A History of Japan: From Mythology to Nationhood/Print Version

Japanese History

From Mythology to Nationhood

The current, editable version of this book is available in Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection, at http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Japanese_History

Permission is granted to copy, distribute, and/or modify this document under the terms of the Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.


Table of Contents

  1. Introduction  
  2. Prehistory through the Jomon Period 
  3. The Yayoi Period 
  4. The Kofun or Yamato Period 
  5. The Asuka Period 
  6. The Nara Period 
  7. The Spread of Buddhism in Japan 
  8. The Early Heian Period 
  9. The Middle Heian Period 
  10. The Late Heian Period 
  11. The Kamakura Period 
  12. The Kemmu Restoration 
  13. The Nanboku-chō Period 
  14. The Muromachi Period 
  15. The Warring States Period 
  16. The Azuchi–Momoyama Period 
  17. The Edo Period 
  18. The Meiji Restoration 
  19. The Meiji Period 
  20. The Taisho Period 
  21. The Rise of Militarism 
  22. World War II 
  23. The American Occupation of Japan 
  24. Post-War Japan 
  25. Japan Today 
Further Reading 


Introduction to Japanese History: Geography

A satellite image of Japan

Japan today is a modern democracy and economy comparable to the European and American model of politico-economics. A wealthy nation of more than 100 million people that is extensively involved in world wide commerce, it is now common to see Japanese tourists throughout the world and Japan itself now features as a popular destination for Western tourists. Japanese products from high-tech companies like Sony are to be found all over the world and have played their part in enriching society and culture – one only has to think of the once ubiquitous Walkman of the 1980s. This has not always been the case and throughout most of its history Japan practised an "isolationist" policy that allowed trade and contact with foreigners but restricted their movement and influence to small enclaves on the coast.

Japan is located on an archipelago of mountainous, volcanic islands in the northwestern corner of the Pacific Ocean. Before the Spanish began sending ships between Mexico and the Philippines late in the 16th century there was almost no naval activity in the Pacific ocean that had the capacity to disturb Japan in any way. To the Japanese, the Pacific was a boundary of their world, not a route to somewhere else. They never had to give any thought to what might be on the other sides.

To the south, there is an almost continuous chain of islands extending from Tanegashima, just off the southern end of Kyushu, down through and beyond the Ryukyu Islands all the way to Taiwan. There is no doubt that there has been movement of people up and down this chain and the people of the Ryukyu's have spoken a dialect of Japanese for a long time. However, the islands are simply too small to have ever become important. The Ryukyu Islands long had no official contact with Japan, but dealt rather with China for several centuries. They were taken under Japanese control in the 17th century to make sure that they did not fall into the hands of the Spanish or Portuguese, but were not incorporated into the Japanese state at that time, being a private possession of the Daimyo of Satsuma.

To the north, Japan was bounded by the large island of Hokkaido. This also was never considered a part of Japan before the Russians appeared on the scene and the Japanese took steps to establish a presence there in order to keep them out. The native peoples of Hokkaido were neither numerous enough nor technologically advanced enough to cause the Japanese any concern.

Japanese trade during its early history was mainly with Korea and China. The Japanese islands are laid out in such a way that from the Chinese point of view they are largely hidden behind Korea. It is about 500 miles across the East China Sea from Shanghai to Nagasaki. In early days that was an extremely dangerous voyage (shipbuilding technology being primitive) and communication was usually by way of Korea and the Shantung Peninsula, reducing the longest water crossing to 200 miles or so. Korea was a nervous country, being relatively small and living next to dangerous neighbors in China and Manchuria, and through much of its history it discouraged active contact. This policy applied to Japan as well. The periods of time during which Japan and Korea officially ignored each other are significantly longer than the ones during which they had frequent contact. Fishermen and others crossed all the time, of course, but without noticeable impact on higher culture.

All of this makes Japan an unusual place. It really is different from any other place, even Korea and China, in architecture, clothing styles, food, literature, music and dance, social customs, weapons and armor, political habits, and religion. Despite modern business suits and McDonalds, it remains different today, as anyone who spends significant time there will quickly discover.

About 75% of Japan is heavily forested mountain land that is thinly populated. Almost everyone lives in a restricted number of relatively flat lands close to the coast, all of which are separated from each other by mountains, which descend toward the sea in many places. Land transportation has always been difficult and until railroad lines began to be constructed, wheeled transport was not commonly used. Bulky goods were transported along the coast by boat or by foot. Generally, only soldiers rode horses. There were only a few places near cities where there were bridges over rivers. People waded shallow streams and ferried across deep rivers.

There are three main islands and a large number of small ones. One ancient name for the country was "the 88 islands". The biggest island is Honshu (which means mainland), the next in size is Kyushu (which means 9 provinces), and the third is Shikoku (which means 4 provinces).

When the country was first politically unified, the government laid out a series of routes (it would be a stretch to call them roads) which, because of the mountainous terrain, established natural regions. It is good to become familiar with these because you will see these names all of the time. The Inland Sea (between Honshu and Shikoku) side of Honshu was called the Sanyodo (route on the sunny side of the mountains) and the Japan Sea route on the other side of Honshu was the Sanindo (the shady side). The mountains between these are particularly rough, so these really are almost different worlds. Honshu north and east of the ancient capital area (modern Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara) is wider, and so there were three routes, one on the Japan Sea coast, Hokurikudo (northern route), and two on the Pacific Ocean side of the main mountains, the Tokaido (eastern ocean route) and the Tosando (eastern mountain route), which meet each other north of Mt Fuji and near modern Tokyo. Other terms that are widely used are Tohoku (meaning northeast) for the far northeastern part of the country, Kanto (east of the barrier) for the large plain surrounding modern Tokyo, Kansai (west of the barrier) for the capital area, which is also called Kinai (inner region) or Kinki (nearby region). The area between the Kanto and the Kansai is often called Chubu (middle part).

Administrative Units

There are three different schemes for dividing Japan into administrative units. In the late 7th and early 8th centuries, the government set up a system that created 66 provinces. A province was given a local government structure that included a governor who was assigned by the capital. Even after that system collapsed, the feudal regimes of the medieval period continued to use the province as a convenient geographical descriptor, and the system was not formally abolished until the 19th century. Then the government established a new system with different units known as prefectures. There are 47 prefectures, and their names and boundaries are unrelated to the former province system.

In between, the Tokugawa Shogunate had its own system which was entirely different. It is hard to describe briefly because it was constantly changing with the ebb and flow of politics. The government directly ruled about 1/3 of the country, including all of the big cities. There was no formal division of this area into units. The rest of the country was assigned to quasi-feudal vassals as privately held domains (called han). The larger han were directly administered by their owners who collected their own taxes and maintained their own military forces. The smaller han were run by the central government and the owner was entitled to a fixed annual revenue paid out of the government treasury. The biggest han were all located on the periphery of the country and might be as big as a prefecture.

The government liked to keep the vassals who had han nervous and obedient. Han were constantly being resized. New han were abolished and established over the years. Han lords (daimyo) were frequently forced to give up one han and move to another on the other side of the country. It is therefore difficult to create a map of han. It would require a large book of maps to show all of the changes in the system.

There are good articles in Wikipedia on The Provinces of Japan and The Prefectures of Japan. There is also a List of Han that is self-described as incomplete. However, it includes the major ones. I strongly recommend that anyone who is interested in historical topics should buy a modern tourist guidebook to Japan as a source of good maps and geographical information, although everything will be shown and described in terms of the modern prefectures. A large proportion of the tourist highlights are things that have survived from earlier historical periods and these will be described and pictured.

There is also a list of Prefectures on the page "Japan Today".


In the 19th century a system was devised for rendering Japanese syllabic script into our alphabet by a missionary named Hepburn. This became widely used and you will find it in many older books. There is a description in Wikipedia under Hepburn Romanization. It was replaced almost universally in the English speaking world by a new system that makes it particularly easy for English speaking people to pronounce Japanese, at the cost of leaving certain things out. This is confusingly called the "Modified Hepburn System," though it is very different from the original. I believe that it was mainly created by E.O. Reischauer, historian and once the US ambassador to Japan. There is a nearly identical system, which was officially adopted by the Japanese government. However, the Japanese do not romanize Japanese often, roman letters (romaji in Japanese) being normally used only for foreign words and phrases, so you will see the American "modified Hepburn" system most frequently.

All of the sounds in Japanese that are also in English and the spelling is regular. All consonants are the same. The letter "i" is pronounced as it would be in Italian or Spanish, which is to say like the "e" in me. The "e" is pronounced as in merry. The sound we mostly use "i" for is spelled "ai" in Japanese. The letter "o" is always the "o" in row (a boat), and the "u" is always like shoe. The letter "a" by itself is as in father.

If you listen to Japanese pronunciation, you will hear same vowels pronounced two different ways. One variant is short or quick, and the other the sound is held much longer. Tokyo sounds more like To-o-kyo-o. Technically, one is supposed to indicate this by using a macron to produce "ō" and "ū" when they are lengthened, but this causes so much trouble in practice, that it is almost never done. The official Japanese system uses the circumflex accent ^ instead of the macron. That is about the only thing that is different.

For those who know Japanese, it is relatively easy to know when to use long and when to use short vowels. That is because this issue came into the language with the adoption of many Chinese loanwords. There are a lot more sounds in Chinese than in Japanese. The word that the Japanese represent as "chu" with a long "uu," for example, is pronounced as "jung" in modern Chinese. The Japanese could not handle the "ng" sound and the long "u" is the result. The Japanese actually spell this out in their syllabary, writing the equivalent of "Toukyou" or "chuu". The original Hepburn notation captured this distinction. This article is only referring to systems intended for English speakers. There are many others in the world and they are designed with the spelling conventions of a different language in mind.


In Chapter 9 of the first volume of the Cambridge History of Japan Edwin Cranston observes that the modern Japanese have what is probably the most complicated writing system in the world. Fortunately, it is not really necessary to know anything about it in order to explore Japanese history. There is an article on it in Wikipedia, and a wikibook (for learners) at Japanese.

The main complicating factor is that in nearly all cases Chinese characters are used for the very large number of Chinese loan words in Japanese. These are pronounced according to Japanese renderings of the original Chinese. Nearly every character also has one or more additional readings which are native Japanese words, and characters are routinely used in normal writing with these readings also.

Since Japanese is an inflected language (one in which words are changed to reflect differences in grammatical usage) and Chinese characters don't inflect, an inflected word is written using a Chinese character to establish the main meaning and then the inflected ending is spelled out using Japanese-developed characters that represent one of 51 different syllables. There are two independent versions of this "syllabary", one with "curvy" characters (hiragana) and one with angular ones (katakana). The first is used most commonly, these days, with the second used in ways similar to the ways we use bold-face or italic characters, or for spelling foreign words. Both can therefore be used in the same block of text. Often foreign words are converted to sounds that the Japanese can say and are spelled out using katakana, but it is also not uncommon to simply plug in the original roman letters. One block of text can therefore use four different writing systems. Complicated indeed, you don't need to know this but it is good to understand the difficulties the translator faces.


Both Korea and Japan adopted the Chinese calendar system and retained it until they switched to the western system in recent times. The Chinese system was a complex one that was a mixture of lunar and solar elements. There are good articles on this in Wikipedia, including details of both the Chinese and Japanese variants. The everyday calendar was a lunar one which would inevitably fall out of synchronization with the solar calendar. This was handled by making adjustments on the same general principle as our "leap year". An extra month was added whenever necessary to prevent new year's day from deviating too much from its "home position" in the solar calendar. This is because the lunar month was set at 30 days, which means 360 days to the year. An extra month was not added every year, and the rules for deciding when to do it are the main difference between the Chinese and Japanese versions of the system. Most people will be aware that the Chinese lunar new year occurs later than our modern new year, and that it occurs on different dates from year to year.

There are names for the months in Japanese but they are not used in official documents, even today. It is simply first month, second month, and so on. It is possible to convert dates from the lunar calendar to the modern calendar, but it would be a lot of trouble and no one bothers. If you see a date in historical writing that says 15th day of the 3rd month, it will be a lunar calendar date and it will probably not fall in March. After the Japanese changed to the modern calendar, authors will usually write March 15th (though the Japanese still say 3rd month).

The exact date is not really so important unless you want to organize a celebration of the thousandth anniversary of some famous event. A more serious matter for the reader of history is counting years. The Romans dated everything by the names of the two consuls for the year. You would need to have a complete list (one was on display in the Forum) in order to arrange things in their proper order. The Chinese were not quite as bad, but almost. They very early developed the custom of proclaiming an auspicious "reign title," something like "perfect harmony" and then dating things in terms of that. If "perfect harmony" then suffered some catastrophe, like a dangerous rebellion, the court might very well decide to change its luck by coming up with a new name. This could happen at any time during the year. So, the 14th day of the 5th month of the 6th year of "perfect harmony" could be followed by the 15th day of the 5th month of the first year of "glorious dawn." Later on, the historians would clean things up by retroactively using "glorious dawn" for the whole year, but the government offices would still be full of files containing documents with the now imaginary 6th year of "perfect harmony" written all over them. And, as in the Roman case, you need to have a list of all the reign names to keep track. This system was started by the Han dynasty in 163 BC.

Every dynasty used its own titles (often recycling names already used one or more times). Taking only important dynasties, there are just under 400 of them. Initially the Korean kingdoms simply used the Chinese titles, but they soon enough started inventing their own, as did the Japanese. This is where the January problem comes in. In Japan the first year of Kansei "lenient government" corresponds approximately to 1789. If I write Kansei first year, first month, first day, that is a purely Japanese date. If I try to make things clearer by saying 1789, first month, first day, you might now be thinking something very different. What I will do in my essays is use 1789 most of the time because it should not be necessary for a reader to have a list of all of the year names. However, this will be a lunar date and the first day of the year would not be January first, but sometime in the spring. If I should have some reason to use more precise dates, then I will say Kansei 1 (1789). Should it ever come up, there is a program on the Web called "nengocalc". "Nengo" is the name for a reign title. Nengocalc permits you to reliably convert back and forth from traditional dates to modern dates. The Japanese still use reign titles, by the way, but they now follow the convention started by the Chinese in the Ming dynasty where each emperor uses only one. If I have counted correctly the official Japanese total is now 247, including a period in the 14th century when there were rival emperors using different titles simultaneously. There were also "unofficial" titles used at various times in the past. The reign title associated with the current emperor is Heisei. Heisei 1 was 1989. After his death the emperor will be known as "the Heisei Emperor." The reigning emperor is always referred to as Tenno Heika, "his majesty the emperor." Only foreigners would ever call him Emperor Akihito.


Japanese, Korean, and Chinese names are always written family name first. Writers in English frequently reverse them, but this opens the way to confusion and I prefer to keep the proper order at all times. Mao is the family name and Tse-tung the personal name.

In China the Ch'in dynasty began a convention that continued down to the end of the dynastic system whereby an emperor was given a reign name that had no relation to the name he had borne previously to his enthronement. This name was usually awarded only after his death, and it was often descriptive. For example, the most militaristic of the Han emperors is named Han Wu-ti, meaning "the martial emperor of the Han dynasty." A milder mannered Han emperor was Wen-ti, the scholarly or cultured emperor. For the Ming and Ch'ing dynasties the emperor's posthumous name was the same as the reign title used when he was alive. That has also become the rule in Japan but applies only to the last four emperors, the Meiji Emperor, the Taisho Emperor, the Showa Emperor, and the reigning Heisei Emperor.

Prior to that each emperor was given a posthumous name separately from the system of reign titles. This custom was started late in the 8th century but all earlier emperors were given reign names at that point and historians routinely use them because they are short and simple and at no time is it considered proper to identify the living emperor by using his ordinary name.

Chapter 01 - Prehistory through the Jomon Period

An Overview of the Jōmon Period

The very long—approximately 14,000 years—Jōmon period is conventionally divided into a number of phases: Incipient (16,500-10,000 years ago), Initial (10,000-7000), Early (7000-5,450), Middle 5,450-4,420), Late (4,420-3,220) and Final (3,220-2,350), with the phases getting progressively shorter. The fact that this entire period is given the same name by archaeologists should not be taken to mean that there was not considerable regional and temporal diversity; the chronological distance between the earliest Jōmon pottery and that of the more well-known Middle Jōmon period is about twice as long as the span separating the building of the Great Pyramid of Giza from the 21st century.

There were definitely modern humans, Homo sapiens, in Japan during the latter parts of the Pleistocene period, the great ice ages. Japan was connected to the mainland at several periods during that era, both to the southern end of Korea and to Siberia, and the animal and plant and human populations seem to have been identical to those in the adjacent parts of the mainland. The sea levels were very much lower than in our age (hundreds of feet lower) and it is likely that most human remains in this area are under deep water.

When the islands were disconnected from Asia for the final time things inevitably changed. The megafauna (elephants, tigers, and giant deer) died out, the plant life began to change radically, and the sea levels rose rapidly. The people trapped on the islands had to change their way of life. Similar things happened almost everywhere in the temperate zones of the world. In Europe the change is often identified as a transition from paleolithic to mesolithic, from a life hunting large animals that roamed in large herds on open lands, to a life hunting smaller animals that lived alone or in small groups hidden in thick forests. In Japan, this is the transition to Jomon. The name "mesolithic" is not used in Japan, because in Europe it refers to particular types of stone tools that do not occur in Japan. The name Jomon is a translation to Japanese of the English term "cord marked" which was applied to describe the general appearance of Jomon pottery by its original (American) discoverer.

Jomon Culture

Early Jōmon Pottery.

The Jomon culture is old. The oldest radiocarbon dates are presently about 10,000 BC and older, undated, sites are known. When this was realized in the 1950s there was considerable excitement, because even the earliest Jomon sites show the use of pottery. These discoveries remain the oldest pottery samples known on Earth. The initial discoveries were of a relatively late phase (2500 BC or so) when the Jomon people were living in villages and making art pottery as well as useful items, and because of the pottery and the nature of the stone tools that were being made, it was first announced that the Jomon culture was "neolithic". However, in the world at large neolithic usually is taken to refer to agricultural societies, and the Jomon people were not farmers. They were among a quite small number of pre-agricultural peoples who lived in an environment that was rich enough that people could settle in permanent villages without farming. As a result, Japanese archaeologists prefer to avoid the use of the term neolithic and simply use Jomon.

Jomon culture lasted for a long time, isolated on the Japanese islands. Books in English will tell you that the transition to the subsequent Yayoi culture occurred sometime around 400 or 300 BC. The actual date is more like 1000 or 900 BC (a very recent discovery discussed later). From the Jomon perspective this is an insignificant change. This was a culture that lasted for about 10,000 years. During that time the ecology of the Japanese islands was constantly changing and the Jomon people had to change with it. At any particular time there was only a relatively small portion of the country that could support a population dense enough for villages, and in different periods this portion was not always in the same place. This extremely long life tells us that conditions in Japan were not good for the independent development of farming. The forests were heavy and there were no native edible plants with revolutionary potential. The most important single plant food source throughout Jomon was nuts gathered in the forests.

The richest phase of all was "Middle Jomon" between roughly 3000 BC and 2000 BC. The total population has been estimated (based on counting house sites) at from 50,000 to 100,000 people, the overwhelming majority of whom were concentrated in eastern Japan in modern Tokyo and regions extending westward into nearby hills where hunting appears to have been particularly successful, mainly for Japanese "shika" deer and wild pigs. Shell mounds are common, and fishing, including deep sea fishing, was important.

Late Jomon Period

After 2000 BC the climate changed considerably (getting colder) which affected the makeup of the trees of the forest, ending the Middle Jomon. The population crashed and moved to new areas in the Late Jomon. Many different kinds of nuts were relied upon at different times as the climate varied. Some types of nuts are "ready to eat" and others require processing to remove tannins, and this greatly affected the density of the population at different times. The east now lost easy to handle acorns and had to shift to difficult to handle horse chestnuts. A coastal area northeast of Tokyo received a culture which clearly continued the traditions of middle Jomon. It is this culture that provides the most spectacular Jomon pottery, the "Kamegaoka style", and other art, justifiably popular in museums. A significantly different culture emerged in Kyushu with a quite different kind of pottery, a plain, black ware. This culture has attracted a great deal of attention because many archaeologists see signs of incipient agriculture, though it definitely continued to rely on gathered wild nuts as the primary source of plant food. The total population was quite small. I have seen estimates of 5,000 or 6,000 people for Kyushu, with maybe twice as many in the northeast. Large parts of Kyushu are covered by volcanic rocks and cannot support the density of forests that existed elsewhere and this restricted the population.

From Jomon to Yayoi Culture

The transition from Jomon to Yayoi occurred in northern Kyushu. The Yayoi culture (named after a neighborhood in Tokyo where the first remains were recognized) was made up of rice farmers using an already mature technology involving irrigation. By the end of the period they were making bronze objects of sufficient quality that it is possible to argue about whether certain ones were made in Japan or China, and also iron tools and weapons. The biggest topic of discussion is whether the Jomon people acquired these new technologies (from Korea) and converted themselves into Yayoi people, or whether the Yayoi people were immigrants. I will explore the arguments, but it is pretty certain that the Yayoi people were immigrants. The Jomon population of Kyushu was very small and the early Yayoi population was comparatively large. There is evidence that Yayoi practices spread rapidly eastward as far as the area of modern Nagoya, where there was a pause. Its spread from there to the northeast appears to have been accomplished in large part by converting Jomon people to the new way of life. The pottery of the early Yayoi culture in the northeast shows characteristic Jomon decorative elements that are completely unknown in the west.

Probably the most important fact in this context is that there was a widespread culture in southern Korea, known as "Mumun", after its characteristic pottery, that was extremely similar to Yayoi, so much so that in the early period it is sometimes very difficult to tell them apart. This has become much better known in recent years as South Korea is now rich enough to spend significant money on archaeology, and it is pretty clear that the arrival of Yayoi in Japan was the result of immigration of people from Mumun Korea. It was formerly thought that the two were about the same age so that both might have arrived together from somewhere on the Chinese coast (though no one could suggest where), but it is now clear that Mumun is significantly older than Yayoi.

Further Reading

The above is not intended to attempt a real description of Jomon culture or trace its evolution through multiple phases. For a good, not excessively long, treatment in English the following is recommended:

Imamura Keiji 1996, Prehistoric Japan: new perspectives on insular East Asia (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press)

This book also covers Yayoi and the beginnings of the following Kofun period. It was written before the recent revolution in dating referred to above, for which you must look in the chapter on the Yayoi period.

Chapter 02 - The Yayoi Period

The Origins and General Development of the Yayoi Culture

When considering the Late Jomon period the first thing that leaps to my attention is the fact that the two main centers in the Tohoku and in Kyushu were radically different in important ways. The Tohoku culture continued the general Jomon tendency to ever more complicated pottery styles, whereas the Kyushu culture gradually eliminated nearly all ornament, ending up with simple black burnished wares. The large zone between them was thinly inhabited so far as house sites are concerned, and one must think that they had scarcely any contact with each other.

Also, the Tohoku culture continued a general multi-faceted type of subsistence culture, with emphasis on both hunting and fishing plus the gathering and preservation of horse chestnuts. In Kyushu there was some fishing along the northern coast, but the culture seems to have focused on exploiting plant food sources to the maximum extent possible, so much so that many archaeologists feel that they were verging upon agriculture, or what is sometimes called horticulture, meaning the cultivation of things like legumes rather than grain crops. However, it has to be noted that lately some sites that were formerly called "Final Jomon" have been reclassified as "Early Yayoi," taking with them much of the evidence (like a couple of rice grains stuck to a pot) for incipient agriculture.

It certainly seems fair to speculate that the people in Kyushu were now in contact with whoever lived in Korea at the time and had become a separate culture that should no longer be considered typically Jomon. I don't know of any archaeologist who has gone quite that far.


The main plant food source was a type of warm climate acorn that was not available elsewhere in Japan at the time. These were preserved in pits dug into bogs so that the acorns were under water. This doesn't sound promising, but it apparently works very well. In 1975 an acorn was germinated that had been preserved this way for over 3000 years. According to Imamura Keiji this technique goes back all the way to early Jomon in Kyushu and continued to be used into historical times.

Dates of the Yayoi Period

Now we have to look at the revolution in dates. Every book that I know of in English is based on a scheme of dating which was challenged in 2003 and is now considered to be completely overthrown. This happened because of the introduction of a new method of dating based on carbon isotope ratios. Radiocarbon dating became important in the study of prehistory starting in 1948, but the method used was based on relatively crude measurements by recording radioactive decay using essentially a Geiger counter. This required a large sample of material which is often difficult to find, especially given that the sample of biological material must be securely tied to the overall date of the archaeological site, which is often not easy to do. The new technique is called "accelerator mass spectrometry" or AMS and it is based on actually counting individual atoms of carbon. The sample required is small. In the case of Jomon and Yayoi period sites in Japan, the most common source of a sample for AMS testing is soot adhering to the surface of a pot. This is securely tied to the age of the pot, unlike a pile of charcoal that might be found somewhere in the deposits and could easily be an intrusion from some different time.

It was formerly believed that the transition from Jomon to Yayoi occurred in about 300 BC or 400 BC. My understanding is that this determination was purely an estimate based on the fact that stylistically Yayoi could be broken into three main phases, the last two of which can be dated reasonably accurately because of objects imported from China or Korea. On the assumption that each of the three phases lasted approximately the same amount of time, you get the presumed starting date of about 300 or 400 BC. Then, in 1955 a piece of iron that looked like it might be part of an ax turned up in a shell mound in Kyushu. The excavator assigned it "early" Yayoi. In 1981 a second iron object was discovered, this time at the site of Magarita on the north Kyushu coast. This was a complete iron ax which had evidently been made in China in the "Warring States" period, roughly 300 or 400 BC. Magarita has a layer that has been considered one of the oldest Yayoi sites. This certainly supported the dating of the start of Yayoi because of the fact that the smelting of iron was only discovered in China around 600 BC and spread slowly enough that it was not until about 300 BC that stone tools disappeared there. 400 BC would be about the earliest possible date for a Chinese iron ax to appear in Japan.

In 2003 it was announced at an academic conference in Japan that recently conducted AMS dates for late Jomon and early Yayoi sites showed that the transition occurred in approximately 1000 BC, hundreds of years earlier than previously believed, and also hundreds of years before the beginning of iron casting in China. It is easy to imagine how this would have started a big fight, as a great many archaeologists considered that such a date had to be impossible. There must be something wrong with the AMS dating method.

All radiocarbon dates require "calibration" due to the fact that the mix of the two isotopes of carbon in the atmosphere changes over time. Calibration tables were put together years ago for the original technique (which forced a lot of redating and big fights in European archaeology a few decades ago), and when AMS appeared people immediately went to work to calibrate it. This was relatively easy to do because there now exist well worked out sequences of tree ring dates in many places. A selection of wood samples of known age were run through the AMS process leading directly to a calibration table. This was completed in 1998. It was done on the basis of European and North American wood, however, and many people argued that there must be something different about Japan. However, as time has passed it has become clear that there is nothing different about Japan. Chinese scholars performed their own evaluation of the technique by using it to date the tombs of the successive kings of the Western Chou dynasty, the dates of whose deaths are accurately known. The results matched perfectly.

There is one problem with the method for archeology. The calibration required for the period from 400 BC to 750 BC is such that dates in this period are ambiguous, meaning that you can say that a sample comes "between 400 BC and 750 BC" but nothing more. This is called (in Japan anyway) the 2400 year problem because it kicks in 2400 years ago.

In 2004 an archaeologist named Harunori Hideji who had originally opposed the new dates decided that it was necessary to go back and reexamine the two announced finds of early Yayoi iron. It is noteworthy that in the hundred years of study of Yayoi culture there were actually only two cases of "early Yayoi" iron. He went back to the original site reports and was able to demonstrate that the attributions to the early period were shaky at best. Since then there have been more than 1600 AMS measurements of late Jomon and early Yayoi sites and the results are clear. The earliest Yayoi sites are now dated to 900 BC and the arrival of iron in Japan is still put at about 400 BC.

There are quite a lot of books and articles on this in Japanese. The most useful to me have been [弥生時代の実年代] The Actual Dates of the Yayoi Period edited by Imamura Mineo and Harunari Hideji, Tokyo 2004 and [新弥生時代のはじまり] The Revised Beginning of the Yayoi Period 3 volumes edited by Nishimoto Toyohiro, Tokyo 2006.

Yayoi Agriculture

Imamura Keiji mentions claims of Jomon farming as far back as 3500 BC for beans, perilla, gourd, rape, burdock, and hemp, with rice and barley coming in around 1000 BC, which he takes to be the end of Late Jomon and the beginning of Final Jomon. However, he notes that few if any archaeologists argue that this can be counted as "agriculture" because whatever gardening was done did not increase the food supply sufficiently to allow an increase of the population or the formation of more complex social structures. Imamura also notes that whatever was done did not inspire the creation of any new types of tools. All of the evidence that can be found can be just as easily interpreted as merely the intense exploitation of wild plants. The citations for rice and barley are associated with the appearance of one or two grains stuck to the side of a pot. There is no sign whatever of the technology associated with leveling and plowing fields, weeding them, irrigating them, harvesting them, or storing the resulting harvest. It is likely that small amounts of grain were brought back from Korea by fishermen or acquired from Yayoi pioneers.

Everyone agrees that rice farming, bronze technology, and iron technology were brought to Japan from the mainland. There is no trace in Jomon archeology of the early stages in the evolution of any of these technologies. The debate is over whether these technologies were brought in by immigrants or whether they were picked up by the Jomon people through cultural contacts with Korea. Every aspect of the Yayoi culture is different from Jomon culture. It is especially noteworthy that Jomon and Yayoi pots were assembled from raw clay in entirely different ways, their differences are not merely a matter of the style of decoration. Also, it is evident from burial practices the Yayoi people brought in a new religion. Jomon style ritual items are not used and entirely new types of ritual items appear. Above all is the fact that rice farming in irrigated paddies is a mature technology that evolved over a long period in China. In Japan it suddenly appeared in an advanced form.

Rice farming began in the Yangtze River area of China as early as 5000 BC, and was well developed by the time of the Yayoi people. Korean and Japanese rice farming mostly relies on a subspecies Oriza sativa japonica, which is the type of rice most suited to their cold (by rice standards) climates. This variety is not much grown in China in modern times, but was important in ancient times and is probably native to the Yangtze valley. It is almost certain that the rice farmed by the Yayoi people originated in China as opposed to some other place in tropical Asia, where the "japonica" variety is unknown. China had also been using bronze for a long time already when the Yayoi culture began in Japan. Before the AMS dates it was thought that the Yayoi people must have come from the Yangtze region during the "Warring States" period of great violence and turmoil as the Chinese empire was being assembled. However, now it appears that they left the mainland sometime during the Western Chou period, or, if they spent a couple of hundred years in Korea first, even the Shang period. This opens up many more possibilities, because in that time Chinese civilization was composed of city states that occupied restricted zones where the forests were lighter and could be easily turned into farmland using stone tools. These states were all surrounded by various types of "barbarians" who lived simpler lives in the thicker forest areas. Chinese civilization had not penetrated the Yangtze area at all this early. AMS dating also shows that the Mumun pottery culture of southern Korea, which was the Korean equivalent of Yayoi, began to move in as early as 1300 BC and was well established by 1000 BC. This makes it likely that the Yayoi arrived in Japan from Korea, as opposed to crossing directly from the mainland, and that it was in Korea that the details of farming rice in a new, colder, climate were worked out. Archaeologists had long noted that in Yayoi Japan "japonica" was the only type of rice grown, so that the selection down to just this one type must have occurred somewhere other than the Yangtze region. This timing also fits in with the period in which rice farming first reached the Shantung Peninsula of China. Shantung had always been a popular staging point except that with the old dates for Yayoi it was hard to explain why farming took so long to make the short jump to Korea and how it could happen with a non-Chinese people in an era when Shantung was thoroughly Chinese (the Warring States period). Now it seems much more natural. Shantung was barbarian territory during the Shang and early Chou periods.

Ethnicity of the Yayoi People

It is difficult to say anything about the ethnicity of the Yayoi people. Japanese and Korean are members of the Altaic group of languages, which firmly points to Manchuria, Mongolia, and Central Asia, not to China or southeast Asia. It would seem impossible that early rice farmers could have been Altaic speakers. The Chinese don't tell us anything useful about the language of the Wa (their name for the early Japanese). The only hint I have seen mentioned is a 3rd century AD book that says that the language of the Wa "sounds like the language of Wu." Wu was the name of a dynasty that ruled most of southern China between 222 and 277 AD, but the reference is probably to the ancient kingdom of Wu of the lower Yangtze River, which was considered by the Chinese to have been "barbarian" and which was destroyed in 473 BC. The later Chinese dynasty was named after the old kingdom (dynasties were routinely named after ancient kingdoms or earlier dynasties). However, we don't know anything about the language of ancient Wu, though it was most likely a Sino-Tibetan type language like Chinese, but also like Vietnamese, Lao, and many others, living and extinct.

The Spread of Yayoi Culture in Japan

There is no doubt at all that Yayoi first appeared on the north coast of Kyushu, where Japan is closest to Korea. There is no evidence at any time during the Yayoi period of iron mining in Japan. The Chinese more than once mention that there was an active business exporting iron ingots from Korea to Japan and there are finds of forges in Yayoi sites. There is ample evidence that the Yayoi Japanese made bronze items themselves because many molds have been found and there are many distinctively Japanese types of item. Even there, however, it appears that nearly all of the bronze metal was imported, either as ingots or as manufactured items that were melted down and reused. It is possible to tell exactly where bronze comes from because of isotope ratios in tin. Japanese, Korean, northern Chinese, and southern Chinese bronze are all different, and Yayoi bronzes are always made of Korean or Chinese material. In historical times making bronze items in Japan was always difficult because copper is rare in Japan. Every time a new copper deposit was found there was general rejoicing and an upsurge in bronze statuary.

The Yayoi culture soon replaced Jomon in most of Kyushu (there were probable Jomon survivals in south Kyushu and the island chains to the south) and spread rapidly eastward up the Inland Sea and also up the Japan Sea coast. Recall that during the Late Jomon much of this land was essentially uninhabited. There is good land for farming in the Kinai area and again in a large area around modern Nagoya. Expansion continued, though much more slowly, into the east and the northeast, even briefly extending rice farming further north than its northern limit in early historical times. It was originally thought that it took about 200 years to take over the entire area where rice farming was possible at the time, but with the new, early, dates, it may turn out that this process went a bit slower than that.

