(1/2) hello! i read that you guys aren't specialized in Asian history, but bc i couldn't find promising results from my search, i have to try and ask - in 17th century Japan, there were the Emperor and the shogun, the latter of which was a military leader and was often seen as the center of power instead of the Emperor, and i'm wondering how titles work with this system?
(2/2) i searched for Japanese honorifics throughout the history and there were terms like King/Princes if translated to English, but there wasn’t info on who those were addressed to. could the shogun also be called ‘King’? if so, would their sons (both by blood and by concubines) be called ‘Princes’? were the shogun and their family considered as royalties, monarchs, aristocrats, or etc.?
Sorry for the long wait and thank you for your patients!
First of I need to make a disclaimer! I’m not well versed in Japanese history (my knowledge is rudimentary) and I’m not very familiar with the culture or that good with the language. (My two years of studying Japanese 10 years ago doesn’t get me that far, really.) There’s simply a lot of history that hasn’t been much of a part of my education because it’s such a vast field. Therefore, this information that follows is not to be taken as absolute fact. (So if anyone is educated in Japanese history or has Japanese as their first language, do feel free to correct any mistakes I may have made!)
So, to try and answer your question, anon!
There are a lot of difficulties trying to even relate Japaneses titles to a European concept since Japan did not have the same kind of peerage as, say, England. In fact, they had no similar peerage until the mid-1800s; when the court nobility (”kuge”) and feudal lords (”daimyo”) were combined into an aristocrat with titles corresponding to the European peerage. (More on the European, specifically English, peerage can be fond here). Being a shogun was heredity and the shogun would name his son as heir and it was the noble families (the landowning feudal Lords “daimyo”) which fought to hold the title and political power that came with it. The title as such was no hereditary noble title, though.
When it comes to formal titles you’d have “no kimi” for Lords and Ladies. It’s used as a suffix and though not really in use today, it was common during the Heian period. You also have Tono (pronounced with a “d” rather than “t”), which means roughly “master” or “lord” and has a usage similar to the English “milord” or the French “monseigneur”. A polite title rather than a mark of nobility. You’d use “sama” for someone who outrank you. You’d use “san” for someone you don’t know very well, who are of the same or lower rank than you. “Kun” is often used for boys but can be used for girls, for example daughters or employees by their parents or seniors. When used by male friends or family, it’s a more familiar way to address someone than “san”.
I am not sure how the shogun would be addressed exactly since I can’t seem to find information. I would assume that they were addressed as their title and “sama”. Or with their name and “no kimi” or simply by the word “tono”. It would likely depend on who is addressing them and in which setting. It’s a rather complex system for an outsider to be honest.
What this means is that the sons of a shogun would, if addressed in a formal way, be addressed with “san” if they are children and, maybe, “sama” as an adult. Possibly “no kimi” for an adult son of a shogun. It would also seem that the word “shogun” was not used during the Tokugawa shogunate - which is the one you are interested in. They used “kubo” (short for “kuge no kata”, “people of the noble houses”), “taiju” (great tree) or “taikun” (great prince/lord). This means this is what you’d use in formal settings for other characters to address your shogun character. The Tokugawas did use “king” (kokuo) but that created problems in their dealings with China, as it suggested subordination to the Chinese emperor. Thus the usage of “taikun”. Unfortunately this still created problems in their dealings with both Korea and China and the Tokugawa shogun went back to the title of “king” with the added “of Japan” (”Nihon kokuo”). Despite these different titles, they weren’t monarch, kings or princes the way a European would be a king. The words don’t carry the same connotations. They were the ones with political power, absolutely, but they were not divinely chosen as European kings were chosen by God and Chinese and Japanese emperors were Sons of Heaven. They were feudal lords (”daimyo”), similar to those in Europe.
That’s the best I can do, hope it was helpful! Good luck with your writing!
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