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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

And that example was followed by the Ashikaga in Kyoto


The Zen sect had been almost equally popular during the epoch of the Hojo. They built for it five great temples in Kamakura, and that example was followed by the Ashikaga in Kyoto. The five fanes in the capital were called collectively, Go-zan. They were Kennin-ji, Tofuku-ji, Nanzen-ji, Tenryu-ji, and Shokoku-ji. After the conclusion of peace between the Northern and Southern Courts the temple Shokoku-ji was destroyed by fire and it remained in ashes until the time of Yoshimasa, when the priest, Chushin, persuaded the shogun to undertake the work of reconstruction. A heavy imposition of land-tax in the form of tansen, and extensive requisitions for timber and stones brought funds and materials sufficient not only to restore the edifice and to erect a pagoda 360 feet high, but also to replenish the empty treasury of the shogun. Thus, temple-building enterprises on the part of Japanese rulers were not prompted wholly by religious motives.


The frugal austerity of life under the rule of the Hojo was changed to lavish extravagance under the Ashikaga. Yet things should have been otherwise, for in Takauji's time there was enacted and promulgated the code of regulations already referred to as the Kemmu Shikimoku, wherein were strictly forbidden basara, debauchery, gambling, reunions for tea drinking and couplet composing, lotteries, and other excesses. Basara is a Sanskrit term for costly luxuries of every description, and the compilers of the code were doubtless sincere in their desire to popularize frugality. But the Ashikaga rulers themselves did not confirm their precepts by example. They seemed, indeed, to live principally for sensuous indulgence.

A Japanese writer of the fifteenth century, in a rhapsodical account of the Kyoto of his day, dwells on the wonderful majesty of the "sky-piercing roofs" and "cloud-topping balconies" of the Imperial palace. And he points with evident pride to the fact that this splendor--a splendor only a little less--was to be found besides in many other elegant residences which displayed their owners' taste and wealth. The chronicler notes that even those who were not noble, including some who had made their money by fortune-telling or by the practice of medicine, were sometimes able to make such display, to live in pretentious houses and have many servants. So could the provincial nobles, who it seems did not in other periods make much of a showing at the capital.

The dwellers in these mansions lived up to their environment. The degree of their refinement may be inferred from the fact that cooking became a science; they had two principal academies and numerous rules to determine the sizes and shapes of every implement and utensil, as well as the exact manner of manipulating them. The nomenclature was not less elaborate. In short, to become a master of polite accomplishments and the cuisine in the military era of Japan demanded patient and industrious study.

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