japanese history culture i peter nosco may 20 2013
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Japanese History & Culture (I) Peter Nosco - May 20, 2013. Japan to the 1467-1477 Ōnin War. Japan in Asia. JAPAN The Four Main Islands. JAPAN’S NATURAL SETTING. Island country – not a small country Mountains (Mt. Fuji) v. p lains ( Kantō Plain)

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japan s natural setting
  • Island country – not a small country
  • Mountains (Mt. Fuji) v. plains (Kantō Plain)
  • Labor intensive agriculture, terracing, rice paddies
  • Climatic extremes tempered by regular seasonal change
  • Natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunami, volcanic eruptions tempered by natural beauty
  • Compressed humanity
comments of first european observers
Comments of first European observers
  • Portuguese merchant Jorge Alvarez (1546)
    • “It is a beautiful and pleasing country, and has an abundance of trees [as well as] much fruit not to be found in our country…. The land is intensely cultivated and each year three crops are laid down.”
  • Portuguese Jesuit interpreter Joao Rodrigues (1561-1633)
    • “Although in various regions … there are broad and ample plains…, the country is in general very mountainous…. The air is extremely wholesome and temperate and thus there are no prevailing maladies, such as the plague…. As a result the common people , who are not given to luxuries, usually lead a long life, and the old folk are well disposed, strong and healthy.”
geography and climate
Geography and Climate
  • “The fundamental rhythm of Japan’s early modern history sprang from the interaction of the human populace and its environmental surroundings. The lay of the land, the climate, the flora and fauna that flourished there gave shape and limits to that human experience.” (Conrad Totman, Early Modern Japan, p. 3)
  • Our own theme of nature vs. civilization
origins of the japanese people
  • The major in-migration routes
  • People arrived in Japan from the north, west (Korea and China) and south (Polynesia)
  • Aboriginal population (Ainu) pushed northward by successive migrations and invasions
  • Japan as a “cul-de-sac”
  • The earliest named periods of Japanese history:
    • Jōmon (14,000 BC to 200 BC)

World’s oldest painted pottery?

    • Yayoi (900 BC to 250 AD)

Immigrant Koreans

    • Kofun (from 250 AD)


Queen Himiko of Yamatai

excerpts from history of the kingdom of wei wei zhi 297 ce
Excerpts from “History of the Kingdom of Wei” (Wei Zhi ) 297 CE
  • “The people of Wa [Japan] dwell in the middle of the ocean on the mountainous islands southeast of [the prefecture of] Kaifang. They formerly comprised more than one hundred communities. During the Han dynasty, [Wa] envoys appeared at the court; today, thirty of their communities maintain intercourse with us through envoys and scribes.…
  • “In their meetings and in their deportment, there is no distinction between father and son or between men and women. They are fond of liquor. In their worship, men of importance simply clap their hands instead of kneeling or bowing. The people live long, some to one hundred and others to eighty or ninety years. Ordinarily, men of importance have four or five wives; the lesser ones, two or three. Women are not loose in morals or jealous. There is no theft, and litigation is infrequent. In case of violations of the law, the light offender loses his wife and children by confiscation; as for the grave offender, the members of his household and also his kinsmen are exterminated. There are class distinctions among the people, and some men are vassals of others.…”
history of the kingdom of wei on pimiko
“History of the Kingdom of Wei” on Pimiko
  • “The country formerly had a man as ruler. For some seventy or eighty years after that there were disturbances and warfare. Thereupon the people agreed upon a woman for their ruler. Her name was Pimiko. She occupied herself with magic and sorcery, bewitching the people. Though mature in age, she remained unmarried. She had a younger brother who assisted her in ruling the country. After she became the ruler, there were few who saw her. She had one thousand women as attendants, but only one man. He served her food and drink and acted as a medium of communication. She resided in a palace surrounded by towers and stockades, with armed guards in a state of constant vigilance. …”
the appeal and problem of continental chinese and korean models
The appeal and problem of continental (Chinese and Korean) models
  • The appeal:
    • Emperor as “son of heaven” (天子) and descendant of Amaterasu
    • The “mandate of heaven” (天命)
    • One voice in diplomacy
    • Authority to adjudicate domestic disputes
    • A capital city
  • The problem:
    • Central taxation
    • Relative loss of power for the clans
introduction of buddhism
Introduction of Buddhism
  • The records state that in 552 Emp. Kinmei (r. 539-557) receives a mission from Paekche bringing a statue of the Buddha and several sutras.
  • Supported at firstby Soga clan administrators but also opposed by conservative clans
  • The Sui dynasty (581-618) is established in China, to be followed by Tang dynasty (618-907)
  • Buddhism as the vehicle for the introduction of other forms of Chinese culture and society
  • Prince Shōtoku (573-621) adopts “cap ranks” at Japanese court and issues the 604 the Seventeen-Articles (“Constitution”)
    • Endorses Buddhism and exhorts harmony
the taika reform of 646 and taih code of 702
The Taika Reform of 646 and Taihō Code of 702

