Rising to prominence from the mid-14th century to the mid-16th, the large community of sake brewer-moneylenders in Japan's capital city enjoyed a protected monopoly that allowed them to flourish. Demand for credit was strong in medieval Kyoto, and brewers profitably recirculated capital for loans. The more socially prominent brewers served as tax agents for religious institutions, the shogunate, and the imperial court, and were actively involved in a range of cultural pursuits. Although the merchants themselves left only scant records, Suzanne Gay, associate professor of East Asian studies at Oberlin College, convincingly depicts this important group of medieval commoners here.
"This very interesting work ... offers some valuable lessons that those in today's banking sector would do well to learn."—Daily Yomiuri