By Takie Sugiyama Lebra

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This most recent paintings from Japanese-born anthropologist Takie Sugiyama Lebra is the 1st ethnographic learn of the fashionable eastern aristocracy. validated as a category at the start of the Meiji interval, the kazoku ranked without delay lower than the emperor and his family members. formally dissolved in 1947, this team of social elites remains to be as a rule perceived as the Aristocracy. Lebra won access into this tightly knit circle and performed multiple 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 each one topic in its ancient context. She analyzes the evolution of prestige obstacles and the essential function performed via outsiders.

But this ebook isn't really easily concerning 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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The chieftains of the most powerful uji with the title of omi or muraji were identified as o-omi and o-muraji, respectively (o meaning grand: the king was called o-kimi). The coalition among such chieftains was brought to an end by the ascendancy of the Soga family, whose chieftain, Soga no o-omi, became a dictatorial power figure in court politics. The next stage of ancient aristocratic history opened with the Taika Reform. This event, prefaced by a successful palace coup d’éetat in 645 that overthrew the Soga, inaugurated drastic steps to compel kabane holders further to uphold the imperial authority.

To create such a relationship I always introduced myself as a person of peasant origin and stressed the status irrelevance of my Gakushuin background. This, I think, motivated my informants to talk about themselves; I also felt that I stimulated their sense of noblesse oblige. It was not just status otherness that helped me. For Japanese, the sense of cultural affinity is inseparable from continual social contact; thus, being out of the country for a lengthy period of time makes one a cultural other as well.

The ritsuryo-based functions of the kuge in the imperial court bureaucracy were simply too outdated to find a place in the Meiji government. Thus the kuge status, together with the buke status, was rendered obsolete. Above the Clouds Page 44 Nevertheless, Japan had a long way to go to transform into an egalitarian society, and in any case, no such radical outcome was desired by the new leaders. The former elite could not be eradicated overnight but had to be reorganized in a simplified form to supersede the elaborate hierarchy that had prevailed under feudalism.

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