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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 in the beginning of the Meiji interval, the kazoku ranked at once lower than the emperor and his kinfolk. formally dissolved in 1947, this crew of social elites continues to be as a rule perceived as the Aristocracy. Lebra received access into this tightly knit circle and carried out a couple of hundred interviews with its contributors. 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 old context. She analyzes the evolution of prestige limitations and the integral position performed via 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 mild at the common challenge of social stratification.

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Extra resources for Above the Clouds: Status Culture of the Modern Japanese Nobility

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What numbers constituted kazoku membership at this stage? Initially, kazoku households totaled 427, comprising 136 former kuge, 248 daimyo, 28 kuge equivalents, and 15 daimyo equivalents. Kuge equivalents referred to branches of some of the higher-ranking main kuge houses, whereas daimyo equivalents were a mixture of various subcategories, including the Tokugawa secondary branches and the chief retainer-administrators of daimyo (karo) (KK 1985, 88-97). Later, more house-holds—76 altogether—were cumulatively added.

Nobunaga had at first claimed Fujiwara descent and so obtained ministerial positions in the imperial court, but he soon switched to a Taira identity, probably influenced by the contemporary ideology that the succession of shogunal dynasties should be based on the Minamoto-Taira alternation (Hayashiya 1966, 59-60), counting the Taira hegemony prior to Yoritomo and the Hojo regency as equivalent to the shogunate. Nobunaga’s vassal and successor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, presents a most interesting case, of which Berry (1982) provides an illuminating account.

Above the Clouds Page 29 Many people ask how I was able to meet the people under study. Indeed, Marcus (1979, 136) refers to “the formidable task of gaining . . access” as one reason for avoiding the elite as a study subject. A native researcher might be considered advantaged in this respect, but not necessarily so. Although culturally Japanese, I am a status outsider to the nobility or upper class. It was therefore mandatory that I have a proper go-between to gain my first entry into this group.

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