Development of New Rice Fields

In those days, the major product of Akita was rice, as it is today. To manage the finances of the domain and provide retainers with land, it was crucially important to develop new rice fields. A letter of permit said, for example: “If not interfering with existing rice fields, any place can be turned into a rice field as your hoe allows.” With such permits, retainers worked in earnest to develop new rice fields.

This of course required much effort to open new fields and irrigate them, but by the end of the seventeenth century, most new rice fields had been developed and the production of rice grew accordingly.

Akita High Street (stored in Senshu Museum, Akita City)

The map below shows how rice was exported. The largest port was at Tsuchizaki. Rice produced on the Semboku plain travelled down the Omono river to reach Tsuchizaki, where it was stocked in warehouses and then shipped to other parts of Japan such as Edo and Osaka. Dozens of warehouses standing in Mikuramachi (“town of warehouses”) gave the town a look of majesty as the major port in Akita.

Kenchi-emaki (the illustration of land inspection), owned by Mr. Shizunori Terui

The drawing on the left shows a land inspection (kenchi). In 1603, a year after he arrived in Akita, Yoshinobu Satake started to inspect the land ownership and rice production in the domain. This was mostly to check the area of rice fields and their ownership. During the lordships of Yoshinobu and Yoshitaka, three rounds of land inspections were conducted, and the taxation system in the domain was firmly established.


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