The book's third chapter examines the role of gift exchange and other ritual performances in the politics of warrior relations in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century. One of the images included in this chapters is of a letter that Toyotomi Hideyoshi sent to the Kutsuki house in 1590. The letter (seen in the header to this post and also here) is from the National Archives of Japan, which maintains an impressive open-access, online "Digital Archive."

The letter is addressed to Kutsuki Mototsuna (1549-1632) and records the Toyotomi lord's thanks for Mototsuna's gift of skewered, salted mackerel to mark the Obon Festival. The letter also mentions Hideyoshi's important land surveys, and Mototsuna's involvement with Natsuka Masaie, one of the survey magistrates. The letter is thus a typical example of the casual and common linkage of gift exchange and politics, between the mutual obligation reinforced by the giving and receiving of food, clothing, art, weapons, animals, and specie, and the expectation of certain forms of service, military and otherwise.

Another image in the chapter, a letter from Ieyasu to a different member of the Kutsuki house, also comes from the National Archives of Japan. This letter, written personally by Ieyasu while he was shogun (1603-1605) and addressed to Kutsuki Nobutsuna (1582-1662), offers thanks for the gift of a kosode robe. It is worth noting that the Kutsuki family switched sides during the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 to support the pro-Tokugawa force, so again we see the entangled skein of the personal and the political, the effects of service and the expectations of reciprocity.

My interest in the topic of gift exchange stemmed in part from examining the records of Ieyasu's activities in the years after his victory at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. He didn't receive the appointment to the post of Shogun until 1603, and I was fascinated by the indications in the documents that he was incredibly socially active in these intervening years. He didn't live peacefully in Edo after his victory, secure in the notion that he would soon be national hegemon. Instead, he relentless engaged in what I call the politics of sociability in the old imperial capital, peppering the elites of Kyoto with invitations to banquets and theater events, calling on acquaintances, and, of course, giving gifts. This seems to have been a kind of political campaign; he was running for office.