Degawari for servants


Migrating servants (degawari)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Mid-spring and mid-autumn
***** Category: Observance


After the New Year ceremonies, the old servants were replaced by younger ones.
The old ones had to leave their employers and return to their home villages.
The young ones traveled toward the nearby towns to find employment.

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degawari 出代 (でがわり) migrating of the servants
exchange of the servants
..... 出替(でがわり)
igasane 居重ね(いがさね)、inari 居なり(いなり) staying as a servant
shinzan 新参(しんざん)newcomer, new hand
gozan 古参(こさん)an old-timer, senior servant
choonen 重年((ちょうねん)senior staff

o-memie 御目見得(おめみえ) probation time of the new servants


kigo for mid-autumn

nochi no degawari 後の出代 (のちのでがわり)
migrating of the servants in autumn

.... aki no degawari 秋の出代(あきのでがわり)


not kigo
People from the countryside went to the towns to make a bit of money during the slow seasons.

degawari is short for 出替り奉公人
servants employed for a short time, less than one year
degawari hookoonin

zue, hanki-i 半季居(ずえ) for half a season
ikki-i hookoo 一季居奉公 for one season

fudai hookoo 譜代(ふだい)奉公 servants for a longer time
nenkiri hookoo 年切(ねんきり))奉公 servants for one year

shiyoonin 使用人 servant

bukebookoo 武家奉公 servant of a samurai
dechibookoo, detchibookoo 丁稚(でっち)奉公 servant of a merchant

kogai 子飼(こがい) child in employment

nenkibookoo 年季奉公 servant for a special time,
where his owner (parents) got money

degawari was often done by the oldest son or daughter of a family to learn something in Edo or a nearby town.

Later they were called

wakatoo 若党(わかとう)
chuugen 中間(ちゅうげん)
komono 小者(こもの)
zooritori 草履取(ぞうりとり)(keeper of the straw sandals of his master)

The story of young Hideyoshi, who kept the sandals warm in his busom pocket for the lord Nobunaga and later made a career as the shoogun of Japan is quite well known.

bantoo 番頭 head clerk
at a mercantile establishment
He was the leader of all the servants in a merchant home and had to take all the responsibility of a manager, doing the bookkeeping as well.
In Samurai estates, he was also called bangashira.
If there were more than one bantoo in a store, one was the "Big bantoo" oobantoo 大番頭. He also worked as a leader for the neighbourhood security forces.

hyakunin bantoo 百人番頭 "bantoo leading 100 servants"

. yakko 奴 simple workers in a daimyo estate
yakko shoogatsu 奴正月(やっこしょうがつ)
New Year holiday for the yakko servants
kigo for the New Year

ashigaru 足軽 (あしがる) "light on the feet"
lightly armed warrior-servants
They had to carry the spears, bows and arrows and other weapons.
. . . CLICK here for Photos !


ashigaru bentoo 足軽弁当 lunch for an ashigaru
. . . CLICK here for Photos !

"dechi yookan, detchi yookan 丁稚ようかん (でっちようかん)" "jelly for servants"
from Fukui prefecture

Worldwide use

Things found on the way


Some haiku by Kobayashi Issa
(Tr. David Lanoue)

degawari no ichi ni sarasu ya gojuu kao

a laid-off servant at market--
his fifty year-old face


haiga by Nakamura Sakuo

degawari ya edo no kembutsu mo shinano-gasa

migrating servants -
in Edo, too
Shinano's umbrella-hats

Issa's home province was Shinano.

oohara ni degawari kago no toori keri

across the wide plain
a migrating servant
in a palanquin

Palanquin, sedan chair (kago 篭 or かご)

kado suzume naku ya itsu made degawaru to

gate's sparrow singing--
until when
a migrating servant?


degawari ya rokujuu-zura o sagenagara

looks sixty
but proud of his latest
temporary job

Tr. Chris Drake

This hokku is from Issa's own handwritten collection of his hokku that contains hokku from many years. It must be a spring hokku, since the shogunate mandated that job changes for one-year temporary workers should take place in the third month (April) and for six-month temporary workers in the third and ninth months (April, October), and only the spring and summer sections of Issa's handwritten collection remain. There were many kinds of medium-length temporary work, with the two most common being a worker in a wholesale or retail business or a low-ranking live-in household servant. The pay was very low, though living costs were covered, and in businesses there was the possibility of promotion to a semi-permanent or permanent position. Since there was a constant influx of people from poor farming areas into the city of Edo looking for work, wages stayed low, and usually those who did find work either remained for several years in order to save up a little money before they returned to their hometowns or became Edoites and settled in the big city.