The earliest AMS dates in the Kanto and northeast are not spectacularly early, so far. North of that there remained for a time a late Jomon culture sometimes called Epi-Jomon that acquired iron objects from the Yayoi Japanese and learned to farm plants that would grow in the climate.

When the Japanese began to move into Hokkaido in a serious way in the 18th century it was mostly inhabited by a non-Japanese people called Ainu. When the Jomon archaeological culture was discovered there was immediate speculation that the Jomon people were Ainu. The ethnographic history of the north is complicated, but I believe that it is fair to say that most authorities now think that this is not true and that the Ainu entered the area from Siberia considerably later, though I think that there is not much agreement on which of the succession of archaeological cultures that existed marks their arrival. Imamura Keiji has a discussion of this in his book.

In early historical times the Japanese state dealt with "barbarians" from the northeast that they called Ebisu or Emeshi. There was much fighting before they were finally brought under the control of the Japanese state. At least one battle that occurred appears to have been with people that the locals reported to have only recently arrived by boat. It is probable that most Ebisu were merely Yayoi people who lived outside of the Japanese political structure of the Kofun peiod and early historical times. The early frontier was well within the rice growing zone so that the Jomon people had departed long before. There were "barbarians" in Kyushu also, known variously as Kumaso, Hayato, and Tsuchigumo. It is probable that these also were Yayoi people who resisted inclusion in the Japanese state structure of the Kofun period. Their strong point was not in the remote south, but in the original heartland of Yayoi culture in northern Kyushu.

The Beginning of Japanese History

The Chinese sent an army into southern Manchuria and northern Korea in 108 BC that destroyed a kingdom called Chao Hsien 朝鮮 by the Chinese or Choson by the Koreans that evidently had its capital in or near the modern city of Pyongyang. There are presumed archaeological remains from this kingdom in the form of elite tombs, all empty of anything interesting. This kingdom was situated north of the zone where the Mumun culture of rice farmers lived. Choson provides the normal Japanese name for Korea, Chosen, and Choson is the name used by the country we call North Korea.

A distinction is made between "Old Choson" and "Wiman Choson", due to the fact that, according to Chinese sources, a Chinese adventurer whose name becomes Wiman in Korean overthrew the king of Old Choson and established a dynasty about 100 years before the Han dynasty invasion of 108 BC.

The Han dynasty and its successors the Wei and Chin dynasties treated the conquered area as an integral part of the Chinese Empire. The Han originally set up four "chun" administrative units that presumably were spread along the coast from southern Manchuria down to Pyongyang or, possibly, the area of the South Korean capital of Seoul. The far north of Korea, the Japan Sea side of Korea, and Korea south of Seoul were not occupied. Rather soon after the conquest two of the districts were abandoned and not too long after that a third was suppressed as well. The surviving district was called Lo-lang and its capital was located on the other side of the Taedong river from modern Pyongyang. Japanese archaeologists excavated several elite tombs in the 1930s, finding high quality Chinese goods of all kinds. Before the recent explosion of archeology in China, these excavations were almost the only source for Han dynasty art.

It is assumed that there was no secure land connection to the small part of Manchuria controlled by China and that communication was by boat via the Shantung Peninsula. Lo-lang remained Chinese for over 400 years until its destruction in 313 AD (traditional date, disputed by some). The Han dynasty Chinese provide the first mention of the existence of a people they called Wa 倭 who were evidently Yayoi period Japanese. It is assumed that there is a close connection between Yayoi Japan and Mumun Korea. The contents of elite tombs on the two sides are almost indistinguishable, extending to the presence of Yayoi pottery in Korean tombs and Korean pottery in Japanese ones. However, the Chinese put the population of southern Korea into a different ethnic category called Han.

This is a potentially confusing name. In modern times we have the habit of referring to the main Chinese ethnic group as Han Chinese to distinguish them from the large number of different minority groups living in the Chinese political entity. The two are different words in Chinese, 漢 for Chinese (after the Han dynasty) and 韓 for south Koreans. Modern South Korea calls itself the Han Republic, and the word is also a common term for Korea in Japan (pronounced Kan in Japanese, as is the name of the Han dynasty. South Korea is Hanguo in Chinese, Hanguk in Korean and Kankoku in Japanese, but they are all the same words, just pronounced differently).

According to the Han dynasty Chinese the Wa were divided into many different "countries". They say 100 but this probably simply means "a lot" in this context. These Wa countries individually dealt with the Chinese authorities in Lo-lang. Twice during the Eastern Han period, in 57 AD and again in 107 AD, groups of Wa states sent a joint embassy to Lo-lang that was forwarded on to the Han capital of Loyang. The leading "country" in the embassy was called "Na" or "Nu". In 57 AD the "king" of Na was awarded a gold seal. In 1784 a seal exactly matching the description was found by a peasant at Hakata bay in northern Kyushu. It still survives. For a long time it was not known whether it was authentic or a forgery, but since then two similar seals have been found in good archaeological contexts in China, and it is clear that a) the Han were in the habit of handing these out to barbarian rulers, and b) a forger of 1784 could never have seen an authentic one to copy. There is a place called Nanotsu, which means "the port of Na," in the vicinity of the find, and it is believed that this is the location of the Yayoi country of Na.

The Eastern Han dynasty was overthrown by one of its generals in 220 AD. He proclaimed a new dynasty called Wei. He also lost control of southern China which spawned two rival dynasties. The period is known as the "three kingdoms." However, Wei retained control of the north including southern Manchuria and Lo-lang in Korea. There was a family based in Manchuria named Kung-sun who actually ran things until 236 when their leader made the mistake of proclaiming himself King of Yen (an ancient Chinese kingdom in the area). At some time between 196 and 220 Lo-lang had been abandoned and a new administrative capital had been established at T'ai-fang, which is thought to have been closer to modern Seoul, perhaps at Inchon, perhaps further north. The Wei sent in a large army that went as far as T'ai-fang and reestablished direct Chinese authority. This impressed the Wa and in 238 an embassy went to T'ai-fang and asked to be allowed to go to China, which was permitted. As a follow up the Chinese sent an official to visit the Wa ruler and bring some promised presents in 240, and a second Chinese embassy went to the Wa some time soon after 257. There was a final Wa embassy to China in 269 (by which time the Wei had been overthrown by a general who proclaimed the Chin dynasty and temporarily reunified China). The official history of the Wei, which was written during the Chin period and completed sometime before 297, when its author is known to have died, includes a lengthy account of all of this. It is the first detailed historical information about Japan.

The article about the Wa includes transcriptions into Chinese of many place names and official titles and a few personal names. All of these would have been based on how Chinese was pronounced at that time. A lot of people have studied this, mainly by analyzing poetry, for Chinese poetry at the time used rhymes, which gives clues as to how words were pronounced. However, the Japanese do not ordinarily worry about this. They base their transcriptions on Chinese as it is pronounced by modern Japanese. It is well to not get carried away by resemblances between these transcriptions and modern Japanese words and names. First, given a choice of pronunciations most scholars select the one that best suits their theories, and second, we know that the Japanese have had copies of this Chinese book since early times. It is quoted by name in Nihon Shoki, published in 720 AD. That means that names in the Chinese account could have influenced names used in ancient Japan.

There is a complete translation into English in Japan in the Chinese dynastic histories by Tsunoda Ryusaku and L. C. Goodrich (1951). This was never a best-seller, shall we say, and has been out of print for ages, so it might be hard to find. Since the Mickey Mouse Protection Act guarantees that no work published since 1923 can ever go into the public domain unless its publisher specifically puts it there, I assume that I cannot legally copy it. So, I have written my own translation from the Chinese original with the aid of several translations into Japanese, my Chinese not being good enough to do it without some help.

There are a few comments to make before I begin. There is an active controversy about the location of places named in the text, and at one point the Chinese is ambiguous enough grammatically that it becomes necessary to make a decision as to exactly how to translate it (into Japanese or English), and the choice permits one to support one theory or the other. I have chosen one rendering, but because this is an important issue, when the spot comes up I will include a note explaining what is at stake. Also, it will become immediately obvious that there is something wrong with the distances cited. I will ignore that until after the translation is completed. Finally, I have corrected the text in three places. The oldest surviving Chinese text comes from printed editions that are several hundred years later than the original, and there may well be other mistakes that we cannot recover. The three in question, however, represent a modern consensus. Two are minor, but the third is important. The leading Wa state in the text is customarily rendered as Yamatai in both English and Japanese. In Japanese this is written 邪馬台. The character 台 is actually a modern Japanese simplification of 臺. However, the Chinese source actually used a different character, 壹. If you are not familiar with Chinese characters you may have to look closely to see the difference. However, if this were not changed, the correct pronunciation would be Yamai or even Yamachi or Yamaichi. Later Chinese books that quote this material all use the "tai" character. The explanation is supposed to be that during the Wei dynasty the "tai" character was reserved for use in imperial proclamations and ordinary subjects were not permitted to use it. The author of the text had the choice of finding another character that was pronounced the same or another character that looked as much as possible like the original character. Chinese authors normally preferred to do the latter in such cases, ignoring the dictionary meaning and pronunciation of the replacement character. However, it is just as possible that the printer of the oldest version made a mistake. This is important because Yamatai sounds much like Yamato, which is one of the ancient Japanese names for Japan. Many Japanese scholars would say that Yamatai ought to be replaced by Yamato, but everyone has agreed to keep Yamatai so that it is clear that we are referring to the 3rd century version and not the later one.

The Text of the "Account of the Wa"

The Wa people live in the middle of the great ocean southeast of the prefecture. They live on mountainous islands divided into countries and districts. Formerly there were about 100 countries. In the time of the Han dynasty they came to the court a few times. These days about 30 countries have diplomatic relations with us.

To get to Wa from the prefecture, one follows the coast by sea. Passing by the Han countries, go south first and then east to arrive at 狗邪韓国 which is its northern coast. The distance is about 7,000 ‘li’.

This line is much argued about. What, exactly, does "its northern coast" mean? Some say that the country 狗邪韓国 is the most northern outpost of Wa, others that it is the last Han country north of Wa. The latter is almost certainly correct. The country name includes the character for Han meaning ethnic south Korean, 韓, and it does not appear on the list of 30 countries belonging to "the female king" provided below. "Kuya" also appears in the article in the same history about the Han people with no hint that it is a Wa country. It is the only country name that includes the character meaning country, 国, so there is also argument about how this should be read. I interpret it to mean "the Han country of Kuya". I believe that everyone agrees that it was located at the mouth of the Naktong River just west of modern Pusan.

Cross the ocean for the first time for 1000 li to reach the country of Tsuma 対馬. Its highest official is called ‘hiku’ 卑狗, and his assistant is called ‘hinumori’ 卑奴母離. This place is an isolated island of only 400 square li. It is mountainous and thickly forested and its roads are like the trails of wild animals. There are 1000 households. There is no good farmland and the people eat seafood. They go in boats to the north and the south to trade for grain.

From there continue south across the ocean for 1000 li. This is called ‘The Wide Sea’. You reach Iki. Its official is also called hiku and the assistant hinumori. The area is only 300 li square and it is thickly forested with trees and bamboo. There are about 3,000 households. There is farmland and it is farmed but cannot produce enough to feed the population, so they also trade north and south for grain.

Again cross the sea for 1000 li to reach Matsuro 末盧. It has 4,000 households. It is a narrow shore between mountain and sea. The forest is so thick you cannot see a person walking in front of you. They like to eat fish and abalone. The water is shallow, and they gather them by diving.

Travel southeast overland for 500 li to reach Ito (or Izu) 伊都. Its official is called niki爾支 and his assistants are semmoku 泄謨觚 and hekkuho 柄渠觚. It has 1000 households. Formerly it had a king [or these countries had kings] but now all belong to the 'female king' country. When ambassadors come and go they always stop here.

To the southeast it is 100 li to Na (or Nu) 奴. Its official is called ‘shimako’ 兕馬觚 and his assistant ‘hinumori’. It has 20,000 households.

East, it is 100 li to Fumi不弥. Its official is called ‘tamo’ 多模 and his assistant ‘hinumori’. It has 1,000 households.

Here is where the description becomes tricky. Up to this point all movements say "next move east" or "again cross the sea" but now this is replaced by "to the east is". If you want to support the proposition that Yamatai was in Kyushu, you emphasize this change and if you want to support the proposition that Yamatai was in central Honshu you suppress it and pretend nothing has changed. That is, the Kyushu theory says that Fumi is 100 li east of Ito and the distances to Toma and Yamatai are also measured from Ito, whereas the Yamato theory says that Fumi is 100 li from Na, Toma is 20 days from Fumi and Yamatai is 10 days from Toma.

South, to get to the country of Toma投馬 is 20 days by sea. Its official is called ‘mimi’ 弥弥 and his assistant ‘miminari’ 弥弥那利. There are 50,000 households.

South, to the country of Yamatai 邪馬台, which is the residence of the female king, is 10 days by water or 1 month overland. Its chief officer is called ‘ikima’ 伊支馬, next is ‘mimasho’ 弥馬升, next there is ‘mimagushi’ 弥 馬獲支, and then there is ‘nakato’ 奴佳革. There are at least 70,000 households.

For the area to the north of the king's country, it was possible to obtain a reasonably good estimate of the population and the routes. As the other countries are far away it is not possible to say much about them. There is first Shima 斯馬, then Ipokki 已百支, then Iza 伊邪, then Tsuki 都支, then Minu 弥奴, then Kaseto 好古都, then Fuku不呼, then Shanu 姐奴, then Tsusu 対蘇, then Sonu 蘇奴, then Koyi 呼邑, then Kenusonu 華奴蘇奴, then Ki 鬼, then Igo 為吾, then Kinu 鬼奴, then Yama 邪馬, then Kushi 躬臣, then Hari 巴利, then Kiwi 支惟, then Wunu 烏奴, then Nu 奴, which is the last to belong to the king.

You may note that the last country 奴 is the same character as Na on the north coast. This is probably an error in the text, but there is no way to guess what the correction ought to be.

To the south is Kuna or Kunu 狗奴,which has a male king. Its chief officer is called Kukohiku 狗古卑狗. It does not obey the female king.

The total distance from the prefecture to the country of the female king is 12,000 li.

All men, high and low, tattoo their faces and decorate their bodies with designs.

From olden times envoys who visit the Chinese court have called themselves gentlemen 大夫.

A son of the ruler Shao-k’ang of Hsia, when he was enfeoffed as lord of K’uai-chi, cut his hair and decorated his body with designs in order to avoid the attack of serpents and dragons. The Wa, who are accustomed to diving into the water to get fish and shells, also decorated their bodies in order to keep away large fish and birds. Later, however, the designs became merely ornamental. Designs on the body differ in the various countries and their position and size vary according to the rank of the individual.

Calculation of the distances seems to indicate that the country of the female king is located east of Tung-chih in K’uai-chi [approximately modern Shanghai, too far south].

The social customs are not lewd. The men wear a band of cloth around their heads, exposing the top. Their clothing is fastened around the body with little sewing. The women wear their hair in loops. Their clothing is like an unlined bed cover and is worn by slipping the head through an opening in the center. They cultivate grains, rice, hemp, and mulberry trees. They spin and weave and produce fine linen and silk fabrics. There are no cattle, horses, tigers, leopards, sheep, or magpies. Their weapons are spears, shields, and wooden bows made with a short lower part and long upper part [the pattern of later bows also]. The arrows are bamboo, tipped with either iron or bone. In their material culture they are like the people of Hainan Island.

The land of Wa is warm and mild. In winter as in summer people can eat vegetables and go barefooted. Their houses have rooms and father and mother and older and younger sleep separately. They smear their bodies with pink and scarlet as the Chinese use powder. They serve food on bamboo and wooden trays, helping themselves with their fingers. When a person dies they prepare a single coffin, without an outer one. They cover the graves with sand to make a mound. When death occurs mourning is observed for at least 10 days, during which time they do not eat meat. The head mourners wail and lament, while friends sing, dance, and drink liquor. When the funeral is over, all members of the family go into the water to bathe, to purify themselves.

When they cross the sea to visit China, they always choose a man who does not arrange his hair, does not rid himself of fleas, lets his clothing get as dirty as it will, does not eat meat, and does not approach women. This man behaves as a mourner and is known as the fortune keeper. If the voyage ends successfully, they lavish on him slaves and other valuables. In case there is disease or other mishap, they kill him, saying that he must not have been scrupulous in his duties.

Here I skip a section that lists types of trees and birds that are found that has problems that are really impossible to sort out. There is no way to tell what species are meant from modern Chinese or Japanese dictionaries.

Whenever they undertake an enterprise and dispute arises, they heat bones and perform divination in order to tell whether fortune will be good or bad. First they announce the object of the divination, using the same manner of speech as in (Chinese) tortoise shell divination. Then they examine the cracks made by the fire and tell what will happen.

In public meetings all sit together and there is no difference between father and son or man and woman. They are fond of liquor. In their worship, men of importance simply clap their hands instead of kneeling or bowing. The people live long, some to one hundred, others to 80 or 90 years. Ordinarily, men of importance have four or five wives, the lesser ones two or three. Women are not loose in morals or jealous. There is no theft and litigation is infrequent. When there is a violation of the law, the wives and children of a lesser offender are enslaved, a great offender is killed along with his entire household and other kinsmen. There are class distinctions and some men are subordinate to others. Taxes are collected. There are granaries as well as markets in each province where necessities are exchanged under the supervision of an official.

To the north of the female king’s land there is a high official stationed especially to watch over those provinces so that they remain in a state of awe and fear. He rules the country of Ito residing in the country like a Chinese governor. If the king sends envoys to the capital or T’ai-fang 帯方 prefecture or if the prefecture or various Han countries send embassies to the Wa, they are all made to stop at the port for inspection, so that messages and gifts to the king will reach her without mishap.

When the lowly meet men of importance on the road, they stop and withdraw to the roadside. In conveying messages to such men or speaking to them, they either squat or kneel, with both hands on the ground. This is the way they show respect. When responding they say “ah” which means “yes”.

The country formerly had a man as ruler. Then, about seventy or eighty years ago there was a period of warfare. Finally, the people agreed on a woman for their ruler. Her name was Himiko 卑弥呼. She occupied herself with magic and sorcery, bewitching the people. Though mature in age, she remained unmarried. She had a younger brother who assisted her in running the country. After she became ruler few people saw her. She had one thousand women as attendants but only one man. He served her food and drink and took communications in and out. She resided in a palace that was fortified by a stockade with armed guards at all times.

1000 li across the sea to the east from the country of the female king there are more countries, all belonging to the Wa race.

Additionally, there is the country of the dwarfs. It is in the south. Its people are 3 or 4 feet tall. It is about 4,000 li from the Queen country. Also, there are the land of naked men and the land of the black-teeth people. They are further south east. They can be reached by a sea voyage of one year.

In the 6th month of the 2nd year of Ching-ch’u (238), the king of Wa sent the gentleman Nashomi 難升米 and others to the prefecture where they requested permission to continue to the imperial court with tribute. The governor, Liu Hsia, dispatched an officer to accompany the party to the capital. An edict of the emperor was issued in the 12th month of the same year addressed to the king of Wa “Herein we address Himiko, King of Wa, whom we now designate a friend of Wei. The governor of T’ai-fang, Liu Hsia, has sent a messenger to accompany your servant Nashomi and the assistant ambassador Tsushi Gori 都市牛利. They have arrived here with your tribute, consisting of four male slaves and six female slaves, together with two bolts of twenty feet of cloth with designs. You live very far away across the sea, yet you have sent an embassy with tribute. Your loyalty and filial piety we appreciate very much. We confer upon you, therefore, the title of 'King of Wa Friend of Wei,’ together with the decoration of the gold seal with purple ribbon. The latter, properly encased, is to be sent to you through the governor of T’ai-fang. We expect you, king, to rule your people in peace and to endeavor to be devoted and obedient.”

“Your ambassadors Nashomi and Gori who have come from afar had a fatiguing journey. We have therefore given to Nashomi an appointment as lieutenant colonel in the Imperial Guard and to Gori an appointment as commandant in the Imperial Guard. We also bestow upon them the decoration of the silver seal with blue ribbon. We have granted them audience in appreciation of their visit, before sending them home with gifts. The gifts are these: five pieces of crimson brocade with dragon designs, ten pieces of crimson tapestry with dappled pattern, fifty lengths of bluish-red fabric, and fifty lengths of dark blue fabric. These are in return for what you sent as tribute. As a special gift we bestow upon you three pieces of blue brocade with interwoven characters, five pieces of tapestry with delicate floral designs, fifty lengths of white silk, eight taels of gold, two swords five feet long, one hundred bronze mirrors, and fifty catties each of jade and red beads. All of these things are packed in boxes and entrusted to Nashomi and Gori. When they arrive and you acknowledge their receipt, you may exhibit them to your countrymen in order to show that our country thinks so much of you as to bestow such splendid gifts.”

In the first year of Cheng-shih (240), the governor, Kung Tsun, sent T’i Chun, a commandant of the Imperial Guard, with an imperial rescript and the seal with ribbon to visit the Wa country. He had an audience with the king and took with him, in addition to the rescript, gifts of gold brocade, tapestry, swords, mirrors, and other things. Thereupon the Wa king sent an envoy with a memorial expressing appreciation.

In the 4th year (243) the Wa king sent another embassy of eight men led by Isegi 伊声耆 and Yasuku 掖邪狗 and bestowed presents of slaves, brocade, red and blue silk, a fabric robe, cloth, cinnabar, and a short bow with arrows. Yasuku was granted the commission of lieutenant colonel in the Imperial Guards and also the ribbon seal.

In the 6th year (245), by imperial decree, Nashomi of Wa was granted a yellow pennant to be awarded through the office of the prefect.

In the 8th year (257) the governor Wang Ch’i arrived to take up office. The king of Wa, Himiko 卑弥呼, had been at odds with the king of Kunu, Himikuko 卑弥弓呼 and had sent Saishi 載斯 and Uwo 烏越 and others of the Wa to the prefecture to report in person concerning this conflict. Chang Cheng, acting commander of the border guard, was sent with a rescript and the yellow pennant conferred on Nashomi. He issued a proclamation advising reconciliation.

When Himiko died a great mound was raised, more than a hundred paces across. Over a hundred male and female attendants followed her to the grave. Then a male king was established, but the people would not obey him. Violence followed and more than one thousand were killed. A relative of Himiko named Iyo 壹與, a girl of thirteen, was then made king and order was restored. Cheng issued a proclamation recognizing Iyo as ruler. Then Iyo sent the gentleman and guards commander Yasuku 掖邪狗 to accompany Cheng home. This delegation visited the capital and presented thirty male and female slaves. It also offered five thousand white gems and two pieces of carved jade, as well as twenty bolts of brocade with designs.

The Location of Yamatai

There has been continuing for a long time now a scholarly controversy over the location of Yamatai. Many believe that Yamatai is the same as Yamato and was located in what later became Yamato province, modern Nara Prefecture in central Honshu. However, a straightforward reading of the text clearly says that Yamatai was in northern Kyushu. There is concern about the ridiculous distances in li. Traditionally, 50 li is the distance you can travel in one day. If you take the distances measured in terms of travel time , 10 days to Toma, 20 days to Yamatai, and convert them you get numbers on the same scale as the others in the text. They are all still absurd, of course, both as distances and times. I have never seen a plausible explanation. Putting that aside the text says that from T'ai-fang to the north coast of Kyushu at Matsuro is 10,000 li and that the distance from T'ai-fang to Yamatai is 12,000 li. On that scale the distance to historical Yamato would actually be 20,000 li. Furthermore, the text clearly names 7 countries (counting the islands), all of which except Toma are definitely on the north coast of Kyushu or islands off the north coast. It says these are "the countries that are north of Yamatai." It lists 23 other countries that obey Yamatai but which must be somewhere else than between Yamatai and the north coast of Kyushu. There is no room for so many countries without including the western end of Honshu, which matches the archeology which shows that that area was culturally identical with northern Kyushu. That, combined with the relatively short distance from the coast to Yamatai, seems to seal the deal.

Those who argue for Yamato as the location claim that the Chinese of this time had seriously mistaken ideas about Japanese geography and either the original report was mistaken or it was rewritten back in China by people who thought they knew more about the subject than the men on the spot. The main claim is that (after reaching the Kyushu coast), every time the Chinese say "south" the real direction is "east". It is definitely true that some Chinese maps from hundreds of years later do not give an accurate location for Japan (putting it too far south) or an accurate layout of the island chain, making it run mostly north-south whereas it is more accurate to describe it as east-west. On the other hand, no one has ever claimed that the Chinese of this era were great map makers. It should be noted that the Yamato theory would seem to demand that the Chinese were unable to specify the location of any country between Kyushu and Yamato except for Toma, which would be 2/3 of the way and therefore probably ancient Kibi (modern Okayama prefecture). That would strongly suggest that the Chinese themselves did not make that journey and never got beyond Ito, but the article says that one ambassador had an audience with Himiko. Even if they sailed the whole way in their own ship with only one stop at Toma, they surely would have asked the names of the countries they passed, given the amount of geographic detail that they did include.

The total amount written on this topic is enormous, involving both archaeologists and historians. The reason that it is considered important is that it is closely tied into two major questions. There is no doubt at all that the Yayoi culture began in Kyushu and that throughout the Yayoi period Kyushu was the richest and most sophisticated part of the country. At some unknown point in time there was a change and the Nara plain in central Honshu became the wealthiest region and the home of the most powerful persons. The first question is, when did this transition take place? Secondly, it is agreed that there must be one point when a person first appeared who could legitimately be considered the first king of Wa. When was this point, and was this person resident in Kyushu or in Yamato?

The government of Japan between the 1880s and 1945 treated Nihon Shoki as something close to a sacred text, and even today there is a considerable group of nationalistic historians who attempt to find evidence for the proposition that Japan has had a true ruler since early times, perhaps the 1st century AD, and that this ruler has always ruled from Yamato, because that is what Nihon Shoki says. The Chinese article says that "70 or 80 years ago" there was a period of warfare out of which emerged the regime led by Himiko. It does not, of course, say what year to count back from. However, everyone tends to assume that it points to approximately 180. It is argued by many that the state of Yamato as described in Nihon Shoki emerged from this turmoil. Their big problem is that Nihon Shoki does not offer any room for Himiko in the part of the narrative associated with the origins of the ruling clan. At the point that the Chinese article was written China had only ever had one female ruler, Empress Lu of the Western Han dynasty. She was the widow of an emperor who took over as a near usurper (supported by her clan of male relatives) and is one of the famous villains of Chinese history. It would not be at all natural for the Chinese to decide that the "king" of Yamatai was a woman unless there were compelling circumstances. The closest thing that Nihon Shoki has to offer is the fact that it was customary for a female relative of the ruler to serve as the high priestess of Amaterasu. This doesn't seem enough to explain the Chinese reaction.

Archaeologists do not mind contradicting Nihon Shoki at all, and making the most prestigious person in the regime a female shaman is not a problem for them. What attracts them is the question of whether they can use the historical material, the Chinese account and Nihon Shoki, to assist them in dating things. From that point of view it is quite important to know where Himiko was located.

It does seem to me that it happens that people adopt one view or the other and then become partisans, fighting to win, rather than trying to find out what is correct. It is easy to find contradictions in things written on the topic. My own prejudice is to keep things simple. If Nihon Shoki did not exist, I do not believe that anyone reading the Chinese account would think that Yamatai was not in Kyushu. In fact, it is pretty obvious that the authors of Nihon Shoki thought that it says that Yamatai was in Kyushu. They inserted a stand-in for Himiko (Jingu Kogo) to fit at the point in their narrative matching 240 AD and they went to a great deal of trouble to have her based in Kyushu at that time. On the same principle, it is impossible for me to avoid thinking that the start of the Yamato state must be directly tied to the appearance of the first of the great tombs of the Kofun period. This happened in Yamato. Everything depends on the dating. After looking over the treatments of this that appear in English, I find that I am not satisfied with them. I will, therefore, take a stab at it here, first presenting the latest archaeological picture, minus the mass of detail in the archaeological books.

When the Chinese moved into Korea in 108 BC, they made available to the Wa a variety of high quality objects with scarcity value. By tracing the way that these objects show up in the ground, archaeologists have built up a picture of an evolution of society in northern Kyushu in which status divisions began to appear as the population density rose. It becomes possible to classify graves as to whether they belonged to "chiefs", who probably ran one village, to "big chiefs", who probably ran four or five villages, to "kings" who ran the "countries" named by the Chinese. The imported objects were only one element in the measurement of status because there were a lot of locally made "prestige" goods that only high class people could own as well. Then, after 180 or so, the Eastern Han dynasty suffered from severe popular uprisings (the "Yellow Turbans") and a major failure in the effectiveness of its institutions as measured by its degree of success in collecting taxes. Effective control in southern Manchuria and Korea fell into the hands of the Kung-sun family. They were not able to provide the usual prestige goods and this led to a time of troubles in Japan. The timing matches the "period of warfare" exactly. It is noteworthy that northern Kyushu graves in this time include large numbers of people with battle injuries, such as arrow heads stuck in their bones or broken skulls. There are people who were beheaded, then given normal burials, as if they were the victims of massacres. The locals also were forced to make substitutes for the missing goods, such as badly made local copies of Chinese bronze mirrors. The setup described by the Chinese where some 30 countries were organized under the overall control of a ruler in Yamatai was clearly a step up to a still higher level of organization. The Chinese clearly say that Yamatai maintained officials at Ito who inspected travellers to make sure that all goods destined for the ruler reached the ruler. It is reasonable to speculate that the reduction in the supply after 180 had something to do with this consolidation.

Then, the Wei armies reached T'ai-fang and suddenly the Chinese started sending new things. There is a particular type of Chinese mirror that is definitely of Wei dynasty manufacture called a "TR" mirror by English speaking archaeologists. There are several hundred of them known in Japan and many of them were copies of each other, that is made from a single mold. As of the most recent count I have seen (2007) there are 75 different sets known. None of these mirrors are found in typical late Yayoi graves. All of them come from Kofun style graves, and there is good reason to believe that all of them were imported into Japan in a relatively short period between 240 and 290, when contact with China lapsed again. This corresponds to a period known to archaeologists as "Early Kofun 1," which they date 250 to 300. The death of Himiko and the start of Early Kofun are clearly close together. I will defer saying more about this until the next section, where I can include Japanese historical sources. For now, I would like to switch to a related topic.

The Transition from Yayoi to Kofun

Egami Namio announced a new theory of the origins of the historical Japanese state in 1949 and it has generated enormous controversy since. He pointed out that the years after 300 AD saw enormous changes on the mainland, and that it was unrealistic to imagine that these had no impact on Japan. The Chinese empire that had first been put together by Ch'in Shih Huang Ti in 221 BC and which survived the transitions through the Western Han, Hsin, Eastern Han, Wei, and Chin dynasties finally crashed and burned at that time. The Chin dynasty fell apart due to a chaotic civil war among rival princes battling for the throne and then Northern China was swept by a flood of barbarian invasions involving many different peoples. China was invaded from Manchuria, from Mongolia, from Central Asia, and from Tibet. Chin survivors fled to the south and regrouped there, but northern China entered into a period of fragmentation known as "the 16 kingdoms." South China saw a succession of 5 short lived dynasties. At the same time, Korea was invaded from Manchuria and the Chinese district there was destroyed. The date of 313 is often given for this, but that comes from a rather late book and some think that archaeology shows that Lo-lang and T'ai-fang remained culturally Chinese for some time after that date. The invaders were already known to the Chinese as the Kingdom of Koguryo 高句麗 since the 1st century AD, a kingdom which had long controlled parts of Manchuria and northern Korea beyond the Chinese sphere. According to both the Chinese and Koguryo itself, the ruling group in Koguryo were members of an ethnic group the Chinese call Fu-yu and the Koreans call Puyo. These were speakers of an Altaic language and originated in the forests of eastern Manchuria, but emerged at some point onto the plains and became horse riding nomads.

Koguryo was a hybrid state in which a population of farmers had been conquered by barbarian horsemen who set themselves up as a distinct ruling class made up of warriors. At first the commoners lived in towns and villages and the horsemen continued to live in tents, but by 300 the horsemen had settled down. Soon after the fall of the Chinese center in Korea a second kingdom emerged to the south, Paekche 百済, first mentioned in Chinese records in 342. In 472 Paekche sent an embassy to the Northern Wei dynasty. At that time the king (Kaero) wrote that “We and Koguryo both come from the Puyo race. At first our relations were friendly, but former Koguryo King Kogugwon rashly ruptured amity with his neighbors and brought his army to attack us. My ancestor Kunch’ogo led his own army to attack him and took his head.” That occurred in 371. There is another letter from a king of Koguryo that says that the rulers of both Paekche and a third Korean kingdom that evolved in the southeast called Silla 新羅 were related to the Koguryo royal family.

The Puyo aristocracy of Paekche clearly ruled over commoners who were none other than the Han people already known to the Chinese. The name Paekche is thought to derive from the name of one of the Han tribes mentioned in the Wei history (the "three kingdoms" Wei dynasty must not be confused with the Northern or T'oba (Turkish) Wei dynasty, which was named after it). From Paekche materials quoted in Nihon Shoki we discover that the "Wa" had diplomatic relations with Paekche from an early time and from Koguryo materials we find that Wa were fighting against Koguryo in alliance with Paekche as early as the 4th century. There is an inscribed sword in Japan which appears to say that it was made in 369 and presented by the king of Paekche to the king of the Wa. The interpretation of this sword is controversial, and at least one scholar thinks that it is a 19th century forgery, created based on the mention of such a sword presentation in Nihon Shoki. However, there are many reasons to argue otherwise. This will be covered in detail in the chapter on the Yamato state.

