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  • Japanese: 高知 (Kouchi)

Kôchi is the capital of Kôchi prefecture, and was the castle town seat of the Yamauchi clan lords of Tosa han.

In the Edo period, the population of the castle town remained roughly constant, at around 14-16,000 commoners, plus roughly 5-6,000 retainers. In the 1660s, this represented some ten percent of the total population of the domain; over the remainder of the Edo period, however, the population of the rest of the domain roughly doubled.

Origins & Layout

When Yamauchi Kazutoyo became lord of Tosa in 1601, he decided that the Chôsokabe clan seat at Urado castle would not do in order to build a sizable castle town. He relocated the capital of his domain to Kôchi, five miles to the north, where he began the reconstruction of Kôchi castle, a project which was completed in 1611. Though the city has grown beyond these boundaries in the modern period, the castle town was organized along a long stretch of land running east-west between two rivers, the Enokuchi River to the north and the Kagami River to the south. The two rivers connected into Urado Bay, located just east of the city, with two canals cut in the mid-17th century further expanding access to and interconnection with maritime shipping and transportation networks.

Samurai retainers were given residences in districts of the city immediately surrounding the castle, and beyond that, separate districts were designated, as they were in most castle towns, for low-ranking samurai (e.g. ashigaru and hôkônin) and for merchants & townsmen. One of the samurai districts was known, appropriately, as Hôkônin-machi. Other retainers lived in neighboring villages.

Most merchants were organized by their trade, with the lumber merchants, for example, being grouped together in a lumber merchants' district called Zaimoku-machi (lit. "lumber town"); those based in this district held a monopoly on lumber sales, and those based outside the district were prohibited from engaging in such activity. Kazutoyo seems to have originally planed seven townsmen wards, but by the 1640s, there were twenty-five, and by 1665, twenty-eight.

Some powerful merchants and craftsmen were granted plots of land in neighborhoods such as Sakai-machi and Kyô-machi, along with stipends and even right of audience with the lord, transforming them into retainers, and attracting them to the city. Merchants from the former Yamauchi domain of Kakegawa were also enticed to relocate to Kôchi in a similar manner, and were housed in a district known as Kakegawa-machi. Some, such as the gunsmith Kunitomo Shirôzaemon, already considering themselves retainers to the Yamauchi, likely felt obliged to relocate. Kunitomo was one of a handful of merchant retainers granted fief land, in his case worth 100 koku, and a formal residence within the city. Merchants enfeoffed or otherwise granted privileged positions as goyô shônin also included shipwright Oka Saburôzaemon, who oversaw the construction of ships for the domain and was granted an 18 koku plot of land; the Harimaya family of Urado, who were granted a large residence and made headmen of their own district in Kôchi; and the Pak family, prisoners of war taken by the Chôsokabe during Toyotomi Hideyoshi's invasions of Korea, who were now given headship of the Tôjin-machi district, and a monopoly over the production and sale of tofu in the city. The Hitsuya family were a particularly favored merchant family in the domain, and were permitted to use the Yamauchi crest in serving as the Yamauchi agent in purchasing imported luxury goods at Nagasaki.


  • Luke Roberts, Mercantilism in a Japanese Domain: The Merchant Origins of Economic Nationalism in 18th-Century Tosa, Cambridge University Press (1998), 40-42.
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