Official (yakunin)



Official (yakunin)

***** Location: Japan, Edo period
***** Season: Non-seasonal Topic
***** Category: Humanity


Here we are concerned with the officials (yakunin) of the Edo period only.

official, yakunin 役人
minor official, petty official, koyakunin ko yakunin 小役人

a humble official position

living quarters of an official, yakutaku 役宅

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Not to mix with

kooyakunin 公役人, people who were compelled to do official duties for the government, like foot soldiers or manual labour for official buildings during the Edo period.
公約人 seems a mis spelling .


Organization of Officials in the Edo period

In our times, they would be the state officials, Beamte in German.

© PHOTO Mizutani Mitsuhiro

Worldwide use

Things found on the way


yuudachi ya juka sekijoo no ko yakunin

in a cloudburst
under a tree, looking miserable
a minor official

Kobayashi Issa

Translator's note:
Shinji Ogawa explains that the phrase, juka sekijoo, which literally means to sleep or dwell under a tree and on a rock, figuratively denotes "being a monk practicing austerities." Here, he says, Issa uses the phrase to mean "poor," or "petty." It seems to me, however, that the minor official is literally standing under a tree to avoid the rain, a visual image that provides Issa with this opportunity for word-play.
My dilemma as a translator, then, is to decide whether I should:
(1) mention the literal level of being under a tree and on a rock but lose the figurative meaning of practicing austerities; or
(2) translate the figurative meaning (Shinji suggests the middle phrase, "how miserable") but lose the literal image of the official crouching under a tree.
My compromise: I keep the tree but lose the rock, adding Shinji's "miserable."
Tr. David Lanoue

HAIGA by Nakamura sakuo

濡れずに済みて 仏の顔に
nurezu ni sumite hotoke no kao ni

without getting wet
becomes Buddha face

© Haiga and renku by Nakamura Sakuo

cloudburst ...
the harsh life
of a petty official

Tr. Gabi Greve, free translation

sudden cloudburst --
a city clerk stonefaced
under a tree

sudden cloudburst --
a stonefaced town clerk
huddles under a tree

Tr. Chibi

meditating on a stone

The head is the sky.
The eyes are sun and moon.
The breath is the wind.
Mountains, rivers,plants and trees
are your very own body.
You are Buddha.

© PHOTO : Kanshin-Ji
Ascetic practise at temple Kanshin-Ji

樹下石上 : juge sekijoo
taking one's lodging at the roadside in the wilderness
Buddhist Ascetic practise, sometimes also expressed as

sekijoo juge 石上樹下
(juge, under a tree ... is the reading of Buddhist texts)
on a stone, under a tree

ishi no ue san nen 石の上三年
sitting on a stone for 3 years

is a proverb in Japanese.

Compiled by Larry Bole:

Who is this "minor" or "petty" official?
I found a definition of the word 'juka 儒家' by itself, which gave as its meaning: "Confucianist."
The 'juka' I found may be a homonym for the word Issa used, but maybe Issa meant the word he used to suggest a Confucianist meaning as well as a Buddhist meaning. And I found as a meaning for the word 'koyakunin': "Low ranking samurai with various light duties such as guarding the gate or patrolling the grounds."

And looking up "Japanese Confucianism," I find this: "Neo-Confucianism (especially Chu Hsi Confucianism) was the most important philosophy of Tokugawa Japan in government and education."

So, during the 'sengoku jidai' period of Japanese history, "the age of the country at war," even a samurai of the lowest rank would ideally be imbued with the martial spirit, would at his best be influenced by Zen Buddhism, and would be expected to stoically endure austere conditions, even unto death.

Who had this 'koyakunin' become by Issa's time? Although still allowed to carry a sword (or maybe not?), he was a minor or petty official, imbued more with neo-Confucian values than with Zen Buddhist values.

I think Issa might be mocking the 'koyakunin's' samurai heritage or pretensions. Gone is the samurai stoicness. Instead of enduring the cloudburst as if it were part of a Buddhist austerity ritual, the minor official, a samurai in name only by Issa's time, looks miserable under the tree.

sleeping under a tree, on a rock
a petty official
Literal translation by Larry Bole

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Discussing the translation
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PHOTO from http://shinshomap.info/book/4480058516.html


Related words

***** Edo, The City That Became Tokyo


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