Kanto and Kinri

Furthermore, it was a question of whether this central government was really a central government. In the process of building contacts with the Western countries, the situation arose wherein it was doubtful whether the self-pro-claimed central government of the “Great Leader” (Taikun could decide matters without looking up to instructions from the Emperor resident in the “forbidden inner premises” (Kinri used metonymously for the Emperor himself) of his palace in Kyoto. In fact, this was a new situation on this archipelago. The government of the Taikun with its capital at Edo (present-day Tokyo) had established its power in 1600 after a large-scale military victory. Located in the Eastern Japanese Kantb KJM region, it initially did not consider the Imperial palace in Kyoto in political decisions at all, its ceremonial authority notwithstanding. Although the Kyoto Kinri had once been the actual sovereign of the archipelago, it had long ago - beginning from ca. 1300 - been stripped of most of its authority from the so-called warrior (bushi uf/i) caste. The descendants of the previous dynasty were accorded a merely nominal continuation of then-existence, and they and their entire entourage remained confined to this role for a long time.

A change in this situation was brought about by Confucian scholars from China who discussed political theories. Although they exerted virtually no practical influence in the debates about hoken and gunken, they left important traces in this question. That is to say, Confucian doctrine, which teaches to “follow the right ruler,” raised the complicated question of “but then, who is the right ruler?” Of course, for most bushi, this was the lord of the domain to which they belonged themselves, or the Taikun resident in Edo. Yet, the Kinri in Kyoto with his supposedly nominal and ceremonial role was, to the extent that he was present as an abstraction, a convenient projection screen for the image of an “ideal monarch.” Here, room for using the Kinri as a symbol for gathering the hidden dissatisfactions with the government arose. The ceremonial power held by the Kinri was dangerous, and it was alluring. From the eighteenth century to the turn of the nineteenth century, against the background of this rise in authority, the government of the Taikun was concerned with the clout of the Kinri as well as with the Confucian theory that stood behind his rise in authority. They tried to legitimize their own rule according to the legal reasoning that “this archipelago’s original sovereign has been the Kinri all along, but the effective right to govern inherent to this sovereignty is being entrusted to the bushi.”15 However, the attempt of trying to secure the authority of the central government as the effective part of governance by attaching the position as the dignified part of governance to the Kinri eventually had the opposite effect. As soon as the authority of the central government became perceptible in the process of establishing contacts with the Western countries, political activists came to appear all over the archipelago who, using their condition as subjects of the Kinri, subordinated themselves neither to the various local governments nor to the central government. The machinations of these anti-system activists eventually attained their objective, becoming successful in overthrowing the central government, but the new government established after it continued to struggle with the positioning of the symbolic element within the political system.

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