August 09, 2012

Emperor Kumazawa

The Southern Court did achieve a political victory of sorts five hundred years after the events described in Serpent of Time. After not mattering at all to anybody for centuries, early in the 20th century, the question of succession dating back to the era of the Northern and Southern Courts almost toppled the ruling Japanese government.

The controversy was created by Meiji ideologues faced with a challenge to the "official history" that the emperor was the product of direct, unbroken line that disappeared into the mists of history. This official history had itself only been invented in the mid-19th century as a means of delegitimizing the Tokugawa shogunate.

After much heated debate, the reign of the Southern Court from Go-Daigo to Go-Kameyama was accepted as legitimate, making the Northern Court of the time the pretenders.

Then during the American Occupation, a man named Hiromichi Kumazawa (along with several others) came forward with apparently authentic genealogies that "proved" he was a rightful descendant of the Southern Court. He made a splash in the media but the powers that be ignored him and he faded back into obscurity.

And thus does what was once a matter of life and death turn into trivia. Kumazawa was also a Buddhist priest. He surely understood the effervescent nature of such claims to worldly glory.

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