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History Shizoku (士族)

Shizoku (士族) – "warrior families", a term used to refer to former samurai after the abolition of the class system following the Meiji Restoration.



The Shizoku (士族, "warrior families") was a social class in Japan composed of former samurai after the Meiji Restoration from 1869 to 1947. Shizoku was a distinct class between the kazoku (a merger of the former kuge and daimyō classes) and heimin (commoners) with no special class privileges, and the title was solely on the register. The Shizoku were abolished in the revised civil code in 1947 after the Japanese defeat in World War II. In 1868, the Meiji Restoration was launched to overthrow the Tokugawa Shogunate that had ruled Japan as a feudal state since 1600, known as the Edo period, and restore practical rule to the Emperor of Japan. One of the main objectives of the Imperial revolutionaries was the abolition of feudalism, including the Tokugawa class system, which assigned most people in Japan to a strict class hierarchy. The new Meiji oligarchs of Japan required the daimyo, the feudal lords of the noble samurai warrior class, and their han (domains) to be abolished. In 1869, the daimyo of the pro-Meiji Satsuma and Chōshū domains agreed to make a formal declaration of returning their land and population registers to the Emperor, understanding that he would then confirm their holdings as prefectural governors.

The Meiji government merged the former kuge and daimyō noble classes into the kazoku as a new Meiji nobility. At the same time, all the samurai retainers of the daimyo were put into a single category above the commoners' level. This new class, the shizoku meaning "warrior families", possessed no class privileges, and their recognition was limited to the government register, effectively making them commoners. The personal domains of the shizoku were abolished, leading to roughly 2 million being disinherited as part of the Meiji state's attempt to streamline local administration and centralize tax collection. In 1871, the Meiji oligarchs abolished the 270 remaining domains of the daimyo and established the prefectures in their place as new administrative divisions. All the shizoku received were small stipends, later changed to government bonds, and the Meiji oligarchs urged them to find other lines of work in agriculture, forestry, business and the colonization of Hokkaido . The shizoku launched more than thirty rebellions of various sizes against the Meiji government in Kyushu and western Honshu between 1874 and 1877.

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