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A Daimyo lord

Pre-modern Japanese carried fans wherever they went, sometimes using them as notepads or calendars

Prior to unification, Japan was divided into numerous domains under the rule of the daimyo, military lords with large landholdings living in castle towns. For hundreds of years, daimyo armies were frequently at war. After the rise of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1603, the daimyo swore their allegiance to the shogun and promised military service on demand.

To keep the daimyo subservient, the third Tokugawa Shogun, Iemitsu, instituted "Sankin Kotai," which forced the daimyo lords to reside in Edo during part of every other year. To comply with the shogun's edict, the daimyo traveled to Edo in elaborate and costly processions. These placed a large burden on the daimyo's finances, as did their lavish Edo residences. Iemitsu's policy cleverly kept the daimyo occupied and reduced the potential for rebellion.

When not wearing battle armor, daimyo wore "eboshi" caps of black silk gauze stiffened with a black lacquered paper lining. The cap was held in place either by a white cord, or was pinned to the daimyo's topknot. The size and shape of the cap largely depended on the samurai's rank, though by the 16th century the use of eboshi was reserved for the most formal events. On such occasions, a page carried the daimyo's sword. Daimyo frequently kept a simple folding fan tucked in a belt wrapped around the waist.

Top and left: Daimyo/Chiba City Museum.
Daimyo procession on the Tokaido Road/Shunji Jonoshita

A Daimyo procession

The daimyo were powerful members of the elite "shimin" samurai class, at the top of Japan's class system.

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