Learn How To Live Quarantine Life From Samurai

May 20, 2020 Juju Kurihara History, Lifestyle, Vocabulary Tags: , , , , , 4 Comments

Many of us are still living quarantine. Some countries are under more strict condition and some are easier but many schools are not open, many parents continue working from home and many shops remain closed or have limited business conditions. 


A survey says for the majority of people in Japan think one week of quarantine is long enough and two weeks if they really put on effort. Japan has just announced the extension of a state of emergency. This means, people will stay at home for about two months. 


In earlier time in Japan, samurai had similar situation, not for pandemics but wars and it was called Roujou (籠城). The literal meaning is 籠, rou, hole up in and 城, jou, castle. In the present world, it’s quarantine.   


Roujou was a war strategy when the warriors holed themselves up in the castle and protected it from the enemies. Sometimes this could last for a few years. How could the samurai manage to stay at castle (home) for such a long time when there weren’t even Amazon Fresh to deliver them food? Maybe we can learn from them, can’t we?



This is a famous war called Nagashino no Tatakai (長篠の戦い/Battle of Nagashino), which occurred in 1575. The owner of the castle, Okudaira Nobumasa (奥平信昌) had a small troop of 500 and they maintained roujou and protected the castle against Takeda (武田) troops of about 15,000 until they received the support of Oda (織田) and Tokugawa (徳川) troops. It was about two weeks but the food the soldiers had already gone. As you may know, food is one of the most important items when you start a quarantine. 



What else ancient samurai prepared for roujou?


     1. Food 



Back then there was no running water or konbini where they could just pop out to get supplies. It was also a physical battle and the warriors definitely needed energy to fill. 


During a roujou period when they ran out of food, there were times they would killed horses, pick any plants and weeds and sometimes, they even ate dead soldiers. The ukiyoe above depicts a roujou at Urusan Castle (蔚山城) in Korea. After 14 days, they had no food or water. A Vassal is offering his commander, Kato Kiyomasa (加藤清正) some horse meat. 



Some castles had planted edible plants and trees in case of roujou. Kumamoto Castle is one of them. It is said that sweet potato vines were used for the walls and tatami and dried gourd was used for the interior walls. Moreover, the trees in the garden were the source of food. There were plum, ginkgo and pine trees. Yes, pine trees. Under neath of that hard bark, there is a thin skin and after making this skin into powder, it was mixed with rice to produce mochi. The owner of the castle knew what he was doing.  



     2. Toilet

Of course the samurai didn’t have toilets we have now. In general, they either used small potty-like box or a hole in the ground and once in a while they had to empty the tank. During the battle, cleaning the toilet was crucial to avoid an epidemic. 


One way to empty the tank was, using excreta as a weapon. Full matured human poo was poured over the enemies’ head. It also made the wall very slippery and hard to climb up. Excreta was applied to the arrowheads too. The enemies didn’t just get wound but also get infection. 



What the samurai did during quarantine time?


     1. Parties and tea ceremony 

This was to show the enemies that they are not stressed at all. Maybe we can also have a tea time by ourselves or with the family.




     2. Preparing and maintain the weapons. 

It’s very important to be prepared. All the weapons were cleaned and ready to be used. Perhaps we can clean up the computer desktop or the mobile apps? 




     3. Praise subordinate samurai

Shogun would go around and praised his samurai to keep their fighting spirits. A famous shogun, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉) took his wife when he encouraged his troops. We would also feel motivated if we know our bosses care about us, would we?




     4. Creative cooking

Cooking during the roujo was women’s work and as they couldn’t get the ingredients they wanted, creative cooking was essential. People get panicked and cause hoarding. But maybe we need to learn how to cook with less ingredients. 



.    5. Kids help adults

 Children stayed in a safe space during the battle in general but sometimes they helped the adults by picking up the bullets and shells.  Many children who now stay home without school can also start helping the parents around the house, can’t they?




We can’t simply compare our quarantine with roujo but anxiety for unknown future, dealing with children or not seeing the end of the situation are the same. At least we can get water and food, even the sanitation is secured comparing to the samurai. Apart from the survival skills, what the samurai had taken care of was “connection and trust”. Building the connection and the trust between the warriors could change the battle. Nowadays it’s easier to keep connecting with friends and other people with a help of the internet. It’s hard enough to go through the current situation alone but maybe, sharing your fear to a friend gets rid of some burdens from your shoulders, don’t you think? 


Otherwise, eat simple but good, brush up your skills and the most importantly, sit back and have a tea now and then.





Waraku: https://intojapanwaraku.com/culture/90752/?fbclid=IwAR2yZ6PJVsDD2-Yj1DW_EA56jnt99M5dOOJt1IaT44IT8R8NF9QVLCWV4aQ

Sukkiri: https://gimon-sukkiri.jp/roujou/

Toyokeizai: https://toyokeizai.net/articles/-/63918

Uchiyama.info: http://www.uchiyama.info/oriori/shiseki/siro/kumamoto/

Olive-hitomawashi: https://www.olive-hitomawashi.com/column/2017/09/post-238.html

Jyuusha-yoshiko: https://food-cooking.jyuusya-yoshiko.com/kumajyo-tabe/



  1. Al 3 years Reply

    I’m having a nice cuppa right now! Really interesting to hear about the pine trees and the indoor vines — clever!

    • Juju Kurihara 3 years

      Respect for the daimyo of the Kumamoto Castle! He was very prepared. 

      Enjoy your tea!! It’s always a cuppa time:)

  2. Beth Parkhurst 3 years Reply

    This was fascinating and so timely. Thank you for posting!
    May I please have your permission to post a link to it on my Facebook page? I know that my friends would very much enjoy reading it.
    Thank you for considering my request.

    • Juju Kurihara 3 years

      Hello Beth. Of course you can share the article. Any articles in my site are to be shared.

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