The early modern period of Japan mainly means the Edo period that began in 1603 and closed in 1867. In that period, there were almost no major battles. As a result, many forms of cultures flourished during that period. Besides, the basics of today's modernized industrialized society were established in the Edo period thanks to well spread educational system. Many children learned mathematics, language, and history in private schools called Terakoya.
Thanks to that educational system, Japan was able to succeed to absorb the state of the art technology of western world in those days. The industrious personality of Japanese people was also an indispensable cause of that dramatic evolution of Japanese modern society and technology. Also distinguished common people who were not able to play active parts in the feudal society significantly contributed to that evolution. In other words, the change of the social system — feudalism to democracy — was a cause of the technological evolution.
In fact, the literacy rate of the Edo people showed the highest number in the world in those days. And the school attendance rate of the Edo city was about 70 to 86 percent as of around the 1850s. Contrary to this, the school attendance rate in London city was only about 20 to 25 percent as of 1837, and the literacy rate of the lower class citizens was only about 10 percent in those days. Commodore Perry of the U.S. Navy was also impressed by the higher literacy rate among Japan's common people.
More than anything, Tokyo, today's Japanese capital city, was established in this period. Before the Edo period, the area that included today's Tokyo was an almost completely undeveloped area. Tokugawa Ieyasu who established the Edo bakufu was dispatched to that area as a relegation by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and he patiently accepted that treatment and made great efforts to develop the Edo city, today's Tokyo. His patience and great foresight was a cause that created today's Tokyo because Ieyasu had been aware of the geographical advantage of that area.
In fact, the work of development was so hard and it was work from scratch. They made roads cutting down trees, and modified rivers to prevent them from flooding. By about the 1640s, the Edo city was roughly completed as a first step. On the mountain side, the houses of government officers were built, and on the sea side, the houses of merchants and laborers were built. As a result, even now, the mountain side of Tokyo has many high-class residential areas and vise versa.
By the way, there were many fires in Edo city because almost all houses and buildings were made of wood. They said that fires and fights were the specialties of Edo city. Many teams of firemen that consisted of common men were organized and they were a hero in those days. There were fifteen major fires during the Edo period, and of course, there were so many minor fires too. As the cause of those fires, quite a few fires were caused by poor people to rob money. They were punished by capital punishment.
There was a large bells on scaffolds around Edo city to notify the break out of fires. Firemen also counted on those bells to go to work, and the height of a part of the roofs in Edo city was aligned for firemen running to fires. However and in spite of those devices, there were many times of major fires in which thousands of people were died. In several major fires, the number of deaths reached to over 10,000.Of course so many houses that were made of wood were lost in those fires.
way, the city of Edo was known as one of the cleanest city in the world.
In fact, there are many foreigners who were impressed by the
cleanliness of Edo city. There were scarcely trashes and people washed
their body in the public bathes. Furthermore, a primitive flush toilet
system had already existed and excrement from the people was gathered and used as fertilizer for cultivation in rural areas. Interestingly, farmers bought the excrement and there were workers who collect it.
Stray dogs were also a serious issue in Edo city because people who were bitten by them were infected with infectious diseases. Because those stray dogs had eaten horses and cows that died of some kind of diseases. So the government made some large farms for stray dogs in some parts of Edo city. For your information, the width of the largest farm was equivalent to twenty baseball stadiums. In the farm, around 100,000 dogs were living. There needed quite a few costs to feed them.
There was a controversial law that caused above troublesome situation. Tokugawa Tsunayoshi issued a law that banned people from killing animals unnecessarily, and there were even penalties for violators of that law. As a result many stray dogs had walked around Edo city and some effective measures were needed to content that situation. Of course, that law has been said as one of the worst laws in Japanese history. However, there are some theories that explain the real intention behind that law.
For example some historians have said that the law called "mercy-for-lives law (shorui-awaremino-rei in Japanese)" war issued for changing the mind of people. Because that time was right after the waring states period of Japan — people didn't think that killing another lives including humans' lives was a bad thing. There was another theory too. A priest said Yoshituna that the reason why you cannot have a baby is that you killed many lives in your previous life, so you should care other lives if you want to have a baby.