The man in Issa's hokku seems to be a migrant who has settled down and is now an Edo resident. For many years he's been working for one employer after another, changing either once or twice a year. He's never been able to find a permanent job, and he seems to have no special skill to sell, yet he is content to keep on changing and accepting pitiful wages the way a desperate young man would. To many people he appears shameless and thick-faced, since at sixty he should be dignified or at least above doing unskilled manual labor, but the man has learned not to be bothered by the negative opinions of others. Apparently his sixtyish face even looks a bit happy or at least relieved at finding a new job as an odd jobs man or a servant, though his nonchalance and lack of concern for social status make some people feel uneasy.

Issa himself was sent to Edo at fourteen by his father, presumably to become an apprentice or servant for several years, and he knew how hard and unrewarding such work was. For example, there were only two regular one-day vacations a year, around New Year's and during the early fall O-Bon festival of returning souls. In this 1822 hokku Issa evokes someone who wishes he (or she) could enjoy life in Edo a little bit:

de-gawari ya edo kembutsu mo shinano-gasa

changing jobs again --
he wears a country hat
but can't see the sights

The broad-rimmed rush or straw hat of the part-time worker from the country is actually a "Shinano hat," since the man is from Issa's home province. Unlike short-time visitors to Edo from Shinano and other rural areas, this part-time worker has no time to see the sights of the city, many of which are especially beautiful in the third month, when the cherries and other trees and plants are in bloom. As soon as his contract is up at one place, he must go to the temporary-job market and hustle to find a new employer. The man lives in Edo, yet he knows little more than the insides of the houses or shops in which he's lived and worked. And he can't even afford a stylish new hat of the type popular in Edo. Surely Issa marvels at the persistence and endurance (and cheerfulness?) shown by a man who continues to do this hard, demanding work past sixty, something he couldn't do himself. Luckily he discovered haikai instead.

Chris Drake

. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

Related words

***** yabuiri, yabu iri, yabu-iri 薮入 servant's holiday
Sainichi 斎日, さいにち Fasting day, sixteenth day
kigo for the NEW YEAR


kigo for early autumn

***** nochi no yabuiri 後の薮入 (のちのやぶいり)
"next holiday for the servants"

aki no yabu-iri 秋の薮入(あきのやぶいり)
servant holidays in autumn

It used to be the 16th day of the 7th lunar month, related to Tanabata and O-Bon.





anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this Gabi... it's quite powerful.

Unknown said...

Gabi san,
I forget to use your convenient site.
And I again meet my haiga at your site.
Issa beloved this Kigo.

Thank you for sharing.


Anonymous said...

degawari ya Edo o mo mizu ni saraba-gasa

the migrating servants
never really saw Edo...
umbrella-hats wave farewell

Kobayashi Issa
(Tr. David Lanoue)

Anonymous said...

degawari ya kawazu mo kari mo naki wakare

migrating servants--
even frogs and geese
cry when they part!

Kobayashi Issa
(Tr. David Lanoue)

Gabi Greve said...

- Edo Period -

inniku no shikae 印肉の仕替へ
inniku uri 印肉売り exchanging and selling stamp pads

In Edo the paste for stamps was either vermillion or black, but soon more colors were introduced. Black made from sumi 墨 was mostly used in shops for receipts.

ukenin no inniku kawaku haru no kaze

the stamp ink
of the guarantor dries out -
spring wind

During the Edo period, servants changed jobs usually in the third lunar month (degawari). During that period, a guarantor for a person had to stamp many documents. His stamp ink would become less and less, the box kept open all the time . . .