Above the CloudsStatus Culture of the Modern Japanese Nobility

Above the CloudsStatus Culture of the Modern Japanese Nobility

Takie Sugiyama Lebra

Print publication date: 2012

ISBN: 9780520076006

Publisher: University of California Press


This book provides an ethnographic study of the modern Japanese aristocracy. Established as a class at the beginning of the Meiji period, the kazoku ranked directly below the emperor and his family. Officially dissolved in 1947, this group of social elites is still generally perceived as nobility. The author of this book gained entry into this tightly knit circle and conducted more than one hundred interviews with its members. The text weaves together a reconstructive ethnography from their life histories to create an intimate portrait of a remote and archaic world. As the book explores the culture of the kazoku, it places each subject in its historical context, and analyzes the evolution of status boundaries and the indispensable role played by outsiders. But the book is not simply about the elite, but about commoners and how each stratum mirrors the other. Revealing previously unobserved complexities in Japanese society, it also sheds light on the universal problem of social stratification.