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POLITICALLY, Japan was an empire ruled by an emperor who claimed direct descent, through an unbroken line of illustrious predecessors, from Amaterasu-Omikami, goddess of the sun. Since 1603, Japan had actually been governed by a delicately balanced system, often described as centralized feudalism, in which prime authority rested with a shogun, the head of the great house of Tokugawa, who ruled from his family's historical capital of Edo (modern Tokyo). In this Japan, politics, like social organization, was carefully stratified along hereditary class lines, and only a small elite was privileged to participate in the making or administering of political decisions. In short, prehistoric Japan was a specie of traditional Asian society, being predominantly rural, agrarian, immobile, stratified, authoritarian, and oligarchic in its primary sociopolitical ...

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