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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The Emperor Reigen abdicated in favour of Higashiyama


Mihara volcano, in 1779, when

twenty feet of ashes were piled over the adjacent country through an area of several miles; the volcanic disturbance at Sakura-jima, in Osumi, which took place about the same time and ended in the creation of several new islands; the outbreak of the Asama crater, in 1783, when half the provinces of the Kwanto were covered with ashes; and the loss of forty thousand lives by a flood in the Tone-gawa. Of all these visitations the shogun remained uninformed, and, in spite of them, luxury and extravagance marked the lives of the upper classes. Many, however, were constrained to seek loans from wealthy merchants in Osaka, and these tradesmen, admonished by past incidents, refused to lend anything. At last the intolerable situation culminated in a deed of violence. In April, 1784, Sano Masakoto, a hereditary vassal of the shogun, drew his sword upon Okitsugu within the precincts of the castle in Yedo and wounded him severely. Masakoto was seized and sentenced to commit suicide, but the justice of his attempt being recognized, the influence of Okitsugu and his son began to decline. Two years later (1786), there appeared a decree in the name of the Bakufu, ordering that the temples in all the provinces, the farmers, the artisans, and the merchants should send their gold and silver every spring to the Central Government, to the end that the latter might lend this treasure to the feudatories, who would pledge themselves to pay it back after five years.*

*The

funds thus obtained were called yuzu-kin (accommodation money).

There is reason to believe that the shogun himself knew nothing of this ordinance until a multitude of complaints and remonstrances found their way, in part, to his ears. At all events, the extraordinary decree proved to be the last act of Okitsugu's official life. He was dismissed from office, though whether the credit of that step belongs to the Sanke and the elder officials or to the shogun, is not certain, for Ieharu is said to have died just before the final disgrace of the corrupt statesman was consummated. The Yedo upon which he closed his eyes in October, 1786, presented features of demoralization unsurpassed in any previous era. In fact, during the period of forty-one years between the accession of the ninth shogun, Ieshige, in 1745, and the death of the tenth, Ieharu, in 1786, the manners and customs of the citizens developed along very evil lines. It was in this time that the city Phryne (machi-geisha) made her appearance; it was in this time that the theatre, which had hitherto been closed to the better classes, began to be frequented by them; it was in this time that gambling became universal; it was in this time that parents learned to think it an honour to see their daughters winning favour as dancing girls, and it was in this time that the samurai's noble contempt for money gave place to the omnipotence of gold in military and civil circles alike.

THE IMPERIAL COURT. THE 113TH SOVEREIGN, THE EMPEROR HIGASHIYAMA (A.D. 1687-1710)

In 1687, the Emperor Reigen abdicated in favour of Higashiyama, then a boy of thirteen, Reigen continuing to administer affairs from behind the curtain as was usual. Tsunayoshi was then the shogun in Yedo. He showed great consideration for the interests of the Imperial Court. Thus, he increased his Majesty's allowance by ten thousand koku of rice annually, and he granted an income of three thousand koku to the ex-Emperor. Moreover, all the Court ceremonies, which had been interrupted for want of funds, were resumed, and steps were taken to repair or rebuild the sepulchres of the sovereigns throughout the empire.


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