Emperor and Aristocracy in Japan, 1467-1680
Resilience and Renewal
By Lee Butler
(Harvard University Press, Hardcover, 9780674008519, 412pp.)
Publication Date: July 2002
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An institution in decline, possessing little power in an age dominated by warriors? Or a still-potent symbol of social and political legitimacy? "Emperor and Aristocracy in Japan" traces the fate of the imperial Japanese court from its lowest point during the turbulent, century-long "sengoku," when the old society, built upon the strength and influence of the court, the priesthood, and a narrow warrior elite, was shaken to its foundations, to the Tokugawa era, when court culture displayed renewed vitality, and tea gatherings, flower arranging, and architecture flourished.
In determining how the court managed to persist and survive, Butler looks into contemporary documents, diaries, and letters to reveal the court's internal politics and protocols, hierarchies, finances, and ceremonial observances. Emperor and courtiers adjusted to the prominence of the warrior elite, even as they held on to the ideological advantages bestowed by birth, tradition, and culture. To this historical precedent the new wielders of power paid dutiful homage, ever mindful that ranks and titles, as well as the political blessing of the emperor, were advantageous marks of distinction.