Above the Clouds
Status Culture of the Modern Japanese Nobility
Publication Year: 1993
As Lebra explores the culture of the kazoku, she places each subject in its historical context. She analyzes the evolution of status boundaries and the indispensable role played by outsiders.
But this book is not simply about the elite. It is also about commoners and how each stratum mirrors the other. Revealing previously unobserved complexities in Japanese society, it also sheds light on the universal problem of social stratification.
Published by: University of California Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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List of Tables
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List of Illustrations
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Orthographic Note on Japanese Words
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In the long years taken up by this study, I have come into debt to countless people. Foremost, I am grateful to the former aristocrats and those around them who allowed me to share their experiences as an interviewer, guest, or semiparticipant observer of their rituals and other activities. ...
1. Studying the Aristocracy: Why, What, and How?
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On May 15, 1947, some two hundred titled noblemen gathered in the imperial palace to hear words of farewell from His Majesty, who in the previous year had already renounced his "divine" status and assumed a human role. Twelve days before, the new constitution had come into effect, designed to ensure universal equality under the law. ...
2. Creating the Modern Nobility: The Historical Legacy
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The basic structure of the nobility under study came into formal existence in 1884 as the result of an imperial ordinance called the kazokurei.1 The embryo had taken shape fifteen years before, which calls us back to the dawn of Japan's modern era, the Meiji Restoration. ...
3. Ancestors: Constructing Inherited Charisma
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Members of the hereditary elite, by definition, owe their status to their ancestors. Kazoku life histories are indeed shaped by the weight of ancestors, which is still felt in one way or another. It is fitting, therefore, to begin our analysis with images of ancestors held by descendants. ...
4. Successors: Immortalizing the Ancestors
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Ancestor worshippers in Japan mention as a major reason for their devotion the debt they owe their forebears for their very existence. Certainly they would not have come to life without their ancestors, but neither would the ancestors have continued to exist without descendants. ...
5. Life-Style: Markers of Status and Hierarchy
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Turning away from the last two chapters' focus on death, the deceased, and ancestors, this chapter looks into the routine life of the latest generations that still "live" in the memories of informants. In contrast to our interest thus far on the time depth of ancestor-successor relations, let us now orient ourselves to the spatial breadth of life conditions. ...
6. Marriage: Realignment of Women and Men
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In discussing ancestors and successors in chapters 3 and 4, we took individual households as units of analysis, and emphasis was on the lineal continuity of each household. While marriage, too, could be seen in the same light as instrumental to the production of legitimate successors to the house, this chapter examines matrimony more as a realignment between households (or househeads), ...
7. Socialization: Acquisition and Transmission of Status Culture
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The kazoku status, to be hereditary, had to have its culture carried on by successive generations. Chapters 3-6 conveyed what that status culture was like; this chapter will consider how it was acquired by or transmitted to kazoku members, with a main, but not exclusive, focus on the child. ...
8. Status Careers: Privilege and Liability
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We have examined how kazoku children were reared and trained in the home, boarding houses, and schools; let us now take up their adult careers. In so doing, we will be more in touch with the public realm, which so far has been treated largely as the ground for private, domestic life. ...
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To conclude this ethnographic journey, I will attempt to pull together salient features of the hereditary status and hierarchy that have appeared and reappeared across the preceding chapters. In the introduction we encountered a series of oppositional concepts presented for interpretational purposes; ...
Epilogue: The End of Shōwa
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Emperor Shōwa's terminal illness and eventual demise on January 7, 1989, threw Japan into a state of shock, as judged from the media coverage of the widespread jishuku (voluntary abstinence from festivity and entertainment) and prayer and mourning. Thereafter, open debates about the emperor and the imperial institution as a whole ensued, ...
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Page Count: 430
Publication Year: 1993