Making Room to Grow: Rōnin and Rural Development in Early Modern Japan

Floris van Swet*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines rōnin (‘masterless samurai’) and the rōnin label in Tokugawa Japan (1603-1868) through a focus on their interactions with rural areas and rural development projects. By positioning rōnin as a highly varied social group in search of livelihood and social status, this paper shows that conventional descriptions of them as disruptive ruffians overlook their social significance and complexities. It highlights that rōnin were an important factor in the expansion of rural productivity, and that the rōnin label was instrumental in shaping rural social hierarchy throughout the Tokugawa period.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Japanese Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 18 Oct 2023

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