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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

From the close of the Heian epoch



The policy of the Ashikaga towards the Daikagu-ji line (the Southern Court) of the Imperial house was evidently one of complete elimination at the outset. But the impossibility of achieving such a programme soon came to be recognized and reconciliation was substituted. Thenceforth, in appearance at all events, the representatives of the Daikagu-ji line received due consideration and were sufficiently provided with incomes, as witness the treatment of the ex-Emperor Go-Kameyama by Yoshimitsu. But subsequent and repeated neglect of the claims of the Southern branch in regard to the vital matter of the succession betrayed the insincerity of the Ashikaga, and provoked frequent appeals to arms.

The situation may be said to have been saved by the habit inaugurated at the close of the Heian epoch. From that time princes and nobles who saw no prospect of secular distinction began to take the tonsure, and this retirement to the cloister was assiduously encouraged by the Muromachi shoguns. A similar policy commended itself in the case of princes of the Jimyo-in branch (the Northern Court). It is true that, from the first, the representatives of this line had relied on the Bakufu, whether of Kamakura or of Muromachi. But in their hearts they deeply resented the usurpation of the shogunate, and the latter, fully cognisant of that sentiment, guarded against its effective display by providing

only meagre allowances for the support of the Imperial household (Kinri) and the ex-Emperor's household (Sendo), and by contriving that only young and delicate princes should succeed to the throne. Thus, of seven sovereigns who reigned between 1336 and 1464, the oldest was only sixteen at the time of his succession and the youngest was six. When an Emperor reached maturity, it was usual that he should abdicate and administer thenceforth from the Inchu. Thus the influence of the Court was divided between the Kinri and the Sendo--the reigning sovereign and the retired. But the real depository of power was the shikken (regent) of the Inchu, to which office a member of the Hino family, maternal relatives of the Bakufu, was habitually appointed. When Yoshinori was shogun, he himself acted as shikken of the Inchu. As for the Court officials properly so called, from the kwampaku downwards, they were mere figureheads. Holding their posts, indeed, as of old, they constituted, not administrative actors, but an audience.


The shogun Yoshimitsu instituted the custom of inviting the sovereign to his mansion, and thenceforth such visits became a recognized feature of the relations between the Imperial and the Muromachi Courts. Yoshimitsu himself frequently repaired to the Kinri and the Sendo, and frequently accompanied the Empresses and their ladies on social visits or pleasure excursions. He is said to have gone in and out at the Imperial palaces without the slightest reserve, and on more than one occasion history accuses him of flagrantly transgressing the limits of decency in his intercourse with Suken-mon-in, mother of the Emperor Go-Enyu. As a subverter of public morals, however, the palm belongs, not to Yoshimitsu, but to his immediate successor, Yoshimochi. He is said to have visited the Kinri and the Sendo six or seven times every month, and to have there indulged in all kinds of licence. History says, indeed, that he was often unable to appear at Court owing to illness resulting from intoxication.


As to the fact that, from the close of the Heian epoch, the cloister often proved a prison for Imperial princes whose ambition might have been troublesome had they remained at large, the following figures are eloquent:

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