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#1
Old 06-07-2012, 12:08 PM
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Are there Japanese Nobles anymore?

(I was just looking at the Japanese adoption thread.)

In the UK we still have a Lord Sterling and various Dukes and Earls. The Queen even appoints Lord High Sheriffs. What is the condition of the Japanese nobility nowadays? How about Imperial appointments to old-fashioned high-faluting titles for commoners?
#2
Old 06-07-2012, 12:16 PM
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Yes.

Quote:
Under the present Constitution of Japan, the emperor is the symbol of the state and unity of the people. Other members of the imperial family perform ceremonial and social duties, but have no role in the affairs of government. The duties as an emperor are passed down the line to children and their children's children and so on.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_House_of_Japan

Last edited by Darth Panda; 06-07-2012 at 12:17 PM.
#3
Old 06-07-2012, 12:38 PM
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Assuming you mean heriditary nobilty outside the royal family, the answer is no. The 1946 Constitution abolished all hereditary titles outside the royals.
#4
Old 06-07-2012, 12:40 PM
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Yes, that is what I was asking about. But of course there are no German, Belgian or Italian nobles anymore, although people can call themselves Lord Panywaist if he likes. I presume someone in Japan is still thought of as heir to old noble titles?

How about old-fashioned non-noble titles? Knighthoods, life peers and so on?
#5
Old 06-07-2012, 12:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Paul in Qatar View Post
How about old-fashioned non-noble titles? Knighthoods, life peers and so on?
I really don't think so. The samurai class and anything associated with the shogunate fell far out of favor and fashion around the time of the Meiji restoration as old fashioned and anti-progress. Gichin Funakoshi, founder of Shotokan Karate, wrote about his formerly samurai family being horrified that he followed the new style of shaving off his topknot. I think most families associated with the samurai quietly disavowed themselves of them.
#6
Old 06-07-2012, 01:55 PM
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Officially the caste system was abolished with the Meiji Restoration, but I'm given to understand that "I'm a descendant of samurai" still provides one with some informal measure of social standing and/or advantages ; and that the descendants of burakumin (the "untouchables" or "unclean" unter-underclass - grave diggers, butchers, executioners, that sort of thing) still face significant discrimination and social ostracism.
#7
Old 06-07-2012, 11:03 PM
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Officially the Japanese do not have any noble titles, but the society is still very feudal.
The yakuza inherit, of course, their houshold gangs.
Buddhist and Shinto temples are passed down by the families (the priests marry and have children).
Any trade that would possess a "school" is also passed down by families (martial arts, traditional crafts, tea ceremony, kabuki, flower arranging).
Family businesses including large corporations are often still owned and passed down with the members of families taking interviews and admitted into various positions like any other employee, bar the occasional sell-out of one.
What's really scary is how the Japanese make it a point of pride to pass down professions (if your father is a doctor, the eldest son or child have immense pressure to be a doctor and inherit the practice, same with lawyers, politicians and even accountants).

The public attitude seems to be largely accepting of it - I have seen children being referred to as "Oh that's Mr Yamamoto's son, he's going to go to med/law school" and the son is what, a 10 year old but they have already put him through a prestigeous pre-school, a prestigeous primary school, and regardless of his actual academic performance, as long as he passes reasonably, will short-track to a prestigeous high school that provides by way of teacher recommendation (making the entrance exams just a formality) a spot in the medical program of the father's alma mater.

They may not have the noble titles anymore, but by jove their society conforms perfectly to caste systems.
#8
Old 06-08-2012, 12:43 AM
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Originally Posted by minkyberry View Post
What's really scary is how the Japanese make it a point of pride to pass down professions (if your father is a doctor, the eldest son or child have immense pressure to be a doctor and inherit the practice, same with lawyers, politicians and even accountants).
What's scary about this? As Nava mentioned in the other thread, handing down the family business is certainly not unique to Japan. As a matter of fact, for much of history, throughout the world, Europe certainly not excluded, this was the norm. In this regard, Japan is still a little bit more old-fashioned than other first-world countries but not by that much. Hey, I'm in my mid-thirties, still young somewhat, and didn't grow up anywhere near Japan, and people would ask me or my father if I would take over his business all the time growing up. We're talking elementary school and junior high. We both always answered "no way", but now that I'm older and that I have seen what happened to the business after he sold it, I think it wouldn't have been such a bad idea after all.

