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  • Japanese: 権門 (kenmon)

Kenmon (lit. "the gates of power") were prominent power-holders in the late Heian through Muromachi periods. Often absentee landowners, they were aristocratic and samurai families, Buddhist temples, and Shinto shrines which wielded extensive tax-exempt estates (shôen), and involvement in domestic and/or foreign trade.

In contrast to strong central authorities (the imperial court or shogunate), these various kenmon, considered collectively, might be said to have been the dominant powers for much of Japan's pre-modern period. They wielded considerable power both within their estates and in the capital and elsewhere, often skirting the control of central authorities and dominating local economies, trade networks, etc.


  • Richard von Glahn, "The Ningbo-Hakata Merchant Network and the Reorientation of East Asian Maritime Trade, 1150-1350," Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 74:2 (2014), 268.