Firewood and Charcoal: The Energy Supply System in the Pre-modern Japanese City of Edo

Research Project , Research Report 2006

Nobuyuki YOSHIDA Professor, Department of History Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology,Tokyo University
Morio KAWAKATSU Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology,Tokyo University


We have undertaken primary research on the circulation of fuel energy through the massive city of Edo and its surrounding region during the early modern period. Our goal is to provide a comprehensive explanation of the supply and demand structure for firewood and charcoal. Among the many areas producing firewood and charcoal for Edo, we have focused on Sakura Domain in Shim?sa Province (present-day Chiba Prefecture) and their production of Sakura Charcoal, a kokusanhin or product sold through a domain monopoly, and the distribution of firewood and charcoal along the Tone River system.
The principal results of our research are the collection and analysis of the following two categories of documents: 1) those related to the Sakura Domain Office for Charcoal (Kokusan sumi kaisho) and the Chiba Town Charcoal and Firewood Intermediate Merchants Association (Chiba-ch? tanshin nakagai nakama) in the “Market Town and Wada Kenjir? Collection” in Chiba City, and 2) those pertaining to the consolidation of firewood and the system of sending it to Edo in the “Abiko City Someya Family Document Collection.” In addition, we examine the various systems for collecting charcoal and firewood and the routes for sending these fuels to Edo and also consider the special characteristics of some of the many social organizations that supported the structure of the interior river (okukawa) routes of the Tone River system and the coastal (umite) route along northern portion of Edo Bay.


Edo, Sakura Domain, firewood, charcoal, wholesale merchant