Egami's thesis, put simply, is that the Puyo invasions did not stop at the waters edge, but continued on into Japan and that the "Wa" leaders who were involved with Koguryo and Paekche were themselves Puyo warriors. There is a Korean historian, Hong Wontuck, who argues that the founders of the Japanese imperial house were a branch of the Paekche royal family and that Japan began as a Paekche colony. He has a book in English. Not many will go that far, but it is certain that for 300 years before the destruction of Paekche that country and Japan maintained close relations and almost continuous friendship. It is also certain that a substantial group of people in southern Korea were in some sense or other under the political control of the Wa ruler and might, in some contexts, have been counted as "Wa" themselves. Japan risked its own existence in an effort to try to save Paekche from conquest by T'ang dynasty China, and after the fall of Paekche there existed for at least 300 years in Japan a family whose name can be translated as "King of Paekche".

There is also a long list of ways in which ancient Japan seems to be intimately connected with Koguryo in cultural matters. This will all be discussed later as well.

It is a curious fact that historians tend to favor the horse-rider theory and archaeologists oppose it despite the fact that nearly all of the evidence in favor is archaeological in character. Gina Barnes in her most recent book, State Formation in Japan (2007) treats the hypothesis as "an absurdity." [Give a page number for this quote or delete it] The last couple of generations of archaeologists have tended to be strongly opposed to explanations for archaeological changes that suggest population movements and warfare, despite the fact that these are well known occurrences in historical periods, and despite those Yayoi bodies that had been shot full of arrows.

I will use Barnes to lay out the argument in favor of the Egami thesis, to show that I am not "cherry picking" a pro-horse-rider archaeologist. It is essentially based on the notion that the Chinese are correct in saying that Yayoi Japan did not have horses, a situation which is supported by archaeology. At some point in the fifth century AD we suddenly find Japan controlled by an aristocracy of mounted warriors who deposited large numbers of weapons and a lot of horse riding gear, saddles, bridles, and the like, in their tombs. Since we know that Korea was overrun by mounted warriors, it is not at all "absurd" to hypothesize that some of them made it to Japan.

Barnes quotes a classification of all of the Kofun tombs put together by a Japanese archaeologist, Hirose Kazuo, in 1992. The technical details will be explained below.

Early Kofun 1 250-300

There are no haniwa, but some tombs have jars treated like haniwa. There are only authentic Chinese mirrors (largely TR type), no Japanese imitations.

Early Kofun 2 300-350
Cylindrical haniwa appear. The mirrors are all "large style" imitations. There is much stone "jewelry".

Early Kofun 3 around 350
Like the above except that new coffin types appear and stone imitations of other objects increase considerably.

Early Kofun 4 350-400
Like the above except that armor begins to appear, along with "small style" imitation mirrors and further proliferations of stone objects.

Middle Kofun 5 around 400
The quantity of iron armor and weapons increases, nearly all types of bronze objects disappear, many types of stone objects disappear.

Middle Kofun 6 400-450
Sue pottery, riveted armor and helmets, horse gear, haniwa in animal and human forms appear, nearly all types of stone objects disappear.

Middle Kofun 7 around 450
New mirror types, armor types, and a proliferation of horse gear occur

Late Kofun 8 450-500
Relatively minor stylistic changes.

Late Kofun 9 500-550
More stylistic changes, most notably the appearance of swords. Small tombs cut into cliffs appear and proliferate

Late Kofun 10 550-600
Haniwa nearly all disappear.

It may be seen that the most extensive change in the tombs occurred in period 6, after 400, when Sue pottery, human and animal figurine haniwa, continental style riveted and laminated armor, and horse gear all appeared. Both before that and after that the changes from phase to phase are relatively minor stylistic evolutions. Period 6 is associated with Ojin Tenno, the presumed leader of the horse-riders, who died sometime close to 400. Ojin's tomb marks the archaeological beginning of the period.

Barnes and others find the "absurdity" in Egami's theory by clinging to the original 1949 formulation made at a time when a great deal less was known about kofun tomb archaeology than now. Egami was a colorful character who enjoyed being controversial, but a great many more sober-sided people have accepted his idea and developed it. The modern version is that Early Kofun culture was purely native and evolved out of the Late Yayoi of Kyushu, but that bands of Puyo entered Japan at an unknown date before 400, defeated the early Kofun rulers in Yamato and took over the state, following practices already worked out in the cases of Koguryo and Paekche and Silla, and also much used by the contemporary barbarian invaders of China. The system is to conquer groups of farmers and then pretty much leave them alone to run their own affairs, collecting taxes from them, and also taking over and coopting members of the former ruling classes, who know how to talk to the commoners and control them. There would not need to have been a huge number of invaders, just a few thousand with clear military superiority, who would settle in at the highest level and push the native elite down to the level of district chiefs, to do all the actual work of running things. This is exactly the kind of state that early historical Yamato looks like.

It seems all but certain that the Korean Mumun and the Japanese Yayoi cultures of rice farmers were founded by immigrants from the south who spoke a language affiliated somehow with the Sinitic group. It is equally certain that Korea was overrun by Puyo invaders speaking an Altaic language who set up the three kingdoms of Koguryo, Paekche, and Silla. If there was no further movement of Puyo into Japan, just how do we explain the facts that Japanese is an Altaic language closely related to Korean, that the recorded foundation myths and early religious beliefs of the three Korean kingdoms and early Japan are nearly identical, that Nihon Shoki attests in several places to the fact that the Japanese considered themselves to be very close to Koguryo in matters such as court ceremonial, music, and dance, and that more than 300 aristocratic Japanese clans were list as immigrants from Paekche.

The start of "Middle Kofun" is when evidence appears that the Japanese started to manufacture iron directly from ores, as opposed to importing it from Korea. This change may have been related to the introduction of a new type of pottery, used by the elite only, called sue 須恵 (pronounced "soo eh") which was made at much higher temperatures than any kind of Yayoi pottery. Also, the technical means of inserting the coffin and grave goods into the tomb was changed. In Yayoi tombs and early Kofun tombs the mound was constructed first and then a vertical shaft was dug down from the top to place the coffin and grave goods. In the later phase a horizontal tunnel was made running from the crypt to one side of the tomb and closed up again after the funeral. In general these later tombs are like contemporary Koguryo elite tombs internally, while continuing the external appearance of earlier Kofun tombs.

Haniwa 埴輪, which are mentioned above, are pottery objects that were placed on the surface of a tomb, partially buried. Some period 1 tombs had ordinary vases distributed over the area where the coffin was located half buried in the tomb, and there soon evolved special pots made just for this purpose where the part that was going to be underground was narrower than a normal pot. The cylindrical haniwa were specially built for tombs. Some had fancy tops in plant shapes or umbrella shapes, and there were also house models made of the same clay. These were not technically haniwa because they had no underground component but simply sat on the surface of the tomb. With Ojin's tomb and those of his successors there were suddenly thousands of haniwa, including many new types, including images of people of all types, including armored warriors, and many types of animals, especially horses, sometimes armored. In Kyushu a couple of ships have been found. The use of haniwa faded out in central Japan after the end of the Ojin dynasty, but they continued to be popular in eastern Japan, which is where the most artistic ones come from. There is a famous story in Nihon Shoki about a man who traded his horse for a curious looking red one that the next morning turned out to be a haniwa from Ojin's tomb, where he found his own horse quietly grazing.

The most recent developments have occurred due to changes in dating for this period. It is not really possible to use radio carbon dating for such a recent period, it is not precise enough. However, the extensive use of tree ring dates has had the effect of pushing many sites back to times significantly earlier than had been previously thought. This has caused archeologists to rethink the question of the transition from Yayoi to Kofun and the result has been the tendency to reclassify many sites that had formerly been called Kofun as late Yayoi. The main justification for this was the movement of a type of pottery widely used as a marker from the Kofun period to the Yayoi period. This has all happened so recently that I don't think it has been widely noticed how much it tends to support the Egami thesis.

The result is that the early development of the great tombs that give Kofun its name occurred during the Yayoi period and the start of the next era is put at around 400 AD and the arrival of the horse gear and the restructuring of the contents of the tombs. The grave goods in the older tombs were, in fact, mostly typical of Yayoi tombs, and except for the tombs themselves and the fact that the earliest were located in the Yamato area and not in Kyushu, there were no changes significant enough to justify naming a new culture before 400. Scholars have begun to take a serious look at what may have caused a sudden change in the political center of Japan from Yamatai (in Kyushu) to Yamato in central Honshu sometime during the generation immediately after the death of Himiko. The similarity of names now becomes interesting as suggesting that a group of people actually moved from Kyushu to Yamato and accomplished some sort of political transformation. This also helps with one mystery of the early tombs which is that although they are located in the Yamato region the Yayoi grave goods within them were all of the type found in Kyushu, and show no connection with the rather distinctive Yayoi culture of the Yamato region.

The Kyushu Yayoi culture had a peculiar custom of making bronze weapons that were so exaggerated in shape as to be completely useless for any practical purpose. These are found in western Honshu extending up to the edge of the Yamato area of later times. To the east, extending from the Yamato area to the Tokyo area, there was instead the custom of creating equally exaggerated bronze bells that are never found at settlement sites or in graves but in isolated burials in remote places. Their use is unknown but is presumed to have involved being hidden in normal times and brought out for certain ceremonies and then hidden again. In any case, it is clear that there was a sharp cultural distinction between eastern and western variants of Yayoi culture, and that the occupants of the first phases of Kofun tombs were buried in the Kyushu mode and not the eastern mode.

The eastern Yayoi settlement sites show a relatively uniformitarian culture. Only the western people show the kind of status differentiation described by the Chinese "Account of the Wa."

The Chinese article on Yamatai twice mentions occasions of civil war over the question of whether the ruler should be a man or a woman. In both cases the result was the rule of a female. It is now suggested that the move to Yamato enabled the accomplishment of the change from female rule, focused on the religious role of a shaman, to male rule, focused on military command. The distribution of the TR mirrors in this period shows that the rulers in Yamato now controlled communications with China, and it has been noted that the oldest group of Kofun type tombs in northern Kyushu is located exactly at the position of the ancient states of Ito and Na on Hakata Bay. The oldest great tomb in Yamato is that known as Hashihaka, and according to Nihon Shoki it is the tomb of a woman who was on the one hand a priestess and on the other the aunt of Sujin Tenno. Sujin is at one point called Hatsukunioshirasu Sumeramikoto, "the first ruler to rule the land," and is assigned to the second oldest tomb.

Later, we find descendants of Sujin Tenno attempting the conquest of the part of Kyushu to the interior of Na where their opponents are described as female rulers. It is certainly plausible, at least, to suggest that the losers of the civil war that put Iyo on the throne in Kyushu withdrew to Yamato and started their own rival regime there. The newest dates for the group of tombs that begin with Hashihaka match this thesis exactly.

This view means that Egami Namio was wrong about one thing, that the invasion of Japan occurred rather early in the 4th century, soon after the fall of Lo-lang and probably even before the appearance of Paekche as a state (known to the Chinese) in 342. If it happened it must be timed to coincide with the appearance of horse-riding gear and mainland style armor in Japan, so it has to be put a few generations later and the arrival of Ojin Tenno, who swept through Kyushu and overthrew successors of Sujin Tenno based in Yamato and made himself ruler of Japan. Ojin is the occupant of the first great tomb of the new type and he must have died sometime around 400 AD, once again considered the date of the end of the Yayoi period. As shall be seen later the heavy fighting reported between Koguryo and "the Wa" occurred in the years leading up to 400 and "the Wa" involved may have been mainly based in Korea rather than in Japan.

Chapter 03 - The Kofun or Yamato Period

The Yamato State: Introduction

Yamato is a name with several meanings. It is an ordinary Japanese place name 山門 meaning literally "mountain gate" and more generally "in the mountains" or "surrounded by mountains," and there 5 places named Yamato that I know of and probably more. In the system of provinces that was established near the end of the 7th century AD the name Yamato was assigned to the province containing the national capital, corresponding approximately to modern Nara Prefecture. In the Imperial Japanese Navy before 1945 the principal warships were named after the old provinces, and the famous battleship Yamato was named after Yamato province. From ancient times Yamato has also been used as a name for Japan as a whole. Nihon or Nippon, the word behind the English Japan, was officially adopted as the name of the country in the early 8th century, and use of Yamato to stand for Japan has been essentially poetic since that time. However, it has become a convenience to historians to use the name Yamato when referring to Japan as a political entity in the period before the adoption of Nihon and especially before the "Taika Reform" of 645.

When the Chinese first became aware of the islands of Japan they assigned the people living there the ethnic name Wa 倭. This character is not very polite, meaning dwarf, and when the Japanese learned to read Chinese they complained about it, and the Chinese agreed to change it to 和 which is pronounced the same but has a dictionary meaning of "peace" or "harmony." The Japanese took to referring to themselves in communications to the Chinese as 大和 or "great Wa", and at some point started to pronounce this as Yamato. These are the characters used for the name of Yamato province. We do not know exactly when this happened.

In the chapter on Yayoi culture there is a discussion of the names Yamatai and Yamato in the context of the beginnings of the historical Japanese state, and I will now expand on this slightly.

When the Chinese engaged in diplomatic contact with the Wa people in the period between 240 and 266 AD they recorded that the "king of the Wa" (who happened to be female) lived at a place called Yamatai. This is so similar to Yamato that it is difficult to believe that it is a coincidence. The Chinese records read normally (meaning without expectations about what it should say because of outside knowledge you have or think you have) state that Yamatai was somewhere in northern Kyushu. Many Japanese historians over the ages have argued that that must have been a mistake because of the later usage of Yamato as the name for the Nara plain and that the "king" must have lived in Yamato province. However, it happens that there are two places named Yamato in the exact area that is the most likely spot for a Kyushu Yamatai, not far north of the modern city of Kumamoto. They are so close to one another that they are likely remnants of a name that applied to a much larger area.

In the Yayoi chapter of this book, I have given an argument for supposing that when the center of government in Japan was moved from Kyushu to central Honshu the name Yamatai/Yamato was taken along. This would have occurred, in my view, sometime not very long after 266 but before 300 when the first great "kofun" tombs were constructed in what was later to become Yamato province. This is the point in time when it becomes meaningful to talk about the "Yamato State."

The history of Japan in this period rests on just one book, Nihon Shoki, which was published in 720. It is a frustrating book in many ways because it is a combination of factual and bogus material and there have been endless arguments about which parts belong to which category. It has been subjected to close analysis since the 17th century and the total output on the topic in Japanese is enormous. Very little of this has been rendered into English. People who write on this period in English prefer to accept what the Japanese have accomplished in this area and get on with attempting to describe ancient Japanese society. I will briefly summarize the contemporary understanding of the book, and then do the same. There are a few additional materials of significance.

There are two ancient swords with inscriptions on them. There is a stone stele with an inscription of 1775 characters that was erected in 414 in the capital of the Kingdom of Koguryo that has some things to say about Wa. There is a letter from a Yamato ruler quoted in one of the Chinese dynastic histories, dated 478. And there is Kojiki, a book that is even older than Nihon Shoki, having been published in 712, but which has mainly mythological and genealogical information and almost no history. It does have some information about dates and the lengths of reigns which is mainly useful for engendering caution about what Nihon Shoki says about these things. The two books almost never agree about anything.

The situation improves a bit for the period after 572, which is approximately the time that the Japanese upper class began to read and write Chinese. There are no surviving books that are older than Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, but there are some later books that preserve old traditions, mostly about the early history of Buddhism in Japan to start with, but gradually expanding to additional topics.

Nihon Shoki can be translated as "History of Japan." This book title is the first recorded use of Nihon as the name for Japan. There is a note in the history of the Chinese T'ang dynasty that says that the Japanese made up this name because they became unhappy with Wa. It can be translated as "where the sun rises," which makes sense from a Chinese perspective because Japan was east of any other country they knew of. No one can be entirely certain how the Chinese would have pronounced this in the 8th century, but today in standard Chinese ("Mandarin") it sounds like "zhrr pun" which is close enough to Japan. This Chinese rendering was passed on to Europe via Marco Polo. His Cipangu (pronounced chipangu) stands for "zhrr pun guo" or "the country of Japan."

Nihon Shoki was a government project, entrusted to the highest officials, who quite certainly passed off most of the work to subordinates, many of whom would have been Korean ethnically, as Koreans tended to dominate jobs involving reading and writing in this era. It was from the beginning a work of propaganda more than a work of history. Its mission was to explain how Japan got to be where it was in such a way as to enhance the authority of the ruling house. It sought to combine two threads, a native thread and a Chinese thread.

The Chinese thread derived from the fact that the Chinese had been thinking about and writing about what constituted good government for centuries. It was desirable to show that Japan had become a well governed state in a way that would be approved by the Chinese. The Chinese way also had some inherent virtues from the Japanese point of view, because it emphasized the necessity to have a unified society where all important decisions are made at the center, in the court of the emperor. The emperor is an autocrat whose authority is limited by no constitution, only the certainly that if he fails to deliver good government, he runs the risk of being overthrown, opening the way to someone who can do a better job.

The authors of Nihon Shoki liked the first part but not the second part. That is where the second, native, thread comes in. The Japanese ruling house was directly descended from a god who came down from heaven to the earth almost two million years earlier, the Japanese state was established by a member of that house in 660 BC, and the same house has ruled Japan from that day to the present in unbroken succession under the protection of the gods and will always reign indefinitely into the future.

Actually, the future part is correct, so far, in that the present emperor is a member of the family that was ruling when Nihon Shoki was written. This is a remarkable fact showing that Japan is not like any other country in the world. There were at least a dozen occasions when, if Japan were China, a strong-man would have ended the old dynasty and started a new one. Only two or three times in all of Japanese history have men been accused of even thinking about that. There is no "Mandate of Heaven" here that can be fumbled away by a bad ruler. A few bad rulers have been gotten rid of, but the family remains. The gods will not permit otherwise.

Naturally, the aristocratic clans of the day had their own traditions and memories and this new history of Japan had to fit what was known of the facts. However, the main purpose was always ideological rather than scientific and if it was necessary to distort or conceal the truth to make a point, they were happy to do it. Fortunately for us, they were amateurs at fabricating history and vulnerable to close analysis. They tell us a lot more than they intended to. Unfortunately for us, close textual analysis is a tricky business and people often make mistakes, and are not infrequently themselves more interested in making propaganda than in uncovering the truth.

There is a far from perfect but still readable translation of Nihon Shoki into English by William George Aston, published in 1896. I have the paperback edition published by Charles Tuttle in 1972. It is just over 800 pages altogether. It has 100 pages of information about the gods and the creation of the world, followed by individual articles about 41 successive rulers, from Jimmu Tenno in 660 BC to Jito Tenno who abdicated in 697 AD. There is one article on a person who is not officially a ruler, Jingu Kogo, and one ruler who is on the current official list of emperors, but who is not counted by Nihon Shoki. This is Kobun Tenno who was defeated by his uncle in a short civil war in 671/72. He was added to the official list in the 1880's, probably because his father, not his uncle, was the ancestor of the current imperial family.

For the purposes of this discussion the book can be divided into chunks.

  • 2 books of creation myths
  • Account of the foundation of the state by Jimmu Tenno dated to 663/660 BC
  • 8 rulers generally considered imaginary
  • Account of Sujin Tenno, thought to be historical and linked to the start of the kofun archaeological monuments
  • 3 descendants of Sujin, perhaps historical, though there is much myth and little history in this part of the text
  • Chuai Tenno and Jingu Kogo, probably mythical characters (Jingu = Himiko of Yamatai)
  • Ojin Tenno, probable founder of a dynasty, possible horse-riding foreign invader
  • 6 historical descendants of Ojin
  • 4 more troublesome descendants of Ojin, possibly covering up the collapse of the dynasty
  • Keitai Tenno, probable founder of a new dynasty, the one that continues today
  • 3 sons of Keitai whose accounts seem confused about some things
  • More or less reliable history based on government records, 572 - 697

A fair bit has been written in English about the Japanese creation myths. I do not pretend to any expertise on this topic and I am going to avoid it. However, I would strongly recommend that anyone who wishes to study them should also read the corresponding myths from Koguryo, Paekche, and Silla, about which there is available information in English. This is important because the family resemblance among them is striking and means that whatever theories one wishes to erect about the formation of Japanese or Korean society require an explanation as to why their foundation myths are so much alike. There is a tendency in Japan to write about Japan as if it has no connection with any other place, especially Korea. However, these myths alone prove that Japan is intimately connected with Korea.

If you have read the archaeological chapters, you will already know about the theory that the historical states of Koguryo, Paekche, Silla, and Yamato all emerged from a shared historical event, the migration into the area of bands of warriors from a tribal nation the Koreans call Puyo in the era after 300 AD. This hypothetical event will be discussed below, but it should be noted that it is strongly supported by the archaeological evidence and by the mythological material in Nihon Shoki and Kojiki plus Samguk Sagi and related Korean texts. If the authors of Nihon Shoki knew or suspected that it happened, their intent was to cover it up.

An important component of Nihon Shoki is material, some of it quite lengthy, which is evidently taken from other books which were either written in Paekche or by Paekche immigrants in Japan. At least 3 different books of this kind are given names in footnotes, and other portions not given footnotes are assumed to be of the same character. For some rulers the Paekche material is much more voluminous than the Japanese material. This is important for two reasons. It gives information about ancient Korea that is not in Samguk Sagi or later Korean works, and it permits linking sections of Nihon Shoki to known Korean dates. This is vital because the dates in the earlier parts of Nihon Shoki were deliberately falsified to make Japanese history seem longer than it really was.

According to Nihon Shoki the Yamato government was founded in 660 BC. It was recognized as early as the 19th century that the authors of Nihon Shoki arbitrarily chose that founding date for astrological reasons and then had to find some way to fill that vast period of time with material, some of which they simply made up. The Chinese used then (and for some purposes use now) a 60 year cycle for routine dating outside of the formal dating by reign titles. This cycle includes the familiar 12 zodiacal signs (Year of the Ox and so on) that are combined with additional elements to get 60 years with individual names. The year 601 AD was the first year of such a cycle and 660 BC is exactly 1,260 years earlier. In the time Nihon Shoki was written the Chinese considered this amount of time, 21 60 year cycles, to be a particularly significant block of time, an era. 601 AD was an important year for the authors of Nihon Shoki because it occurred during the reign of Suiko Tenno, which they considered to be the beginning of the new era of "modern" Japan, so it was appropriate to begin "ancient" Japan 1260 years earlier.

Early in the 20th century a historian named Tsuda Sokichi proved pretty conclusively that the eight emperors listed after the founder, Jimmu Tenno, were completely imaginary, having been invented to to fill up some of the gap. Their names were constructed of elements fashionable in the 8th century but unknown earlier, and their articles are missing standard elements that are present in all of the other articles. This is common enough in East Asia. China and all three Korean kingdoms also have imaginary early rulers intended to provide an impressive antiquity. With Jimmu Tenno, the first nine emperors are assigned 562 years. However, this still only gets us to 98 BC with a long way to go. The next 7 emperors are made to cover 497 years. Some of these men are considered to be historical, but their dates are obviously false.

Help arrives with the inserted Korean material. There are several entries where it can be easily seen that the Nihon Shoki date is exactly 120 years older than the real date according to Samguk Sagi or Chinese sources. This is two 60 year cycles, and the dates in the Korean material are all cycle dates, so this means that they did not have to change the text, just assign it to the wrong cycle. This kicks in with an event with the actual date of 371 (dated by Nihon Shoki to 251) and runs into the first part of the 5th century. Then there is a section without Korean notices and then from about 450 the Nihon Shoki dates and the Korean dates are the same. This means that sometime between 371 and 450 the authors of Nihon Shoki found ways to smuggle in 120 extra years. Extremely long reigns and extremely old rulers are the visible signs of this. Even without considering problems with things that the text says, it is clear that trying to use Nihon Shoki as a real historical source for this era is essentially impossible.

The main solution to this is to avoid, by and large, attempting to use Nihon Shoki to create a chronological account of events before 572. The chances are that for much of this era the authors of Nihon shoki did not have the necessary information to give correct dates even if they had wanted to do so. Based on the way things have worked elsewhere it is quite likely that they had anecdotal material of the kind that begins "in the time of ruler so-and-so ... " that never had anything like a hard date attached to it.

If Nihon Shoki can't give us history, what can it do for us? It offers a narrative that can be linked loosely to the archaeology. With the events linked to Korean dates we are already in a timeframe associated with Ojin Tenno. Most historians will agree that it is probable that an earlier ruler, Sujin Tenno, was a historical person. It is a serious question whether he was the first ruler of Yamato or whether there were unknown predecessors. According to the Imperial Household Agency Sujin was buried in a tomb that has already been referenced in the previous chapter. It is the largest of 3 ruler-sized tombs of the "Early Kofun phase 1" period and is dated to approximately 300. This would be about 100 years before Ojin. There are many historians who believe that the Yamato state is older than this, which is why some of them seek to appropriate Himiko and Iyo and the unnamed male rulers mentioned by the Chinese to carry it back in time. However, the archaeology of the Yamato region does not offer much hope for a powerful state significantly older than Early Kofun 1. The Yayoi sites in the region are characterized by a conspicuous lack of social stratification before about 190, and the late Yayoi elite tombs dated after 190 that are within the same Makimuku group as the Early Kofun 1 tombs are not impressive when compared with what was happening at the time in Kyushu.

Nihon Shoki says that the Yamato state was founded by a conqueror from Kyushu. No one believes in Jimmu Tenno, but what if this conqueror was Sujin Tenno? This is exactly what Egami Namio has suggested. The Chinese say that on two separate occasions the Wa elevated a male ruler but he could not get the people to obey him and the solution was to replace him with a female ruler. This surely indicates a major internal disagreement about the proper way to organize society. What if the losers of the struggle after the death of Himiko decided to leave Kyushu and set up the kind of society they wanted in central Honshu? This would provide an excellent explanation of how it could be that the Chinese found a kingdom called Yamatai in Kyushu and a generation later we find one called Yamato in the Nara plain. They took the name with them. Such a move would be attractive for another reason, also. From this time onward the Kinai was always the center of Japan because it had the largest concentration of good farmland and became the wealthiest region, the one best suited to support a large aristocracy. Communications in Japan are always difficult, but this is definitely the most central location from that point of view as well. It is inconceivable that a ruler in Kyushu could have ruled all of Japan in the conditions that prevailed in ancient or medieval times. However, it was just barely possible for a ruler in the Kinai to manage this under favorable circumstances that frequently failed to materialize. Kyushu was often essentially independent and so was the far north east.

If Sujin Tenno founded a new state as a conqueror, what did this state look like? Nihon Shoki says that he spent the first part of his reign in an effort to get properly connected to the gods of the region. This material is discussed at length in an interesting article in volume 1 of the Cambridge History of Japan, which I recommend. It is clear that even in a state dominated by a military leader, one of the primary functions of the ruler was to serve as the intermediary between ordinary people and the gods, and if he could not get this correct, people would not obey him. Once he was satisfied that he was on the right track in that area, he organized four armies that were supposed to go out in four directions from Yamato and "subdue barbarians." Since we are at this point a long way from any people who can be considered "non-Japanese," the only thing that can be meant by barbarians is Japanese who have not yet submitted to Sujin's rule.

Before these expeditions could get started, however, there was a major crisis in the form of a "rebellion" by a person who is identified as a half-brother of Sujin. This led to a pitched battle between armies. Archaeologists have been struck by the fact that the site of the battle was in the southern part of Yamashiro province in exactly the area occupied by the third ruler-class tomb of Early Kofun 1. This tomb does not (traditionally) have a Yamato ruler in it. The most logical suggestion is that Sujin was not the original leader of the invasion from Kyushu and that there was a struggle over control of the new state. That would help explain Hashihaka, the third large tomb, which is 20 years older than Sujin's tomb. Nihon Shoki says that this tomb holds Sujin's aunt, who could forsee the future and who was married to a god. One must consider it possible then, that in the original conquest there was still a female ruler and it only shifted to a male ruler when she died. However, it is wise not to put too much trust in anything said by Nihon Shoki. It says that she committed suicide by stabbing herself with a chopstick, which is why the tomb is called Hashihaka, "hashi" being the Japanese name for chopsticks. Unfortunately, hashi were not adopted by the Japanese until around the time Nihon Shoki was written. Before then the Japanese ate with their fingers, as pointed out by the Chinese who visited Yamatai.

We can make some observations about this early Yamato state from Early Kofun 1 archaeology. According to Gina Barnes (2007) there are 98 known tombs from this period in Japan. They are found in three major concentrations. The three large tombs already mentioned and 8 "medium" tombs are in or near Yamato; there are 11 medium tombs in four separate groupings centered on ancient Kibi (Okayama), and there are 7 medium tombs in Kyushu, all of them on the east or north coasts. There are only three medium tombs in all the rest of Japan. One of them is in Hyogo prefecture, half way between Yamato and Kibi, one is north on the Japan Sea coast in future Etchu province, and one is in the mountains along the future Tosando near Nagano. There are scatterings of "small" tombs at the head of Tokyo Bay and in two places on the Inland Sea side of Shikoku. There is not even one small tomb in the interior of Kyushu or in the historically and archaeologically important area of Izumo on the Japan Sea coast north of Kibi.

In the Nihon Shoki invasion story (of Jimmu Tenno) the force stopped for two years in Kibi before continuing on to invade the Kinai (the general Japanese term for the area around modern Kyoto, Nara, and Osaka). It is well known that the Kibi region was always of great importance throughout the time of the Yamato state. If the invaders came from Kyushu, they must have had some base there to start from. There are no Early Kofun 1 tombs in Hyuga province (where Jimmu was supposed to have started from), though there is a cluster of Yayoi tombs. This region was part of a separate "southern" variety of Yayoi and presumably not connected with Yamatai and Himiko. The seven Early Kofun 1 tombs are in the "countries" of Na and Ito and also on the north east coast near Shimonoseki, which is where Yamato armies going to Kyushu always landed in later times. There are no Early Kofun 1 tombs in the inland area known as Tsukushi, which was the agricultural heart of Kyushu and the presumed location of Yamatai.

Nihon Shoki says that two of Sujin's successors led armies into Kyushu to battle the natives and both times they were met by female rulers. The campaigns always went into the heart of Tsukushi. It would appear that after getting control of the Kinai, they went back and took control of key spots on the coast of Kyushu, unless they already controlled those as being the bases from which they launched their attack on the east. It must be considered possible that the conflicts cited by the Chinese between male and female rulers were also conflicts between the north coastal "countries" and the interior. Anyway, it is important to note that this control of the coast of Kyushu explains how it happened that the Early Kofun 1 tombs nearly all contain high quality, recently imported Chinese bronze mirrors. The archaeologists believe that it was the ability to pass out these mirrors (and other elite goods) to cooperative locals rather than raw military power that explains the ability of the Yamato ruler to persuade many people to recognize him as the "king of the Wa." The Yamato presence on the Japan Sea north of Yamato gave them access to a source of high quality jasper that was used for burial objects also.

This is all highly speculative, of course, but it does bring about a certain attractive agreement between the essentials of the story as seen in Nihon Shoki and the archaeology.

Nihon Shoki says that Sujin's successor Suinin Tenno also had to face a major rebellion at the start of his reign. The archaeologists point out that the final battle, in which the rebel's "castle" was captured and burned, was in the exact district in the northwestern corner of the Nara plain which contains Suinin's tomb. They speculate that it was constructed there as a highly visible sign of dominance. It is an Early Kofun phase 2 tomb, by the way, which is characterized, among other things, by the disappearance of Chinese mirrors and their replacement by local imitations. In 291 the Chin dynasty in China fell into confusion in "The Rebellion of the 8 Princes" which led to its collapse and the overrunning of northern China by barbarian invaders. Supplying the Wa with goodies was not on the priority list after that time.

Suinin's tomb is actually inside the boundary of the later capital city of Heijokyo, alias Nara. The remaining tombs of this dynasty are near by, just beyond the northern boundary of Heijokyo. Unfortunately the rest of the material about Suinin is mythological in character. The next ruler was Keiko Tenno. He is represented as taking an army to Kyushu to put down "rebellion." He spent six years at a temporary capital in Kyushu before returning, whereupon Kyushu immediately "rebelled" again. This time he sent his son, at which point the article shifts into fully mythical mode as this son is the celebrated Yamato Takero no Mikoto, who may be termed the Herakles of Japan. The article on the next ruler, Seimu Tenno, is so short as to be logically non-existent. Then comes Chuai Tenno whom many think is invented. His article is particularly unsatisfactory and almost as short as Seimu's.

Chuai Tenno represents the point in Nihon Shoki where its authors intended to take notice of Himiko. Most historians, and all historians who subscribe to the "horse rider" theory, believe that the authors of Nihon Shoki also found it necessary to deal with the fact that the dynasty founded by Sujin now came to an end and was replaced by a new dynasty founded by Ojin.

In Nihon Shoki Chuai is the father of Ojin, but the relationship has its unusual aspects, starting with the fact that Ojin was born a full year after Chuai died thanks to the magical intervention of his mother, who was too busy to give birth at the natural point in time. Chuai Tenno found it necessary to take an army to Kyushu to deal with rebellion. Many of the details of the account of his journey match the campaign of Keiko exactly, which has raised suspicions of copying. At any rate, when he reached Kyushu he found a collection of small states with female rulers.

He had taken his empress with him and when they set up a temporary capital from which to run the campaign, she told him that she had had a vision from a god who declared that the rebels in Kyushu were too unimportant to bother with, that there was something much more important to do, specifically, conquer Korea. Chuai scoffed at this, climbing a nearby hill and looking out to sea and saying that he didn't see anything out there to conquer. A few months later he suddenly died. Nihon Shoki says in a footnote that some say he died in battle fighting against the "barbarians" of Kyushu.

His empress is known as Jingu Kogo where Kogo is "empress" in the sense of an emperor's wife, not in the sense of a ruler. There were ruling "empresses" in Japan, but their title was Tenno, exactly the same as a male ruler. "Gender" in the grammatical sense does not exist in either Chinese or Japanese so there is no problem with that usage. Jingu Kogo now took steps to delay the birth of Ojin, transformed her appearance into that of a man so she could lead the army, and invaded Korea, which she conquered (Paekche, Silla, and Koguryo, whereas neither Paekche or Silla had yet come into existence) in the space of a few months, not by combat but by awing everyone into submission. Then she returned to Kyushu, allowed Ojin to be born, and moved off to Yamato, where she had to fight her way in against sons of Chuai. She ruled to an advanced age without taking the throne and died in 270 (in Nihon Shoki time). There are four items at dates from 240 to 269 in her reign where the Chinese article on the Wa is quoted and named in Nihon Shoki. Ojin is portrayed as actively involved in affairs in her later years as the "crown prince."

