" (Thatcher pp.326). The ordinary peasants in the Tokugawa period were generally not land owners so they would pay taxes to their daimyos, and the shogunate. Feudal lords or 'daimyos' were responsible for implementing the tax laws upon the peasants. Taxes were often imbalanced when you compared the size and value of the peasants land. "...the farmers who owned the better lands often had more influence in the village assemblies that apportioned the tax levy. Thus, the burden of meeting the annual tax payments fell inequitably on the small-scale farmers" (Furushima pp.498).
The peasants were the largest source of tax revenue for the shogunate; as a result they were economically very important for the survival of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
During the earlier years of the Tokugawa Shogunate peasants practiced self-sufficient farming, which meant that they would only grow enough crops to provide for themselves and their families. "...th...