The Decay of the Power of Japan’s Emperors

A Bit Of Useful History

Following the Genpei War (the subject of The Tale of Genji), which gave rise to the Bafuku (government said to be run out of a general’s tent rather than a palace), the Imperial line was subject to intense internal squabbles.

I’m sure these links will provide great reading to those interested, so please, give the writer some love.

My point in bringing attention to these events is to make plain that the decline of the Emperors’ grip on direct power did not continue by some kind of accident. As summarized in my Concise History of the Samurai, the samurai became influential as central power decayed. Power struggles within the Imperial family did nothing to discourage the notion that the writ of the sword and bow meant a lot more in the here and now, regardless of history or lip service.

After all, when you try to get the attention of “the Emperor,” who are you getting? The actual Emperor? The regent? Is there only one regent? The Emperor’s mother, who is the real power behind the throne (or thinks she is)? Who constitutes “the Emperor” for the purposes of real power?

When it’s like that, with competing factions having allies and enemies strewn across the entire country, it’s easier to understand why loyalty to one’s lord and constant readiness to engage in armed conflict were highly prized features among samurai retainers.

J Sensei

About J Sensei

Blogger, writer, linguist, former Japanese> English translator, rusty in French, experienced in Japanese, fluent English native. Writing for and various blogs. Skype: jeremiah.bourque (messages always welcome). E-mail: [email protected]
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