This story serves two purposes, one major and one minor. The minor purpose is providing a reason why the Chinese might think that the capital of Japan was in Kyushu and why they thought that Japan was ruled by a woman. The name Himiko is never mentioned. The major purpose was to explain how it happened that an army originating in Korea and bearing the future ruler Ojin invaded and conquered Yamato without disrupting the direct succession of the Japanese ruling house from the gods. Their answer is using Chuai to make Ojin a descendant of Sujin. The proponents of the horse rider theory claim that there is no possible reason for all of this apparatus were it not necessary to explain away a successful invasion from Korea. Historians who do not accept the invasion theory simply dismiss the entire story as myth, freeing them of the need to explain it.

I don't know of any historians who do not agree that, wherever he came from, Ojin was the founder of a new dynasty. His tomb is in a completely new location, outside of Yamato, on the outskirts of modern Osaka. It is considered to represent the absolute beginning of Middle Kofun phase 6 (the ten phases of the Kofun are numbered consecutively, not restarting between Early and Middle). This is the type of tomb that in the view of the horse rider proponents proves that a completely new, very Korean, aristocratic culture was brought into Japan at this time. Ojin, his son Nintoku, and his grandson Richu are buried in the three biggest Kofun ever constructed, three of the most spectacular tombs ever constructed anywhere. It appears that only the tomb of Ch'in Shih Huang Ti in China and the pyramid of Cheops in Egypt cover a greater surface area than the tomb of Ojin (Nintoku's tomb is longer but narrower). Nihon Shoki supports the horse rider theory indirectly in the fact that the first mention of horses in the book occurs during Ojin's article, where it is recorded that the King of Paekche presented a pair to him. And, he obviously had vastly more power than any previous ruler in Japan, in order to have the resources to build that tomb.

Ojin founded a dynasty that was from beginning to end intensely involved with Korea. It ruled, in a loose sense, the parts of southern Korea that were not part of Paekche or Silla, called Imna by the Koreans and Mimana by the Japanese. It was an extremely close ally at all times of Paekche, and more than once sent troops to escort a Paekche prince living at the Japanese court to assume the throne back home. It was involved in frequent warfare against Silla and Koguryo, which were enemies of Paekche and allied with each other. The dynasty sent at least 13 embassies to southern China. Its internal politics were messy. The second ruler, Nintoku, gained the throne by murdering his elder brother, and most of his successors imitated this example. Yuryaku Tenno was such an efficient killer that there was, perhaps, no survivor of the clan other than his three sons when he died, and one of them promptly killed the other two. The exact end of the dynasty is obscure, but it seems pretty clear that Keitai Tenno represented a new one, that followed quite different policies in respect to Korea and China. The survival rate among princes went up enormously after this change.

Keitai Tenno was supposedly a 6th generation descendant of Ojin, but he was an outsider from the north who had never been involved in politics before being tapped as ruler. He was already a grown man with two adult sons. He immediately married the widow of a ruler from the Ojin dynasty and soon had a third son. There seems to have been a problem about the succession when he died, and Nihon Shoki and Kojiki disagree conspicuously about dates at this time. Officially the two older sons briefly ruled one after the other and then the third son took over. Many (but not all) historians think that the third son was the successor and that disgruntled nobles later set up the two elder sons at a rival court. This is why I put the beginning of chronologically valid history at 572 rather than a generation earlier.

The new dynasty presided over the gradual loss of the Japanese position in Korea to Silla. Keitai Tenno himself sent a large army to Korea early in his reign. It first ran into a major rebellion in Kyushu ("The Iwai Rebellion") but continued on to spend several years in Korea with no concrete accomplishments to show for it. Almost the entire Nihon Shoki article about Kimmei Tenno, the fourth ruler of this group, is actually Korean and is about the (unsuccessful) efforts of King Song of Paekche to persuade Kimmei to do something about Silla's aggression in Imna. Eventually Silla conquered Mimana and Japan was excluded from Korea. The court continued to plan attacks on Silla from time to time for another hundred and fifty years, but for one reason or another none of them actually left the country.

As stated above Nihon Shoki is known to contain material that was originally Korean. It mentions the titles of three books in footnotes. They are Kudaraki 百済記, which covers events from the time of Paekche King Kunch'ogo through the death of King Kaeru (475), Kudara Shinsen 百済新撰, which covers events from the accession of Paekche King Piyu (427) to the accession of King Munyong (501), and Kudara Hongi 百済本記, which starts in the middle of the reign of Munyong and continues to the accession of King Widok (554). Kudara is the ancient Japanese name for Paekche. No one knows where it came from. There is an interesting Internet article on this topic by an Italian professor, in imperfect but readable English. See Anselmo, Valerio in the bibliography.

The oldest of these entries in Nihon Shoki date to the "reign" of Jingu Kogo and there are also a lot of them assigned to Ojin Tenno. Then there are few except for notices of events like the death of Paekche kings. However, the greater part of the information associated with Keitai Tenno and Kimmei Tenno is Korean, including some quite lengthy sections. Then it ceases. I will include in this section two additional items of some importance, the inscription on the sword in the possession of the Isonokami Shrine and the Koguryo stele commemorating the career of King Kwanggae'to.

There were 6 Paekche kings in the 6th century, and according to Shinsen Shojiroku, an ancient Japanese book on genealogy, there were noble families in Japan descended from 5 of them. A considerable number of other people from Paekche emigrated to Japan during the 300 years in which Paekche and Japan were close, nobles and commoners both. A number of Korean families other than the royal relatives were also admitted to the Japanese aristocracy. Shinsen Shojiroku counts 1065 aristocratic families and 324 were Korean, though they were nearly all given relatively low status within the aristocracy. Most of them worked in the lower levels of the bureaucracy, and some of them were involved in writing Nihon Shoki. It is not known whether the Paekche historical materials were written especially to provide sources for Nihon Shoki or whether they had had an independent existence, nor is it known whether they were written in Korea or in Japan.

The first block of materials is dated between 366 and 375 (real dates, the Nihon Shoki dates being 120 years earlier). It is assigned to the "reign" of Jingu Kogo, but the future ruler Ojin is frequently mentioned as the "crown prince." In the context of these dates the death of Jingu is assigned to 389 and the accession of Ojin as ruler to 390. The presentation of horses mentioned earlier is also noted in Kojiki as "during the reign of Ojin King Kunch'ogo of Paekche presented two horses." Kunch'ogo died in 375.

The texts in Nihon Shoki are more than a little obscure, but appear to describe the initial establishment of diplomatic relations between Paekche and Japan, which was close to the time of the first Paekche diplomatic mission to China. It is thought that Paekche came into existence some years earlier (it appears in a list of names in a Chinese source in 342), but that it had been a dependency of Koguryo, and was now asserting its independence. In 369 King Kogugwon of Kogoryo launched an attack on the Paekche capital near modern Seoul. This was defeated and a Paekche army commanded by the king's son (and eventual successor) Prince Kusu pursued. In 371 Kusu stormed the Koguryo military base at the former site of Lo-lang and Kogugwon died in the battle. Paekche was now a fully independent nation.

The Nihon Shoki material mentions nothing of this. It merely says that the first contact between Paekche and Wa occurred in 368, that a Wa army was on the frontier of Silla, then still a dependency of Koguryo, and that troops from Paekche joined them in capturing territory both from Silla and from "savages" in the area, and this cooperation was followed by a formal alliance. Several embassies went back and forth and one presented a "seven branched sword" and a "seven horned mirror" to the Japanese ruler. The Isonokami Shrine sword appears to match the first, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts has an excellent example of the type of mirror that is meant, a mirror which it is thought was stolen from the tomb of Nintoku Tenno when it was repaired after a partial collapse in 1872. In the context of mentions of "barbarians" in Japan in Nihon Shoki, I think that the "savages" here were Han Koreans who had so far managed to escape rule by Puyo warriors.

The Isonokami Shrine was in ancient times associated with the Mononobe clan, whose hereditary responsibility was the manufacture of weaponry, and it was used as an arsenal for the storage of weapons. There is a record of this function as late as 804. The administrator of the shrine starting from 1873 was a well-known historian named Kan Masatomo. He had previously written a book about Chinese descriptions of the Wa. He wrote a book about the collections of the shrine that said nothing about the sword. However, he revealed its existence in a later publication.

The most crucial information about the sword is the date in the inscription. In Kan's original publication he read it as 泰始四年*月十*日丙午 (asterisks are characters that cannot be read), but he mentioned that the second character 始 is hard to read and represented a guess. In a later publication he gave the date as 泰初四年六月十一日丙午. For a long time the shrine refused to let other scholars examine the sword, but after WWII it was finally permitted and the consensus reading is now 泰和四年*月十六日丙午, or 4th year of 泰和, * month, 16th day 3rd year of the Horse in the Chinese year cycle. That gives 3 different readings of the second character of the "nengo," or Chinese style reign title used for the official dating of documents.

泰始 is the first nengo of the Western Chin dynasty of China and the fourth year is 268. The same nengo was also used by the Liu Sung dynasty, where the 4th year would be 468. 泰和 belongs to an impossibly late dynasty and would be 1204. 泰初 is unknown. The current theory is that 泰和 is an error for 太和, the reason offered being that they would be pronounced the same way, "taiwa" in Japanese. 太和 is a nengo of the Eastern Chin and the 4th year is 369. Everyone likes the 369 date because the inscription on the other side of the sword names Prince Kusu of Paekche, who was alive at that time. However, using 369 depends on deciding to assume that the actual date written on the sword is a mistake (which many discussions omit mentioning, jumping to the good part which is the attractive year 369).

No one appears to pay any attention to the cycle date, 丙午, which last occurred in 1966. Its only occurrence in the 4th century was 346. That was a time of deep confusion in northern China with many short-lived regimes. It would not surprise me to find that nengo were proclaimed that did not make it into surviving records.

However, I do trust the naming of Prince Kusu on the sword. It can be inferred from Samguk Sagi that even though his father was still on the throne, he was in control in Paekche as of 371 and 372. Conventionally one would expect such an inscription to mention only the king, but in this case the king was effectively retired and his son was in charge.

Anyone who reads W. G. Aston's translation of Nihon Shoki will see that before the Isonokami sword became known no one had any idea of what a "seven branched" or "seven bladed" or "seven pronged" sword might have looked like. Aston admitted in a footnote that he didn't understand this term at all. A hypothetical forger had a free hand to come up with anything. There are people who believe that the sword is a forgery. However, a sword has been excavated from a kofun at Kisawa in Tochigi prefecture that is, if not exactly identical, clearly made on the same pattern. The sword itself proves nothing. It is entirely logical that "Wa" and Paekche would be in diplomatic contact by 371. However, if the sword is authentic, then it proves that by 371 people in Paekche were capable of composing an inscription that named a prince of Paekche. No one in China knew anything about Prince Kusu.

After the date the inscription says "A seven bladed sword made of multiply forged iron able to subdue a myriad of soldiers. It is suitable for a duke or a king. Made by [4 illegible characters]." On the other side it says "This sword of a character heretofore unknown was made by The King of Paekche and his heir Prince Kusu for the King of Wa to be passed on to later generations." It appears certain that these two inscriptions were made at different times because their characters look quite different. The first one looks Chinese and the second does not, being much clumsier, as if engraved by someone who was copying characters he could not read.

In 372, the year of the Nihon Shoki record of the presentation of a sword, Paekche sent an embassy to the Eastern Chin dynasty of south China and the King was granted the Chinese military title of Chinto Shogun (Japanese pronunciation) and Governor of Lo-lang. This would be after his capture of the former Lo-lang from Koguryo (though Paekche did not attempt to hold it, setting the frontier further south). This would mean, if we trust the record in Nihon Shoki, that the sword was presented before the return of the first Paekche embassy to China (at the end of the year), so that it is impossible that the Chinese presented the sword to Paekche on this occasion. They got it some other way, perhaps as loot when they captured Lo-lang, in which case it could have been quite old, and it could have been made in Kogoryo or in Manchuria, and the nengo was not necessarily Chinese at all.

Officially the sword is authentic. It is a registered National Treasure. I have some good pictures of it (both sides plus a close up of the date) in an art book. The shrine does not permit it to be seen, but there are replicas in several museums in Japan, including the National Museum in Nara, and one in South Korea, and it is easy to find pictures on the Internet.

There is one more source to consider. In 414 the King of Koguryo erected an inscribed stone stele at the Koguryo capital on the Yalu River (called "Northern Capital"). The stone celebrates the career of King Kwanggae’to (391-412), who revived the fortunes of Koguryo after the disaster of 371. It describes all of the king’s wars, including those against Paekche. In it the Wa are mentioned several times. Kwanggae’to claims to have captured the Paekche capital and forced Paekche to submit to him in 396, only to have the Wa interfere and undo everything, and he also claims to have defeated a major Wa attempt to conquer Silla in 400. Nihon Shoki knows nothing about any of these events. It does record a Paekche embassy to Wa in 397.

In places the inscription is hard or impossible to read. I here give a translation of those parts that are of interest for Japanese history which is based on a translation to Japanese by Enoki Kazuo.

Paekche and Silla were originally people subordinate to Koguryo and have since ancient times paid tribute. However, in 391 Wa crossed over the sea and defeated Paekche, [unreadable], and Silla and made them their vassals.

This appears to refer to the Japanese role in the death of King Chinsa and his replacement by King Asin as mentioned in Nihon Shoki, though not in Samguk Sagi. Nihon Shoki says that King Chinsa was "disrespectful" to Japan and that two officials were sent to remonstrate, but before they could reach the capital, the people overthrew the king and killed him. The Japanese then sent for a prince who was residing at the court in Japan who became King Asin. Samguk Sagi says only that King Chinsa died suddenly while on a hunting trip in the countryside. It appears that Paekche princes quite often resided in Japan. At least 3 future kings are known to have done so. Nihon Shoki tends to present them as "hostages", but it is equally likely that the Paekche kings wanted to keep them away from palace politics.

Then in 396 King Kwanggae’to personally led a fleet and defeated Paekche taking 54 fortresses [all named in the inscription] and reaching the Paekche capital. The villains refused to surrender and dared to come out and fight, so the King brilliantly crossed the Ari River and attacked four fortresses. The King of Paekche was sorely distressed and offered 1000 slaves and 1000 bolts of fine cloth and surrendered to King Kwanggae’to and swore to be the king’s servant from that time forward through eternity. The king accepted this and seized 58 fortresses and 700 villages and took 10 high officials including the King of Paekche’s brother as hostages and settled them at his capital.

In 398 the King sent an army and removed 300 people from [unreadable]. As a result, since then they have paid tribute.

In 399 Paekche broke the treaty and allied with Wa and took a hostile position, so the king moved to Pyongyang where he took up a defensive position. According to an embassy from Silla that came to him there, the Wa had invaded Silla, destroyed fortresses, and liberated slaves and made them free men and then allied with them. They requested the king to do something to help them. Kwanggae’to praised the loyalty of Silla and dispatched a commission to report on the situation there. Then in 400 he assembled an army of 50,000 men and sent it into Silla. Wa forces were spread over Silla all the way from 男居城 to the Silla capital. When the Koguryo army arrived the Wa villains retreated and the Koguryo army chased them to Kara in Imna and that fortress surrendered, however the men of Anra attacked the Silla capital and [unreadable] and Wa soldiers also retained many fortresses in that area.

Kara and Anra were the two principal states in the Mimana region that was under Japanese control in the 5th century. This sounds like an admission that the offensive against the Mimana and Japanese forces was not entirely successful. There is also no claim of a return of Paekche to obedience.

In 404 the Wa were so villainous as to cross the Koguryo frontier at T'ai-fang. [an unreadable section occurs] The king was ferociously attacked, but the Wa were defeated and countless numbers were slain.

In 407 an army of foot soldiers and cavalry amounting to 50,000 men was fought, and 10,000 suits of armor and countless other military supplies were captured, and also two fortresses were taken.

This section has many illegible parts, but the name of Pyongyang appears, so it is possible that this fighting was near there. It does not explicitly say that this fighting involved Wa.

The stele was erected in 414 at Kwanggae’to’s tomb by his son and successor. It is unquestionably a contemporary document, but it is royal propaganda and there are a lot of problems with it. Many things that it says are contradicted by other sources, most particularly Samguk Sagi, the oldest surviving Korean history of Korea, and Chinese diplomatic records, neither of which knows anything about the surrender of Paekche claimed for 396. Also, it does not match up well with the materials derived from Paekche that are quoted in Nihon Shoki. The stele is not mentioned in any historical source before its discovery in the Meiji period by a Japanese army officer who was surveying the frontier between Korea and Manchuria. There has been considerable work investigating whether it might have been a forgery, but this theory is, I believe, no longer entertained. Some restoration work was done during the period of Japanese control of Manchuria, but the inscription is not flattering to Japan and there is no reason to think that it was changed. There have recently been discovered some old rubbings of the inscription that were supposedly made by Chinese before the stele was "discovered" by the Japanese that support the authenticity of the text.

There are a number of reasons why many historians are not happy with the dates assigned to Ojin and his descendents, even when the early ones are adjusted by 120 years (most of which would come by shortening Ojin's and Nintoku's reigns considerably). The main problem is the information in the southern Chinese dynastic histories about Japanese embassies. This leads us to yet another perplexing topic that has attracted a great deal of attention, though not much in English.

The Five Kings of Wa

The records of the Liu Sung dynasty of 420-479 name 5 Wa Kings. They are 讃, 珍, 済, 興, and 武. The rulers’ names as given in Nihon Shoki are polysyllabic and there is no possibility that these Chinese words could represent them phonetically. This has not prevented dozens of scholars from trying to make them do it. Either they work from the meaning of the character, or they select one syllable of the Japanese name that sort of fits a character’s Chinese pronunciation. None of this seems productive.

The Chinese say that 珍 was the successor of 讃 and was his younger brother. This is encouraging, because succession by brothers was the norm in Japan at this time, although contrary to Chinese ways of thinking. They did not say how 済 was related to the first two, but do say that 興 and 武 were his sons. The Nihon Shoki genealogy for the period in question has three sons of Nintoku reigning in succession, Richu, Hanzei, and Ingyo, followed by two sons of Ingyo, Anko and Yuryaku. This actually fits. Unfortunately, the dates are badly out of synch with what Nihon Shoki and Kojiki have to say. And Nihon Shoki and Kojiki also usually disagree with each other. Here is a little table on that.

Nihon Shoki Kojiki
Ojin270-310age 110d. 394age 140
Nintoku313-399not givend. 427age 83
Richu400-405age 70d. 432age 64
Hanzei 406-410 not given d. 437 age 60
Ingyo 412-453 not given d. 454 age 78
Anko453-456not givend. ? age 56
Yuryaku 456-479 not given d. 489age 124

The Kojiki dates are given as Chinese cycle dates, so that it is necessary to guess which cycle they are in. The table shows the most reasonable choices. They look better than the Nihon Shoki dates (which is not hard). Unfortunately, that doesn't make them right, and the ages are not exactly what we would hope to see. There is no reason to believe that these dates were in the underlying, probably oral, material because the Japanese were probably not using the Chinese calendar when it was created. They give every sign of having been inserted much later.

According to the Sung dynasty records, the king who sent the first embassy they received (there was one earlier to a previous dynasty, but it doesn't give a name for the king) in 421 had a successor who was his younger brother. This means that it must have been Richu, Hanzei, or Anko. However, according to Kojiki, Nintoku was still on the throne, and according to Nihon Shoki the ruler was already Ingyo. Somebody has to be wrong. There is more. The 3rd king sent two embassies, in 443 and 451. In 462 the Chinese report that he died (date unknown) and his "crown prince" sent an embassy to announce the fact. The next embassy was not until 478 and everyone enthusiastically endorses the idea that this was Yuryraku. However, that means that the 462 embassy was sent by Anko, which doesn't match any Japanese dates. The reason that Yuryaku is thought to be 武 is because one Japanese word linked to 武 is "takeru" and this was a part of the Japanese name of Yuryaku (remember that the name Yuryaku was only created in the 8th century and is not used in Nihon Shoki). This is the only one of the "kings" whose name works in this way. However, the Chinese of this era were unlikely to know "takeru" at all, or the fact that it means the same thing as the Chinese 武. The Chinese pronunciation of 武 is Wu.

The bottom line here is mainly that these Chinese entries prove that the Nihon Shoki dates are wrong, which means that everything that Nihon Shoki says has to be viewed with skepticism. And, the most important fact is that Nihon Shoki does not even know that any of these embassies ever occurred. This proves absolutely that Nihon Shoki was not working from anything like government records for this period but other kinds of materials. Nihon Shoki does mention two contacts with China in this era, rather mysterious ones. Ojin Tenno was supposed to have sent two agents to China in quest of expert seamstresses. Then there is mention of the return of such a party, with seamstresses, during the reign of Yuryaku, at least one hundred years later.

If you read the Nihon Shoki articles on these kings you will see that politics during this period were quite violent. The majority of these rulers reached the throne over one or two corpses. You will also notice that Nihon Shoki has a three year interregnum after Ojin and two years after Hanzei. That is because there were civil wars. Anko was assassinated by the son of a prince he had murdered to gain the throne, and Yuryaku killed the assassin. The violence was not limited to succession quarrels. There was a tendency to follow Stalin's principle "no person, no problem". If you had doubts about anyone, kill him. This raises the possibility that the official list that made it into Nihon Shoki is not necessarily complete. There may well have been men who functioned as ruler for a period of time but were written out of the record because they were ultimately killed by a rival. One or more persons of this sort could have easily sent an embassy to China, nicely messing up both the dates and the implied genealogy.

The end result is that we have to acknowledge that our information about this period is scanty and move on. I do not believe that making an effort to try work out who the 'five kings of Wa' might have been is a worthwhile activity. There is one benefit from the Chinese embassies, however, that is probably more valuable all by itself than everything that Nihon Shoki has to say about Ojin and his successors. This is the letter that accompanied the 478 embassy, presumably sent by Yuryaku. This tells us much about the 5th century Japanese rulers that Nihon Shoki knows nothing about, or at any rate doesn't tell us about. Here is the Chinese account.

Then died and his brother came to the throne. In the 2nd year of Sheng-ming during Shun-ti’s reign (478), , signing himself as King of Wa and General who Maintains Peace in the East commanding with battle-ax all military affairs in the seven countries of Wa, Paekche, Silla, Imna, Kaya, Chin-han, and Ma-han, sent an envoy bearing the following memorial:

Our land is remote and distant, it lies far out in the ocean. For generations our forbears have clad themselves in armor and helmet and gone across the mountains and rivers, sparing no time for rest. In the east they conquered 55 countries of hairy men, and in the west 66 countries of barbarians. Crossing the sea to the north, they subjugated 95 countries. The way of government is to keep harmony and peace, thus establishing order in the land. Generation after generation, without fail, our forbears have paid homage to the court. Your subject, ignorant though he is, is succeeding to the throne of his predecessors and is fervently devoted to your majesty. Everything he commands is at your disposal. Thinking to travel by way of Paekche, distant though it is, we prepared boats, but Koguryo criminally schemed to seize them. Borders were violated and many deaths have occurred. We have been delayed time after time and missed favorable winds. Every time the way seemed clear, Koguryo was rebellious. My deceased father became indignant at this marauding foe who blocked our path to the court. Urged by a sense of justice he gathered together a million archers and was about to launch a great campaign. But, because of the death of my father and my brother, the plan could not be carried out. Mourning required the laying down of arms. Inaction does not bring victory. Now, we have again set our armor in array and carry out the ambitions of our predecessors. The fighting men are ready, civil and military officials are ready, and none have fear of sword or fire.

Your majesty’s virtue extends over heaven and earth. If through it we can crush this foe and put an end to our troubles we shall ever continue our loyalty to the throne. I therefore beg you to appoint me as commander of this campaign with the status of minister, and to grant others ranks and titles so that loyalty may be encouraged.

By imperial edict, was made King of Wa and General who Maintains Peace in the East commanding with battle-ax all military affairs in the six countries of Wa, Silla, Imna, Kaya, Chin-han, and Ma-han.

The Kwangae'to stele says nothing about this because it says nothing about anything that happened before Kwangae'to came to the throne of Koguryo in 391. However, here the "king of Wa" claims himself to be a bitter enemy of Koguryo, something which does not appear in Nihon Shoki, where the enemy is always Silla, which controlled all of Korea when Nihon Shoki was written and was hostile to Japan. It is worth noting that in 475 Koguryo seriously defeated Paekche, capturing its capital and killing King Kaero. The new king relocated the capital in a mountain location well to the south, though the boundary between Koguryo and Paekche remained approximately the same as before. King 武 didn't say anything about this, but it must have been a factor in the overall situation. Nihon shoki says that Japan assisted Paekche at this time by transferring some lands from Mimana to support the new capital.

Note should be taken of the list of countries claimed by King 武 and the list granted by the Chinese. King 武 claimed seven but was only awarded six. Several of the 5th century Japanese embassies asked the Chinese to name the King as in control of Paekche and the Chinese always refused. They also always awarded the King of Paekche a Chinese military title that was one step higher than the one given to the King of the Wa. However, the Chinese did not object to listing Silla. This was because Silla at this time had never sent an embassy to any southern Chinese dynasty. Also listed are Imna and Kaya, whereas Kaya was a country in Imna. And, there is Chin-han and Ma-han which were ancient names for the parts of southern Korea that eventually became Silla and Paekche. Clearly, the Chinese didn't have much knowledge of the political geography of the region (and they did not send embassies to either Korea or Japan so that they had little opportunity to find out).

It is difficult to find anything to say about the domestic side of the Ojin dynasty. Nihon Shoki offers nothing to suggest a structured government or any system for administering the countryside other than assigning hereditary rulers everywhere. In the article about Ojin it says that he assigned the area of Kibi (Okayama Prefecture) to a certain person, dividing it into five districts to be inherited by five of his children. This happened at the beginning of his reign when Kibi presumably needed a new ruler after the invasion. There are four noble clans who are most frequently mentioned in the time of the Ojin dynasty.

The Kazuraki clan provided several wives to rulers and also at least one military commander assigned to duty in Korea. It is not mentioned after the end of the dynasty.

The Wani clan had a territory in the Yamato area and did survive, although the name did not as it divided into several successor clans, some of which were still prominent in the 8th century.

The Otomo clan differed from the first two in that their name had a functional character instead of a geographical one. "Tomo" means follower in the sense that soldiers are followers, and the Otomo constantly appear as military commanders, presumably leading troops who were followers of the ruling clan, not men belonging to the Otomo clan itself.

And, the Mononobe clan also had a functional basis. One would expect Mononobe to refer to groups of commoners who specialized in making "things", specifically iron weapons. However the Mononobe clan were not themselves blacksmiths but rather charged with managing the workers who made weapons and also running the arsenals containing the ruler's weapons. They also often appear to function in situations where something like police would be used in our society. A striking case occurs at the time of the Iwai Rebellion. This occurred as the head of the Otomo clan was leading an army to Korea. He was ordered to ignore the rebellion and continue on to Korea, and the head of the Mononobe clan led a second force to Kyushu to suppress the rebellion.

The Collapse of the Ojin Dynasty

This topic has been discussed much by Japanese historians but has been pretty much ignored in English. According to Nihon Shoki Yuryraku Tenno was a particularly efficient killer of relatives who might have a claim upon the throne. He is credited with a bizarre death-bed speech, the only one in Nihon Shoki, in which he expressed regret that he was leaving the country in such bad shape. This speech is stolen almost word for word from one in Shih Chi related to the fall of the Ch'in dynasty of China. The 478 embassy attributed to Yuryaku by most Japanese historians is only one year before the date of his death according to Nihon Shoki. It was also the last recorded Japanese embassy. The Sung dynasty fell in 479 and was replaced by one called Ch'i which lasted for only 23 years, followed by Liang. The Liang history says that in 502 they renewed all of the titles granted to King 武. However, it mentions no embassy and this does not necessarily mean that he was still alive.

Yuryaku had three sons, and the customary conflict ensued upon his death, leaving the two oldest dead and the youngest on the throne. This is Seinei Tenno who was childless. Allegedly, during the reign of Seinei it was fortuitously discovered that there were two surviving princes, sons of a man killed by Yuryaku, who had been hiding in the countryside under false names. These two reigned one after the other and the second of them (who was the older) had one son who died childless ending the dynasty in the immediate sense. Otomo no Kanamura, the most powerful official at court, suggested a distant relative who might serve, but when a party was sent to contact him, he assumed that their purpose was to kill him and he ran off into the hills and was never seen again. So, Kanamura proposed a second candidate who showed more courage and listened to the message and became Keitai Tenno.

Nobody likes this material. The article about Yuryaku's son Seinei is very short and records essentially nothing beyond the discovery of the two princes. The story of Kenzo Tenno and Ninken Tenno reads like a fairy tale from beginning to end. The last ruler, Buretsu, is essentially Caligula, a classic "last emperor" used in Chinese historiography to justify the end of a dynasty as punishment for his moral failings. About all that Kojiki says about him is that he reigned 8 years, was childless, and it names his tomb. Its article about Kenzo says the same three things and the name of the tomb is the same in both cases and many think that Buretsu did not exist. It has also been suggested that if the "hidden princes" story is real they were not discovered while Seinei was still alive but after his death. Nihon Shoki makes it plain that a sister of Yuryaku led an interim regime that lasted for a year or so after the death of Seinei. In the Nihon Shoki version the delay occurred because the two princes could not agree on which of them should take the throne, each deferring to the other. Many scholars think that if they existed at all they were imposters, probably run by Otomo no Kanamura.

The overall feeling is that there was probably a somewhat long period of confusion when it might have been unclear whether there was a ruler at all before the emergence of Keitai. There is a note in Nihon Shoki that after the death of Ninken Tenno a noble named Heguri no Matori no Omi attempted to rule Japan as if he were king, but he was attacked and killed by the prince who became Buretsu Tenno. Many scholars are convinced that the story of the "discovery" and invitation of Keitai is also false, and that he was the hereditary leader of the Koshi region of Japan, which is to say modern Ishikawa Prefecture, and that he simply showed up one day with an army and took over. He ruled for 20 years before he first moved into Yamato province. He mainly ruled from Yamashiro, from locations that are inside the modern city of Kyoto (which did not yet exist). This is taken to suggest that it took a long time to secure acceptance from the main clans in Yamato so that he felt safe to set up his palace there.

The one thing that is certain is that the evidence is so sparse that the matter will never be resolved. However, most historians would agree that it is unlikely that Keitai was actually a direct descendant of the Ojin dynasty. It is said that his father was a fifth generation descendant of Ojin, which made Keitai sixth generation. According to the law in effect at the time that Nihon Shoki was written that would mean that he could not claim membership in the ruling clan, five generations being the cutoff point, with a fifth generation prince having strictly limited privileges. It may be that the point was that he was descended from the Puyo invading group.

He was new and the policies followed by his successors were noticeably different in important respects than those of the Ojin dynasty. Whereas the political roots of the Ojin dynasty were in Korea and it was always heavily involved in Korea, the subsequent dynasty for the next two hundred years consistently showed a special connection with the regions to the east and north east of Yamato. The rulers were always careful to keep considerable numbers of eastern warriors called toneri at court. These were apparently younger members of the rural clans who served a term at court and then went home again. Keitai's successors allowed the Japanese position in Korea to be dismantled by the Kingdom of Silla without putting up much resistance. They also sent no embassies to China. And, there soon occurred a considerable shakeup among the leading aristocratic clans.

The New Dynasty

At the start of Keitai's reign we find that the two most powerful men at court were Otomo no Kamamura and Mononobe no Arakabi. In 512 Paekche sent an embassy which proposed that four districts in the northwestern part of Mimana be transferred from Japan to Paekche. The reason offered was that they were close to Paekche and were in daily contact with Paekche, whereas they were far from the Japanese base on the Naktong River in the east of Mimana and had few dealings with that area. Otomo no Kanamura studied this application and recommended that it be accepted. Mononobe no Arakabi strongly opposed. The ruler's eldest son, the future Ankan Tenno, was away on business when this occurred, but when he found out he also was opposed. However, Keitai agreed with Kanamura. This conference and its decision is referred to repeatedly subsequently in Nihon Shoki and eventually led to the fall of the Otomo clan from prominence.

In the original notice Nihon Shoki says that some thought that Paekche had bribed Otomo. In short, the enemies of the Otomo claimed that this decision was the direct cause of the loss of Mimana. In 515 a section of Mimana rebelled and a Mononobe commander was sent in command of a fleet to restore order. However, he was defeated by the rebels and was apparently then rescued by a Paekche army. In 527 a large army was dispatched to Kyushu on the way to Mimana when its progress was blocked by a rebellion by the most powerful local ruler in Kyushu, named Iwai. We can be pretty sure that he was the most powerful because his Kofun, constructed while he was still alive, is the biggest one in the whole island. It's identification is pretty certain as it had certain highly distintive features mentioned in Nihon Shoki and confirmed archaeologically.

Otomo Kanamura recommended that the army continue on to Korea and that Mononobe no Arakabi take charge of the rebellion. This was agreed, and in 528 Mononobe fought Iwai in a large scale battle and killed him. Iwai's son surrendered and was pardoned on payment of a fine. These events were presumably aftermath of the replacement of the Ojin dynasty by a new one, but Nihon Shoki tells us nothing about the politics behind them. In 530 a delegation from Mimana came to the court to complain about the behavior of the general dispatched in 527. Basically, he was behaving like a tyrant and not doing much of anything to protect them against Silla. An officer was sent to recall him, but he refused to leave, so the officer requested military support from Paekche, which besieged him in his castle, but could not take it. The court sent additional officials and this time the general decided to return, but died en route. Keitai died only a few months later.

No one is quite sure how to deal with the records of the next three reigns because of suspicions that Nihon Shoki is once again trying to conceal what happened. A number of theories have been proposed and all of them have been vigorously attacked. There is not really enough evidence to be sure of anything.

