Mizunomi Byakusho (水呑百姓)

Mizunomi Byakusho (water drinking peasant) refer to those who did not have their own harvesting lands, although they were in the census register, since the Edo period. They were also called just Mizunomi. On the other hand, peasants with their own harvesting lands were called Hyakusyo (Hon Byakusho [real peasant], Takamochi [with harvesting land], Takamochi Byakusho [peasant with harvesting land]).

Also 'Mizunomi Mutaka' (water drinking people without harvesting land) was often put down with it; moreover there were cases that Mizunomi and Mutaka referred to different things respectively.

In the Edo period, those who had their own farmlands officially and paid rice as their land taxes were called Hyakusho. In the early Edo period, various kinds of labor services other than paying rice were specified to each family unit. Depending on the volume and types of labor, there were services such as Honyaku (whole service), Hanyaku (half service), Shi (sho) hanyaku (quarter service), Mizuyaku (water service). It is thought that it was the original system of peasants.

After the middle of the 17th century, such a system collapsed gradually and those who had their own harvesting lands and were members of the village community's lands and water management, were called Hyakusho. Those who didn't have their own harvesting lads were called Mizunomi Byakusho. In the late Edo period, peasants were distinguished between Hon Byakusho and Mizunomi Byakusho.

It was not necessarily the case that all the Hyakushos engaged in agriculture and it was also the case that many of them were in business or industry. Therefore, among the people whose positions were Mizunomi Byakusho, there were many rich men who engaged in, for example, trade and sericulture.

In 1872, the government was working for new policies of agriculture and private law and the Finance Ministry announced the law including the prohibition of the name, Mizunomi that had existed conventionally and the emancipation of Mizunomi from the position. Because of the law, the custom and system concerning Mizunomi came to an end.

[Original Japanese]