Rakuichi-rakuza (楽市・楽座)

Rakuichi-rakuza (free markets and open guilds) was an economic policy implemented in the markets of government controlled areas such as castle towns by the Shokuho government (the government of Nobunaga ODA and Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI) and the Sengoku daimyo (Japanese territorial lord in the Sengoku period) during the early modern period (16th century to 18th century) in Japan. Rakuichi-rei (edict of free markets). Haza (abolition of guilds). The character 'raku' (happiness) signifies the loosening of regulations and a state of freedom.
In this context, 'raku' means 'free.'


Rakuichi-rakuza was the creation of free trade markets and the dissolution of guilds with the exclusion of preexisting merchants and tradesmen (market and trade guild system, wholesalers etc.) with special rights such as exclusive sales rights, non-taxation rights and the right to keep tax agents from entering one's property. Economic benefits in Japan during the middle ages were monopolized by za (guilds), toimaru (specialized wholesale merchants) and kabunakama (trade associations) but Sengoku daimyo abolished these and, as well as attempting to establish absolute feudal rights, aimed to stimulate the economy by fostering emerging merchants and tradesmen via the reduction and exemption of taxes.


The first rakuichi-rakuza was established in 1549 by Sadayori ROKKAKU of Omi Province in the town of Ishidera surrounding Kannonji-jo Castle in which he resided. Rakuichi-rakuza were proclaimed by daimyo throughout Japan, and these included not only those proclaimed by Nobunaga ODA himself in Kano, Mino Province; Azuchi-cho, Omi Province; and Kanamori, Omi Province (Moriyama City); but the practice was also conveyed to all daimyo under his control and rakuichi-rakuza came to be established in various castle towns. (However, with the exception of Azuchi, rakuichi (free markets) were already being held in these locations.
Nobunaga guaranteed the special 'rakuichi' right held by Kano and Kanamori.)
The morning markets and afternoon markets continued in provincial cities, as well as the character 'ichi' remaining in place names such as 'Tokaichi' are the remnants of these.


Wholesale merchants increased in number during this period and their profits equalized, resulting areas in which a great quantity of smuggled goods entered the black market. These drawbacks were exposed at the end of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI's time in power.


It is recognized that 'rakuichi-rakuza were begun in Azuchi by Nobunaga' but, as described above, they were actually first established by temple towns and the Rokkaku clan during the middle ages. The rakuichi-rakuza policy is considered to demonstrate Nobunaga's progressive outlook but there is also the fact that he was the first to achieve wide-reaching territorial control centered around the Kinki region during the Sengoku period (period of warring states), and it is necessary to note that the phenomenon was very important part of economic history. On the other hand, it is not thought that the innovation of Nobunaga's policy went unrecognized due to the above reasons.

[Original Japanese]