There are certainly negative aspects to this practice, but I think describing it as "scary" is overstating the case.
#9
Old 06-09-2012, 01:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Paul in Qatar View Post
How about old-fashioned non-noble titles? Knighthoods, life peers and so on?
Officially, these titles are no longer recognized. However, there are some people who once held these titles (hereditarily or not) who still wear the regalia and are announced by their title at certain events like high-society parties.

Several years ago I was introduced to a Japanese 'Baron' (danshaku - 男爵) at a party and he was wearing the whole getup. I really didn't think about it at the time but now because of this GQ question it got me wondering about how this guy was able to get away with it. I guess there's no law against doing such a thing, or the law is not enforced (more likely, being Japan).
#10
Old 06-09-2012, 02:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Isamu View Post
I guess there's no law against doing such a thing, or the law is not enforced (more likely, being Japan).
Article 14 of the Japanese constitution prohibits the state from recognizing peerages or awarding any hereditary honors and also prohbits discrimination or favoritism towards peers. AFAIK there is no law about him dressing up as a Baron, he's free to do that, but then so is anyone else in Japan whether or not they are really descended from a peer.
#11
Old 06-09-2012, 02:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Isamu View Post
Officially, these titles are no longer recognized. However, there are some people who once held these titles (hereditarily or not) who still wear the regalia and are announced by their title at certain events like high-society parties.

Several years ago I was introduced to a Japanese 'Baron' (danshaku - 男爵) at a party and he was wearing the whole getup. I really didn't think about it at the time but now because of this GQ question it got me wondering about how this guy was able to get away with it. I guess there's no law against doing such a thing, or the law is not enforced (more likely, being Japan).
It's the same thing in France, though. You'll find lots of "nobles" dressing and acting the part, but legally they don't have any particularly special status.
#12
Old 06-09-2012, 03:54 AM
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Originally Posted by jovan View Post
It's the same thing in France, though. You'll find lots of "nobles" dressing and acting the part, .
"Acting the part" certainly (say, being announced as such in a high-end party, as in Isamu's example), but "dressing"? How would you dress up like a noble? The only thing I can think of would be wearing a "chevaliere" (a ring engraved with your coat-of-arms), but hardly anybody would notice it. I'm wondering what Isamu meant by :

Quote:
he was wearing the whole getup

What kind of dress would make a Japanese baron appear as such?
#13
Old 06-09-2012, 04:36 AM
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French nobility acting and dressing for the part:
http://static1.purepeople.com/articl...uc-637x0-1.jpg

Now I'll grant you that the Count's garb is only subtlety aristocratic, but he does make a point of wearing his medals for a wedding.

Japanese former nobles are more discreet and I can't find good recent pictures.
#14
Old 06-10-2012, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by clairobscur View Post
What kind of dress would make a Japanese baron appear as such?
I don't have any idea about what insignia or other decorations would have been worn by legitimate Japanese nobles. But the guy I met at the one party I mentioned had a scarlet sash worn diagonally over his torso from shoulder to hip, a decoration (medal or insignia, I'm not sure) hanging from a ribbon around his neck, and a few medals pinned to his dinner shirt.
#15
Old 08-11-2015, 11:12 PM
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Since the third republic the French nobility is still recognized by the state- without any privileges whatsoever . This is because france never abolished the monarchy but instead declared a "temporary" republic to deal with the unwillingness of the last bourbons to occupy the throne. Of course nothing is not more permanent than a temporary solution, and as such France declared a full republic without canceling the temporary provisions for not upsetting the uneasy balance with the monarchists. As such the Crown of France is deemed dormant, the President of France a regent, and the nobility is still fully recognized and under the control of the ministry of justice. So a French noble can bear his insignia in full sight on a fully legal basis

