Genin (Low ranked people) (下人)

Genin denotes domestically subordinative people in pre-modern society.


After the middle of the Heian period, genin appeared as a name that stood for privately subordinative people employed inside the houses of their masters, such as nobles, temples, shrines, and tato (cultivators).
It was often ranked with shoju (retainers), and was often called 'genin and shoju.'
In general, however, genin were more slavish to his or her master's house than shoju, and shoju was a name that was more often used in samurai families. Genin were also called 'dohi zonin' (servant) and were subject to trade, transfer, and inheritance. Descendants of a genin, successively served the same master's house. Their duties were cultivation, routine tasks and umahiki (a job title where servants used horses to transfer people or trading goods one place to another), etc. and they were also used in battle. There were also servants employed in samurai families, and the upper stratum was called roju (vassal) or roto (retainer) and the lower stratum was called genin or shoju. Even if the latter should slay an enemy on the battlefield, no credit was given because they did not have samurai status.

Since the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (in Japan), their circumstances of social statuses had begun to change and, for example, some of the genin became independent based on the lands they were given. The form of service of the genin had been traditionally fudai (a daimyo in hereditary vassal to the Tokugawa family), but there appeared services based on contracts of apprenticeship. In this way, they also became less slavish to their masters' house than they had been. In the early-modern times, the stratified ruling over agricultural land was negated, as exemplified by the rejection of Nanushi (village headman) hierarchy by Sword hunt (to confiscate the weapons of the enemies of the new regime in order to secure the position of a new ruler). Instead of that, a policy to facilitate small-scaled independent management over the agricultural land was adopted. As a result, fudai genin, which were the genin from hereditary succession, gradually disappeared. Instead, the duties of the genin were shifted to those based on apprenticeship, and the new naming of the genin, 'genan' (man servant) and 'gejo' (maid servant), began to take root. In the Edo period, they still served in houses of nanushi (village headman), shoya (village headman), merchants and samurai families. Most of them served on a pretext of a rotating basis, but many of them were actually hereditary.

[Original Japanese]