Above is a 1787 AD black and white print drawn by Shunchosai Takehara Nobushige depicting a Japanese confectionery store known as "The Great Buddha Sweetshop".
The shop was near the Great Buddha tourist spot in Kyoto. But more than just show an affirmation for Buddha, the statue was meant to show a line of separation between peasant and samurai.
The Great Buddha statue was the brainchild of samurai warrior Hideyoshi Toyotomi (豊臣 秀吉 surname first), who in 1588 AD ordered all peasants to surrender their weapons, claiming the metal in the weapons would be put to use in creating the metal Buddha statue.
Part of the real plan was to take away weapons from the peasantry so that there could not be any future uprisings against other higher classes.
The other part of the plan was to ensure the peasants knew their place, and to ensure the samurai knew theirs.
Prior to this, low-level samurai had also worked the fields to earn a living...
An edict of 1591 by Hideyoshi said:
- Fighting men - samurai - are banned from becoming peasants/farmers or townspeople;
- Peasants could not leave their fields to become merchants or even artisans, and artists and merchants could not become farmers;
- No one could hire or employ a samurai who had left his master without permission.
The other man who held control over parts of Japan was some guy name Tokugawa Ieyasu, who had control in in the central Kanto area - but these were large and powerful areas.
Tokkugawa has actually considered to be wealthier than Hideyoshi, so a truce was struck to ensure there was no war between them.
The truce was struck by having Tokugawa marry Hideyoshi's sister.
But, when Hideyoshi died on September 18, 1598, Hideyoshi's daimyo nor even Tokugawa wanted too swear allegiance to Hideyoshi's son and successor, Hideyori, who was just five-years-old.
Like taking candy away from a baby, there was a huge battle for power, finally settled in October of 1600AD via the Battle of Sekigahara... with Tokugawa emerging victorious and named shogun in 1603 AD.
Oh... and Hideyoshi also played a huge role in the spread of Catholicism in Japan, when he ordered the execution of 26 Catholic martyrs on February 5, 1597 at Nagasaki.
Until that time, there were some 300,000 Catholics in Japan, but with the executions, Buddhism became the de facto way of life for the Japanese. I should mention that many Japanese Christians did continue with their religion, but now no longer out in the open.
Yes... candy is dandy, but controlling a country is epic.