Last edited by Privateer; 08-11-2015 at 11:14 PM.
#16
Old 08-11-2015, 11:19 PM
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Originally Posted by jovan View Post
It's the same thing in France, though. You'll find lots of "nobles" dressing and acting the part, but legally they don't have any particularly special status.
So that's why French noble's do have a special status
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Originally Posted by Privateer View Post
Since the third republic the French nobility is still recognized by the state- without any privileges whatsoever . This is because france never abolished the monarchy but instead declared a "temporary" republic to deal with the unwillingness of the last bourbons to occupy the throne. Of course nothing is not more permanent than a temporary solution, and as such France declared a full republic without canceling the temporary provisions for not upsetting the uneasy balance with the monarchists. As such the Crown of France is deemed dormant, the President of France a regent, and the nobility is still fully recognized and under the control of the ministry of justice. So a French noble can bear his insignia in full sight on a fully legal basis

Last edited by Privateer; 08-11-2015 at 11:19 PM.
#17
Old 08-12-2015, 12:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Privateer View Post
Since the third republic the French nobility is still recognized by the state- without any privileges whatsoever . This is because france never abolished the monarchy but instead declared a "temporary" republic to deal with the unwillingness of the last bourbons to occupy the throne. Of course nothing is not more permanent than a temporary solution, and as such France declared a full republic without canceling the temporary provisions for not upsetting the uneasy balance with the monarchists. As such the Crown of France is deemed dormant, the President of France a regent, and the nobility is still fully recognized and under the control of the ministry of justice. So a French noble can bear his insignia in full sight on a fully legal basis
Not quite. The concept of nobility has been found by the French courts to be incompatible with the guarantee of equality before the law set out in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (which forms part of the 1958 Constitution of the Republic). Consequently noble status no longer exists as a matter of law; it is repugnant to the Constitution. Whatever legal regulation and protection the former noble titles have arises because they are now regarded as personal names, and they get the same protections as anybody's personal name gets in France.

Nor is it true to say that the Republic is still conceived of as a placeholder for a dormant monarchy, or that the President of the Republic is a regent. Under the 1958 Constitution France is declared to be a Republic, deriving its powers from the people, to whom sovereignty belongs and by whom it is exercised. No individual may claim for himself the exercise of sovereignty.

Not much room for a notional dormant monarchy there.
#18
Old 08-12-2015, 01:14 AM
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I assume then the benefits of upper class membership and family money, typical of many nobility in many countries, did not completely disappear with the end of WWII?
#19
Old 08-12-2015, 02:24 AM
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Since this has wandered off Japan specifically:

Anyone else hear that the Roman Catholic rule about Celibacy* was your basic land grab?

The theory is based on the practice of landowners who die without heirs would bequeath their land to the local Priest, who had children, one of whom followed his father into the Priesthood and inherited the land holding.
After a few generations, this theory holds, there were Priests with extensive holdings.

By demanding Chastity, the Pope denied the Priests the opportunity to pass the property**, so it fell to the Church.


* - Pedant time! 'celibacy' means 'never marry'; 'never having sex' is 'chastity'.
(the Pope wasn't that mean-spirited)

** - only a legitimate son could inherit. If you can't marry, you can't have legitimate sons, and any bastards you sire cannot inherit.
#20
Old 08-12-2015, 02:38 AM
UDS UDS is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by usedtobe View Post
Since this has wandered off Japan specifically:

Anyone else hear that the Roman Catholic rule about Celibacy* was your basic land grab?

The theory is based on the practice of landowners who die without heirs would bequeath their land to the local Priest, who had children, one of whom followed his father into the Priesthood and inherited the land holding.
After a few generations, this theory holds, there were Priests with extensive holdings.

By demanding Chastity, the Pope denied the Priests the opportunity to pass the property**, so it fell to the Church. . . .
I've heard it, but I don't think it has any truth.