According to Nihon Shoki Keitai died in 531 and was succeeded by his eldest son as Ankan Tenno. He died in 535 and was followed by his brother as Senka Tenno, who died in turn in 539, when he was followed by his half brother as Kimmei Tenno. However, it is possible to find in ancient sources three different dates for the death of Keitai. Kojiki says that he died in 527, the year of the Iwai Rebellion. Nihon Shoki has a footnote which says that there is an alternate version that he died in 534. The authors say that they decided to go with the 531 date because it matches an entry in Kudara Hongi. However, this entry simply says that a Paekche army operating in Mimana learned that the King of Kuguryo had been assassinated and that the king of the Wa and his heir and a second prince all died "at the same time." No names are given. In its main article Nihon Shoki says that Keitai summoned his heir, the future Ankan, and had him proclaimed ruler before his own death, the only time such an event is reported for this era. However, the article on Ankan says that he assumed the throne in 534. There are also two different dates given for the enthronement of Kimmei Tenno. Nihon Shoki says he took the throne in 539 on the death of Senka and died in 571 in the 32nd year of his reign. However, another ancient book says that Kimmei reigned for 41 years, implying that he took the throne in 531.

The first historian to tackle this was Hirako Takurei in 1905. He pointed out that Nihon Shoki says that King Song of Paekche presented a Buddha image to the Kimmei court in 552, but all other early sources of the Nara period say that this happened in 538. Hirako also noted that one of the Nara books that mentions the presentation of the statue says that the year was the 7th of Kimmei’s reign, which points to 531 for his enthronement. Hirako found room for the reigns of Ankan and Senka by proposing that the Kojiki date of 527 is correct for the death of Keitai.

Then, Kida Teiki, writing in 1928, proposed that the date of 531 is correct for Keitai’s death and that Kimmei was immediately elevated to the throne at that time. Ankan then established a rival court in 534 and was followed by Senka. The statement that “the crown prince” was elevated to the throne before the emperor died refers to Kimmei, not to Ankan.

Next, Hayashiya Shinsaburo proposed that the Iwai rebellion and the collapse of the Korean expedition caused the credibility of the Keitai court, dominated by the Otomo clan, to collapse. The leader of this criticism was Soga no Iname. The Kudara Hongi item quoted by Nihon Shoki means that Soga assassinated Keitai and at least one of his sons, presumably including the designated heir. Soga then placed Kimmei on the throne. However, the Otomo faction responded in 534 by setting up Ankan as a rival emperor. This standoff lasted for 7 years but was finally resolved with the political destruction of the Otomo, who are not mentioned after 539.

The last version I will offer is by Inoue Mitsusada. He called attention to an event of the first year of Kimmei's reign when a conference was called on the question of whether to send an army to Korea. Mononobe no Okoshi said that sending only a small force would accomplish nothing and said that the main cause of the problem was that Otomo no Kanamura had transferred the four districts to Paekche, which angered Silla, which has been aggressive ever since. Kanamura was not at this conference, claiming illness. A messenger was sent to inquire about this and he said that he knew he was going to be criticized and didn't want to come.

Inoue says that, first, it is really pretty clear that when Nihon Shoki reports the hastly elevation of the crown prince before Keitai's death Ankan is meant since he is identified using a short form of his personal name. Inoue explains the item in Kudara Hongi as a mistake. The courtiers refused to recognize the enthronement of Ankan and elevated Kimmei instead and this fooled the Koreans into thinking that Ankan, who they knew was the heir, must have died also. When they deposed Ankan they probably stripped Senka of his status as well, explaining the reference to two princes dying at the same time as the ruler. Inoue argues that if Soga had killed Keitai he would certainly have killed the two princes and probably Otomo no Kanamura as well.

In the end, whatever the details, it is strongly suspected by most that Keitai died and Kimmei was enthroned in 531 and that Ankan established a rival court in 534, and that after the death of Senka in 539 the Otomo clan no longer held high status at court. The Soga clan replaced them in prominence.

In 537 the Senka court ordered Otomo no Kanamura to send an army to Korea commanded by two of his sons. One son was to take the army to Korea and the second to control supplies from Kyushu. This force actually went to Korea (it is mentioned in other ancient writings) but it is not known what it may have accomplished.

By far the largest part of the Nihon Shoki article on Kimmei is actually Korean. It is a relatively readable account of extensive and ultimately unsuccessful attempts by King Song of Paekche to persuade Kimmei to do something serious about defending Mimana from Silla.

The Japanese position in Korea was completely lost by 562. This was in part the consequence of a major series of wars among the three Korean kingdoms that started in 548 with a powerful attack on Paekche by Koguryo. Silla unexpectedly sent troops to the aid of Paekche and the attack was driven off. Paekche and Silla then formed an alliance to seek to recover various lands in the north that had been gained by Koguryo in recent decades. Koguryo was defeated in 551 and a large territory was captured, but Silla then seized it all. King Song of Paekche decided to stake everything on an all out invasion of Silla, but when travelling near the battle zone with a small force he was ambushed and killed in 554. In both China and Japan it was thought for a time that Paekche would collapse and disappear, but that did not happen. However, Silla was now unquestionably the most powerful kingdom in Korea. It had undertaken strenuous reforms on the Chinese model starting with the accession of King Chijung in 500. With Paekche out of action at least temporarily, Silla was able to quickly complete the conquest of all of Mimana. Apparently there was not much local resistance as the locals were fed up with Kimmei's refusal to do anything to help them earlier. It is possible to suggest that they had loyalty to the Ojin dynasty rather than to Japan.

The functioning of the Yamato State

Lars Vargo's monograph, listed in the bibliography, is particularly useful here. Unfortunately, it may be rather hard to find. It is basically an annotated bibliography which summarizes the views of a large number of Japanese historians as of 1982, and in the course of performing this task it quotes essentially every relevant scrap of information in Nihon Shoki. The most striking result is the fact that hardly any of the historians agree with each other about anything significant. The problem is the same as with the other topics discussed here, the amount of real information is too small to reach definitive conclusions, leaving enormous room for speculation. Nihon Shoki shows no interest at all in telling us how the Yamato state worked. It drops crumbs of information from time to time in passages that are actually about something else. These crumbs fall into five categories. There is information about territorial organization, about aristocratic clans, about aristocratic titles, about those groups of commoners who were most important to the rulers, and about a mysterious institution known as "miyake."

The Chinese said that Japan was divided into "countries," and the archaeologists tell us of status differentiation as displayed by tombs that permit us to identify a tomb suitable for a village chief, a tomb suitable for the chief of a district, and a tomb suitable for the "king" of a "country." These grades map to territorial names and titles in the Yamato state. For the Kofun period we see essentially two territorial titles, agata nushi for the man who controlled a relatively small district and who would be buried in a "small" tomb, and kuni no miyatsuko, for a much higher status person who would be buried in a "medium" tomb. Most historians think that an agata was a real unit and the agata nushi was the man who saw to it that the wealth needed by the aristocrats was extracted from the commoners. Agata had names and could presumably be pointed to on a map, and many of their names carry forward to become districts within the provinces and quite a few survive as local district names today. The kuni no miyatsuko is more amorphous. Few have any confidence that a kuni was an identifiable territory with a boundary, most think that the title of kuni no miyatsuko simply indicated a powerful man who controlled a number of agata nushi. The layout of their authority might be highly changeable over time. However, they unquestionably had real power because they built much bigger and more elaborately equipped tombs than other people.

These aristocrats were organized into clans known as "uji." In theory all clans were descended from one clan founder, and much of the text of Nihon Shoki is devoted to stories telling how a particular clan got its start. They had names which were most commonly place names, indicating the district which they controlled. Most clans were territorial. A minority had names indicating that they had a functional role closely linked to the ruling house rather than a territorial base. These clans appear to have had units scattered across the country, and some think that these units may not have been related to each other by blood. In the hypothetical horse rider invasion scenario, there would have been a large body of warriors, divided into a hierarchy corresponding to military units, with a smaller number of persons who were closely associated with the ruling group. The former became the main body of the rural aristocracy, the kuni no miyatsuko and agata nushi, and the latter took up special responsibilities in assisting the ruler to maintain control over the whole.

For the Ojin dynasty, typical examples are the Kazuraki clan, a territorial clan which furnished many rulers' wives, and the Heguri, a similar clan with a similar role. However, there were also the Otomo clan which appears to have had a role as hereditary leaders of the ruler's military forces and the Mononobe clan which was in charge of the manufacture and storage of the ruler's weapons and armor. These clans had a nationwide distribution.

Each clan had its own special god and one important function of the clan chief was to serve as the god's chief priest. In later times, when Shinto shrines came to be built as a response to Buddhist temples, members of the uji founded their hereditary priesthoods. Nearly every ancient Shinto Shrine is traditionally linked to a particular uji.

There is a word written using the standard Chinese character used today for a government department 部 which can be pronounced "be" (as in berry). This is thought to derive from the government of Paekche where there were 12 departments responsible for supplying all of the needs of the royal palace. The be in Japan were responsible for supplying the needs of the ruler also. It would seem that these were groups of commoners who were placed under the control of an aristocratic family permanently, as a hereditary status that in their case substituted for a territorial assignment. The members of a be had to eat, of course, and nothing is said anywhere about how that might be accomplished, whether they grew their own food or were paid for their other services. The be themselves were responsible for things such as supplying pottery for the palace table and haniwa for the royal tombs (hajibe), running the kennels with the royal hunting dogs (inukaibe), setting up sites for religious ceremonies and then cleaning up afterward (hafuribe), guarding royal buildings (yukehibe), and so on. The royal clan definitely had its own territories where it owned the farmers and collected their crops into its warehouses. There was a special category of be that consisted of the immigrants from Korea. These produced high class goods like silk fabrics and writing paper.

Miyake are the only institution mentioned that looks like something that only a ruler could do. The rural aristocrats probably had their own local versions of be. A miyake is a named location that was controlled by the ruler via an official known as a tomo no miyatsuko. "Tomo" is a term that implies a military unit, and tomo no miyatsuko could mean something like "captain." The Keitai dynasty certainly had bands of warriors that were specially loyal to the clan that they could call on and these were the core of their army. In peacetime they were simply rural aristocrats living on an agata somewhere. The word miyake consists of "mi-" which is an element meaning royal and "yake" which means a house or other sizeable building. A miyake in early times was evidently a physical warehouse or group of warehouses that would contain grain. Apparently, when a miyake was established the local aristocrats were compelled to keep it filled, so that when a royal military unit came through it would be able to draw grain for rations. Miyake were the only thing we can see that looks like a form of taxation on the aristocracy.

It is noticeable that the formation of miyake is often mentioned in the aftermath of a rebellion, though that may be because Nihon Shoki normally only mentions rural areas in connection with rebellions. Two hundred years later the word miyake seems to have been used briefly for a private landed estate and this has caused a lot of confusion. The clearest example I know of relates to the establishment of a miyake in 535 at the port of Nanotsu, the most convenient place in Kyushu to transship men or supplies heading from central Japan to Korea. It was to be initially supplied by transferring grain from miyake in the Kinai and then its regular supply would come from the suppression of three miyake in northern Kyushu that were in less useful locations. The grain formerly sent to them would now go to Nanotsu. Then, although much later, in 607, a project was inaugurated calling for irrigation works in three provinces, and a miyake was to be set up in each province to feed the workers.

The national administration is as amorphous as everything else. There is mention periodically of two special titles that appear to designate the most powerful men at court, "o-omi" and "o-muraji" where "o-" means great. During the latter part of the Ojin dynasty and the early part of the Keitai dynasty the only man ever called "o-omi" was the head of the Otomo clan. There were sometimes two "o-muraji" simultaneously, but one of them was always the head of the Mononobe clan. Numerous other people had the title of "omi" or "muraji". These are the kind of titles that are called "kabane" in technical discussions. They were hereditary or traditional status designations such that a particular clan might be called "omi" but never "muraji" and vice versa. It appears that clans titled omi were considered to be collaterals of the royal house and therefore eligible to marry with princes and princesses. The muraji clans were not allowed this privilege.

Kabane are complicated (there are articles about them in the bibliography above), but they show that the court was primarily about status and not about jobs. In Paekche the 12 departments that supported the palace were balanced by 12 other departments that ran the country outside of the palace. The Yamato state had no hint of any such thing. The O-omi and the o-muraji were, essentially, the men who were allowed to have the last word in discussions, but they held no special portfolio. The ruler, in theory anyway, apparently could choose which of the men entitled to omi would be designated o-omi and which of the muraji would become o-muraji, but he could not give a clan traditionally called muraji the title of omi.

The only thing we can say for sure, and it continued to apply in the historical period, is that whenever there was a serious issue there was a meeting of the senior nobles at which everyone was entitled to speak, lowest ranking first, highest ranking last. If there was a consensus, the ruler would go along with it. Even today it is a characteristic of Japanese government and businesses alike that it is difficult to proceed with anything if there is not a consensus among the key people. There have been few autocrats powerful enough to disregard this way of thinking. The way you get things done is to only call meetings when you know what the result will be because you have thoroughly consulted with everyone first. If one important person won't go along, you may have to change your plans. The purpose of the meeting is to allow everyone to see that there is a consensus, so all can go forward together.

Within the ruling family, at least, each adult prince (and often princesses, too) would have his own house somewhere in the countryside. It was the custom that when a man died his house was burned and his heir built a new one in a new location. These were evidently rather flimsy constructions not intended to last for generations. It was not uncommon for a ruler to change the location of his palace. Usually no reason was given. Sometimes it appears to be a move from a location where he felt insecure to a safer one, but it may often have been to equalize the burden on the commoners, much as medieval European rulers found it more convenient to circulate from estate to estate than to attempt to move supplies on mostly theoretical roads.

I have already mentioned that there was considerable violence within the aristocracy. We know mainly about the ruling family, but there is evidence of similar habits elsewhere. The favorite method of fighting an internal aristocratic war was a surprise attack on the rival's house in the middle of the night. Open battles between organized forces were rare. Assassination also occurred, often while hunting. It appears that it was the custom that the women of the defeated rival were taken as booty.

All in all it would be fair to say that the level of social development in this era was rather like that shown by the Celtic tribes known to the Romans of the era of Julius Caesar, though the construction of the kofun tombs shows that the rulers had rather greater power to gather wealth from the commoners than their European counterparts. As of the reigns of Keitai and Kimmei there is no sign of direct influence from China nor is their any sign that the experience of the Korean kingdoms was causing the Japanese to think that their own society needed to be reformed. The Korean kingdoms were at least nominally literate, but it is believed that they were only beginning serious efforts to replace tribal methods of rule with Chinese style bureaucratic institutions supported by formal taxation in the 6th century. It is clear that Paekche attempted such a reorganization only after its disastrous war with Silla between 551 and 554. Before then, it is believed, "civilization" existed only in the royal capital and the countryside was administered by traditional rulers much like those found in Japan. Silla raised itself from the weakest kingdom to the strongest in the period of a generation by using Chinese methods to increase the power and wealth of the state, and Paekche and Koguryo were forced to respond in order to survive. In the next generation Japan began to feel the same pressure.

For that reason, this ends the discussion of the Yamato State, and the period from 572 onward is assigned to the next chapter.

Chapter 04 - The Asuka Period

The pagoda at Hōryū-ji

Asuka 飛鳥 is an area on the southern edge of the Nara plain which became the center of government activity in the period when Japan first began to develop a government more elaborate than that appropriate to a tribal state. There was still nothing like a city in this era, but there was a growing concentration of palaces and, soon, Buddhist temples. Keitai Tenno had a palace near Asuka, and 9 of his next 15 successors did also. The name Asuka Period has been generally adopted to cover this era before the construction of the city of Nara, located at the north end of the plain some 30 kilometers away. It was a period of transition. The administration was conducted from the ruler's palace, and each ruler normally constructed at least one new palace at a new location. In a long reign the palace might be moved one or several times. This naturally means that the government itself, including any archives of documents, was small enough and simple enough to be portable. There are indications that by about 640 it was not quite so easy to move as it had been earlier, but it was not until the end of the Asuka period that the decision was made to construct a capital and a palace intended to be permanent (though it moved three more times in 100 years and several other moves were proposed).

The Asuka Period

The Asuka period can be divided into two main phases. The first phase covers the period when four successive heads of the Soga clan were leading figures at court, Saga no Iname 蘇我の稲目, Saga no Umako 蘇我の馬子, Siga no Emishi 蘇我の蝦夷, and Soga no Iruka 蘇我の入鹿 and lasted from 572 to 645. The second period is the phase after the violent overthrow of the Soga which was dominated by Tenchi 天智 (sometimes written Tenji) Tenno, his brother Temmu 天武 Tenno, and Temmu's widow Jito 持統 Tenno, from 645 to 692. It ends with the abdication of Jito Tenno in favor of her son Mommu 文武 Tenno which is the point at which Nihon Shoki ends. Kojiki closes with the death of Suiko 搉古 Tenno in 628. It should also be noted that the first phase of the Asuka period includes the career of Prince Umayado 廐戸, alternatively known as Shotoku Taishi 聖徳太子, "the Saintly Prince or "the Sage Prince," who is probably the only person of the Asuka period whose name is familiar to every Japanese today. He was treated as a semi-divine figure by the authors of Nihon Shoki, who viewed him as the founder of "modern" Japan, and he has continued to hold this position of reverence comparable to the way that George Washington has been viewed in the United States, or Alfred the Great in England (like Washington, Shotoku Taishi's picture is on the money).

Another important aspect of the Asuka period is that this is the era of the establishment of Buddhism alongside the traditional religion, which at some point acquired the name Shinto and underwent major changes which enabled it to survive alongside Buddhism and compete for attention. Some Japanese have always been ardent supporters of one side exclusively, but the great majority respected both and found ways to incorporate both into their lives. A simple way of looking at it is that Shinto became the religion of marriages and Buddhism the religion of funerals.

Buddhism in Japan

The story of Buddhism in Japan actually began in 538, earlier than my beginning date for the Asuka period. In that year king Song of Paekche moved his capital from a safe but remote location in the mountains to a major agricultural area. He also renamed Paekche to "Southern Puyo," though the Japanese and Chinese (and modern historians) ignored this. The site of his capital is the modern South Korean city of Puyo (spelled, confusingly, Buyo by the South Koreans after a recent "reform" of the romanization system. It is however pronounced Puyo). In his new capital he undertook reforms intended to increase the power of the state, including the establishment of a structured government inspired by China in some sense, though he was more likely impressed by contemporary reforms occurring in Koguryo and Silla. He also established Buddhism as the state religion and sent an embassy to Japan which presented Buddhist images and writings to the Japanese court and urged the adoption of Buddhism on the grounds that it would provide magical protection against dangers. There is no reason to think that in this era Buddhism had any impact in Paekche outside the walls of the capital city. In the case of Japan it would be about 200 years from this date before there is evidence of a significant popular following of Buddhism (as seen in the career of a famous street preacher).

Because Buddhism did become established in Japan, the event of 538 and its consequences have attracted a lot of attention over the years, and there are ancient Buddhist sources to supplement Nihon Shoki for the first time. The short version is that Soga no Iname advocated accepting Buddhism and the Mononobe 物部 clan strenuously opposed it as offensive to the native gods. Kimmei Tenno permitted Iname to construct a small Buddhist shrine at his mansion and worship in private. One of Iname's daughters became a nun. However, when Kimmei died in 571 the Mononobe secured permission from the new ruler Bidatsu to destroy the site (and arrest the nuns). The account of this in Nihon Shoki is not trusted. It ascribes death-bed conversions to Buddhism to Bidatsu Tenno and his successor Yomei Tenno which are believed to be attempts to make them seem more respectable by 8th century, pro-Buddhist, standards. In 587 there was a war between the Soga and Mononobe clans that grew out of a succession dispute on the death of Yomei which was won by the Soga, and it was only then that the establishment of Buddhism really began. It is also the beginning of the Soga domination at court.

It is not instantly obvious why Japan (or any Korean kingdom) should have adopted Buddhism in preference to its native religion without a lengthy period of infiltration and familiarization. There is ample evidence that there were Buddhists among the Korean immigrants to Japan, but the sudden formal adoption of Buddhism was in Japan and in all the Korean states a matter of a government decision, not the popular will. In presenting Buddhism to the Japanese ruler King Song of Paekche stated that it was a magically powerful force that would protect the nation against harmful eventualities. In the early appearance of Buddhism in both places there is almost no mention at all of the personal message of individual enlightenment and salvation, only the magical potency of its images and ceremonies. People were particularly prone to rely on Buddhist prayers and ceremonies in connection with illness.

A major factor in its early welcome had to be the Buddhist monks who came to Japan from Korea and especially from China. These were men who were highly educated and often had expertise in practical disciplines, notably architecture. Throughout the Asuka period and into the Nara period Japan put quite a large number of significant public works projects under the management of immigrant Buddhist monks. They did not merely construct temples, but also bridges and fortifications. They were the only Chinese who ordinarily ever came to Japan, and were a major channel for the transmission of Chinese thought and technology.

The Soga Clan

The claimed ancestor of the Soga was a participant in Jingu Kogo's conquest of Korea. That puts him right at the foundation of the Ojin dynasty of rulers. The oldest historical reference to a person named Soga is from a 9th century book that says that during the time of Richu Tenno, the third ruler of the Ojin dynasty, the production of goods by Korean immigrants had become voluminous enough that something had to be done to organize it. A second treasury was constructed for this purpose and a new official created to supervise it. In the reign of Yuryaku Tenno it became necessary to establish a third treasury and Soga no Machi no Sukune was assigned the task of organizing things. He took an inventory and arranged that the (Korean) Hata clan would manage one of the auxiliary treasuries and the (Korean) Aya clan would manage the other. When the Soga were defeated in 645 soldiers of the Aya clan stood by them. The Soga never appear in connection with military events, but always in connection with fiscal events and trade with Korea. In 553 Soga no Iname established, on the ruler's order, an office to keep track of shipping tax. A few years later Iname also set up an office to control seaports. The Soga were clearly much more administrators than warriors.

The Soga were highly visible in the events that followed the death of Keitai Tenno when it appears that there was for a time a pair of rival courts. The Soga were tied to the court of Kimmei and the Otomo clan backed the alternate rulers Ankan and Senka, and when the second court disappeared on the death of Senka, the Otomo vanished from political prominence, their place at the top being taken by the Soga. This is reflected in references to the Soga chief as Soga no O-Omi, whereas the title of O-Omi 大臣 had earlier belonged exclusively to the Otomo clan. It is usually thought that this transition marks a change in the Yamato state, moving away from the military orientation focused upon relations with Korea that had characterized the Ojin dynasty and survived into the reign of Keitai. Note: the title O-Omi should be understood as the word O 大 meaning "great" or "large" plus the kabane title omi 臣, which uses a Chinese character that means "minister of state". The same two characters can be pronounced as Chinese "Daijin", and you may well see other works that use that form. It seems that in the Asuka and Nara periods the Japanese normally pronounced these words as Japanese, but in the Heian period and later they were usually pronounced as Chinese. By the early Heian period, which is to say the 9th century, essentially all aristocrats were able to read and write Chinese, most government documents were written in Chinese, and it became routine to use Chinese pronunciations for technical terms related to government, a custom which continued into the period when written Japanese began to crowd out written Chinese for most purposes, and, indeed, continues today. A very large proportion of modern Japanese written prose consists of Chinese loan words.

In the period between 548 and 554 Silla emerged as the strongest state in Korea, defeating both Koguryo and Paekche. King Song of Paekche was killed in battle in 554 and for a time it seemed that Paekche might disappear, but it survived, though smaller and weaker than before. The Japanese sent small forces to Korea during this time, but not nearly enough to stand against Silla, and Silla completed the incorporation of the Mimana territories in 562. The Japanese sent a larger expedition in response, but it was routed and its leaders captured. Soon after mentions of the Otomo clan ceased and the two principal men at court were clearly Soga no Iname and Mononobe no Okoshi. The Japanese court continued for the next 200 years to contemplate attacking Silla and restoring control over Mimana, and occasionally even ordered the gathering of troops and supplies for such an expedition, but nothing much came of any of them.

The Soga were apparently related to the Kazuraki clan 葛城, politically powerful at the beginning of the Ojin dynasty. Several rulers of the Ojin dynasty had Kazuraki mothers, and we find the Soga clan now moved into a similar position in relation to the Keitai dynasty. Soga no Iname married two daughters to Kimmei Tenno, Kitashihime was the mother of Yomei Tenno and Suiko Tenno (the latter also the widow of Bidatsu Tenno), and Oanekimi was the mother of Sushun Tenno. Both ladies were grandmothers to Prince Umayado, Kitashihime on his father's side and Oanekimi on his mother's side. It is noteworthy that the status of the Mononobe clan did not permit such relationships. The Kazuraki and Soga were considered offshoots of the royal clan whereas the Mononobe were not.

The Mononobe clan held the hereditary title of O-Muraji 大連. This title is the counterpart to the O-Omi title held by the Otomo clan and then the Soga clan, and the two together were the senior "ministers" of the government, such as it was. There were also families whose title was simply Omi or Muraji. Nearly all of the families bearing the Omi title had names that were originally place names, and they controlled specific territories in the Kinai region. Well known examples are Kazuraki, Heguri, Wani, Kose, Ki, and, later Soga. Nearly all of these also claimed descent from some member of the ruling clan. The implication is, if we accept the Horse Rider theory, that these all had ancestors who were among the invaders, members of Ojin's extended family. The muraji families, on the other hand, all had names that were occupational titles. Imbe 忌部 (handler of ceremonies), Yuke 弓削 (bow maker), Kagamitsukuri 鏡作 (mirror maker), Haji 土師 (pottery maker), Tsumori 津守 (security guard), Inukai 犬飼 (kennel master), and, of course, Mononobe (blacksmith). Curiously, the O-Omi Otomo family also has a name that is an occupation, though their occupation was a special one tomo "soldier", preceded by the great "O" implying that they were not ordinary soldiers but commanders. All of these clans were aristocrats, so it is assumed that the muraji family names meant that they commanded groups of artisans without doing that kind of work themselves. Their status was definitely lower than the "omi" clans, however, and they were forbidden from marrying into the ruling clan.

The ancestor of the Mononobe clan is given as Nigihayahi no Mikoto, a descendant of a god who came down to earth before the foundation of the state by Jimmu Tenno. He was originally a member of the resistance to Jimmu's invasion, but realized that the gods were behind Jimmu and changed sides. The Mononobe name appears in the Nihon Shoki articles about Suinin Tenno and Chuai Tenno, both older than the Ojin dynasty. If there is anything to this at all, the Mononobe were aristocrats in Japan before the arrival of the invaders led by Ojin. After the death of Ingyo Tenno there was a war over the succession between two of his sons, Prince Karu and Prince Anaho (who became Anko Tenno). One person who was involved was Mononobe no Omae no Sukune, who was originally a supporter of Prince Karu. According to Kojiki he turned Prince Karu over to Prince Anaho who killed him, and according to Nihon Shoki he persuaded Prince Karu that he could not win and so should commit suicide. In any case, he was an important man. Most anecdotes involving members of the clan are military in character or involve dealing with criminals of some kind. There are certainly exceptions, but the Otomo were mainly seen fighting in Korea and the Mononobe were mostly active only in Japan. The only example I recall of their fighting in Korea was against rebels in Mimana, not a war against Silla.

Another difference is that the Mononobe were particularly connected with religion. The clans which claimed to be directly descended from gods had special responsibilities in respect to their particular god, responsibilities which ultimately (after the spread of Buddhism) took the form of creating and managing a shrine devoted to the god. The Isonokami Shrine at the foot of Mt Miwa, the archaeological center of the Sujin dynasty, is the special shrine of the Mononobe clan. Subsequent events make it plausible that the Soga leaders, or Soga no Umako, at least, had a commitment to making Japan more civilized, meaning more like China, as reflected in the changes that were occurring in Paekche and Koguryo, and it is easy to see that at this point in time becoming more like China meant becoming Buddhist. The conflict between the two clans looks like something rather rare in early times, a political conflict in which there were real ideological issues at stake as well as power politics.

One thing that is relevant to the Japanese efforts at reorganizing the state that are the main subject of this era of history is that it was during the time of Kimmei that the Northern Wei and Northern Chou dynasties were setting up the first land redistribution based systems in northern China, and that these developments in China had a powerful influence upon Koguryo. Koguryo was in turn able to pass on information about such things to Japan because in the latter part of Kimmei's reign Koguryo and Japan established direct relations across the Sea of Japan passing to the north of Silla's zone of control. These Chinese dynasties were of barbarian origin and highly aristocratic, much like Japan and the Korean states. The land redistribution system was an attempt to maximize the tax returns from farming by guaranteeing that every farming family had sufficient land to permit them to pay fixed taxes, saving all of the administrative headaches and costs in trying to assess each family different taxes depending on their landholdings. It required taking a periodic census of the population and then taking land from families that had shrunk in size and giving land to families that had grown in size. It was feasible to do this because in North China at this time there was a shortage of agricultural manpower in relation to the amount of potentially arable land, due to the dislocations that occurred because of the barbarian invasions after the collapse of the Chin dynasty. The taxes were calculated on the basis of the number of available workers. Koguryo copied this system, and Japan eventually did so as well. It is speculated that it was not all that different from the methods already in use in Koguryo and in Japan resulting from the establishment of the aristocracy by conquest of an already existing farming population. This remains speculation because we know absolutely nothing about the relations between farmers and nobles in this period, other than the fact that the "be" system of organizing artisan workers looks very much like one based on taxation through production quotas, making it plausible that farmers were organized the same way.

We know that Koguryo had considerable influence in Japan from this time due to the appearance everywhere of the "Koryo foot" (Koryo is an alternate name for Koguryo and is the basis of the English name "Korea", via the Koryo dynasty of later times). This was a unit of measure that was established by the Eastern Wei dynasty of China (534-550) and adopted in Koguryo and passed from there to Japan. One foot ("shaku") was 35 centimeters. Archaeologists have found that this unit was employed in the construction of many ancient buildings, including Asukadera, the first important Buddhist temple in the country (construction beginning in 588). Buddhist monks from Koguryo were prominent in the early spread of Buddhism in Japan. The Koryo foot was apparently also used in laying out the Ishibutai Kofun (the reputed tomb of Soga no Umako, who died in 626) and all imperial Kofun from Bidatsu Tenno on. There are also many references in early Japanese writings commenting on how similar they found Koguryo to be in terms of customs and etiquette, (traditional) religion, and music and dance. Dancers from Koguryo were apparently especially popular.

Also relevant for this period is the knowledge that during the course of the 6th and 7th centuries there was a steady growth in the number of small Kofun, enough so that about 90% of all surviving Kofun in Japan are small tombs from the late Kofun period. Many of them are round mounds about 10 meters across with the same kind of burial chamber that is found in the large tombs. However, there are particularly large numbers of tombs that were commonly installed in groupings by running short tunnels into the sides of cliffs that are barely bigger than the coffin. In a great many cases these groupings are found near other small but traditionally constructed Kofun of the same age. There are some areas with cliffside tombs that also have dozens and even hundreds of small free standing tombs.

This naturally must be interpreted as meaning that in comparison to earlier times a greatly increased number of persons were considered worthy of receiving an elaborately constructed tomb. Really gigantic tombs were no longer constructed except for emperors. When the available resources must be spread across many, the individual tombs must become smaller and less expensive. It is assumed that this reflects changes in aristocratic society, lessening the power of the clan chief and increasing the amount of wealth that was under the individual control of lesser members of the clan. One gets a picture suggesting that in the early days the aristocratic clan dominated its area as a collective group and the total wealth of the clan was controlled in some sense by the clan chief, who distributed it about, but that by 550 and later the members of the clan had gradually become more like owners of relatively clearly defined landed estates within which they controlled their own revenues. However, they still constructed their tombs in concentrated clan graveyards, not dispersed about the landscape, so the collective element had not entirely vanished. It should be mentioned that when we speak of "small" tombs, they still employ numbers of multi-ton rocks and required a lot of manpower to build. There is an edict of 646 intended to regulate the scale of tombs which gives an idea of what was required. The edict said that a prince could have a tomb that required the labor of 1000 laborers for 7 days, a minister's tomb should be built by 500 laborers in 5 days, a higher level official's tomb should be built by 250 laborers in 3 days, a middle level official's tomb should be built by 100 laborers in 1 day and a lower level official's tomb should be built by 50 laborers in 1 day.

There is a rather implausible anecdote in Nihon Shoki concerning the arrival of an embassy from Koguryo in 571 that illustrates that the Japanese court at that time had two corps of scribes known as the scribes of the east and the west, and that only they could be expected to read the letter sent by the Koguryo king and written in Chinese. They were two families, Kawachi no Fumi no Fubito and Yamato no Aya no Atae, both descended from Korean immigrants (Kawachi was west of Yamato). As far as can be determined no proper Japanese aristocrat of the omi class had so far found it desirable to learn how to read and write (necessarily in Chinese), any more than he would have found it desirable to learn how to weave silk. This situation had persisted for some 200 years. The next generation was the first to become literate.

The confrontation between the Soga and Mononobe clans immediately derived from the death of Bidatsu Tenno in 585. In the Kofun period, because of the scale of the tomb of an important person, there was often a considerable delay between the time of death and the burial, up to two years, or even three in extreme cases. During this period the body was kept in a temporary facility called mogari no miya. There was a special ceremony on the installation of the body at this place and during the course of this ceremony for Bidatsu Tenno Soga no Umako and Mononobe no Moriya went out of their way to be seen to express mutual contempt, according to Nihon Shoki. There was a dispute over the succession. Bidatsu had an adult son with a distinguished mother who had a strong claim. This was Prince Oshisaka no Hikohito no Oe. However, there was also a long standing custom that the brother of a ruler had a claim on the succession, and Bidatsu had several brothers. Kimmei Tenno had had a large number of high-status wives, including two daughters of Soga no Iname. The candidate chosen was in fact a nephew of Soga no Umako who became Yomei Tenno. The oldest brother was Yata no Tamakatsu no Oe, whose mother was a daughter of Senka Tenno, and there was another prominent brother, Prince Anahobe, who openly claimed the succession for himself, according to Nihon Shoki. After Yomei had already been enthroned Prince Anahobe attempted to seize control of the temporary tomb and the person of Bidatsu's empress Kashikiyahime, who was living there in mourning until the funeral, whom he planned to forcibly marry to reinforce his claim to the throne. He was repelled by the commander of the guards at the temporary tomb. Prince Anahobe then went to the two ministers, Soga no Umako and Mononobe no Moriya, and complained that this officer had insulted him and claimed the right to kill him, which was granted. The officer tried to flee, but the prince found out where he was (a rural palace belonging to the former empress) and ordered Mononobe no Moriya to kill him and his children, which Moriya did, in person. Soga no Umako tried to prevent this but failed. Nihon Shoki says that from this time Soga no Umako and Kashikiyahime (the future Suiko Tenno) conceived a powerful enmity toward Mononobe no Moriya.

