Haitōrei Edict

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The Sword Abolishment Edict (廃刀令, Haitōrei) was an edict issued by the Meiji government of Japan on March 28, 1876 which prohibited people, with the exception of former lords (daimyōs), the military, and law enforcement officials, from carrying weapons in public.[1] Violators would have their swords confiscated.[2]


The Haitōrei was one of a series of steps taken by the government to abolish the traditional privileges of the samurai class. The first Haitōrei of 1870 prohibited farmers or merchants from wearing swords and dressing like samurai.[3] This measure was in part an effort to restore public safety and order during the tumultuous period immediately after the Meiji Restoration and during the Boshin War.

In 1871, the government issued the Danpatsurei Edict, allowing samurai to cut their top-knots and wear their hair in the Western manner. However, this was not required, simply allowed and encouraged.[4] Universal military conscription was instituted in 1873, and with the creation of the Imperial Japanese Army, the samurai lost their monopoly on military service. The hereditary stipends provided to the samurai by their formal feudal lords (and assumed by the central government in 1871) were likewise abolished in 1873. The prohibition on wearing swords was controversial with the Meiji oligarchy, but the argument that it was an anachronism not in keeping with the westernization of Japan won out.[5]

These changes in Japanese society and in the social and economic status of the samurai were a major cause of discontent in early Meiji period Japan, and led to a number of samurai-led insurrections, particularly in western Japan and Kyūshū.

Also as a result of the Haitōrei, swords lost their utilitarian role, and many swordsmiths were forced to turn to the production of farming implements and kitchen cutlery to survive.[3]

See also[edit]


  • Kapp, Leon; Hiroko Kapp (2002). Modern Japanese Swords and Swordsmiths: From 1868 to the Present. Kodansha International. ISBN 0-460-02474-4.
  • Keene, Donald (2005). Emperor Of Japan: Meiji And His World, 1852–1912. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-12341-8.


  1. ^ The Connoisseur's Book of Japanese Swords, Author Kōkan Nagayama, Publisher Kodansha International, 1997 ISBN 978-4-7700-2071-0 P.43
  2. ^ Keene, Emperor Of Japan: Meiji And His World, 1852–1912
  3. ^ a b Kapp, Modern Japanese Swords pp.37
  4. ^ O'Brien, Suzanne G. "Splitting Hairs: History and the Politics of Daily Life in Nineteenth-Century Japan." The Journal of Asian Studies 67, no. 4 (2008): 1325.
  5. ^ Keene, Emperor Of Japan: Meiji And His World, 1852–1912, pp 257