Daimyo-gyoretsu (feudal lords costumed procession); daimyos procession (大名行列)

Daimyo-gyoretsu refers to procession that was formed when daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) went out along with attendants for public purpose. The typical form was traffic between Edo and territory in Sankinkotai (a system under which feudal lords in the Edo period were required to spend every other year in residence in Edo).


Daimyo-gyoretsu initially referred to a form of military traffic preparing for battles which was based on a march in war time (for example, longer swords than ordinary one were allowed to carry), but as peace in Edo lasted long, it gradually changed to a political thing to show off their authority and social status. Attendants were consisted of warriors, horse-riding or on foot, ashigaru (common foot soldier) carrying matchlock gun or bow (arm), chugen (a rank below common soldier) (or ninsoku 〔coolie〕) carrying tool box or spear, and people who took care of daimyo such as zoritori (sandal bearer, equivalent to a batman) and doctors.

Daimyo-gyoretsu which was carried on for public purpose of Edo bakufu such as Sankinkotai had a fixed number of attendants, so even small feudal lords with only ten thousands Goku crop yields were obligated to take fifty to one hundred attendants, and the number of Kaga domain with one million twenty thousands Goku crop yields reached four thousands attendants at its peak. This was because of political intention to restrain territorial lords' financial power by forcing them to make a lot of expense for daimyo-gyoretsu. However, toward the end of the Edo period, this obligation put a strain on the finances of many daimyo, increasing their dissatisfaction with the bakufu and becoming an underlying cause of the anti-shogunate movement.

In jidaigeki (historical play), there sometimes is a scene that a standard-bearer calls out "Shitani, Shitani (Down on your knees, down on your knees) " when daimyo-gyoretsu goes through a street, letting peasants and merchants prostrate at the side of the street, but actually this call-out could have been used by only Tokugawa gosanke (three privileged branches of Tokugawa family) (Mito domain was exceptionally having no Sankinkotai), and other daimyo families instead used "Yokero, Yokero (Step aside, step aside) ", just letting people step aside.

Crossing in front of the daimyo-gyoretsu and thereby disrupting the procession was regarded as rude behavior; in fact, those who did so could be killed on the spot (as was the case in a prime example of which was the case in the Namamugi Incident) in accordance with kirisute gomen (the privilege granted to samurai warriors), but as a special exception, midwives heading to assist childbirth were allowed to cross in front of the procession.

[Original Japanese]