Yomei Tenno died in 587, having reigned for less than two full years, reopening the succession question. His illness lasted for several months, so the contestants had time for plotting. Mononobe no Moriya, fearing attack, withdrew from court to his fortified mansion outside Yamato and began gathering troops. One of Moriya's allies was Nakatomi no Katsumi no Muraji who, according to Nihon Shoki, attempted to harm Prince Oshisaka no Hikohito no Oe, the designated heir, through witchcraft. That having failed, he sought to visit the prince's palace, presumably hoping to plant some magical item that would bring down a curse, and when he left the palace he was cut down by one of the prince's guards, who had been watching him. All of this happened before the death of Yomei. Shortly after his death Mononobe no Moriya sent a secret message to Prince Anahobe saying that he was going to hold a hunting party as a pretext for gathering soldiers for a confrontation over the succession, but this leaked out.

Soga no Umako, claiming authority from empress Kashikiyahime, ordered troops out to immediately kill Prince Anahobe. They attacked the prince's palace at midnight in the best traditional style for this kind of event. Then Soga put together a large force to directly attack Mononobe. The party included a large number of princes, including Prince Hatsusebe (future Sushun Tenno) and Prince Umayado, as well as contingents from several prominent aristocratic uji, including just about all of the "omi" class territorial uji of Yamato. Mononobe had been making preparations, so this was no massacre but led to a formal battle, of which the outcome remained in doubt for some time. The clans listed as supporting Mononobe were all from outside Yamato. Mononobe's forces were based west of Yamato and the battle occurred shortly after Soga's army, presumably starting from Asuka, passed through Anamushi pass and ran into the Mononobe army at the Eka river. The location of this river is not accurately known, but it is presumed to have been the modern Ishi river just west of Furuichi. Moriya's residence was at Shibukawa, only a short distance to the northwest of the presumed battle site. Prince Umayado was only a youth and was not involved in the actual fighting and he supposedly made a vow at the moment of crisis promising to erect a Buddhist temple if his side was victorious. Soga no Umako, hearing this, made his own similar vow. Immediately afterward Mononobe no Moriya was killed by an arrow and his army broke. Nihon Shoki says that afterwards there were several hundred bodies at the site of the battle that had to be dealt with. It also says that many members of the Mononobe clan fled into obscurity and that others formally took new surnames to disavow any intention to attempt to revive the clan. The court no doubt tolerated the formation of the Isonokami clan because it would have been improper to neglect the god that had founded the Mononobe clan merely because of a human quarrel. Gods that were not properly worshipped became angry and caused trouble. The Mononobe clan was not entirely wiped out. We find a Mononobe no Yukimi no Muraji acting as an official in the context of a Chinese embassy in 608, and the name shows up in various contexts every once in a while, but they never again held a high ranking position.

As before there were several powerful candidates for the succession. Prince Oshisaka no Hikohito no Oe had been officially designated by Yomei as his successor, and appears to have been still alive at this time as a Muromachi period book says that his son, who became Jomei Tenno, was born in 593. Soga no Umako instead chose Prince Hatsusebe, who was a brother of the just murdered Prince Anahobe, but who had been allied with Soga from the beginning. Both princes were the sons of Soga no Iname's daughter Oanekimi and therefore nephews to Umako. Sushun Tenno was enthroned a few weeks after the battle. Sushun was apparently without much personal power. It is noteworthy that he had no princesses among his wives and his only consort mentioned in Nihon Shoki was from the Otomo clan. To judge from Nihon Shoki the dominant figure in the ruling clan at the time was Princess Kashikiyahime, who authorized Soga no Umako to attack Mononobe no Moriya, and who recommended Prince Hatsusebe for the throne. Sushun's article in Nihon Shoki is extremely short despite the fact that he was on the throne for about 5 years. Only three topics are briefly mentioned. First was an embassy from Paekche that brought Buddhist monks and materials. Soga no Umako engaged the monks in discussions and arranged for Japanese nuns, including his sister, Iname's daughter, to go to Paekche for further study. They spent 2 years in Korea, returning in 590. Umako also began the construction of the temple he had vowed. Ground was broken on what became Asukadera in 588. For the year 590 it is mentioned that several women of noble families became nuns, and that 6 monks from China arrived in the country. The second topic is that officials were dispatched in 589 along the three main routes to the north, the Hokurikudo, the Tosando, and the Tokaido, to inspect the state of the frontiers with the "Emishi" barbarians. The third topic is that a conference at court in 591 decided that it was necessary to reconquer Mimana from Silla. Five generals (all men who fought for Umako against Moriya) were appointed and given 20,000 men. They travelled to Tsukushi but never actually crossed over to Korea. When Sushun died they were ordered to return to Yamato.

Just over a year after the 591 expedition aimed at Korea set out, Sushun Tenno made a remark during a boar hunting party that could be interpreted as an invitation to someone to do him the favor of removing a person he was having trouble with. When this was reported to Soga no Umako, he assumed that the person referenced was himself. As a result he determined to assassinate Sushun. There is a footnote that says that "one book says that" the report to Umako about Sushun's threatening remark came from a disgruntled concubine of the ruler. Umako arranged that a person named Azuma no Aya no Atai Koma be admitted to court under false pretenses and this man killed the emperor. It then says that Sushun was buried the same day in an already existing royal tomb. He is the only ruler in this era where this was done. According to the Chinese history of the Sui dynasty, which has a long article about Japan, the custom was that a nobleman was interred only after a mourning period of up to three years whereas a commoner must be buried before sunset the day of his death. Sushun was given a commoner's burial, it seems. The coverage of this incident in Nihon Shoki is no longer than mine and says nothing at all about why Sushun might want Umako eliminated. It also mentions no hint of consequences for the murder or anyone's reaction to it. The only additional material is a strange statement that Azuma no Aya no Atai Koma had a secret relationship with a daughter of Umako who was a concubine of Sushun and treated her as his wife. Umako was not aware of this at first, thinking that the girl had died, but when he found out he had Koma killed. As presented it implies that were it not for this Koma would have gone unpunished. One must believe that the killing of Sushun was presented as not a murder, but an execution for just cause.

The three rulers following Kimmei were all sons of Kimmei, however the supply of brothers had run out. It was now necessary to look at the group of grandsons. As always, there was Oshisaka no Hikohito, the son of Bidatsu Tenno. There was also Prince Takeda, also a son of Bidatsu and whose mother was the powerful Kashikiyahime. Next there was Umayado, eldest son of Yomei Tenno. Umayado was 19. Takeda's age is not known, but he had a younger sister who was already married to Umayado. Hikohito was perhaps pretty old already and apparently did not live much longer. All of the other possibles were definitely too young. Nihon Shoki tells us exactly nothing about any debate or discussion. All we know is that in the end Kashikiyahime took the throne herself, becoming Suiko Tenno. She was the first reigning ruler (since Himiko and Iyo, anyway) who was female. Since Suiko was merely the first of a lengthy list of female sovereigns, it must be clear that something must have changed to make this possible, but the sources have almost nothing to say about what it might have been. Six different women served as Tenno in ancient times (there were more in the Tokugawa period). Two of them reigned twice under different reign names, making 8 reigns altogether. The first four were already Empress (the widow of a Tenno) when they ascended the throne. It is easy to view these as place holders, waiting for a son or grandson to become old enough to reign. It can be noted that the cessation of the use of female Tenno was followed quickly by abandonment of the principle that it was not possible to put a child on the throne. Without a placeholder, you cannot afford to wait. In the case of Suiko it is clear that by taking the throne she increased the possibility that she could be succeeded by her son Prince Takeda. Soga no Umako also had good reason to want to avoid making a decision. His plan to secure his position by putting his nephew Sushun on the throne and marrying a daughter to him did not work out, so he needed some time to arrange a second chance. He had a spare daughter whom he married to Prince Umayado, but it was too early to tell whether this was going to present him with a possible ruling grandson.

However, this doesn't tell us what was new here. Why did not something like this happen before? There were two situations during the Ojin dynasty when there was an interregnum due to indecision as to who should be the next ruler, and in both cases a female member of the ruling clan presided over affairs without taking the formal title of ruler. In earlier times there were no distinctions among the ruler's wives. They were all simply called kisaki. There was only implied status which derived from her father's status, which certainly had a big impact on whether her children were eligible to be considered for the succession. However, this began to change in the time of Kimmei as the court became larger and more complicated to run. There came to be a special group of officers attached to the court who were responsible for managing the household of the designated crown prince, who became a sort of minister ranking alongside the O-Omi and O-Muraji, and the same thing happened in the case of the emperor's wives. This meant, among other things, that particular sources of revenue would be assigned to support princes and wives, and there was clear scope for marking status by assigning more to this one and less to that one. There is a book written during Suiko's reign that supports the idea that all wives before Suiko herself were just "kisaki". She, during her time as wife to Bidatsu, is referred to as "O-kisaki," which is different from kisaki the same way that O-Muraji is different from muraji. In other words, she was not merely a concubine, but Empress. During Bidatsu's reign a new institution known as kisaibe was established. This is a contraction of kisakibe, and it means a unit of farmers marked off specifically to support one particular kisaki. The fact that is written with characters best translated as "personal be" or "private be" but pronounced kisakibe is the result of Chinese influence. In China the emperor was a state institution and everything about his position was "public". However, the empress was to a significant extent still a private person, not supported by the state. She could and did have her own estates, provided by her family or by gift from the emperor. The Japanese case was different, assigning state resources, still managed as state resources, to the kisaki. So, unlike earlier kisaki, Kashikiyahime had officials who reported to her and resources that she could spend. She became a player. It may be noted that in the episode after the death of Bidatsu when Prince Anahobe attempted to kidnap and marry her, the officer who had saved her attempted to hide at a rural palace belonging to Kashikiyahime, presumably the location of a be assigned to her support. He was with little doubt an official who was specifically dedicated to her service. This added importance of the empress continued into later times, even into the period when they ceased to have a chance to become Tenno. One of the things that happened in and after the reign of Suiko was that a major attempt was made to increase the prestige and status of the ruler as compared to everyone else, and as the status of the ruler rose, so did the status of his wives, and especially his Empress, the mother of his heir. There quickly evolved a series of titles, taken from Chinese, to indicate the empress as wife, the empress as mother of a living emperor, the empress as mother of a deceased emperor, and so on. Since there could be several living women entitled to be called empress, it was necessary to have enough titles to distinguish them all. In the Heian period, when women could no longer become Tenno, more than one political scheme fell to pieces because an Empress dictated the succession on her own whim. An Empress who lived a long time, who was the mother of the reigning Emperor, could accumulate considerable political power, if she had the necessary political skills.

Shotoku Taishi

Tōhon Miei, Portrait of Prince Shōtoku and his two sons

At the very beginning of the Nihon Shoki article on Suiko Tenno is notice of the appointment of Prince Umayado no Toyotomimi as crown prince. In Aston's translation it says "He was able to speak as soon as he was born, and was so wise that he could attend to the suits of ten men at once and decide them all without error. He knew beforehand what was going to happen." He was not merely designated the successor but "He had general control of the government and was entrusted with all the details of the administration." He is at the very center of the story that Nihon Shoki is trying to tell. He is presented as an expert on Buddhist and Confucian philosopy and the author of several books, including the first history of Japan (which does not survive). His appearance marks the start of modern Japanese history, from the perspective of the authors of Nihon Shoki. In medieval times he was regarded as a Buddhist saint, and in modern times he became the patron saint of the constitutional regime that came into operation in 1885. The "17 article constitution" credited to him by Nihon Shoki became a basic document in public education.

Objections have been made to the use of "crown prince" on the logical ground that in this period the title does not seem to have had much weight in determining the succession. What it did do was evidently name the chosen prince as a senior minister of state. It may be considered that whereas the Tenno was the ruler of the whole nation, above faction, the senior prince served as the faction head for the ruling clan just as the Soga and other clan chiefs represented their entire clans. Throughout the Nara period and well into the early Heian period princes were appointed to offices within the bureaucracy and it was clear that power over the day-to-day operation of the government was not going to be surrendered to the other aristocratic clans. There was normally always a "senior prince" whether the Tenno was male or female. The ritual surrounding the Tenno meant that there were many places he could not go and many people he could not speak with. The senior prince was his representative in this respect. Restrictions on a female ruler were even tighter and so having a trusted member of the clan who could sit in on meetings she could not attend was even more important. However, that does not in itself indicate where the power actually rested. That is always variable and dependent on the personalities involved. There is no reason at all to think that Suiko was not an important member of the decision making part of the government at this time.

Prince Umayado's parents were both members of the ruling clan, but his paternal grandmother was Soga Kitashihime and his maternal grandmother was Soga Oanekimi, both daughters of Soga no Iname and sisters of Soga no Umako. He is known to have had four wives, one a daughter of Umako. In 600 a Japanese embassy visited the Sui dynasty in China and the Sui History reports that the family name of the "king of the Wa" was Ame (heaven) and his personal name was Tarashihiko, carefully spelled out using Chinese characters for their sound. "Tarashi" was a common element in rulers' formal names in this period and probably simply meant "ruler." "Hiko" is a specifically male name element, the female counterpart being "hime," so it appears that Prince Umayado was meant and not Suiko Tenno, though it is also possible that the Chinese simply didn't realize that the "king of Wa" was a woman (or the Japanese were careful not to mention it). It is generally believed that Umako and Umayado got along with each other. Both believed that it was necessary to find ways to strengthen the power of the central government in respect to the provincial nobility and they agreed that doing that meant increasing the theoretical power of the ruler on the one hand and turning the collection of courtiers that hung around the palace into actual government officials on the other. Both were also scholars of Chinese literature, and they collaborated on at least one book.

China became politically united in 589 when the Sui dynasty, founded in the north in 581 by a military coup within the Northern Chou dynasty, completed the conquest of the south. Paekche was in diplomatic contact from 581 as was Silla from at least 594. In 600 the Suiko court was planning an invasion of Silla, and in the same year sent Japan's first embassy to China since the 5th century. Despite enthusiastic reports in Nihon Shoki, the force sent to Korea accomplished little, and a second and much bigger expedition was in the works for 602. It is noteworthy that the commander of this force was to be Prince Kume, a brother of Prince Umayado, not a member of one of the traditional military uji as had always been the case before. This has been taken to mean that this project was being pushed by Umayado rather than by Soga no Umako. Also, Nihon Shoki says that the forces were to be drawn from "kantomo," meaning be that had religions functions like the Imbe and Nakatomi clans, plus "kuni no miyatsuko" and "tomo no miyatsuko." This meant that none of the "omi" class clans were involved. All of the warriors would come from clans closely linked to the ruling clan and from the provincial nobility. This looks like the first attempt to set up something like a national army that would be directly loyal to the ruler as opposed to a militia of the major clans. If this understanding is correct, then it is necessary to think that the power of Prince Umayado was considerable by 602. However, the project was not a success. After the army gathered in Kyushu Prince Kume fell seriously ill and a few months later died. A later book devoted to traditions about Shotoku Taishi says that the prince thought that agents of Silla had murdered Prince Kume. Another brother of Umayado, Prince Takima was appointed to command the army and left for Kyushu, accompanied by his wife. She died on the way and the prince returned to Yamato and never did reach Kyushu. This all seems a bit strange, but it has been suggested that perhaps merely assembling a large army in Kyushu put enough pressure on Silla so that Japan could get what it wanted diplomatically. What it wanted was regular "tribute" from Korea, meaning officially sponsored trade, since there were many luxury goods that had to be imported. Whenever Silla was unhappy with Japan it tended to cut off trade, leading to Japanese threats of war.

There is a detailed account of the reception of an embassy from Silla in 610. The party of ambassadors assembled in the courtyard in front of the main hall of Suiko's palace at Asuka. Each was accompanied by a Japanese noble who had been assigned to assist him, and presumably translate for him. Four leading ministers greeted them. When the ambassadors came to the point where they would read the official letter from the King of Silla, Soga no Umako emerged from inside the hall to listen to them, then returned to report to the Tenno. The presence of Prince Umayado is not mentioned. If he was involved at all, he was inside the palace throughout. As shall be seen shortly, he may not have been in Askuka at the time.

Shortly after the abandonment of the expedition to Korea by Prince Takima, Nihon Shoki reports the enactment of a new system of "cap ranks" at court in considerable detail. The actuality of the system is not in doubt because it is mentioned in the Sui history. The Chinese court had a similar system as did all of the Korean kingdoms. The Japanese system was particularly similar to the one used by Koguryo, it seems. The outer manifestation is a formal costume officials should wear when on duty which incorporates visible badges of rank. The inner purpose is to establish a system of ranks that is directly controlled by the ruler. The Japanese kabane ranks which already existed were all traditional and hereditary and did not clearly establish relative rank. Also, they were markers for the entire clan and said nothing about the status of an individual. These were to be specifically court ranks and purely individual. The establishment of the system in effect published the fact that the nobles who participated in the activities of the court were officers of state, with duties and obligations. We don't know what the caps looked like as no examples survived. We have some examples of the assignment of ranks. A well known Buddhist devotee named Kuratsukuri (saddlemaker) no Tori, who constructed the main hall at the Hokoji Buddhist temple in Asuka, was awarded the third rank in the system in recognition. We know the names of several other people who were appointed to the first three ranks. The status of the one person known to have received first rank was significantly lower than that of Soga no Umako and of the "four ministers" who greeted the embassy from Silla, so it seems that the system applied only to relatively humble persons and not the men at the top. Some scholars have put in a lot of work trying to establish correspondences between the different rank systems that followed over the next decades, and seem to have established that the top rank here corresponded to the senior fourth rank in the system in force when Nihon Shoki was written. That point was exactly where the separation between the highest nobility and ordinary officials occurred. Only members of the top layer of the nobility ever received third rank or higher. In the next year Nihon Shoki says that special caps were designed for all of the ministers to wear also, and there is a story that in 643 when Soga no Emeshi retired, he personally handed a minister's cap to his son Iruka, who was to replace him.

The year after the institution of the cap ranks, the court issued a proclamation which Nihon shoki ascribes to Prince Umayado personally. It has often been called in English "the 17 article constitution," though it is more a list of moral rules than a set of administrative laws. Nihon Shoki quotes it in its entirety. Many historians have expressed doubts as to whether Prince Umayado (or anyone else in Japan) could have written this work at this point in time, and think that it was written at least fifty or sixty years later, when there were many more people in Japan who were expert in Chinese literature. It contains references to at least 14 Chinese books, not counting items from Buddhist literature. There are also many points within the articles that cannot be considered correct as they stand, for instance in article 12 where mention is made of "provincial governors" when it would be many years before the first governors were appointed. Overall, the bulk of the text can be considered a borrowing from Chinese thinking and it may be picking nits to point to things that do not match the actual situation in Suiko's Japan. Without new evidence it is not going to be possible to resolve this. However, I think the majority of historians think that Umayado probably issued some kind of proclamation at the stated time but that the text in Nihon Shoki was written much later, after Shotoku Taishi had become a revered figure. It is speculated that the original text had been lost, so a replacement was required for Nihon Shoki.

According to Nihon Shoki Prince Umayado began construction of a new palace in 601 at Ikaruga, 20 kilometers from Asuka, at the site of Horyuji, which was constructed on the property after Umayado's death. He moved in 605. If he now spent most of his time at Ikaruga he could not have kept up an intimate involvement with the day to day affairs of the government. The implication is that, willingly or otherwise, he had surrendered that role to Soga no Umako. On the positive side, Ikaruga was not so far from Asuka that he could not travel there frequently, and it was closer to Naniwa and overseas communication and the opportunity to acquire books. Ikaruga was in fact on one of the two main roads between Asuka and Naniwa. Umayado gathered Confucian and Buddhist scholars to Ikaruga and spent much of his time reading and studying.

After discussing the cap rank system, the Sui History turned to the territorial administration of Japan. It says that Japan had 120 people called "kuni" spelled out as such. It is thought kuninomiyatsuko is meant. It says they can be compared to Chinese magistrates. It also says that 80 households were controlled by an "inagi" who can be compared to a village chief. Inagi is the kabane title associated with agatanushi. 10 of such village units made up one kuni. This information must have been gathered from Japanese visitors to China, because Chinese embassies to Japan would not have time or permission to wander about the country side asking questions. The Chinese were in the habit of interrogating foreign ambassadors about affairs in their country. The system described here was not so different from the one set up later during the Nara period. The main difference is that the kuninomiyatsuko held hereditary positions whereas the Nara period governor was appointed by the government for a limited term of years. He also had to keep accurate accounting records which would be audited at the end of his term. The descendants of the former kuninomiyatsuko and agatanushi had to content themselves with lesser offices within the provincial administration. For the time of Suiko, however, there is no information as to the nature of the relationship between the court at Asuka and the kuninomiyatsuko and agatanushi scattered about the country. Nor, do we know what kind of relationship existed between kuninomiyatsuko and agatanushi. We know that agata were smaller units and that they were geographically inside kuni, but there are those who think that the agatanushi had a direct relationship with the court and provided revenues to the ruler without passing them through the kuninomiyatsuko, whose revenues supported the local aristocracy. The evidence for this applies only to 6 agata located within Yamato. These are mentioned often enough to make it plain that they were under some sort of direct control. At least in the 7th century, it appears that those agata no longer had agata nushi but were controlled by appointed officials.

In China, the founder of the Sui Dynasty died in 604 and was succeeded by his son Yang-ti. Yang-ti became one of the famous "bad emperors" of Chinese history and he eventually ruined the dynasty, allegedly because of extravagant public works projects and wars with Koguryo, neither of which he could pay for. They involved drafting huge numbers of people who had to be moved and fed. One project to redirect the course of the Yellow River required 1 million laborers. This eventually led to large scale popular uprisings which brought the government down, which was followed by a short but sharp civil war among former Sui generals that led to the quick consolidation of a new dynasty, the T'ang, in 618. Both of these dynasties were direct inheritors of the Northern Wei dynasty, the longest lived and most successful of the northern dynasties of the 6th century. The ruling family of the Northern Wei was Turkish, and the aristocracy of the north was a mixture of Turkish and Chinese elements. Li Shih-min, the founder of the T'ang dynasty, bore an illustrious Chinese aristocratic name, but he must inevitably have also had Turkish elements in his ancestry.

Because of this background there were many aspects of the Sui and T'ang dynasties that were unusual when compared with the major dynasties before and after them. Partially this was due to the fact that the Sui and T'ang occupy a transitional position in the evolution of the Chinese economy and administrative systems. The Han dynasty and its immediate successors had been completely aristocratic in structure. The court was surrounded by a small number of clans who provided all of the officials on an essentially hereditary basis. The Sui and T'ang initially followed the same pattern. However, the Han had maintained only a loose control over the administration of the country at large. They kept a large standing army and this was sufficient to keep them in power. They appointed officials to relatively large districts, but all affairs within the districts were managed by local aristocrats, mostly autonomously. The system was that local officials had to be confirmed by the magistrate, but they were nominated by "respectable people" in the district. The Sui and T'ang had a much stronger administrative structure. Whereas the Han had maintained a hundred or so large districts, the Sui and T'ang had more than a thousand smaller districts, grouped into provinces. The magistrate of every district was appointed by the central government for a fixed term and rotated to a new district and there was a rule against a man serving in his native district. Within the district, the administration was still very thin, and the magistrate worked through "respectable" locals. This was a lot more expensive than the older system, but China was now a lot richer.

In the Han period there were no cities at all, really, only administrative centers. Money existed but was rather rarely used, and the typical merchant was an itinerant peddler. The only wealthy commoners were men who specialized in government contracts. In the Sui and T'ang period we are clearly in a society that still bears many resemblances to the old one, especially in that it was still officially aristocratic, but was transitioning in the direction of the later type of Chinese "gentry" oriented society, particularly in the last century of the T'ang dynasty. There were now real cities and a real merchant class and a significant commoner popular culture. The system of taxation and local administration that was put into effect by the founder of the T'ang dynasty had been almost totally abandoned by the end of the T'ang dynasty. Aristocratic titles continued to be given to relatives of the emperor into the twentieth century, but the aristocracy in the sense that the Han had known it or Li Shih-min had known it was extinct. The T'ang dynasty was a period of constant change and upheaval. And, it is with the Sui and the T'ang, particularly the early T'ang, that the Japanese had their first intimate contact with Chinese civilization and methods of government. An intensely aristocratic society themselves, they felt comfortable with the early T'ang system, but would have found the China of even 150 years later quite difficult to understand and impossible to emulate. The specifically Turkish elements in the early T'ang would also have been comforting, because they were similar to practices already common in the Korean kingdoms and Japan.

In 607 Paekche sent an embassy to the Sui and suggested that China should attack Koguryo. Yang-ti authorized Paekche to begin planning a joint campaign with China. Thus began a period of great change in Korea. The Japanese also sent an embassy in 607. As already mentioned, the Sui History treats Prince Umayado, "Tarashihiko," as the "king of the Wa." The letter to Yang-ti stated that the Japanese had heard that the Emperor was interested in the propagation of Buddhism and that they wished to be able to send significant numbers of people to China to study. Nihon Shoki says that the party included an immigrant official who could read and write Chinese. According to the Chinese, the letter includes the famous line "the emperor of the land where the sun rises sends this letter to the emperor of the land where the sun sets." Yang-ti was not amused by the assumption of equality. From the historians' point of view this is the first indication that the Japanese wanted their country to be known to the Chinese as Nihon rather than "Wa." The actual characters 日本 first appear in the Chinese account of a Japanese embassy to the T'ang dynasty in 648. Despite being annoyed, Yang-ti obviously thought it valuable to get to know something about an important country in a region where he was planning a war, and a Chinese embassy was immediately sent to Japan. It is in the context of these exchanges that the Japanese first started to devise a suitable Chinese term to use to refer to the ruler. The relatively few early documents that name a ruler use 大王, probably pronounced "okimi." However, by the time of these embassies the Japanese would have been aware that this ("king") is a much lesser title in Chinese than they wanted. The title used by the Chinese emperor was 皇帝 and they understood that the Chinese would not tolerate their using that. Clearly the claim that the Japanese ruler was descended from Amaterasu no Omikami suggested the use of 天, which means heaven and is used for "ama" when writing the goddess' name. Tenno is written 天皇. As a Japanese word it is pronounced "sumera mikoto" which would be translated "supreme ruler" or something like that. This term already existed, but there were before this time no special characters to use to write it. It appears in the Chinese account of the 608 embassy and is used in Nihon Shoki in an item dated 628 and a number of other early texts. In Suiko's day it was probably always sumera mikoto, but modern Japanese always say Tenno. The Chinese letter brought by the 608 embassy was addressed simply to the 皇 of Japan, which was actually pretty polite of them. Aston translated this as "sovereign."

There were four embassies in all in a comparatively short period of time. When the last one occurred the Sui dynasty was already crumbling, and the Japanese ambassadors evidently had a hard time getting home safely. After that there was nothing for sixteen years. It is plain that the Sui were very interested in Japan, putting up with a lot of barbarian uppityness, and trying to find out as much as they could about what the country was like and how it was governed. This was clearly related to their ambitions for Korea. However, the T'ang also had ambitions in Korea, and it is not at all obvious why they would not pursue relations with Japan, or why the Japanese would wish to drop relations with China because of a rather swift change of dynasty. One theory would be that the semi-retirement from politics of Prince Umayado after 605 implies that he was the main force behind the embassies and no one else cared that much about the business.

For 620 Nihon Shoki reports that Prince Umayado and Soga no Umako collaborated on the creation of a "history of the Emperors, a history of the country, and the original record of the Omi, the Muraji, the Tomo no Miyatsuko, the Kuni no Miyatsuko, the 180 be, and the free subjects." If the work actually covered all of those topics it would be enormously valuable, but there was apparently only one copy and it was destroyed in 645. That leads to the topic of the foundation of Japan, because the history had to say something about it. The standard modern theory is that in 602 a Paekche monk named Kanroku published a Chinese style calendar for the first time in Japan, and it was Prince Umayado who then took 601, the previous year, as the basis for subtracting 21 60 year cycles to reach the foundation date of 660 BC, and included this in his genealogy of the rulers. The idea that the name of the year in the cycle count corresponding to 601 had a special astrological importance as a marker of change was Chinese.

Nihon Shoki says that Prince Umayado died in 621, but any Japanese historical table you look at will say that it happened in 622. Several dates in this part of Nihon Shoki seem to be off by one year. I don't know of any theory as to why this is so. The alternate date comes from an ancient biography of the prince. They differ not only in the year but on the day of the month. There are two other very ancient sources that agree with the second date and all historians accept it. One of these sources is the dedicatory inscription on an Asuka period Buddhist statue at Horyuji. The inscription says that his mother died in the 12th month of Suiko's 29th year (621) and that the Prince fell ill the following month. His principal wife also fell ill and she died on the 11th day of the 2nd month of 622 and the prince died on the 22nd day. All three were buried in the same tomb. He was 49 at the time. The tomb is 20 kilometers from Ikaruga, but is located close to the tombs of Bidatsu and Yomei, and later the tombs of Suiko and Kotoku were also constructed in the same area. There is ample evidence that Shotoku Taishi was revered as an exceptional person from ancient times. This was initially because of his importance in the establishment of Buddhism. Buddhism did not become recognized as the state religion until the 8th century (and then the government was forced to make special arrangements to protect Shinto). In the Asuka period it was merely permitted, and there were many who had doubts about it. However, Prince Umayado and Soga no Umako both personally constructed Buddhist temples and Umayado was responsible for several of them. There is an entire cluster of temples around the site of his Ikaruga Palace, most famously Horyuji, which was reconstructed after a fire in 670 and has the oldest surviving wooden buildings in Japan. This temple was founded by Umayado as his personal temple, then known as Ikarugadera, "the Ikaruga temple." He also had significance as the first Japanese known to have written a book. Then, starting in the 14th century, he was adopted by enthusiasts of imperial autocracy as opposed to the feudal system, the forerunners of the group who gained power in Japan after 1868. Every Japanese schoolchild studied the Nihon Shoki version of the 17 article constitution. However, no one blames Shotoku Taishi for the military dictators of the twentieth century and his prestige remains high.

In 623 the question of an invasion of Korea to expel Silla from Mimana came up after a lapse of 20 years. The officials at court disagreed. One party, whose spokesman is given as Tanaka no Omi spoke in favor of sending an envoy to determine whether Mimana was being mistreated, while another led by Nakatomi no Kuni no Muraji urged sending an army, with the goal of expelling Silla and transferring control of Mimana to Paekche. In the end envoys were sent and Silla sent back an embassy offering to confirm the old arrangement where Mimana sent nominal tribute to the court. A party of Silla and Japanese officials then went to Mimana to make arrangements, but before they returned a large army was formed and sent to Korea under the command of Sakaibe no Omi Omaro, a probable close ally of Soga no Umako. However, envoys kept going back and forth and everything was settled without fighting. The Japanese force in Korea was withdrawn. It was now agreed that any time a Japanese embassy sailed to Silla it would be met on arrival by two ceremonial boats, one representing Silla and one representing Mimana. Having an army on the ground in Korea simultaneously with negotiations seems a little odd. Perhaps two factions at the court were operating independently of each other.

For 623 there is an item reporting that after a celebrated murder committed by a Buddhist monk (an ax murder, no less), the court decided that it was necessary to assert some control over the religious system, and a office of (Buddhist) religion was established with the chief positions assigned to monks. As a result of this a formal census was taken and it is reported that there were 46 temples, 816 monks, and 569 nuns in the country.

The "Taika Reform"

In 626 Soga no Umako died, and in 628 Suiko Tenno died at the age of 75. Kojiki ends with this event. With Umayado, Umako, and Suiko all dead, we have clearly entered a new political age. Shortly before his death Umako had petitioned Suiko to be allowed to possess Kazuraki agata on the grounds that it was the ancient home of his clan. This was at the time one of 6 agata in Yamato that directly supported the expenses of the ruler. Suiko turned him down. Had this been done, Soga would then have been in a position to seek to revive the Kazuraki clan name, which, if accomplished, would have in effect set up his own descendants as a new aristocratic clan independent of all of the other Sogas. This is exactly what was later done for Nakatomi no Kamatari, when, after his death, his sons were recognized as a new Fujiwara clan. However, some historians think that this was merely a case of the elderly Umako losing his sense of political reality and asking for something that could not possibly have been granted.

The next ruler was a grandson of Bidatsu Tenno and son of the unfortunate Prince Oshisaka no Hikohito, who had been passed over more than once. This was not decided for several months after the death of Suiko. Soga no Emishi, Umako's eldest son, was now the O-Omi. Eventually Emishi called a meeting of the senior officials and said that Suiko had mentioned two possible successors, Prince Tamura and Prince Yamashiro no Oe, the son of Prince Umayado, and had met with both and urged them not to fight each other over the matter. Her own son, Prince Takeda, had died earlier, and her last wish was to be buried in his tomb. According to Nihon Shoki Emishi's presentation suggested that she favored Prince Tamura, but had not designated an heir. A majority favored Prince Tamura, but several also supported Prince Yamashiro no Oe, and so Emishi adjourned without making any decision. The two princes were equal in descent and also apparently the same age. Prince Tamura was 36 and it is estimated that Yamashiro no Oe was about the same. Nihon Shoki has a very long section about this issue in which it says that Prince Yamashiro no Oe strongly claimed that when she spoke to him Suiko told him that he should be the successor. The implication is that he accused Soga no Emishi of lying about what she told him. There was eventually a resort to violence as one hold-out official was killed by Soga no Emishi and the throne was awarded to Prince Tamura at the beginning of 629. He is known as Jomei Tenno. Emishi had an obvious reason to support Prince Tamura because his principal wife was a daughter of Soga no Umako and had already (it is thought) given birth to a prince, Furuhito. On the other hand, it is pointed out that Yamashiro no Oe's mother was also a daughter of Umako. It may be that Emishi thought that he would get along better with Tamura. The enthronement of Jomei brought another young prince to prominence, Naka no Oe. Jomei's Empress was not Soga no Hote no Iratsume but Princess Takara, a granddaughter of Oshisaka no Hikohito, and Naka no Oe was her son.

The Nihon Shoki article about Jomei Tenno is very short and uninformative. Only two major items are mentioned. The first was an exchange of embassies with the T'ang dynasty in 630 and 632. One student who had been in China for 24 years was able to return home on this occasion. Another, Takamuku no Kuramaro returned in 644 after 30 years in China and became a greatly respected teacher. The second major event was the first recorded frontier battle with Emishi barbarians in 637. However, it is noted that Jomei moved his palace twice, the first time after a fire. The second move was different. The new location was north of Asuka, in an area more convenient for commuication with the rest of the country. It was the occasion for some large scale building projects. The palace of the ruler was beginning its expansion in the direction of becoming a capital city, it is thought. There is an anecdote from this reign in which the oldest living prince upbraided Emishi saying that the ministers and officials were lax in their attendance at court. They were supposed to work from 6 am to noon, and this should be regulated by using a bell. However, Emishi ignored this advice. In later times the work day at the palace was regulated by bells. One of the features of the new palace site was a Buddhist temple, the first known to be constructed by a ruler.

Jomei died in 641 without ever having designated a crown prince. His successor was his Empress, who became the second female Tenno, known for this reign as Kogyoku Tenno (she had a second reign as Saimei Tenno). Nihon Shoki says absolutely nothing about how this came about. There were two clear candidates, Princes Furuhito and Naka no Oe, sons of the emperor by different mothers. Naka no Oe was the eldest son of the Empress but was only 16 (by Japanese count, our method of counting ages would make him 15), considered a bit young to succeed to the throne. It would be some time yet before it became possible for children to take the throne. It therefore follows that one reason for the accession of Kogyoku was that she could hold the place open for her son to succeed her. Prince Furuhito's status was lower but, though his age is not known, he was certainly older than Naka no Oe. Only a few years later Naka no Oe married a daughter of Furuhito and he must have been older than 20 at this time. Then Prince Yamashiro no Oe cannot be forgotten. The fact that there were three candidates raises the possibility that the elevation of Kogyoku was because the necessary unanimity among the leading nobles was not attainable. This is plausible because Soga no Emishi had the reputation of a man who would do nothing without a consensus. In the absence of better evidence the question cannot be settled. The new Tenno was 49 years old at the time.

The account of Kogyoku's reign in Nihon Shoki focuses on the events leading to the destruction of the Soga. When Jomei was on the throne things appeared to go smoothly under the direction of Soga no Emishi. He evidently got along adequately well with the other important members of the court. However, during Kogyoku's reign his son Iruka began to push him aside as the effective leader of the Soga interest and that was a different matter entirely. There are surviving stories that Iruka was a precocious and impressive child. He grew up to be willful and self-centered and completely inconsiderate toward others. He made enemies and this did not bother him, he just pushed ahead with whatever he wanted.

The first item is an account of the construction of Kofun for himself and his son by Soga no Emishi, discussed under the heading of 642. It is said that he levied vast numbers of workers for the project as if he were the ruler of the land, including workers that were part of Yamashiro no Oe's estates. Yamashiro no Oe's sister is said to have publicly complained about this. Then, the next year, Emishi became unwell and decided that it was necessary to retire from his duties, so on his own authority he had a minister's cap made which he presented to his son Iruka who thereafter functioned as O-Omi. Immediately on taking office, Iruka is said to have begun to conspire to exclude Prince Yamashiro no Oe from the succession and secure it instead for Prince Furuhito no Oe. There is a footnote that says that "another book" says that Iruka thought of taking the throne himself. Only three weeks after becoming O-Omi, Iruka sent an army to attack the Ikaruga palace. The palace was destroyed, but Yamashiro no Oe and his family survived and escaped into the hills. However, they had no resources and eventually all committed suicide. When Soga no Emishi heard of this he berated Iruka as a fool and said, in effect, what you have done to Yamashiro no Oe, others might do to you. This occurred at the end of 643.

Nihon Shoki then says that Nakatomi no Kamako no Muraji became greatly angry as a result of Iruka's coup and took it upon himself to circulate around the surviving princes of the ruling family to see whether they could rally around a candidate for the throne. It is perhaps worthy of note that in 641 there occurred a military coup in Koguryo after which the dictator massacred most of the nobility. It is impossible that the Japanese nobility would not be aware of this event, which could have easily been used against Iruka. Nakatomi suspected that Prince Naka no Oe would be a good choice as leader, but was not personally acquainted with him, so he attended a football match in which the prince was playing so that he could be introduced, and they quickly became close friends. So that they could meet regularly without attracting suspicion, they both enrolled for lessons in Confucian philosophy and Chinese language and walked together to and from the classes. One important step of their plan was to isolate Iruka by making sure that they had allies elsewhere in the Soga clan, and Naka no Oe arranged to marry a Soga girl to this end. This alliance was with Soga no Kuroyamada no Ishikawamaro, a nephew of Soga no Emishi. His branch of the clan continued to enjoy good relations with the ruling clan and three of his daughters married rulers. The conspirators developed an elaborate plan to kill Iruka at court. Altogether, the plot developed over about a year and a half. When the time came the men who were supposed to attack Iruka became frightened and confused, so Prince Naka no Oe personally drew his sword and struck Iruka down. This was in the presence of the Tenno (Naka no Oe's mother) and the prince told her that Iruka had been a threat to the ruling clan. They then politely had Iruka's body delivered to Emishi.

They spent one day assembling forces to attack Soga no Emishi, with contingents from many princes, and Emishi did his best to prepare a defense. However, when the prince's forces arrived most of Emishi's men deserted him. Knowing he was doomed, Emishi burned the histories that had been prepared by Soga no Umako and Prince Umayado, which were in his possession, though a scribe managed to rescue at least a portion of the manuscript and handed it to Naka no Oe. At the time of these events Nakatomi no Kamako was 31 and Naka no Oe 19.

Prince Furuhito no Oe was Naka no Oe's older (half) brother. Nihon Shoki says that Nakatomi no Kamako advised Naka no Oe that it would be improper to himself take the throne over his older brother, so suggested putting his uncle Prince Karu, Kogyoku Tenno's brother, on the throne. This is what was done. He is Kotoku Tenno. Kogyoku abdicated in his favor. This was the first abdication of a sovereign, a practice which soon became routine. As another first, with many occurrences to follow, Prince Furuhito publicly removed himself from eligibility for the succession by becoming a Buddhist monk and retiring to a rural temple. All of this, including the formal enthronement of Prince Karu, took place the day after the death of Soga no Emishi.

The new regime wasted no time in asserting that change was at hand. The ancient titles of O-Omi and O-Muraji were suppressed and replaced by new titles, Hidari no Omachigimi and Migi no Omachigimi, usually called in English by the Chinese pronunciations Sadaijin and Udaijin, meaning Minister of the Left and Minister of the Right, left meaning senior and right junior in rank. Abe no Omi no Kuwaramaro was appointed to the first and Soga no Omi no Ishikawamaro to the second. Nakatomi no Kamako was given a lesser title of uchinoomi or Naijin, which later became Naidaijin and ranked third after Udaijin in the Nara period. The status of the new ministers was officially lower than that of the crown prince, which appears to be an innovation. Before there seems to have been no formal sequence of ranks among the top offices. Uchinoomi is thought to be a title borrowed from the Paekche government. It means "interior minister" and from what Nihon Shoki says it appears to mean that Nakatomi no Kamako was to have day to day administrative command over the bureaucracy, including control over promotions and demotions. The interior he was to control was the interior of the working part of the palace. The "great ministers" were to be free to think about matters of higher policy.

Five days after the enthronement of Kotoku there was an assembly of all the officials of the palace where the above changes were announced. The Emperor, the retired Empress, and the Crown Prince were all present, and the officials were made to swear an oath of loyalty and obedience to the will of the emperor. This was also the occasion for the proclamation of the Taika reign title. There soon followed a steady flow of edicts that enacted major changes in the organization of government throughout the country, not merely within the palace.

There is an enormous amount of scholarly controversy about almost everything that occurred from this time down to the end of the century. In particular, there are some historians who think that just about everything I have written so far, based as it is on Nihon Shoki, is completely wrong. In particular, there are claims that the assassination of Iruka and the accession of Kotoku did not inaugurate a major change in government, that Naka no Oe was merely the standard "senior prince" required by the informal constitution and that Nakatomi no Kamako was a middle rank official of no special importance and that the entire story about his role in the uprising was made up because his descendants were men of power at the time that Nihon Shoki was written, there was no office of "inner minister", there was no Taika reign title, and no reform edicts. Most historians take a more moderate view, but few are willing to accept everything that Nihon Shoki says without subjecting it to close examination.

Nihon Shoki asserts that we are now witnessing the origins of the regime in power at the time it was published. It is unquestionably a work of propaganda. However, there is a small amount of other evidence now, other 8th century books that were not written by a government committee, and even a tiny handful of actual government documents, wooden tallies that accompanied tax shipments. There is distinct evidence of early efforts to set up a province/district system of local administration, and too many references to important happenings in other books for it all to be a hoax. And, the authors were writing of events only 75 years before the publication of the book. Their fathers or grandfathers had been participants and their readers' fathers or grandfathers had also been participants. There was much less room for maneuver than when writing about the 5th century. However, we need to be aware that the account is not disinterested.

The first matter the new government had to deal with was the simultaneous arrival of embassies from the three Korean kingdoms. Nihon Shoki is anything but clear about what happened, but the Japanese side was unhappy with the presentation from Paekche which included a claim to represent Mimana. This presumably derived from the fact that Paekche and Koguryo had formed an alliance in 642 and inflicted a major defeat on Silla, perhaps extending to capturing Mimana or a part of it. Eight months later another set of embassies arrived and there were more quarrels about Mimana. It seems that at this point the new government decided it was silly to keep fighting about what had become a meaningless distinction. Takamune no Kuramaro, a highly regarded scholar who had recently returned after 30 years in China, was sent to Silla and negotiated an end to the issue. Mimana ceased to exist as a diplomatic entity and Japan abandoned all claims on the territory. It is a general fact that under steady Chinese pressure, Korea was tearing itself apart during this period. In 644 Koguryo had fought off a massive Chinese assault on its Liao River frontier in Manchuria, and more was to come. The Japanese had to be very worried about what was happening, and this must have provided some of the urgency about changing Japan in ways that would make it better able to defend itself.

Within a few days of taking power the two senior ministers were ordered to find out from the "maetsukimi" and tomo no miyatsuko their views on how best to handle the assessment of labor taxes so that the people would not object to them. Maetsukimi is associated with Chinese characters used (in China) to designate the upper echelons of the bureaucracy. It is thought that it is used here as a general term covering the omi and muraji classes of aristocratic clans. It might also refer to the first and second ranks of the cap rank system, which, it is estimated, might have amounted to around 10 men. It is pretty consistent in later times that the committee of clan heads that constituted the decision making body at the top was in the neighborhood of 10 men, under Parkinson's limit of 12 as the largest committee that can ever actually decide something. The tomo no miyatsuko were local officers who were in charge of conscription of men for military service and for public works labor. I haven't said anything about taxation, because we know nothing concrete for early times. However, all Asian societies at this time from China on down relied on three types of taxation, grain from farmers, handicrafts, mostly cloth, but many other things also, from commoners who were not farmers, and labor for public projects. We assume that the system in this early period was not nearly so precisely organized as the system of the Nara period, but it was inevitable that they had something. Otherwise there would be no kofun. The tomo no miyatsuko were the people who provided the workers for such activities and, probably, saw to it that they were fed.

In trying to understand what Nihon Shoki says about what happened next we have one big advantage, we know where this was all going. We have a lot of information about how the early Nara period government was organized and we even have significant numbers of documents like census registers and tax records to show how it actually worked in certain areas. Nihon Shoki, still almost the only source, gives us a series of edicts, but says little about how the edicts were implemented or how things worked after they were. It is possible to gather that there was definitely a trial-and-error element in the process, for some edicts clearly led to nothing and were quickly followed by new edicts covering the same topic. We can divide the process into three stages, with one important extra topic. The stages are the period immediately after 645, then the crisis in Korea that began with T'ang conquest of Paekche in 660 and its consequences for Japan, and then the period after Naka no Oe's younger brother Prince Oama seized the throne in 672. The additional topic is the so-called Jinshin War of 672 that brought Oama to power. This is important because Nihon Shoki describes it in considerable detail, so that we get a chance to see Asuka period society actually working. And, the war was only 48 years before the publication of the book, so many participants were still alive.

Because the story is told as a sequence of government edicts, we cannot say anything about the presumed partnership between Prince Naka no Oe and Nakatomi no Kamako (later renamed Kamatari). One of them was perhaps the man of ideas and the other the worker who made things happen, or they may have shared those roles. We don't know. We do know that the ruling clan was profoundly grateful to Kamako because they elevated his descendants to an unprecedented niche of their own within the aristocracy as the Fujiwara clan, an event that had a profound effect on the evolution of government in Japan over the next several centuries. This future elevation of the Fujiwara alone proves, in my opinion, that Kamako must had had a lot to do with the events of 645 and what happened after.

Two months after the new government was established it issued a series of edicts establishing policy in five major areas. In the first it announced the appointment of governors to "eastern provinces" with orders to establish a census of the entire population regardless of whether they were under the control of the government or of local nobles and also to register the amounts of land they were farming. The men selected as governors were all powerful nobles from the center. The edict included a considerable amount of instruction as to how the governors were to manage their responsibilities. These were not permanent governors as established later, for it is clear that they were to perform their tasks in a few months and then return to the capital. They were also directly instructed not to get involved in criminal investigations and other disputes, but to stick to the task of gathering information about the size and wealth of the population and then return with it. However, it must be obvious that this was merely a first, preparatory step toward the establishment of a regular provincial administration under central control. The edict does not say exactly what was included in the "eastern provinces." These officials actually left the capital about one month later.

The second announcement was of the appointment of officials to the 6 agata of Yamato with the same mandate to take a census and register landholdings. These were the districts of Takechi, Katsuraki, Tochi, Shiki, Yamabe, and So which had long provided revenues directly to the ruling clan. It is thought that they were to be used as test locations for working out the details of local administration.

The third announcement was of the establishment at the palace of a mailbox and a bell. People with complaints were to take them to their superiors, but if their problem was ignored, they were authorized to write out the particulars and drop the document in the box. If even that did not seem to produce a result, they were allowed to ring the bell and an official would come out to speak with them. This was an established Chinese custom.

The fourth item was to regulate the status of children. If a child was born to two free parents, it would be registered with the father's family. However, if one parent were unfree the child would be registered with the unfree parent regardless of whether this was the father or the mother. If two unfree persons belonging to different masters had a child, the child went with the mother. We don't actually know anything about unfree people for this period, but in later times there were many categories. There was a class of hereditary servants who were not slaves and who could not be sold, then there were people who counted as slaves. Some were apparently permanent slaves, probably originating in captives of warfare. In the Nara period criminals could be condemned to slavery for some term of years, and it was permitted for the children of criminals to voluntarily enslave themselves to keep their parent free. People could also fall into slavery through debt. The purpose of this edict would be to establish a person's status for tax assessments. Unfree persons were not taxed directly, but their master was taxed on their behalf.

The last measure in this group was to regulate Buddhist temples. Every temple was required to set up an internal administration on a standard pattern with three officers.

Immediately after this burst of legislation, Nihon Shoki announced that Prince Furuhito and several other named persons plotted rebellion. This became known when Kibi no Kasa no Omi Shitaru voluntarily turned himself in as a co-conspirator. Troops were sent to kill Prince Furuhito and succeeded in doing so. Two of the alleged conspirators were members of the Soga and Aya clans. This type of event occured frequently over the next hundred years and more, and it is impossible to say which were real plots and which were purges of persons seen as inconvenient to have around. I have no doubt that there were cases in both categories. Prince Naka no Oe/Tenchi Tenno had several of these cases during his time. It would naturally not be surprising if there were some among the nobility who tried to organize resistance against his reform schemes, but it is equally possible that he shared Joseph Stalin's way of thinking about inconvenient people.

At the end of the year the palace was moved from Asuka to Naniwa on the Inland Sea. The founders of the Ojin dynasty, Ojin and his son Nintoku had had their palaces at Naniwa, but this was the first time since then. On the first day of the new year, at Naniwa, the government issued the main reform edict, conventionally known in Japan as the "New Years Day Edict." This is the clearest statement of their plan for ruling the country. It is divided into four sections.

Section one proclaims the abolition of all current forms of landholding in favor of a rule that all of the land and all of the people will be controlled by the government directly. Instead of living off of landholdings, the nobility (all of whom would become government officials) would receive salaries. The remainder of the section discusses how this is to be implemented.

Section two says that a comprehensive system of regional and local administration must be set up, including a capital city with its own internal structure and officials plus a system of provinces and districts plus such smaller entities as barriers and outposts with guards, post stations with horses, and so on. It says that this will be first done for the inner provinces only, and clearly describes the zone that is covered.

Section three mandates the preparation of comprehensive census registers and states that this is for the purpose of enacting a system of regular land redistribution of the sort currently in effect in China and Koguryo. The document specifically describes how land will be measured in terms of Chinese units of cho (2.45 acres) and tan (one tenth of a cho), which were used in Japan up to the introduction of the metric system, and specifies a basic tax rate in terms of "sheaves" of rice per cho.

Section 4 abolishes the entire current system of taxes and sets up a simplified one comprising the basic land tax paid in rice, head taxes to be assessed in terms of specific amounts of silk cloth, but which can be paid in whatever local products are suitable so long as the value is the same, and a set of standard labor taxes, which will include the provision of soldiers (fully equipped) and horses, ordinary laborers, and women suitable to work as maids and attendants in the nobles' palaces. Provision was made for people to buy out of the labor taxes at a fixed price.

This was extremely ambitious and it is abundantly obvious that it was not instantly put into effect, but only realized after several painful decades of work. Many think that the edict as presented in Nihon Shoki was only written after all of these arrangements were in fact in force, and thus describes what succeeded, not what was originally intended. However, it was taken directly from the current administrative law codes of China and/or Koguryo. There can be little doubt that the intention was to establish in Japan a version of the system those countries were using. If successful, it would have the effect that a vastly larger proportion of the total wealth produced through farming would pass through the hands of the government than before, allowing the government leeway to affect how it was spent. It was certainly intended that a higher proportion go to state purposes and a smaller proportion go to maintaining aristocratic lifestyles. This would permit a considerable increase in the military power available to protect Japan from the consequences of the troubles that were beginning to envelop Korea.

However, many scholars are troubled by things like the precise definition of the tan (a strip of land 30 tsubo (180 feet) long and 12 tsubo (72 feet) wide) and the cho (10 tan), and the assignment of a very specific land tax rate for them. These are identical to the provisions of the Taiho Code which was completed 50 years later. There is no other example of the use of cho and tan and tsubo for land measure before the "Asuka no Kiyomihara Code" published in 689. The earlier system seems to have depended on multiples of a unit called shiro that was about 30 feet long. There is also the matter of the districts into which provinces are to be divided. The edict says "if the district is made up of 40 villages it is a large district, if it is between 4 and 30 villages it is a middle district, and if 3 villages or less it is a small district." The Taiho code has the same provision except that it recognizes five classes of districts and the sizes are different. Although the contents are different, the layout and wording of the provisions are identical. The common word for district from the Nara period on, kori 郡, is used in the edict, but there are no examples of its use in the original documents that survive from the 7th century. Instead 評 was used. The edict also uses the Nara period names for the district magistrate and assistant magistrate whereas 7th century documents use different names. 郡 for a district and the office titles associated with it are Chinese usages, whereas 評 and its offices come from the Korean kingdoms.

As a result of this it is not believed that the edict as quoted in Nihon Shoki actually describes the provincial administrative system as it existed before the Asuka Kiyomihara Code, but instead gives a later version. If those parts of the edict are not valid, then how do we know that any parts are? The first article relating to the abolition of the ancient modes of landholding could hardly be taken from a Nara period source. The provisions in the fourth article using silk cloth as a unit of value to convert from one type of tax to another is not part of the Taiho Code, which did not permit any conversion of one type of tax into another.

The conservative view is that the authors of Nihon Shoki did not have a complete text of the edict and so filled in missing parts, but that the basic purport of the document, the abolition of existing forms of landholding and taxation and the establishment of a new system on Chinese and Korean models is authentic. This is, after all, what was eventually accomplished, and this is the point where the ancient Japanese say the transition began.

One area of debate is how the initial land distribution system was intended to work. In the Taiho Code there were elaborate rules to account for every individual member of a household who was old enough to be expected to work and specific amounts of land were credited to each one (varying by age, sex, and status) and then added up to get the total allotment for a family. This then determined the final crop tax. The alternate way of doing it was to simply assign standard blocks of land to families without worrying about the details of the composition of the family. Many historians feel that the main thrust of the "New Years Day Edict" was to break the traditional connections between the aristocrats and the farmers and force the aristocrats to become officials living off of salaries and that it would have been too much to simultaneously set out to radicalize the way that individual farming families were dealt with. It would be much more practical to take the farming communities and their households as they existed and keep the new systems relatively simple at that level. In later times attempting to administer the Taiho Code requirements for the census and redistribution cycle turned out to be almost impossibly difficult. Historians find it hard to believe that they would have put such a complex system in the Taiho Code if they had known from actual experience how hard it was to administer. Also, it is widely assumed that it was understood in 646 that such a system could not be imposed simultaneously throughout the country, that it was going to have to be instituted in stages over time, though the edict says nothing about that.

There was nothing in this edict that would necessarily have had a noticeable impact on the daily lives of ordinary farmers except for the taxation rates. It is not known whether the published rates represented an increase or a decrease in the tax burden. If an increased portion of the revenues were going to pass through the capital, then there was going to have to be a significant assessment of labor to handle the transportation. Under the land distribution system the primary responsibility for farming the land and paying the taxes on it was assigned to the family unit. We do not know whether this was a continuation of current practices or something new. The alternate method, which became the norm in feudal Japan, was to make the village the fundamental point of contact between the rulers and the ruled. Each village was assessed a tax and was left alone to divide it up among the families. If something like the "be" system applied to farmers, then Kofun Japan may have been structured similarly and the new system would be a major change.

In the second month of 646 there was a further general edict which covered two topics. It reinforced and amplified the earlier announcement of a national suggestion box and made a point of specifying that anonymous suggestions and complaints would be accepted, and it also indicated that the second topic was a response to complaints that had come through this system. It said that people who had come to the capital on account of being drafted for labor were often not allowed to return home when their term was expired, but were retained by officials and nobles for additional work. It informed the assembled officials that steps had been taken to prevent this.

In the third month the officials that had been sent to the eastern provinces the previous year returned. This was announced in an edict which said that eight officials had been sent out and six of them had performed their duties but two had failed, and were being punished for it. Two weeks later a quite lengthy edict (as reported in Nihon Shoki) went into details and named names. The main problem was that some of the officials took advantage of their position to embezzle tax revenues and extort bribes from the people. They were forced to pay everything back and fined double the amount of the thefts. The fact of their guilt had become known through complaints from the locals. Some local nobles were also guilty of voluntarily offering bribes, but in the spirit of the effort to set up a new system they were all given amnesty. And, in compensation for all of the trouble caused to the people by the construction of the new palace, a general amnesty was also granted. This apparently means that people who fell behind on other taxes because of being forced to labor on the palace were let off. A few days later Prince Naka no Oe submitted a petition to the emperor calling for the abolition of certain customary types of estates held by the nobles, and returned to the Emperor 524 members of an Imbe unit (essentially the staff of a Shinto shrine) and 161 miyake (revenue producing units of various types) that had been his private possessions. That was followed by another edict that attempted to regulate the construction of Kofun and the ceremonies associated with them. Its main thrust was to limit the size and cost and to require their construction on land that could not be farmed. This is the edict described earlier that specified that the tomb of a prince should cost only 7000 man days of labor with lower limits for successive lower classes. Lavish grave goods of the type that fill our museums today were prohibited. There was also a lengthy edict seeking to apply order to marriage customs, an edict seeking to change local customs that had the effect of impeding travellers from moving freely about the country, and further instructions on how the abolition of private holdings was to be implemented.

There must have been many nobles, central and local, who were not pleased by these edicts and the system that they announced, but there are no signs of any significant resistance. There are some indications that the local nobles may have actually welcomed support in keeping the commoners under control. In the autumn of 644 Nihon Shoki reports the outbreak of a popular cult among the people in an area of the Kanto region. A local man preached that a certain insect, evidently a caterpillar of some kind, was the intermediary of a god who, if the caterpillar was properly worshipped, would bring wealth and long life to all without the necessity to work. People stopped working and travelled about in groups singing and drinking and it seems that the local authorities were unable to do anything about it. Normality was not restored until an official from the capital, Hata no Miyatsuko Kawakatsu, went down and arrested and executed the preacher. Events like this usually occurred in times of stress. It has been speculated that this movement was a reaction to the establishment of silk production by immigrants from Korea. Silkworms make these Koreans rich, so this local caterpillar might make us rich, people might think. The Hata clan was intimately connected with the production of silk, and some have wondered whether Hata Kawakatsu was sent out to find out whether the locals had perhaps discovered a worm that could also make usable silk.

The change that has been observed in the number and scale of late period Kofun has convinced most historians that the rural clan chiefs, the kuni no miyatsuko, had lost their quasi-royal status and powers in the course of a trend towards equalization among the rural nobles and this likely meant that the traditional form of local government had lost its effectiveness, so that when the central government began to send out governors it was to some extent filling a vacuum. Rather than suppressing the local nobility it was helping to secure their positions. However, making a transition from support from privately controlled holdings to a salary provided by the government was a major change and it had to cause concern as to how it was going to work out. The stream of edicts of 646 included a specific promise that all nobles whose private landholding were to be abolished would receive appointment to government office and receive official salaries. The subtext, of course, was that everyone who did not receive appointment to government office was by definition a commoner. It included a warning that people who claimed noble status without actually being entitled to it were to be weeded out.

The pace of change slowed in 647. There was an edict directed to try to ensure that elements used in the names of the rulers were not also employed in personal names of nobles and in place names. In China it was frequently the rule that characters used in the writing of the emperor's name and certain other important usages, especially relating to the rites of the state cult in which the emperor participated personally, could not be used for any other purpose. People had to come up with substitute characters. This would appear to be an attempt to apply that rule to Japan. The major development was an expansion and reorganization of the cap rank system. The former twelve ranks were compressed into six, one new rank was added at the bottom, and six new ranks were added at the top, thus incorporating the top nobles in the system for the first time. All the names were completely changed. Then, only two years later it was restructured again. The six compressed ranks were broken out into twelve again, and the names of all but the top six ranks were changed again. No explanations are offered, but it is assumed that the adjustments were a result of a rapid expansion of the size and scope of the bureaucracy which would have increased the complexity of the government. The ranks would obviously be the basis for the determination of salaries, so more ranks meant more different salary grades.

After this reorganization every noble except for princes of the ruling clan was covered in the system. There is a note in Nihon Shoki for the date in 648 when the 647 rank changes were supposed to go into effect, but it says that the ministers continued to use their old caps. This implies that there was a certain amount of dissatisfaction, so the revision and expansion of the number of ranks in 649 must have been a response, to make sure that everyone was comfortable that he was not being lumped in with people he thought belonged beneath him. Another sign of change is the institution in 647 of a system of bells to control attendance. The officials were supposed to present themselves in orderly lines outside the palace by 5 AM. At 5 a bell would be rung and the doors of the offices opened, and after a reasonable amount of time for people to all get inside, the bell would be rung again and the doors closed and anyone who was late would not be admitted. Everyone was supposed to be at his desk and working by 6. The bell would be rung again at the close of the working day which was noon. It was a very ancient custom that really important business at court was to be conducted at or before sunrise and this structure for office hours was long continued.

The amended system of 19 ranks went into effect early in 649 and at that time it was determined that a structure of government departments, offices, and bureaus based on the Chinese system would be put into effect. Takamune no Kuramaro and a Buddhist monk named Bin were to oversee this operation. It is time to summarize what had been accomplished to date. One, the principle centering government on the emperor had been established. The expansion of the rank system to include even the highest officials meant that the emperor now formally controlled the status of all, by granting or withholding promotion in rank, and the nobility would be defined by its status within the system of ranks. Two, it had been established that the government was to be highly centralized with the provinces directly managed from the palace under a uniform bureaucratic system. Three, the principle had been established that all land and the commoners who worked on it were the property of the state. The work to make all of this a functioning reality was still ahead, but the principles were laid down and there was no open opposition to them. Finally, four, it was also established that this new system would be managed and controlled by the exact same block of nobles from (what were to become) Yamato and Kawachi provinces that had been on top of the heap before. A revolution in the structure and effectiveness of the government was being attempted, but there was no effort to revolutionize the membership of the ruling group either nationally or locally. Everyone was to be granted a rank and an office and income suitable to his existing status.

A new Chinese dynasty usually came to power through warfare. The dynastic founder was a successful general with a powerful army at his back. He had a free hand in the design of his new government, but he had to come up with something that would work, or his dynasty would not last long. The successful dynasties always fit in reasonably smoothly with the long-standing expectations of how a proper Chinese government was supposed to operate, so that the amount of freedom of design was actually restricted. The same clearly applied here. No matter what the ambitions of the group in control of the palace, the detail work of ruling the country was going to be performed by the traditional aristocracy. There was no alternative. It would have been possible for essentially the old regime to continue under a set of new names. The challenge for the remainder of the Asuka period was to make sure that that did not happen and that the government really did change, really did become more centralized and more structured so that a greater share of the national resources passed through the hands of the palace, which in turn would have made the nation stronger in a world dominated by China. Of all of the proposed changes, the most important was the land redistribution system. If that were to be put into actual operation, then the government would really capture the entire surplus wealth of the nation into the taxation system and control how it was redistributed and spent. Most of it would go out to the nobles in official salaries, of course, but the remainder could be used for nation-building activities and the salary system itself would put enormous pressure on the nobles to behave themselves. New ministries and new ranks were all very well. It was the detailed administration of the farmers of the countryside which was the key.

It seems appropriate that immediately after all of this work laying out the guidelines for the construction of a new kind of government, traditional Kofun politics intruded themselves. In the third month of 649 the senior minister Abe no Kurahashimaro died. Only seven days later Soga no Himuka secretly accused the Minister of the Right Soga no Ishikawamaro of plotting treason, specifically of planning the assassination of Prince Naka no Oe. Most historians believe that this was not true. Himuka was Ishikawamaro's younger brother and presumably hoped to become the top minister himself. Naka no Oe communicated this information to Kotoku Tenno, who sent officials to interview Ishikawamaro. Ishikawamaro said that he would not talk to intermediaries and demanded an interview with the emperor. Kotoku refused this and ordered troops to arrest Ishikawamaro. Ishikawamaro fled his palace at Naniwa and went to Yamadadera in Yamato where his eldest son was managing the construction of the temple. According to Nihon Shoki the son was all for attempting to raise troops and make a fight of it, but Ishikawamaro refused. He and his entire immediate family committed suicide by hanging. A number of other people associated with him were subsequently executed by the government, and many others were banished. One problem with structuring a government aristocratically is that it is very hard to fire someone. Over the next two hundred and fifty years, I can think of only two cases where a man was removed from a position of power without killing him, and both cases involved men of relatively low status who lacked the private resources to attempt to raise an army and make a fight of it. These were the priest Dokyo in the Nara period and Sugawara no Michizane in the Heian period, both of whom had been plucked from relative obscurity for high office by persons much more powerful than themselves and who fell when that backing was removed. There was no prison system, then or later. The main punishment lesser than death was banishment. This entailed removal to a specific location where the person would live under the supervision of local officials in a form of house arrest. Not a few high status persons were sentenced to banishment over the years, but most of those either died mysteriously while being transported to the place of banishment or soon after arrival. Many lower status persons who were banished eventually escaped and were hidden by their relatives. However, that amounted to a milder form of house arrest. In this case it is natural to suspect that the event was orchestrated by Naka no Oe, who did not want to see a Soga rise to the highest position in the bureaucracy. If Soga no Himuka expected to succeed his brother, he was to be disappointed. Naka no Oe appointed him to an office that required him to move to Kyushu, a popular form of polite banishment in later times (this is what happened to Sugawara no Michizane). Personal relations among the aristocracy had their peculiar side at times. Naka no Oe's principal wife was a daughter of Ishikawamaro and the mother of Jito Tenno, and she is said to have died of grief after the fall of her father.

The final result of this was that there were two vacant positions at the top of the bureaucracy. The new Sadaijin was Kuse no Omi Tokuta and the new Udaijin was Otomo no Muraji Nakatoko. These had both been in the 6th rank of the new system and were now promoted to the 5th rank. Kuse had been an active member of the government since 645 and Otomo was the head of a major clan. Both Abe no Kurahashimaro and Soga no Ishikawamaro had refused to wear the new badges of rank and had continued to wear their old ministers' caps. These were the first ministers to rise under the new rank system. The implication of their new ranks was that the top four ranks in the new system were all empty at the time. The next year, 650, saw a change of reign title from Taika to Hakuchi. This was perhaps intended as a signal that the main effort of reform was complete and now began the work of consolidating the new system. The name came from a report of the sighting and capture of a white pheasant, considered an auspicious omen. The change was accompanied by considerable ceremony. The province (at the western end of Honshu) that had presented the bird was given a three year tax holiday and the hunting of pheasants in that province was banned. To judge from Nihon Shoki there had always been a lot of ceremonial associated with being ruler, but it had been conducted for the most part in seclusion. Now we find the government frequently assembling all of the officials for big ceremonials in the open air. It is not clear at this stage whether commoners were permitted to view these, but it certainly became routine in the Nara and Heian periods that many of the ceremonials surrounding the ruling family were conducted in such a way as to permit the people to line the streets and watch processions and the like. This is all a part of moving the government and the emperor into a more prominent part in the life of the nation.

