Scholars of early modern Japanese history have noted the imperial court's political insignificance and the lack of conflict most contemporaries supposedly saw between the emperor's institutionally supreme position and the fact that Japan's warlords had usurped power away from the emperor. This article draws on Korean visitors' observations of Japanese society during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to challenge this view and reveal that the imperial court remained the only truly legitimate seat of power for many early modern Japanese elites, exposing the depths of fissures in the Japanese political order in ways most scholarship has overlooked.