Unformatted text preview: ha and he and Rikyû became intimate companions. As a
result, Rikyû was one of the most influential people in Japanese ruling
circles during the late 1580s. Then, suddenly, disaster struck. In 1591,
for reasons that remain to this day obscure, Hideyoshi ordered his distinguished tea master to commit suicide. Hideyoshi, who was noted for
his impetuosity and who was fully capable of ghastly and capricious acts
of tyranny, may have imposed this punishment for some personal slight
or because he genuinely feared the power Rikyû had acquired. It is said
that Hideyoshi later much lamented having caused the tea master’s death.
At any rate, the passing of Sen no Rikyû removed from Japan’s cultural
scene the last great medieval figure and heralded the advent of the already rapidly approaching early modern age. 7 The Flourishing of a Bourgeois Culture The great peace of more than two and a half centuries that followed the
founding of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1600 was made possible largely
by the policy of national seclusion which the shogunate adopted during
the late 1630s. To many historians this policy, carried out amid fearful
persecutions of both native and foreign Christians, has appeared as an
arbitrary and extraordinarily reactionary measure whereby the Tokugawa,
in order to preserve their national hegemony, terminated a lively century
of intercourse with the countries of western Europe and reinstituted harsh
and repressive feudal controls over Japan.
The seclusion policy, which was set in place by a series of edicts issued
between 1633 and 1636, forbade Japanese to leave Japan and severely resticted Japan’s relations with other countries, both European and East
Asian. Recent scholars, noting the variety of trade and, in some cases,
diplomatic relations that were still maintained—albeit on a very limited
scale—with Holland (trade), China (trade), Korea (trade and diplomatic
relations), and the Ryukyus (trade and diplomatic relations) have questioned whether the Tokugawa shogunate actually intended to “seclude”
Japan from the rest of the world.1 The most frequently used term for the
seclusion policy, sakoku, “closed (literally, ‘chained’) country,” certa...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at UBC.
- Spring '13