In the first place, it depends on there having been a practice of childless landowners bequeathing land to "the local priest". I seriously doubt that such a practice ever existed. People might give land to the church as an institution, or to a specific monastery. But to an individual, named cleric? I doubt that happened very much. In most of western Europe, in medieval times, it wouldn't even have been possible. Freedom of testamentary disposition is a modern invention; in medieval times on your death your land went to your heir-at-law, and you didn't have any choice about who that was. If you had no heir, then (depending on local law and practice) your land might revert to the king, or pass to your feudal overlord - or even go to the church. There was limited freedom of disposition, and in most places you could transfer land to the church or to a monastery, school, college, etc. But not to Joe the Priest.

More conventional accounts of clerical celibacy point to the growth from pretty early of of a monastic tradition in Christianity. Monks lived in community and were committed to the common life and in that context the practice of celibacy is pretty much essential. In time the monastic lifestyle came to be widely admired and was treated as a model for clerical life generally.

Clerical celibacy didn't become universally mandatory in the Western church until quite late on (it's still not mandatory in the Eastern church) but it was widely admired and practiced, and in particular locations or regions it was mandatory (because the local bishop would require it).

It is true, I think, that one of the influences that led to its being adopted as a universal norm was vaguely to do with inheritance - not of land, but of jobs. Senior clerics who had children would sometimes provide for them by appointing them to church positions for which they were, ahem, not necessarily ideal candidates. That problem obviously didn't arise (or arose to a much lesser extent) when clerics were celibate, and did not have legitimate offspring.

Last edited by UDS; 08-12-2015 at 02:42 AM.
#21
Old 08-12-2015, 02:57 AM
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Originally Posted by jovan View Post
What's scary about this? As Nava mentioned in the other thread, handing down the family business is certainly not unique to Japan. As a matter of fact, for much of history, throughout the world, Europe certainly not excluded, this was the norm.
The freedom to choose ones occupation and the freedom for others to choose whether to employ someone based on their individual merit has some really great upsides for humanity:

1. The person doing the job is interested in his job.
2. The person doing the job is qualified to do his job.

Minus those two things, I don't really want someone performing surgery on me.
#22
Old 08-12-2015, 11:01 AM
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Originally Posted by jovan View Post
What's scary about this?
Among other things, Minkyberry's post seems to indicate that the son of a physician can get into his father's medical school even if he doesn't necessarily meet the academic standards for acceptance.
#23
Old 08-12-2015, 11:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Isamu View Post
I don't have any idea about what insignia or other decorations would have been worn by legitimate Japanese nobles. But the guy I met at the one party I mentioned had a scarlet sash worn diagonally over his torso from shoulder to hip, a decoration (medal or insignia, I'm not sure) hanging from a ribbon around his neck, and a few medals pinned to his dinner shirt.
You don't have to be a noble to wear a sash. Lots of republics award them. A decoration on a neck ribbon usually outranks a decoration on a breast ribbon. A decoration on a sash usually outranks a decoration on a neck ribbon.

In the USA, the presidential Medal of Freedom is worn on a neck ribbon, and the Medal of Freedom with Distinction is worn on a sash.
#24
Old 08-12-2015, 04:24 PM
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I would suspect that, in both the Japanese and French examples, the noble title is no longer recognized legally, but is still recognized socially (at least in some parts of society).
#25
Old 08-12-2015, 08:13 PM
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Originally Posted by skdo23 View Post
Among other things, Minkyberry's post seems to indicate that the son of a physician can get into his father's medical school even if he doesn't necessarily meet the academic standards for acceptance.
Mmm. But in the more egalitarian, meritocratic model, the academic standards for acceptance are set by competition - if there are, say, 50 places then the 50 candidates with the highest academic marks will get them. But this may set a cut-off - the marks obtained by the 50th entrant - which is absurdly higher than the level of academic attainment actually necessary to be a competent, or even outstanding, physician.

So you could set a much lower cut-off mark, and then choose among all the candidates who have attained that mark by reference to some other quality. If one of those qualities is being the son or daughter of a physician you might think that's unfair, but it won't necessarily result in less competent physicians.

The Japanese model fails if the rule is "any child of a physician, however stupid, gets in". But if the rule is "among candidates with the necessary level of academic attainment, the children of physicians are preferred over the children of others" this won't necessarily result in worse doctors, and could conceivably result in better ones.
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