FROM: Michael, Trade Minister of Arendelle and loving Uncle to you and your sister, Queen Emerita Elsa, the Fifth Spirit and Snow Queen
TO: Her Majesty and beloved niece Anna
SUBJECT: Brief historical background of Japan and the Fujiwara
On the heels of General Mattias’s cautionary note to you, I did some research for a brief history on Japan and most notably, the Fujiwara Clan.
First, I want to be on record in thanking our newest friend, Selene Severin. Her assistance in gathering the information on file in our library or through the Ravens and others in her network on the ground near or in this mysterious country, has proven invaluable for this report.
Japan has been in existence for tens of thousands of years. “Japan” come from the two Chinese words “Jee-Pan” which means “Land Of The Rising Sun,” since it is a series of volcanic islands that lie east of mainland China.
The first Emperor of Japan was a man named Jimmu. Japanese mythology linked Jimmu as the descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu, through her Grandson Ninigi, and as a descendant of the storm god Susanoo. To question this in Japanese culture is dangerous at best, as Jimmu was in fact, the first of the Imperial line of Emperors.
For this report, we will now go ahead in centuries and report on the Fujiwaras.
The Fujiwara clan was founded by Nakatomi no Kamatari in the 7th century. He was a member of the Nakatomi clan, until the Emperor Tenji awarded him with honorific “Fujiwara” name. The family dominated Japanese politics from 794 CE until 1195 CE keeping it by means of marrying a daughter to the next new Emperor. This was done to ensure that the newest Emperor would be raised in the paternal household while owing loyalty to his grandfather. This was part of their customs at the time.
The Fujiwara’s were instrumental during the Asuka period in 645 with the Taika reform. It had resounding effects on the social, political and artistic parts of Japanese culture, including the change of the proper Japanese name of the country, going from Wa to Nihan or “Nippon.”
Unfortunately, the Fujiwaras lost a lot of their influence during the 12th century as the country entered a phase where it became more of a feudal system with the civil war that lasted from 1181 to 1185 with a warrior class, the Shogunate, consisting of the Samurai (warriors) and Daimyos (warlords). The Emperor was more of a figurehead while the Shogunate wields the power.
The Shogunate truly meant the first four letters in “feudal,” that being “feud.”
From then until the 1500s, the Daimyōs with their Shogun armies feuded over each other’s lands, power, and such. Fast forward to 1542 when European traders and Missionaries from Portugal. Along with goods being traded, Christianity was introduced into Japan. Churches were open, many Japanese were converted. All was going good, until following the Sengoku period (“warring states period”), the central government had been largely re-established by Oda Nobunaga during the Azuchi–Momoyama period. General Toyoto Hideyoshi, reunited Japan in battle in 1582. Hideyoshi then brought sweeping changes such as the confiscation of swords from the peasantry, new restrictions on Daimyos, persecutions of Christians, a thorough land survey, and a new law effectively forbidding the peasants and samurai from changing their social class. Hideyoshi’s land survey designated all those who were cultivating the land as being “commoners”, an act which effectively granted freedom to most of Japan’s slaves.
After the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, central authority fell to Tokugawa Ieyasu, who established his Shogunate, and central governance. Strict classification of peoples followed with the Daimyos at the top as warlords and landowners, the Samurai with a Shogun second and the people as low class chattle.
Tokugawa instituted Sakoku, a policy of isolation, yet Japan was not completely isolated under the sakoku policy. Sakoku was a system in which strict regulations were placed on commerce and foreign relations by the shogunate and certain feudal domains (han). There was extensive trade with China through the port of Nagasaki, in the far west of Japan, with a residential area for the Chinese. The policy stated that the only European influence permitted was the Dutch factory at Dejima, in Nagasaki. Western scientific, technical and medical innovations flowed into Japan through Rangaku (“Dutch learning”). Trade with Korea was limited to the Tsushima Domain (today part of Nagasaki Prefecture). Trade with the Ainu people was limited to the Matsumae Domain in Hokkaidō, and trade with the Ryūkyū Kingdom took place in Satsuma Domain (present-day Kagoshima Prefecture). Apart from these direct commercial contacts in peripheral provinces, trading countries sent regular missions to the shōgun in Edo and at Osaka Castle. (Note to chief: this is from Wikipedia under Sakoku.)
The Tokugawa Clan has enjoyed power for over two centuries.
The note you got from Gen. Mattias is correct. There has been several attempts from other countries to get Japan to open up with little to no success. The Samurai with her may disagree with Lady Takako-san, but they are honor bound to her protection. For in Samurai society, they fear dishonor more than death.
In conclusion, Anna, I believe that Lady Fujiwara Takako’s journey and reasons for being here are sound. The world’s turning away from feudalism towards liberty and freedom with free trade and free markets would benefit Japan greatly. I would relish the chance to meet her with you, Anna, and give her this piece of cautionary advice; the free market and capitalistic ideals have done more to bring people out of poverty when done right.
However, if it is just used to fill the pockets of the Daimyos, the warlords, for war and conquest, it can and will result in their ultimate destruction. Maybe even by a nation who uses a weapon so terrible, it will change war forever and drive any “honor” or “chivalry” from it, leaving it as a malignant scourge, only to be abolished.
Love, your Uncle.
Trade Minister Michael.
2 thoughts on “Michael’s Musings: Information on Japan and the Fujiwara Clan”
Good work Michael.
Thanks. The history of Japan is truly a “deep dive.”