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A yashiki was the fortified estate of a Daimyō. All Yashiki occupied a large tract of land south and east of Edo Castle.

Each was surrounded by a continuous line of barracks, where as many as two thousand of the lords’ retainers lived. Decorated with black tiles set in geometric patterns, their white plaster walls were punctuated by heavily guarded gates. Smooth, straight thoroughfares, wide enough to accommodate huge military processions, divided the estates.

They were usually laid out like a military camp, where soldiers’ tents were arranged around the general’s. Here the barracks bordered a vast courtyard where tens of samurai patrolled, protecting the estate’s center where the family lived. More barracks, larger and more elaborate residences for higher-ranking officers, formed an inner wall. Through a paved walk one came into a formal garden. Beyond this lay the Daimyo’s mansion, a large but deceptively simple-looking structure with half-timbered walls and a tile roof, set above the ground on a granite podium. Such mansions were rambling complexes of many buildings, connected by long corridors or intersecting roofs, that housed hundreds.

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