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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Koken was raised to high ecclesiastical rank


THE

COURT

The interval between the close of the fifteenth century and the end of the sixteenth is set apart by Japanese annalists as the most disturbed period of the country's history and is distinguished by the term Sengoku Jidai, or the Epoch of Wars. It would be more accurate to date the beginning of that evil time from the Onin year-period (1467-1469); for in the Onin era practical recognition was extended to the principle that the right of succession to a family estate justifies appeal to arms, and that such combats are beyond the purview of the central authority. There ensued disturbances constantly increasing in area and intensity, and not only involving finally the ruin of the Ashikaga shogunate but also subverting all law, order, and morality. Sons turned their hand against fathers, brothers against brothers, and vassals against chiefs. Nevertheless, amid this subversion of ethics and supremacy of the sword, there remained always some who reverenced the Throne and supported the institutions of the State; a noteworthy feature in the context of the fact that, except during brief intervals, the wielder of the sceptre in Japan never possessed competence to enforce his mandates but was always dependent in that respect on the voluntary co-operation of influential subjects.

In the Sengoku period the fortunes of the Imperial Court fell to their lowest ebb. The Crown lands lay in the provinces of Noto, Kaga, Echizen,

Tamba, Mino, and so forth, and when the wave of warfare spread over the country, these estates passed into the hands of military magnates who absorbed the taxes into their own treasuries, and the collectors sent by the Court could not obtain more than a small percentage of the proper amount. The exchequer of the Muromachi Bakufu suffered from a similar cause, and was further depleted by extravagance, so that no aid could be obtained from that source. Even worse was the case with the provincial manors of the Court nobles, who were ultimately driven to leave the capital and establish direct connexion with their properties. Thus, the Ichijo family went to Tosa; the Ane-no-koji to Hida, and when Ouchi Yoshioki retired to Suwo on resigning his office (kwanryo), many Court magnates who had benefitted by his generosity in Kyoto followed him southward.

So impoverished was the Imperial exchequer that, in the year 1500, when the Emperor Go-Tsuchimikado died, the corpse lay for forty days in a darkened room of the palace, funds to conduct the funeral rites not being available. Money was finally provided by Sasaki Takayori, and in recognition of his munificence he was authorized to use the Imperial crest (chrysanthemum and Paulownia); was granted the right of entree to the palace, and received an autographic volume from the pen of the Emperor Go-Kogon. If there was no money to bury Go-Tsuchimikado, neither were any funds available to perform the coronation of his successor, Go-Kashiwabara. Muromachi made a futile attempt to levy contributions from the daimyo, and the kwanryo, Hosokawa Masamoto, is recorded to have brusquely said, in effect, that the country could be administered without crowning any sovereign. Twenty years passed before the ceremony could be performed, and means were ultimately (1520) furnished by the Buddhist priest Koken--son of the celebrated Rennyo Shonin, prelate of the Shin sect--who, out of the abundant gifts of his disciples, placed at the disposal of the Court a sum of ten thousand gold ryo,* being moved to that munificence by the urging of Fujiwara Sanetaka, a former nai-daijin. In recognition of this service, Koken was raised to high ecclesiastical rank.


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