Early on in the Edo Period (1603-1867), society
in Japan began to organize itself into several well-defined social classes. The rights,
responsibilities, circumstances, and routines of each of these classes were unique. In
short, each class had a distinct lifestyle; and there was no better place than the castles
and castle towns to see all of these lifestyles meeting and interacting.
While this section will deal with the social system as it existed during the
Edo Period, it is important to remember that the
social climate had been constantly changing up until then. Especially in the last years
before the Edo Period, there had been relatively easy mobility between classes, and a lowly
peasant could conceivably work his way up to the top of the elite samurai class (as was the
case with Toyotomi Hideyoshi).
Below is a list of the social classes that we will examine here in this section: