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Above the Clouds: Status Culture of the Modern Japanese by Takie Sugiyama Lebra

By Takie Sugiyama Lebra

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This newest paintings from Japanese-born anthropologist Takie Sugiyama Lebra is the 1st ethnographic research of the trendy jap aristocracy. proven as a category first and foremost of the Meiji interval, the kazoku ranked at once under the emperor and his relatives. formally dissolved in 1947, this team of social elites remains to be commonly perceived as the Aristocracy. Lebra won access into this tightly knit circle and carried out a couple of hundred interviews with its individuals. She has woven jointly a reconstructive ethnography from their existence histories to create an intimate portrait of a distant and archaic world.

As Lebra explores the tradition of the kazoku, she areas every one topic in its historic context. She analyzes the evolution of prestige obstacles and the essential function performed through outsiders.

But this publication isn't easily in regards to the elite. it's also approximately commoners and the way each one stratum mirrors the opposite. Revealing formerly unobserved complexities in eastern society, it additionally sheds gentle at the common challenge of social stratification.

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Above the Clouds Page 45 There was a hierarchy of religious institutions, and in medieval times high-ranking temples and shrines were proprietors of vast shoen like the imperial and noble families, and they had armed priests to protect their interests. In the Tokugawa period, certain temples and shrines were authorized by the military government to receive rice revenues from their respective territories; the Ise Shrine, for example, was entitled to forty-two thousand koku (Okada 1977, 88). In many ways, then, the highest stratum of the religious establishment was on a par with the secular aristocracy.

The parallel existence of two categories of aristocracy—courtiers and warriors—reflects a similar phenomenon in European history, if I may digress from Japan for a moment. And there, too, according to Elias (1982), wild, impulsive, barbaric warriors were subjected to the “civilizing process” of self-restraint and courtly manners. The difference, however, is that in the European case, the two categories of nobility represented two sequential historical eras, marked by the dawn of the modern age in about the sixteenth century.

The sekke retained their predominant if not exclusive right to supply principal consorts to emperors throughout the warrior-dominant era as well. 9 Nor did the tradition come to an end with the Meiji reforms, which did away with kuge and sessho/kanpaku altogether. Empress Meiji (Shoken) was an Ichijo daughter, and Empress Taisho (Teimei) was from the Kujo house. The late emperor Hirohito, however, married Princess Nagako, a daughter of the collateral royal house of Kuni. When the betrothal was being arranged, both political and nonpolitical objections were raised.

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