I'm reading Helen Craig McCullough's translation of The Tale of the Heike, the Japanese classic about a twelfth-century civil war between the Taira and Minamoto clans. Chapter Five includes this charming story to illustrate the former authority of the Emperor:
Although our own day has witnessed a shocking diminution of the throne's prestige, the mere recitation of an imperial edict formerly sufficed to make withered plants put forth flowers and fruit, and to exact obedience from birds on the wing. Here is something that happened in the not too distant past. During a visit to the Shinzen'en Garden, Emperor Daigo told a Chamberlain of the Sixth Rank to fetch a heron he had seen standing by the lakeside. Although the Chamberlain had no notion of how to capture the bird, he walked toward it as commanded. The heron poised its wings for flight. "By imperial command!" the Chamberlain said. The heron crouched low without attempting to escape, and the Chamberlain picked it up and took it to the Emperor. "You are greatly to be commended for coming here as directed," the Emperor said to it. "I decree that you be given Fifth Rank forthwith." He wrote out a notice, "This bird is to be King of the Herons from now on." Then he attached it to the creature's neck and released it. He did not have any use for a heron; he had simply wanted to test the extent of an Emperor's power.