The Emperor’s Clothes: The Story of the Awazu (Heishi) documents (komonjo)

The Awazu were a family of low ranking courtiers. These documents recount how, during the cataclysmic Ōnin War (1467-77) which devastated the capital, they rescued the Emperor’s wardrobe, which was housed in Yamashina, to the southeast of the palace. Once marauding armies threatened this region with arson, the Awazu rescued these clothes, and earned the praise of emperors, and courtiers. For four generations, the Awazu, and their lords, the Takakura, basked in the glory of these deeds, and received promotions and words of praise from three successive emperors. One even managed to attain the fifth court rank, a marker of the high nobility, in 1546.

These documents were preserved in a scroll, which contains a postscript revealing that by 1733 Awazu Kiyooki was appointed to the palace guards (takiguchi).   The name given for the scroll, the Heishi, can be misleading, for it refers to the clan (uji) name of Taira (or Heishi), but the proper name for the descendants of this house is Awazu.

Images provided by Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.