Taika大化 = “great change”—four articles:

    • Nationalize the land
    • Construct a capital city and appoint governors/officials
    • Conduct a land survey and census
    • Nationalize tax collection
  • Taihō Code installs a version of the Tang-dynasty central government bureaucracy
change of capital
Change of capital
  • Belief that death pollutes a site vs. benefits of a stable capital vs. the cost of constructing a new capital
  • C. 690 use of title tennō (“emperor”天皇)
  • Fujiwara-kyō = capital 694-710 (kyō=京capital)
  • 710 move north to Heijō-kyō 平城京= Today’s Nara奈良 near Kyōto
  • Modeled after Changan in China長安
culture of nara period 710 793
Culture of Nara Period (710-793)
  • Earliest extant mytho-histories
    • Kojiki of 712 and Nihon Shoki of 720
  • Poetry—Man’yōshū
    • 4500 poems: 400 Chōka (長歌 long poems) and thousands of Waka (和歌 31-syllable poems)
    • KakinomotoHitomaro
  • Buddhism
    • Construction of Tōdaiji東大寺 by pious Emperor Shōmu749-752
the last empress and problems with buddhism
The Last Empress and Problems with Buddhism
  • Emp. Shōmu abdicates in 749 to supervise construction of Tōdaiji
  • His daughter becomes Empress Kōken in 749, abdicates in 757, reclaims the throne in 764 as Empress Shōtokuand dies in 770.
  • Powerful role of Buddhism and Archbishop Dōkyō
  • Challenges to traditional authority lead to oracles to deity Hachiman
  • Kōken becomes the last empress of any consequence in Japanese history
  • 784 After much discussion, Capital moved to Nagaoka
  • 794 after even more discussion the Capital is moved again to Heian-kyō = today’s Kyōto 京都
  • Start of Heian 平安 period (“peace and ease”)
three main issues in first century of heian period 794 1185
Three main issues in first century of Heian period 794-1185
  • Campaigns against the Ainu and the search for new agricultural land
    • First sei-i tai shōgun 征夷大将軍 or “barbarian subduing generalissimo”
  • The reform and eventual breakdown of land reform and taxation
    • No land allotments after 850
  • The reorganization and “privatization” of both central and local administration
    • Rise of shōen荘園 estates and Fujiwara regents
heian aristocratic culture
Heian aristocratic culture
  • The tension between the Court in Kyoto, and the large landowners and people in the countryside
  • Refinement of the Capital
  • An artificial society, removed from the realities of life
  • Immense literary and cultural activity
  • Tax immunities for religious institutions contribute to the growth of two great monastic institutions:
    • The Tendai centre on Mt. Hiei
    • The Shingon centre on Mt. Kōya
the wa kan binary chinese v japanese
The Wa-kan binary: Chinese v. Japanese
  • A caution: Note the problem with binaries
  • Language issues: written Chinese as the masculine language of government
  • Diplomatic exchanges cease after 836 (collapse of Tang dynasty in 907)
  • Only Japanese allowed to leave Japan were Buddhist monks sent for study
  • Nonetheless, the enduring prestige of Chinese learning
  • Development of hiragana syllabary
  • Beginnings of domestic literary culture with the Kokinshū poetry anthology of 905
  • Literary sources for our knowledge of aristocratic society
    • Lady Murasaki’sTale of Genji
    • SeiShinagon’sPillowbook
  • Mood of sentimentality and elegance: Life as art
  • Gallantry and courtship rituals
    • Matriarchal elements
  • Subsequent nostalgia for Heian period as the “classical” era in Japanese culture
    • Note however that what most regard as classical Japanese aesthetics comes after the Heian
heian aristocratic beliefs
Heian aristocratic beliefs
  • Divination, astrology and exorcism
  • Reincarnation and karmic causation
    • The legend of Sugawara no Michizane (d. 905)
  • Dream vs. everyday reality
  • Directional taboos, avoidance/abstention, lucky and unlucky days
  • Belief in kami amalgamated with Buddhism
  • Fear of the start of Mappō (End of Law/Dharma) in 1052
  • Amida devotionalism and nenbutsu practice (chanting of Namu Amida Butsu = Praise to the Amida Buddha)
origins of the warrior class
Origins of the Warrior class
  • Recall the breakdown of egalitarian land reforms and rise of tax-free estates (shōen)
  • Rise of smaller “named estates”, where the named cultivators were responsible for payment of either rents or taxes in exchange for right of ownership
  • Failure of central government to maintain order in countryside results in commoners arming themselves and attaching themselves to local notables
  • In this way, warriors themselves come to prominence.
  • Growth of the monastic armies
    • “Soldier monks” (sōhei僧兵)
    • Enryakuji on Mt. Hiei was the most troublesome
the rival taira and minamoto clans
The Rival Taira平 and Minamoto源 Clans
  • Both Taira and Minamoto trace roots to emperors
    • What happens to excess sons when family income doesn’t expand along with family size
  • The eventual formation of leagues and alliances among those with martial skills
  • Heian tradition of Taira and Minamoto service to the royal family and the Fujiwara
