The Heian court arose on the Japanese archipelago in the ninth century – a local precipitation from a larger nexus of states, commandaries, and courts that coalesced, fragmented, and dispersed across East Asia in the wake of the Han empire.2 Prior to the Heian court, the idea of empire gathered various clans, by force and by alliance. Sometimes tentatively, sometimes violently, one clan, the Yamato clan, strove to organize the court around consistent genealogies, bureaucracies, and myths, yet the court’s centre remained mobile. Across two to three centuries, the imperial centre continued its semi-nomadic movements, migrating from site to site at uneven intervals, for various reasons (genealogical conflicts, unpacified spirits, troubled ghosts or lands).With each successive removal, the structure of court – a grid-like city with avenues laid out in accordance with auspicious lines of force – emerged with greater precision and extension, ever closer to the dynastic ideal.The Heian court, in a sense, marked the culmination of the mobile series, for the court leaves off its nomadic style. It also marked the start of a new series of flows in and around the capital, the contours of which continued to waver.