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ASCJ Executive Committee

Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181

Inaugural conference
1998 conference
1999 conference
2000 conference

Conference venue
Nearby hotels

1999 June 26 conference

Room 207

1. Warriors and Authority in Kamakura Japan

Chair: Ethan Segal, Stanford University. Discussant: Robert Borgen, University of California, Davis (visiting professor, Meiji Gakuin University).

Panel Abstract:
The establishment of the Kamakura government following the Gempei War has often been treated as an immediate transformation from courtier to warrior rule.In reality, the changes brought about by the new government were neither sudden nor clear, as the newly established shogunate struggled to define the parameters of its dominion.On the one hand, Yoritomo presented himself as a charismatic chieftain, demanding total fidelity from his men, while on the other he laid the groundwork for a complex and efficient judicial system that often was forced to rule against the same group of retainers.The Bakufu struggled to be a source of stability in rapidly changing times, and new developments in land, economy, and justice forced leaders to continuously rethink the basis of their authority.As a historical moment, this period of development was one fraught with tensions about the nature of authority that played themselves out both in the economic and political lives of the rising warrior class and the narratives that rose concomitantly to give them voice.

This panel provides an interdisciplinary study of the ways in which the authority of the Kamakura government impinged on the lives of its followers.It also examines ways authority was construed within the psychological realm of the narratives of warrior ascendancy.The first paper considers how Yoritomo's authority is established within the narrative of the Genpei War as the ultimate source of rewards.This suggests an attempt to narrate a stronger central Kamakura authority than may have actually existed. The second paper explores how narrative accounts handled a challenge to that authority in the Soga Monogatari. How could the Bakufu maintain its authority in a narrative in which its representative opposes a virtuous hero? The third paper further examines the conflicts stemming from Kamakura's dual role as personal lord for its retainers and impersonal judicial authority for society-at-large. Although the Bakufu attempted to rescue samurai in debt, the failure of its fiscal policies revealed that the spread of a market economy could force Kamakura to abandon its earlier personal authority.

1) Michael Watson, Meiji Gakuin University."Warriors Rewarded: 'Kimi no
go-on' in Gunki Monogatari"

This paper will examine literary references to warriors who received their lords' favor ("go-on" or "o-megumi").In the war tales, rewards are sometimes promised in advance, on fulfillment of a specific task or deed. In other cases they are granted after men have accomplished a feat of bravery. The period of time elapsing may be a matter of years, in which case the reference will take the form of a prolepsis or flash-forward. A typical example comes at the end of the "Nobutsura" episode (Heike monogatari, 4.5): When the Genji era came ["Genji no yo ni natte"], Nobutsura wentdown to the eastern provinces and reported the whole story through Kajiwara Heizo Kagetoki [to Yoritomo]. Most impressed, the Kamakura Lord gave him land in Noto Province as reward. Similar expressions are also used to describe rewards to a Genji loyalist who is not a warrior, the monk Jitsugen-ajari (6.12). In Heike monogatari, this motif takes the listener or reader beyond the main timeframe of the story to a future where the victorious Yoritomo rules from Kamakura and dispenses rewards to those who worked for his victory. In the ending of the "Fujito" (10.14), this has the effect of shifting attention away from the warrior and his immediate superior, the commander-in-chief present at the scene of the battle, and foregrounding the ultimate source of rewards, Yoritomo. Other aspects of the motif will be discussed through a comparison of variant accounts, and of related chronicles and tales.

2) Elizabeth Oyler, Stanford University."Defining Authoritative Voice in Soga Monogatari"

The Soga Monogatari, an early medieval tale that focuses on the conflict between Bakufu authority and personal loyalty, casts the issue of the nature of warrior rule into stark relief.It highlights in particular the irreconcilability between the Soga brothers' heroic revenge for the death of their father against their uncle, who is backed by shogunal sanction, and the judicial system which must condemn them.This paper will focus on the tension between these two conceptual modes of righteousness, one which asserts bakufu authority as a code of law, and the other which supports virtuous heroes whose sense of loyalty are developing into the paradigm for warrior behavior. This is a struggle that is played out not only thematically but also in the narrative style of the text.

This paper will focus on the rufubon Soga Monogatari, also making reference to the Azuma kagami and several kowakamai to discuss how these two conflicting tendencies are employed in turn to justify the tale of the brothers' revenge.Stylistic analysis will discuss the juxtaposition of official, non-narrative documentation and legal decisions with the more lyrical personal narrative of the brothers' trials.This comparison addresses specifically the struggles within narrative representations of the budding shogunal system to establish an authoritative voice. Particular attention is accorded to the ways in which Yoritomo and his government are given narrative authority through the inclusion of legal documents in the tale while simultaneously being removed far enough from the brothers' vendetta to be able to endorse the virtuousness that their revenge on their father's killer embodies.

3) Ethan Segal, Stanford University. "Warrior Debt and Conflicting Obligations in Kamakura Japan"
Yoritomo's personal confirmation of land holdings was key to his establishing an independent government in the East.The warriors organized under the Bakufu cemented ties through mechanisms of gift exchange in which warriors received rights to income in exchange for services.In studies of medieval Europe, this type of economic relationship has been classified by anthropologists and historians as a "gift economy." Lords established authority by providing for their followers without concern for the actual monetary value of gifts and services exchanged.At the same time that this gift economy was flourishing in Japan, however, improved agricultural techniques and strengthened peasant land rights allowed the spread of markets and growth of commerce. The non-reciprocal exchanges of this emerging "profit economy" demanded an impartial authority, which would ensure that debts and obligations were paid.

This study will explore how the "gift economy" model can be applied to Japan by focusing on the debt abrogation decrees of the thirteenth century.  These decrees, known as "tokuseirei" (literally "virtuous administrative orders"), were issued by the Bakufu to assist samurai retainers who fell into debt.Tokuseirei became necessary because samurai, accustomed only to operating in a gift economy, were unable to manage their finances and lost their land holdings in the new profit economy. Because the original basis of Bakufu authority lay in awarding land to its retainers, Kamakura had no alternative but to require private lenders to forgive samurai debts and restore confiscated lands.Yet the growth of market transactions had fostered a new aspect of Bakufu authority as impartial judge in land disputes. Tokuseirei favoring only warriors were therefore extremely disruptive to Kamakura society; their issuance raises important questions concerning how the Bakufu could reconcile its policies with notions of "virtuous administration."