    • Suppressing rebellions and revolts, etc.
bun civil v bu military
Bun (文civil) v. bu (武military)
  • Two Japans in the late-Heian period
    • Capital vs. countryside
    • Centre vs. periphery
  • The warrior confederations, shifting allegiances, and traditions of battle
  • The “Tale of the Heike” and valorization of the samurai class
  • The collapse of the aristocratic oasis of Kyoto during the civil wars
the heiji incident of 1159
The Heiji Incident of 1159
  • Disagreement between TairaKiyomori and the leader of the Minamoto results in the Heiji Incident of 1159, with the lines clearly drawn: Taira vs. Minamoto.
  • The Taira, led by TairaKiyomori, win in 1159, making Kiyomori the most powerful man in Japan.
taira kiyomori 1119 1181
TairaKiyomori 1119-1181
  • The classic story of “rise and fall” in Japanese history
  • His aunt (Lady Gion) was retired emperor Shirakawa’s favorite mistress
  • In 1167 he is made chancellor (the highest court rank)
  • Falls ill in 1168 but rules through his puppet, the child Emp. Takakura (1161-1181; r. 1168-1180)
  • Kiyomori’s daughter marries Takakura and gives birth to future Emp. Antoku(1178-85; r. 1180-85) = Kiyomori’s grandson
the death of taira kiyomori
The death of TairaKiyomori
  • The opening words of the Tale of the Heike (Taira): “The sound of the GionShōja bells echoes the impermanence of all things; the color of the sāla flowers reveals the truth that the prosperous must decline. The proud do not endure, they are like a dream on a spring night; the mighty fall at last, they are as dust before the wind.”
  • Shortly after attacking the Tōdaiji and Kōfukuji monasteries, on March 13 1181, Kiyomori becomes bedridden with a horrific fever and dies eight days later.
  • His last words: “When I die, do not build a temple or pagoda. Do not perform any ceremonies for me. Instead you must send an army at once to vanquish Yoritomo; you must cut off his head and hang it before my tomb. I ask for nothing more.”
  • The Taira fortunes unravel, and the Minamoto, now led by MinamotoYoritomo make their comeback, with a decisive victory in March 1185 at the naval Battle of Dannoura.
minamoto yoritomo 1147 1199
MinamotoYoritomo 1147-1199
  • After his father Minamoto Yoshitomo’s death in 1160, he emerges as the 13-year old head of the defeated Minamoto clan.
  • In 1179 he marries Hōjō Masako (d. 1225), daughter of HōjōTokimasa, head of the powerful Hōjō clan.
the last years of the genpei minamoto taira civil war
The last years of the Genpei (Minamoto – Taira) civil war
  • 8/1183 Advancing cautiously, the Minamoto drive the Taira from Kyoto
  • Retired emperor Go-Shirakawa pleads with MinamotoYoritomo to restore order in Kyoto, but Yoritomo instead sends his younger brother MinamotoYoshitsune 1159-1189and later grows jealous of Yoshitsune’s popularity.
  • 4/1185 Minamoto clan achieves total victory over Taira, whose leaders are all executed.
  • In late 1185, Go-Shirakawa authorized MinamotoYoritomo to appoint his own military and civil governors (shugoand jitō)to each of the provinces = the structure of the Kamakura state
  • In 1192 after Go-Shirakawa’s death, his young son the next Emperor Go-Toba (1180-1239; r. 1183-1198) bestows on Yoritomo the title sei-i tai shōgun征夷大将軍, the barbarian-subduing generalissimo.
  • Yoritomo establishes his Bakufu (government) in Kamakura
  • Yoritomo is the most powerful man in Japan until his death in 1199, though power would soon transfer to his father-in-law’s family, the Hōjō.
relations with china and korea
Relations with China and Korea
  • China is in the Southern Song (1127-1276) dynasty with North China under Mongol rule.
  • 1259 Khubilai Khan becomes Emperor of China and moves capital to Beijing.
  • Japan’s relationship is with Southern Sung.
    • Zen priests sent to China for study provide the most up-to-date security intelligence
  • In 1231 and 1238 Mongols cross Yalu River into Korea, conquering it in 1259.
  • In 1268, 1271 and 1272 Khubilai Khan sends envoys to Japan demanding surrender and threatening invasion.
mongol invasions of 1274 and 1281
Mongol invasions of 1274 and 1281
  • “Mongol” invasion forces included a majority of Chinese and Korean troops and sailors.
  • Contrasting styles of combat—note that no Japanese troops or generals had battle experience since 1221.
  • 1274 invasion force withdraws after a storm causes major losses
  • Construction of a defensive wall in NW Kyushu
  • Invasion of 1281 defeated by “divine winds” (kamikaze 神風).
the problems of victory
The problems of victory
  • The repulse of the second invasion came at a great cost.
  • There were no captured lands with which to reward either the warriors or the shrines and temples for their prayers.
  • Efforts to find innovative ways to reward supporters (by lottery or partial shares) only magnified the resentments.
  • The end, however, came from a succession dispute in the imperial family.
go daig 1288 1339 r 1318 1339
Go-Daigō 1288-1339 (r. 1318-1339)

