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(1)Education within Samurai Families

The samurai families of the Edo period not only used education to stabilize their own position but also came to further the cause of learning, especially through the systematized teaching of literary studies. Initially, the fief lords (daimyo), in order to further their own personal cultivation and, in turn, to maintain control of their fief governments, summoned Confucian scholars and military specialists (heigakusha) to conduct lectures which their chief vassals were required to attend. The fief lords also encouraged learning for the lesser vassals and urged the cultivation of literary accomplishments along with the practice of martial arts. Learning during this period, being based upon Shogunal policy, was thoroughly imbued with Confucian thought. Samurai families originally availed themselves of the services of priests in Buddhist temples for their education. But by the Edo period, this class began to employ Confucian scholars to act as preceptors in fief schools they founded in the castle towns. During the early days of the Edo period, only a few fiefs had established fief schools but from about the middle of this period onward the spread of such institutions increased rapidly, culminating in a total of some 270 schools at the end of the period.

The Shoheizaka Gakumonjo, alternately called the Shoheiko, under the direct control of the Shogunate at Edo, became the highest seat of learning in its time as well as a model for all the other fief schools, The original institution was the training center of the Confucian temple (koshibyo) which had been established on a site at Ueno in Edo by a Confucian scholar of the Chu Hsi school, Hayashi Razan (1583-1657), under the auspices of the Shogunal government. Later this was relocated at Yushima, where an Athenaeum was constructed known as the Yushima Temple. This school started first as a semiprivate, semigovernmental organization under the protection of the Shogunate. It was not long, however before the government recognized the necessity of direct control over these educational facilities and in 1797 the school was brought under the immediate supervision of the central authorities.

The school prospered from that time not only as the nucleus of education for the Shogunate but as the highest center of learning in the nation as well, a position it maintained until the decline of the Shogunate's authority and the development of Western learning. During the Edo period, this school acted as a model for other fief schools. Many fief governments established their fief schools along this model and also sent their brightest youths there for training. Many of those who completed their studies at the Shoheizaka Gakumonjo were engaged at fief schools as Confucian scholars. Thus besides enjoying the highest scholastic reputation in the land, the Shoheizaka Gakumonjo also served as a training ground for instructors assuming positions in fief schools. In addition to the Chinese-oriented Shoheizaka Gakumonjo, other government institutions included the National Learning-oriented Wagaku Kodanjo and the Igakukan which was devoted to the study of traditional Chinese medicine. Toward the end of Edo period, various centers for the study of Western learning were also established as we shall see below.

Many schools which originally had been private institutions for Chinese studies (kangakujuku) came under the control of the fiefs and were enlarged and reorganized to form fief schools. Their curriculum was gradually expanded - in addition to Chinese studies National Learning and other subjects were introduced and toward the end of the Edo period Western learning and medicine were also offered. At the same time, the trend toward military subjects grew more pronounced, and thus in the fief schools there arose a special relationship between literary studies and martial arts.

By the close of the Shogunate the fief schools provided a comprehensive education for the samurai class. Instruction was centered about Chinese classics. This meant studies in Confucian doctrine and the history and literature of China. Elementary classes used the Primer of Chinese Characters (Senjimon) for practicing calligraphy and the Brief History of Japan (Sanjikyo) for practice in reading. Other elementary textbooks that were frequently used included the Book of Filial Piety (Kokyo), the Book of Manners (Shogaku), and the Collection of Chu Hsi's Sayings. Others were the Four Books (Shisho): 1) Great Learning (Daigaku), 2) Doctrine of the Mean (Chuyo), 3) Confucian Analects (Rongo), and 4) Sayings of Mencius (Moshi); and the Five Canons (Gokyo): 1) Book of Changes (Ekikyo); 2) Book of Odes (Shikyo); 3) Book of Annals (Shokyo), 4) Spring and Autumn (Shunju), and 5) Record of Rites (Raiki).

Hayashi Nobuatsu (1644-1732), a grand son of Hayashi Razan and also a Confucian scholar of the Chu HSI school, was appointed by the government as Rector of the Shoheizaka Gakumonjo (Daigakunokami) and from that time on the successive heads of the Hayashi family were appointed to that post until the fall of the Shogunate, making the Shoheizaka Gahumonjo a vehicle for the ascendance of Chu Hsi Confucianism. At the same time various other schools of Confucian thought developed during the early Edo period and quite a few government officials were members of schools other than Chu Hsi. However in 1790 the teaching of other schools of Confucianism was banned, and Chu Hsi was officially accepted as the orthodoxy.

Among the fier schools the Meirindo at Nagoya and the Nisshinkan at Aizu had a long history and were widely known throughout the country. Other famous institutions were the Kojokan at Yonezawa, the Kodokan at Saga, the Gakushukan at Wakayama, the Meirinkan at Hagi, the Yokendo at Sendai, the Jishukan at Kumamoto, the Zoshikan at Kagoshima, the Meirindo at Kanazawa and the Kodokan at Mito. Samurai of the respective fiefs were required to attend these schools and toward the end of the Edo period an increasing number of commoners were granted admittance. A graded system for curricula developed and subjects relating to Western learning were added. It is at this point that one is able to detect the first signs of what was to become modern education. After the abolition of the fief system in 1871, the fief schools were discontinued, yet they constituted the base from which middle and higher level schools developed following the educational reforms. Moreover, many of the men who had received their education at the fief schools came to play central roles in the organization of modern Japan.

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((C)COPYRIGHT Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology)

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