We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

The Moneylenders of Late Medieval Kyoto

Suzanne Gay

Publication Year: 2001

The Moneylenders of Late Medieval Kyoto examines the large community of sake brewer-moneylenders in Japan's capital city, focusing on their rise to prominence from the mid-1300s to 1550. Their guild tie to overlords, notably the great monastery Enryakuji, was forged early in the medieval period, giving them a protected monopoly and allowing them to flourish. Demand for credit was strong in medieval Kyoto, and brewers profitably recirculated capital for loans. As the medieval period progressed, the brewer-lenders came into their own. While maintaining overlord ties, they engaged in activities that brought them into close contact with every segment of Kyoto's population. The more socially prominent brewers served as tax agents for religious institutions, the shogunate, and the imperial court, and were actively involved in a range of cultural pursuits including tea and linked verse. Although the merchants themselves left only the faintest record, Suzanne Gay has fully and convincingly depicted this important group of medieval commoners.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (38.4 KB)
pp. vii


pdf iconDownload PDF (38.3 KB)
pp. ix

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (27.7 KB)
pp. xi

Kuroda Toshio and John W. Hall, my two mentors, each had a profound influence on this study. They shaped my approach to medieval history as a combination of people and the processes they create. Professor Kuroda inspired me with his vision, originality, and infectious enthusiasm for history and the people in it. Professor Hall was instrumental in expanding to a western scholarly cohort, with focus and discipline, the lively and ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (65.2 KB)
pp. 1-8

This is a study of a group of people, residents of medieval Kyoto, who brewed sake and lent money for a living. Demand for credit was strong in medieval times, and available from a variety of sources. From about the early thirteenth century, sake brewers dominated secular moneylending in the city.1 Under the direct or indirect control, first of Enryakuji, the great ...

read more

Part One The Setting

pdf iconDownload PDF (350.3 KB)
pp. 9-33

Medieval Kyoto evolved gradually on the site of the ancient capital, Heiankyō. Although transformed in many respects, the medieval city still bore a physical resemblance to the earlier metropolis and remained home to the same group of elite residents. Moneylenders and other merchants had more shallow roots, for the city was originally designed for administrative not commercial purposes ...

Part Two The Lives of the Moneylenders

pdf iconDownload PDF (9.2 KB)
pp. 35

read more

Chapter One The Business of Lending Money

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.5 MB)
pp. 37-55

The poet’s diary notation of the early thirteenth century suggests there was already a large community of moneylenders in Kyoto. A burgeoning demand for credit was met by these merchants, primarily through the medium of coinage imported from China. Some started as storehouse keepers (mikura) for aristocratic families and gradually extended their ...

read more

Chapter Two Overlords

pdf iconDownload PDF (441.2 KB)
pp. 56-89

Until about the early sixteenth century most Kyoto merchants, like the moneylenders, were not independent agents. Rather, like most peasants, they were members of occupational groups bound by prescribed obligations to overlord families, temples, and warriors. In return the overlord was expected to bestow patronage: exemption from other taxes and monopoly protection from competitors. (The monopoly protection extended ...

read more

Chapter Three Transcending Subordination

pdf iconDownload PDF (197.8 KB)
pp. 90-126

At the end of the fourteenth century the moneylenders occupied a position fraught with complexity as well as potential. At this point they were indeed victims of multiple taxation—Enryakuji, the imperial court, and the shogunate were each getting a piece of their profits. At the same time, however, they were merchants of great worth: not only did they ...

read more

Chapter Four Responding to Siege

pdf iconDownload PDF (487.9 KB)
pp. 127-171

The last two centuries of the medieval period in Japan differed from the preceding ones in several ways. For this study, the most important of these was the ascendancy of an urban culture and monetized economy centered on Kyoto, in which not only traditional overlords but also commoners participated fully. At the same time, peasant resentment over ...

read more

Chapter Five Urban Affairs

pdf iconDownload PDF (132.4 KB)
pp. 172-200

By no means were the last two centuries of the medieval age in Kyoto merely a time of unrelieved chaos. Even as they endured periodic attacks by peasant leagues and the strife of warriors, many moneylenders thrived in the late medieval city. With their wealth and status they were at the forefront of neighborhood self-governing efforts, advancing collective aims ...

read more

Chapter Six The Fate of the Moneylenders in the Early Modern Period

pdf iconDownload PDF (72.5 KB)
pp. 201-210

The fortunes of two successful moneylenders, Shōjitsubō, originally of Enryakuji, and the lay family Suminokura, provide contrasting examples of long-term survivors in the business. The experience of each in his own way illuminates the hazards and survival strategies of successful merchants. Undeniably, luck played some role in the success of the two, but business ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (83.2 KB)
pp. 211-224

In an essay on the culture of medieval commoners in Japan, Barbara Ruch makes a strong case for the representation of ordinary people in history.1 Toward this worthy goal the sources by no means yield information readily. Nearly all medieval sources, whether official documents, diaries, literature, or works of art, are elite in focus and origin. Thus they tend to ignore commoners ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (86.3 KB)
pp. 225-236


pdf iconDownload PDF (242.0 KB)
pp. 237-284


pdf iconDownload PDF (89.8 KB)
pp. 285-296


pdf iconDownload PDF (67.1 KB)
pp. 297-301

E-ISBN-13: 9780824864880
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824819293

Publication Year: 2001