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Performing the Great PeacePolitical Space and Open Secrets in Tokugawa Japan$
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Luke S. Roberts

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780824835132

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824835132.001.0001

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The Geography of Politics

The Geography of Politics

(p.19) 1 The Geography of Politics
Performing the Great Peace

Luke S. Roberts

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter introduces the discursive structure of a complex network of political spaces integrated into the Tokugawa government. It shows that the identity and subjectivity of actors changed radically, depending upon whether they were operating in an omote space or an uchi space, and reveals that the character of political units themselves were likewise expressed differently according to omote and uchi. The imperial omote based in Kyoto was the highest, having a recorded tradition of supremacy that went back a millennium, but it held very little actual power. The Tokugawa clan was formally beneath the emperor but held such vast authority that Westerners who visited Japan reasonably called the Tokugawa ruler the “emperor” of Japan and relegated the figure in Kyoto to the role of spiritual leader. All daimyo were subject to the Tokugawa government and its omote demands, and they ruled their realms and houses as their naibun units of competence. Under the omote management of the Tokugawa and daimyo were commoners subject to three simultaneous and overlapping modes of organization: geography, house, and occupational status. Through geography, commoners were organized by membership into villages and towns represented by headmen. Through houses, they were represented by (usually male) family heads and organized according to gender and personal relation to the head. Commerce and other occupations were likewise organized through delegation of internal management to leaders in return for service to whoever authorized them.

Keywords:   Tokugawa government, political space, omote, uchi, daimyo

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