For various reasons there was an alternate succession after the reign of Emp. Go-Saga

Go-Saga (r.1242-1246; d. 1272)


Go-Fukakusa r. 1246-59 – Kameyama r. 1259-74

| |

Fushimi r. 1288-98 – Go-Uda r. 1274-87

| | | |

Go-Fushimi Hanazono Go-Nijō Go-Daigō

r. 1298-1301 r. 1308-18 r. 1301-08 (1288-1339; r. 1318-39)

the problem
The Problem
  • Go-Daigō (b. 1288) was an adult when he came to the throne in 1318
  • His appointment was intended to be interim, but his goal became to reestablish the era of Emp. Daigō in early 900s
  • In 1321 Go-Daigō abolishes the position of “in” or “cloistered emperor”. His father Go-Uda resigns to indicate his approval.
  • 1324 Go-Daigō begins plotting destruction of Kamakura Bakufu
  • In 1326 he refuses to abdicate and designates his own son as the heir-apparent
the kenmu restoration
The Kenmu Restoration
  • 1331 Fearing arrest by the Bakufu, Go-Daigō flees Kyoto and declares war
  • 1332 His forces are overwhelmed, and he is exiled to Oki Island
  • 1333 He escapes Oki Island, returns to Kyoto
  • 6/1333 Ashikaga Takauji sent by the Kamakura Bakufu to crush Go-Daigō’s forces
  • Ashikaga Takauji switches to Go-Daigō’s side
  • 7/1333 Destruction of the Kamakura Bakufu and Hōjō family by general Nitta Yoshisada
  • 1334 Go-Daigō proclaims the Kenmu Restoration of imperial rule
go daig s policies
Go-Daigō’s policies
  • Dream of returning to an imaginary “Golden Age” vs. major concern of the day was land ownership
  • Advised by KitabatakeChikafusa from Ise
    • Wrote an imperial history of Japan (Record of the Legitimate Succession of Divine Sovereigns or JinnōShōtōki) for crown prince
    • “Japan is the land of the gods (shinkoku)”
  • Incompetence of adjudicating land disputes results in warriors withdrawing their support
  • In 1336 Ashikaga Takauji again switches sides and leads an army that drives Go-Daigō from Kyoto
the ashikaga bakufu 1336 1573
The Ashikaga Bakufu 1336-1573
  • In 1336 Ashikaga Takauji establishes the Ashikaga Bakufu in Kyoto
  • Lasts till 1573 when the line of fifteen Ashikaga shoguns ends
  • In 1378 the 3rd shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu relocates the Bakufu’s headquarters to the Muromachi district of Kyoto
  • Art historians call this subset the Muromachi period, i.e.,1378-1573
yoshimitsu and trade with china
Yoshimitsu and trade with China
  • During reign of third Ashikaga Shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu 1358-1408 r. 1368-1394 of Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) fame
  • Problem of piracy (the Wakō倭寇), and Yoshimitsu’s wish for good relations with Ming-dynasty China
  • Expansion of economy results in Japanese need for coins
  • 1401 Yoshimitsu initiates trade delegations to China
    • Exchanges mostly Japanese sulphur, swords and fans for Chinese coins, silks, books, medicines and famous Ming porcelain
  • In return in 1405 accepts title of “King of Japan” (Nihon kokuō日本国王) from Ming Yongle (r. 1402-24) emperor
    • The controversy: Does this imply acceptance of tributary status?
  • Relations with China continue at a lower level after Yoshimitsu’s death in 1408 and deteriorate after 1453
medieval society and the consequences of prolonged warfare
Medieval society and the consequences of prolonged warfare
