The Kamakura Bakufu: A Study in Documents

The Kamakura Bakufu: A Study in Documents

The Kamakura Bakufu: A Study in Documents

The Kamakura Bakufu: A Study in Documents


"The essential guide for anyone undertaking the study of medieval Japan."- From the Foreword by Takeuchi Rizo.

This pioneering guide to the content and use of documents in the study of medieval Japan has two parts. Part I consists of translations, arranged by topic with annotation and running commentary, of 177 edicts and land records from the time of Japan's Kamakura shogunate (1180-1333). The documents illustrate the patterns of authority, bureaucracy, and justice that emerged under Japan's first warrior government, with emphasis on the appointment of local officials and the curbing of local ambitions. The translations are offered for the historical record and as a demonstration of how medieval sources can be used by historians.

Part II is an annotated and geographically classified Bibliography of nearly 600 books and articles in Japanese that present the texts of official documents (komonjo) issued from earliest times to 1600. No comparable bibliography exists even in Japanese.

The work includes explanatory introductions, a glossary of terms and phrases used in the documents, alphabetical and chronological indexes of the documents and sources, and photographs of representative original documents, with comments on format and style.


Professor Asakawa Kan'ichi, while at Yale University, was the first scholar in America to show that Japanese and European feudalism, despite their many common characteristics, also had major differences. His monumental work, The Documents of Iriki (1929), not only helped shape the thinking of Westerners about Japan's medieval age, but served as well to alert Japanese scholars to the value of this great collection for the study of feudalism.

At present, almost 50 years after the appearance of Asakawa's work, the subject of feudalism remains one of the central themes of scholarly inquiry in Japan. Fundamental to this effort has been research on the power structure of the Kamakura Bakufu, Japan's first warrior government. The basic sources for this subject have traditionally been the chronicle Azunm kagami and the Bakufu's own Jōei Law Code. In recent years, however, it has been amply shown that the former, as a later compilation, contains many errors, whereas the latter is no more than a legal treatise. For a detailed understanding of the Bakufu and of early feudalism it has been necessary to turn instead to the numerous old documents that remain extant.

While this development was occurring in Japan, there was no parallel advance in America in the vital area of document research. The major reason for this was undoubtedly the extensive training required to learn to read and interpret medieval records. Under these circumstances, it was hardly surprising that no successor emerged to continue the pio-

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