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.