  • During the 1300s women lose their earlier rights to own property, to pay taxes on it, and to perform military duties
  • A consequence of the intense competition for land and rewards (shiki式) afterthe Mongol invasions, i.e., men eliminate women from the competition
  • Divided inheritance of property (polygeniture) replaced by unigeniture (single male heir)
    • Economic consequences of the shift
  • Patrilocal marriage replaces matrilocal marriage
  • Role of marriage alliances during a treacherous age
  • An ie家-based society, comprised of households
peasantry and non samurai commoners
Peasantry and non-samurai commoners
  • Improved agricultural productivity
      • Agricultural yields increase by 40% 1280-1450 by adding barley and buckwheat as double- or triple-crops, and using improved strains of early-ripening rice
  • results in small surpluses in households and attendant commercialization
  • Rise of artisans and merchants first in cities and later in rural markets
    • Metal workers, dyers, weavers, potters, lacquer makers, bowyers, carpenters, and artists
  • Rise of ashigaru足軽footsoldiers
  • Village society and typical households
the medieval economy
The medieval economy
  • The infrastructure of the medieval economy: guilds (za座)、moneylenders, warehouses(ton’ya問屋), pawnbrokers (shichiya質屋), and so on.
  • Widespread use of cash by 1400 (e.g. moneylenders and sake brewers tax, and pawn shops)
    • Previously taxes were only on agriculture
    • Number of coins in circulation increases ten-fold 1200-1300
  • The effects of war on the society
    • Improved roads, communications, and medical treatment of wounds
  • Growth of rural markets and the circuit model
  • Affect of transactions on society and individual
  • Population nearly triples 1200-1600, from about six million to ten million by 1450 and to about seventeen million by 1600
difficulty of defining the warring states period
Difficulty of defining the “Warring States Period”
  • The age of daimyō大名 warlords (“great names”)
    • many were former shugo (守護military governors)
    • Called “shugodaimyō”
  • Shift in military and political power away from Kyoto and the Ashikaga Bakufu, and back to the provinces
  • Simultaneous breakdown of the traditional bun (civil文) v. bu (martial武) binary
  • Theme of “the low overcoming the high”
    • gekokujō下克上
the nin war 1457 1467
The Ōnin War 1457-1467
  • The unofficial start of the Sengoku period
  • Arises from a succession dispute within the Hatakeyama family over the post of shugo
    • They pioneer the use of pike formations in battle
  • During reign of 8th Ashikaga shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1435-1490, r. 1449-1473) of Ginkakuji (silver pavilion) fame
  • The Hosokawa and Yamana families join the opposing sides making it a battle between Eastern (Hosokawa-allied) and Western (Yamana-allied) armies
  • War ends in stalemate
  • Followed by roughly a century of low-level civil war
the road to unification
The road to unification
  • Intense competition among roughly twenty shugo-daimyō
  • Unprecedented social mobility
  • The great monasteries as another source of military power
  • The challenges facing would-be unifiers
  • The European introduction of muskets (called Tanegashima) from the 1540s
  • (Re-)Unification will take a half-century from roughly 1570-1620