In 651 the government moved from the palace it had been occupying for six years at Okori to a new one, also in Naniwa, called Nagara no Toyosaki palace. According to Nihon Shoki the construction of this palace had involved the destruction of a large number of kofun and the displacement of many farmers, who were all compensated. The implication was that it was quite a large construction. Work continued even after the government moved in and it was not completed for another year and a half. Nihon Shoki says that it surpassed in magnificence any previous construction in the country. The site of the palace has been discovered and excavated archaeologically. It is right next to the site of Osaka Castle, the area of modern Osaka that is the highest above sea level.

In 651 a party of envoys from Silla arrived in Kyushu wearing T'ang dynasty Chinese clothing instead of traditional Korean attire. This caused the government to conclude that Silla had, without consulting Japan, concluded an alliance with China, and the embassy was rejected. Silla had changed the official costume at court to the Chinese style in 649. Two years later, in 653 the Japanese sent an embassy to China consisting of two ships and 242 persons, and followed this by a second one in 654 headed by Takamune Kuromaro and Abe no Omi Maro. The Old T'ang History (there is also a New T'ang History) mentions the second of these. Takamune must have been very old by then and he died while in China. One of the two ships of the 653 embassy carrying 121 persons was wrecked with only 5 survivors.

For the first month of 652 Nihon Shoki has a very brief announcement that a land redistribution was conducted during the course of the month and there is a note for the fourth month of the same year that census registers were prepared. Few details are given. The first item is a little odd. It says "from the first month to this month the land distribution was completed." Normally the census comes first so that you know how many families there are to distribute land to. The Taiho code called for a census and redistribution cycle of six years. It has been speculated that these items mark the completion of a redistribution effort that was begun six years earlier in 646, then the start of work on the census for the next cycle three months afterward. It has been also proposed that what happened was a relatively small trial project on lands already under direct control, the six Agata of Yamato and possibly the lands of imperial miyake. Given the very lengthy preparations for the first certain land distribution much later, most historians find it difficult to believe that a nationwide distribution was conducted at this time. The Hitachi fudoki says that Kashima district in the province was first established in 649 and Shinoda, Namekata, and Iwaki districts were created in 663. It looks like the government was still working on putting together a framework for rural administration, and that conducting censuses and distributions was a long way in the future.

In 653 there was a public disagreement between Kotoku Tenno and Prince Naka no Oe. Naka no Oe proposed moving the palace back to Yamato province and the emperor refused. So, Naka no Oe left anyway and was accompanied by his mother, the former Kogyoku Tenno and the current Empress (Naka no Oe's sister) and her children. No explanation is offered. Nor is any date given, except for the year. In the 10th month of the following year the emperor fell ill and everyone returned to Naniwa and were present when he died shortly after. The speculation is that Naka no Oe had begun to think that the efforts to put the emperor at the center of the government had been too successful and his own position was weakening, so that by proposing a move when they had just settled into their new and very expensive palace at Nagara he had found something that the emperor was almost certain to reject. Then, by leaving in a huff and moving to Yamato he forced everyone to make up their mind who was the real power in the government. Almost everyone of importance followed him to Yamato.

There is a modern theory that the real cause of the dispute was that Naka no Oe was sleeping with his sister, the Empress. Nihon Shoki quotes a poem the emperor sent to the empress which can be interpreted as hinting at this. This theory also says that such a thing would explain why Naka no Oe resisted being elevated to the throne for 23 years. As emperor he would have essentially no privacy and no freedom of movement and could not have maintained a secret relationship. Moreover, it is argued that after the death of Kotoku Tenno Naka no Oe openly treated his sister as his wife. Marriages that we would consider incestuous were common among the aristocracy, but there were definite rules and this marriage violated them, if it existed. There are precedents to the effect that people would think Naka no Oe was ritually polluted so that he could not ascend the throne while this relationship lasted. He became emperor (668) only after the death of his sister.

Kotoku Tenno had one son, Prince Arima. He was 15 at the time of Kotoku's death. Under the circumstances one would think it automatic that Naka no Oe would take the throne at this time. However, he did not. Instead his mother assumed the throne a second time, this time known as Saimei Tenno. Nihon Shoki offers not one word in explanation. There was a considerable risk involved in that by not immediately taking the throne himself he was leaving open the possibility that circumstance might yet give it to Prince Arima. This has been taken to support the theory that Naka no Oe was unable to take the throne at this time because of his personal life.

The deceased emperor was buried only two months after his death and the court moved to Yamato the same day, settling in Itabuki Palace at Asuka. This was where Saimei had lived at the time of the assassination of Soga no Iruka and her abdication. She was now 62 years of age. It was approximately at this point that Naka no Oe's younger brother Prince Oama began to take a role in affairs at the age of 25. Naka no Oe's son Prince Otomo was 8 and his daughter Princess Uno no Sarara, eventually Empress to Oama and Jito Tenno after his death, was 11. Itabuki Palace was intended as a temporary home while a new one was constructed that was to be bigger and fancier than the palace at Naniwa. The Itabuki Palace burned down late in 655 and they moved to Yahara Palace.

The court now embarked on a series of large construction projects, and Nihon Shoki records popular complaints about the extravagance and expense of the work. According to Nihon Shoki, in the 9th month of 657 Prince Arima began laying the groundwork for rebellion. It is alleged that he praised the benefit of visiting a certain hot spring to Saimei Tenno in order to get her to leave the capital to visit it, so that he could stage a takeover while she was out of the way. The Empress did go to visit the hot spring about one year later, leaving Soga no Omi no Akae in charge at Asuka. Akae allegedly approached Prince Arima with a set of complaints about the rule of Saimei. The first was that the government was extracting too much in taxes from the people, the second is that it was drafting too many people for work on canals, and the third was she was wasting resources on hauling great stones up a hill (to construct a flower viewing platform high on a mountain outside Asuka). They retired to Atae's house to plot rebellion. However, an armrest spontaneously broke while they were talking and they recognized it as a bad omen and broke up. Atae immediately armed a group of men who were working on construction of the new palace and surrounded Arima's palace and sent off messengers to the court informing them that Prince Arima had spoken treason. Nihon Shoki then quotes "another book" that gives a more detailed and plausible account of a discussion among several conspirators ending in most of the participants concluding that Prince Arima was not competent to pull off a successful coup d'etat. In the end Prince Arima and two others were executed and two additional men were exiled. Soga no Atae was a man who was very much in the confidence of Naka no Oe. After all, he was left in charge of the capital while the royal family was away. He also had a daughter who was married to Naka no Oe. It therefore is plausible that Soga no Atae deliberately set Prince Arima up for a fall on orders from Naka no Oe, who had amply made it plain that he regarded anyone with a claim to the succession as a threat. When questioned, Prince Arima is quoted as saying "Heaven and Akae know what happened. I am completely ignorant." This story is referenced in a number of surviving poems, two attributed to the prince before his execution, and it appears that there was a lot of sympathy for Prince Arima among the nobility.

658 was also the occasion for military activity on the eastern frontier. The word used for the eastern barbarians 蝦夷 has normally been pronounced Ezo since the Tokugawa period. Ezo was also the common name for the island of Hokkaido at that time. However, it is well understood that in ancient times the word was pronounced Emishi. It is the same word as the personal name of Soga no Emishi. The first mention of a military expedition against Emishi in Nihon Shoki is assigned to the reign of Keiko Tenno, one of the presumed imaginary rulers between Jimmu and Sujin. There are stories about such expeditions in tales about Takeuchi no Sukune, Yamato Takeru no Mikoto and Prince Mimorowake. There are also references to tribute paid by Emishi in the articles on Ojin, Nintoku, Yuryaku and Seinei in the fourth and fifth centuries. Modern historians do not have much confidence in any of this material. Kojiki has not been much mentioned in my observations because it contains very little material that is intended as substantive history, but it is believed to be more authentically based on ancient traditions than Nihon Shoki. It was not a government project, but had a single author. Emishi are not named as a people even once in Kojiki. The famous letter submitted to the Chinese as part of the 478 embassy says that the Japanese ruler had conquered 55 countries of 毛人, literally "hairy people," in the east and in the west 66 countries of 衆夷. There is a book about Shotoku Taishi that uses 毛人 to write the name of Soga no Emishi, so it is likely that that is what was intended. 毛人 itself is a common Chinese word for barbarians.

All in all, it seems that the uncontrolled peoples living in the far east of Japan only became a matter of concern in the latter part of the 6th century. In 589 Omi no Omi Matsu had been sent out along the Tosando route to inspect the frontier with the Emishi. Some historians reject this notice but most accept it as authentic. Other officials were simultaneously sent out to inspect the east along the Hokurikudo and Tokaido routes. However, the next mention of any note does not occur for another half century until 642 when "several thousand" Emishi of the Koshi region (the Hokurikudo) "submitted" to the court. The leaders of these people came to the court, where they were entertained at the mansion of Soga no Emishi. In 645 after the coup the special governors were sent out to inspect conditions in the east, and in 647 a fort was constructed at a place called Nutari. The character used implies a wooden stockade type fort. In the next year a second fort was built at Iwafune. People were then relocated from more internal areas to grow food for the forts and provide other services who were referred to as kinobe or "fortress" be. No trace of the Nutari fort has been found, but there is a neighborhood with that name in the city of Niigata. Iwafune is a modern placename also. It is located at a favorable site with a harbor and farmland nearby, about 20 kilometers up the coast from Niigata.

There has been much discussion over the years as to whether the Emishi were Ainu or whether they were ethnically Japanese and merely beyond the control of the Yamato state. Up to the 1920's it was pretty much assumed that they were Ainu, not least because of the use of 蝦夷 to write Ezo (in older books often romanized as Yezo). Then, there was the belief that the Japanese people came to the country with Yayoi culture and that the Jomon culture belonged to a different race of people, and the obvious candidates for the surviving remnants of the Jomon people were the Ainu. The Ainu have conspicuously more body hair than Japanese do, so the use of 毛人 seemed significant also. However, people began to develop doubts. There is no question that Ezo meant Ainu, but that does not mean that Emishi meant Ainu. Japanese are quite used to the portability of Chinese characters and the fact that they can be used for different Japanese words at different times and places. Anthropological studies of Jomon human remains have consistently failed to find any close correlation with modern Ainu physical types. Even if the Emishi were Jomon survivors, they do not appear to have been Ainu from that point of view. However, this does not preclude the possibility that the Emishi were contributors to the current Ainu population along with others from elsewhere. Modern archaeologists have found signs that there have been several movements into Hokkaido of peoples from Siberia over the centuries. The Chinese term 毛人 does not appear to have been originally applied to people who were naturally hairy, but to people who wore clothing made from furs, so it does not necessarily mean anything in the context of this argument. The archaeology of the Kofun period finds numerous kofun in areas which in historical times were disputed with the Emishi. Nor is there any archaeological evidence for the period of conflict to show the presence of a distinctive people in the area. The mummies of four successive generations of the Mutsu Fujiwara family are preserved at Chusonji in Hiraizumi and they were examined in 1951 and found to resemble Japanese and not Ainu. This family is widely thought to have been of Emishi descent. The overall conclusion has to be that there is no real evidence of a connection between the Ainu and the Jomon population because there is no chain of connection between them. The earliest undoubted Ainu remains in Hokkaido are comparatively recent. However, that does nothing to settle the question as to whether the Emishi were Jomon survivors. There we can observe that archeologists believe that there is very good evidence that as the Yayoi rice farming culture spread into the north east the number of immigrants became smaller and many Jomon people "converted" to the new way of life. The point furthest north reached by Yayoi rice farming was well inside the "Emishi" zone and the same is true of Kofun remains. There are still supporters of the other hypotheses, but I believe that most modern historians think that what made Emishi Emishi was the fact that they were outside the political culture of the Yamato state, not that they were linguistically or culturally all that different from the eastern "Japanese" on the other side of the frontier. I note that there is never any mention of anyone attempting to learn an "Emishi language," whereas there are several mentions in the context of preparations for war against Silla of people being put to the task of studying the "Silla language."

My question, which I have never seen an answer to, is why was Soga no Emishi named that? It is especially interesting that when a party of Emishi arrived at court in 642 he was assigned to look after them. There has to be some connection. It seems unlikely that a person of his status would have ever spent significant time in the east where he could become associated with Emishi, but it does appear that in the 6th century numbers of Emishi were brought to the Yamato area and employed as guards for properties belonging to the ruling clan. The Soga may well have had a role in managing this and he might have come to be particularly associated with Emishi as a result. The name an adult aristocrat used was never the name he used as a child. Like American Indians you received a new name when you became an adult, and it might be a name that seemed especially appropriate for you. There were a lot of rather odd names in the 6th and 7th centuries, of which Emishi is certainly one of the oddest.

The expedition of 658 was under the command of Abe no Hirau and it was repeated in 659 and 660. The descriptions are confused. There is speculation that the authors of Nihon Shoki got confused and there were actually fewer expeditions, most likely two.

The quick summary is that in 658 Abe went north with 180 boats and reached Akita and Nushiro (modern Akita and Noshiro, probably). There he met three different groups of Emishi, got them to swear oaths of loyalty, appointed them to offices of local government and came home. Then in 659 he went north again with 180 boats to the same location. He met with various groups some of whom told him he should pick a certain spot for a capital and did so. Again he distributed titles and offices and came home. In 660 things are different. At the top Nihon Shoki says that he attacked the land of Su-shen 粛慎. The detail says he sailed north to an unnamed river where he found 1000 Emishi who were fleeing from 20 ships of Su-shen. Abe tried to talk with the Su-shen without success, then he went through a process that clearly mystifies the authors of Nihon Shoki but will be instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever taken an anthropology class, and eventually followed the Su-shen to a fortified camp where he fought them and destroyed them.

There has been an enormous amount of academic quarreling about all of this, covering the obvious topics, where were all the place ames located, were there really 3 trips or is the 659 trip a mistaken repeat of the 658 trip, and who were the Su-shen.

The geographical fight is mainly about whether Abe made it all the way to Hokkaido or not. The 658 notice says that Abe proceeded in 180 boats to Akita and Nushiro. Akita is already very far north compared to Notari and Iwafune. Akita became a major base for the army in the Nara period wars in this region. Nushiro is probably modern Noshiro, not very far north of Akita, but on the other side of a significant peninsula. At Akita Abe met with numbers of local Emishi who assembled and who pledged loyalty to the court in the name of the god of place. There is today an ancient shrine on the site of Akita Castle called Koshio Jinja, "the shrine of the god of Koshi." Abe awarded the Emishi leaders official ranks and appointed them as district magistrates. "Then" Nihon Shoki says, he summoned another group of Emishi from Watarinoshima to meet him at a place called Arima beach, where they also promised loyalty, whereupon he sent them home. Then he returned. The question is, where was Watarinoshima ("the island you cross to")? For a long time it has been assumed that it refers to southern Hokkaido, but there is no evidence for that. Many historians think it unlikely that Abe could have gone so far on these expeditions and argue that it had to be further south, perhaps the Tsugaru Peninsula on the northern end of Honshu, an area which in ancient times might as well have been an island because the only way to get there was by boat, as it was separated from the rest of Honshu by a wide belt of essentially uninhabited mountains. Even that may be too far, because archaeologically the Tsugaru area is considered more closely involved with Hokkaido than with the Emishi further south in Honshu. The only real clue is that the Nihon Shoki article says nothing about any further voyage from Akita but simply that he summoned the Emishi of Watarinoshima to meet him.

The expedition of 660 is harder to deal with. First of all Su-shen 粛慎 is a name from ancient Chinese history, dating back to the Chou dynasty. The Chinese sometimes also used the name for a Manchurian people who lived closer to the time we are concerned with who are otherwise called Yilou and who are believed to be ancestral to the Jurchen who created the Liao dynasty after the fall of the T'ang. This means that they were a people not unlike the Puyo hypothetical ancestors of the Japanese and living in the same part of Manchuria. How they would get to paddling boats around Hokkaido is not immediately obvious. One theory is that the Japanese just plucked a name out of a Chinese book. The characters were evidently pronounced Mishihase by the Japanese, but we have no referents for that word at all. Japan at this time had good connections with Koguryo, which certainly must have known a great deal about all Manchurian peoples. Perhaps they knew more than we do about it. Or, it has been suggested that because the ancient Su-shen were located north-east of China and these people were located north-east of Japan Su-shen was thought an appropriate name to use for them. Many archaeologists are inclined to regard this as an encounter with Okhotsk people who are known to have spread into parts of Hokkaido from Siberia, and could very easily have sent parties exploring southward to Honshu. The most interesting thing about this is that the article clearly describes a type of blind trading that has been practiced in many parts of the world where people were wary of slavers and/or could not speak each others' languages. One party spreads out a variety of goods on the ground and leaves. The second party appears and examines the items and lays out what they offer in trade. This goes back and forth until both sides are satisfied. Then each group takes what it bought and its own unsold items and leaves and no one had to get close to anyone on the other side. It is perfectly described except that the authors of Nihon Shoki had no idea that trade was taking place. Then it says that Abe followed them to their camp, attacked them, and killed them all. No reason is given for this. This entire episode is mysterious and it must have been more complicated than the presentation in Nihon Shoki. However, this is the beginning of a long involvement by the Japanese government in the far north-east of Honshu, where there was an "active" frontier for the next 200 years.

The Fall of Paekche

Simultaneously with the 660 expedition of Abe no Hirao, Japan became caught up in the destruction of Paekche at the hands of the combined forces of T'ang China and Silla. This began a tumultuous period in the area that ultimately led to the unification of Korea under the rule of Silla. There are detailed accounts of these events in the old and new T'ang dynastic histories, the Korean Samguk Sagi, and Nihon Shoki, which includes extensive quotations from otherwise unknown Korean materials. Japan sent armies to Korea to attempt to save Paekche and for a long time after lived in fear of invasion from China or Silla or both. Japan also maintained at the court a King of Paekche in exile into at least the early Nara period and late in the Heian period there was still active a noble family named 百済王 "King of Paekche" pronounced Kudaranokonikishi by combining the Japanese name for Paekche with the Korean word for king.

It has already been mentioned that in 649 Silla changed the official costumes at court to match Chinese styles, and in 650 it began to use the reign titles of the T'ang dynasty as its own. In 654 Kim Muryol became King of Silla. He had earlier personally visited both Japan and China with Silla embassies. The two previous Silla rulers had been queens, so his position had perhaps been not so dissimilar to that of Prince Naka no Oe. From the way things went, it is reasonably clear that both China and Silla hoped from the beginning to use the other to destroy its nearer enemies Paekche and Koguryo and then emerge in control of Korea. Paekche and Koguryo responded by allying with each other, and in 659 they launched an offensive against Silla that captured 20 fortresses. Silla requested help from China and China was happy to respond. In 660 a force was dispatched commanded by a Chinese general with a son of King Muryol who happened to be in China at the time as second in command. The force consisted of 130,000 soldiers and crossed to Korea by sea. This was just about exactly the same time as Abe no Hirao's battle against the "Su-shen." Taken by surprise, the Paekche army collapsed. The Chinese advancing from the coast on the west and a Silla army coming from the east combined at the Paekche capital, which quickly surrendered. In only a few weeks Paekche had been destroyed, or so it seemed. The King and a large number of nobles were shipped off to China as prisoners and Paekche was organized as Chinese territory. The bulk of the Chinese army immediately returned, leaving a force of 10,000 men supported by another 8,000 Silla troops at the former Paekche capital. However, nothing had really been done to secure the countryside, and rebel forces immediately appeared in many locations, even before the Chinese army had completed its withdrawal.

The account of this rebellion in Nihon Shoki is more than a little confusing at points. The most powerful early rebel was a man known as 鬼室福信 who, it is said, attacked a Silla force by leading peasants armed with agricultural tools and defeated them and took their weapons. He had apparently been a Paekche official. He was based northwest of the Paekche capital. At about the same time people from Paekche arrived at the Japanese court and reported what happened. A month later emissaries from 鬼室福信 and another leading rebel commander 佘自進 came to Japan and asked for help. A Paekche prince was living at the Japanese court and they intended to make him king and restore Paekche. Involving themselves in this was obviously risky, but doing nothing was also risky. At the end of the year the court made its intentions clear as Saimei and the court moved to Naniwa and began preparations to move the entire court to northern Kyushu, from where they would direct the coming war. Two weeks after arriving at Naniwa they set sail for Kyushu, in the first month of 661. Three days later they reached Kibi, where it became clear how comprehensive the move was because a wife of Prince Oama gave birth to a baby girl. A number of other royal babies were born during the course of this expedition. They reached the area of modern Matsuyama in western Shikoku in eight days and camped there for a while. Two months later they completed the transfer to Kyushu, arriving at Hakata Bay. They set up a temporary palace at that point but two months later moved it inland to a safer spot. Illness broke out among the troops and spread, and in the 7th month of 661 Saimei Tenno died. Local tradition blamed her death on the fact that the lumber for the temporary palace was obtained by demolishing a nearby shrine.

Prince Naka no Oe continued preparations for a military expedition and made no move to assume the position of emperor. Properly speaking there was now an interregnum, however, it has been routine to start counting the years of the reign of Tenchi Tenno from 662. The first detachment set sail for Korea in the first month of 662 under the command of Azumi no Muraji Hirau. He was accompanied by the Paekche prince, Yamabe no Omi Momoe, Sai no Muraji Ajimasa, Hata no Miyatsuko Takutsu and 5,000 men. They linked up with the Koreans under 鬼室福信 in the fifth month, and delivered to them 100,000 arrows and other military supplies. Meanwhile the Chinese appointed a new commander and Silla also sent additional troops into Paekche. Fighting became widespread. The Korean rebels captured several fortresses including the former capital. By the end of 662 the rebels controlled a large part of Paekche. In early 663 Silla launched a major offensive and the rebels had to retreat, but in the 4th month a second Japanese army arrived with 27,000 men. The commander was Kamitsukenu no kimi Wakako. This name means that he was from the Kanto region of eastern Japan and of the kuninomiyatsuko class. He was accompanied by Hashihito no Omi Ofuta, Kose no Kamisaki no Omi Osa, Miwa no Kimi Nemaro, Abe no Hikita no Omi Hirao, and Oyake no Omi Kamae. With this reinforcement, the rebels once again gained the upper hand. This meant that the Japanese had a total of 32,000 men in Korea and the force was clearly nationwide in composition. Just from the names mentioned in Nihon Shoki it is possible to say there there were troops from almost every province in Kyushu and Shikoku and from many other places extending off to the far eastern frontier zone. It is thought that the Abe no Omi Hirao with the second army is the same man who commanded the northern expeditions. At almost exactly the same time as this event, the original Chinese commander of the conquest of Paekche returned with 7,000 men.

Just at this point the rebellion suffered a nearly fatal blow due to dissension among the Korean leaders. The Paekche Prince 豊璋 accused 鬼室福信 of plotting treason and killed him. In the 7th month of 663 both China and Silla planned to send large reinforcements which were to meet on the Korean coast and campaign together. At the same time the Japanese sent off a third force which was intended to land on the coast at exactly the same point chosen by the Chinese. This move was supposed to be coordinated with an attack by Prince 豊璋. It is not clear whether the Japanese troops involved were a new force or a detachment from the 27,000 under Kamitsukenu no Kimi no Wakako. There were 10,000 men under the command of Iohara no Kimi. The Chinese and Silla expeditions made contact on the 17th day of the 8th month of 663. The Chinese fleet consisted of 170 ships. The Japanese force under Iohara no Kimi arrived 10 days later and engaged the Chinese in a battle that lasted two days. The Japanese call this the battle of Hakusuki no E or Hakusuki Bay. The Samguk Sagi account says that the Japanese had "1000 ships," presumably an exaggeration. The Japanese force was defeated and essentially completely destroyed. On the second day it appears that the Japanese staked everything on an assault against the Chinese center and were enveloped by the Chinese wings and surrounded. The Old T'ang History says that there were four separate fights and in the end 400 Japanese ships were sunk and their crews drowned. Upon the conclusion of this battle Prince 豊璋 who was present with his army on the shore abandoned the struggle and fled to Koguryo. The Japanese were able to evacuate their other armies safely, accompanied by large numbers of Paekche refugees.

This was not actually the end of the story for Paekche. Later the Chinese shifted most of their forces to an attack on Koguryo and Paekche burst into rebellion again behind them. This time Silla decided to take advantage of the rebellion and allied with the rebels and also rebels in Koguryo against China and succeeded in expelling the Chinese from the country. Afterward they made a member of the former Paekche ruling family governor of the region under the unified kingdom of Silla.

Naturally, Naka no Oe had to consider the possibility that the Chinese and or Silla forces would attack Japan either immediately or at some future time. However, he also had to be concerned about whether the disaster would weaken his control over the country. It is not clear, but it appears that he returned to Yamato sometime before the end of 663, having made what arrangements he could for the defense of Kyushu against an attack. The fact that at this time he did nothing about ascending the throne is usually taken as the most powerful argument in favor of the proposition that he had undertaken what amounted to an incestuous marriage with his sister Princess Hashihito. There is an account in Nihon Shoki that after the death of Ingyo Tenno the nobles refused to enthrone his heir for exactly the same reason and chose his younger brother instead. The implication is that Naka no Oe did not dare to try it. This time he simply left the throne empty, having no suitable seat-warmer available. This, however, certainly increased the risk that someone might be able to move against him. His main advantage at this time was that because he had already disposed of Prince Furuhito and Prince Arima the only possible alternative as successor to the throne was his own brother Prince Oama, and in this era the brothers gave every appearance of being close allies. Naka no Oe married two of his daughters to Oama. They were Princess Ota and Princess Uno no Sarara. Uno no Sarara was born in 645 and was married to Oama in 657 at the age of 13 (Japanese count). Prince Oama is thought to have been 27 at that time. Ultimately, Oama married four of Naka no Oe's daughters, the last two after he had become emperor.

There is one additional note on imperial/aristocratic sex lives that might be mentioned here. The first collection of Japanese poetry, Manyoshu, contains 3 long poems and 9 short ones by a Princess Nukata. Some of those poems make it clear that she was married to Naka no Oe/Tenchi Tenno. However, she is not listed in Nihon Shoki. Inspection of the lists of emperors' wives shows that with rare exceptions the only wives listed are ones that gave birth to princes or princesses. A relationship that produced no children was not counted as a real marriage, a state of affairs that continued to one degree or another into the 20th century. Princess Nukata does get listed in Nihon Shoki in the article on Temmu Tenno. It first lists his empress and all wives who were princesses, then all wives who were daughters of nobles, and then it mentions Princess Nukata simply as a woman with whom he had a child. This child, Princess Tochi, later married Tenchi Tenno's son Prince Otomo. By our standards the family relationships of these people were highly incestuous as a matter of routine. The only thing that made the (inferred) liaison between Prince Naka no Oe and Princess Hashihito tabu was that their mother was the same. Marriages among people with the same father but different mothers were common. People have managed to winkle out quite a lot of information about Princess Nukata and her circle, illustrating that with the spread of literacy among the aristocracy and the appearance of books of a literary character, our opportunities to find out things about how people led their lives increase.

In 658 the Sadaijin Kose no Tokuta died and was not replaced. It is believed that Prince Oama functioned in this position without taking the title, since as of this time there was no precedent for a prince taking one of the minister titles. This was presumably the reason for the subsequent creation of a new office, higher than Sadaijin, called Dajodaijin or Omatsurigoto no Maestukimi, often translated "chancellor". Until well into the Nara period this office was, if not vacant, always filled by a prince. It was essentially the importation into the bureaucracy of the "crown prince" position. Then, in 664 the Udaijin Soga no Murajiko died and he was not replaced. This left Prince Naka no Oe and Prince Oama alone at the top of the government. A series of edicts issued under the name of Prince Oama made it clear that in the current crisis it was necessary to back off on some of the reforms and make adjustments to keep the support of the higher aristocracy. First, the 19 rank system established in 649 was replaced by a new system that had 26 grades. Comparing them, it is clear that the top six ranks were left alone, but the next thirteen were expanded to twenty. It appears that it was necessary to increase the number of people receiving official appointments considerably if all of the nobles were to be accommodated. There are some that think that this change was actually made in 671. There is a very short notice in Nihon Shoki of a change in the rank system ordered by Prince Oama for that year. The question arises because of the possibility of confusion as to what "the third year of the reign of Tenchi Tenno" means. If counted from 662 it is 664, but if counted from 668 (when he was enthroned) it would be 671. If the change was in 671 then it would not be linked to the time of crisis. It is possible that there were two adjustments to the system and the relationship between the dates was just a coincidence.

A second edict issued in 664 made changes to the clan system. A formal title of ujinokami or clan chief was created. In the case of a "great clan" the chief was presented with a tachi "great sword" and in the cae of a "small" clan he was presented with a katana "small sword". Tomonomiyatsuko "etc" were presented with a shield or a bow and arrows. These categories, assuming that the "etc" allows room for the kuninomiyatsuko class, covered the upper half of the aristocracy only, distinguishing them from the others. Also, the separate recognition of "great clans" and "small clans" was a first. It is believed that by formally recognizing the clan structure, Naka no Oe was assuring the aristocracy that their special status was not going to be swept away by bureaucratization.

The last item that came out at this time was the recognition of "kakibe" and "yakabe." These were categories of private estates that had been formally abolished by the New Year's Day Edict of 646. Looking ahead a little bit, the nobility were never actually included in the land redistribution system of the Nara period. They were not included in the census registers and they paid no taxes (actually the very lowest ranks had to pay some taxes since only the actual office holder was exempt, not his entire family). The lower ranking officials received salaries in the form of bales of rice and bolts of cloth, which they could trade for other things they needed. The higher officials received similar salaries, but also two varieties of "office lands." In the case of moderately high officials these assignments amounted to the direct payment to them of the taxes collected from a block of farmland, including, one assumes, the labor tax. The very highest officials also received large amounts of land which they managed as private property. Because high rank was hereditary, they kept these lands generation after generation. Some families were in fact given special permission to keep the largest allotment of such lands they had ever earned through an official appointment, so that even if a son did not reach the same rank as his father, he would get to keep the family office land. In the light of these practices, recognizing that certain blocks of land would be permanently assigned to support the higher nobility was not necessarily an abandonment of the system. However, announcing it at this time was surely intended to assure the nobles that the new system was not intended to harm them. It has been noted that the recognition of these lands at this time implies that they had not actually been confiscated after 646. The development of the new system of government took a long time to accomplish.

There was also at this time a considerable amount of military activity. Large numbers of Koreans of all classes had fled to Japan in 663, and there are numerous references to their settlement in various parts of the country, and also efforts to classify the nobles among them to determine how to fit them into the Japanese aristocracy. Many of the Korean nobles were set to work to construct fortifications in the areas they were sent to, especially in northern Kyushu, and on the islands of Iki and Tsushima off the Kyushu coast. Japanese troops from other parts of the country called Sakamori "coast guards" were assigned as part of the labor tax to go to the west for a term of duty to man the frontier fortifications. There are lots of poems about the trials and tribulations of Sakamori and their families left at home. Other conscripts were ordered to man a chain of signal fires extending from Kyushu to the capital so that the government could be rapidly informed if an invasion were to occur. In the Nara period the Sakamori were all recruited in the eastern provinces near the Emishi frontier on the ground that those people all had military experience and skills. It is probable that that was true in 664 as well. The native western troops were probably intended to serve as the field army while the Sakamori guarded important spots. In the Nara period the men assigned to the signal stations were all locals, and that was probably true at this time also.

That was the first line of defense. A second line was established in the form of large scale fortifications in the area of Dazaifu, which served for centuries as the Kyushu defense headquarters. Dazaifu is located well away from the coast about 15 kilometers south of Fukuoka in a mountainous area that is easy to defend. Many of the fortifications are still visible today. One of the constructions was a so-called "water castle." The center of this is a long earthwork that is still 14 meters high and over 1 kilometer long. It was apparently structured so that a reservoir of water kept full by the Mikasa River could be used to flood the area just below the wall at need. This would block the advance of an army coming from the coast toward Dazaifu. The northern end reaches a substantial hill some 410 meters high on top of which a large stone fortress was constructed in 665. Behind these is the ancient and modern town of Dazaifu. Another fortress was constructed about 10 kilometers south to cover a gap in the mountains though which an army could try to flank the main defenses. The garrisons of these two castles were Koreans, who probably also directed the construction. They look exactly like contemporary Korean hilltop fortresses. Korea is very mountainous and all Korean wars seem to revolve around hilltop fortresses. The length of the wall of the Dazaifu fortress is about 5 kilometers, so it would need a large garrison. It is large enough that the entire population of Dazaifu could take refuge inside. Another fortress was constructed in 665 at the western end of Honshu, also under Korean leadership. Its location is not known, but it is assumed to have been somewhere near Shimonoseki, always the military key point in that area.

As early as the 5th month of 664 the Chinese commander in Paekche sent an embassy to Japan. They stayed for 7 months. Nihon Shoki says nothing about what was discussed. In the 9th month of 665 a second embassy arrived directly from China, bringing with it the ambassador from the first one. Clearly the Chinese were serious. Based on what happened one must assume that the Chinese had a lot on their plates (they still needed to complete the destruction of Koguryo, which had given them enormous trouble over the years), and the last thing that they wanted was a long war with Japan. There is a note in Nihon Shoki for the month after the arrival of the embassy that there was a "great military review" at Uji, presumably to impress the Chinese. This embassy stayed 3 months. In the same year Japan sent its own embassy to China. Interestingly, the ambassador was one of the officials who was banished as part of the Prince Arima incident. In the end neither China nor Silla attacked Japan (though Silla planned one attack that never materialized), though the Japanese never really relaxed the effort to maintain strong defenses in the west for at least another hundred years. Fortresses were built on Tsushima, in Sanuki in western Shikoku, and at Naniwa at the eastern end of the Inland Sea and on the border between Kawachi and Yamato. The fort on Tsushima still survives, and the one in Sanuki became a key point in the Genpei War more than 500 years later.

In 665 in the middle of this effort empress Hashihito died. This presumably cleared the way for Naka no Oe to assume the throne, but he continued to delay for another three years. Saimei Tenno and empress Hashihito were buried in 667 in the same tomb. It is not understood why this took so long as it is thought that Saimei's tomb had been completed long before. It may have been substantially reconstructed so as to provide accommodation for Hashihito's remains also. One month after the funeral, Naka no Oe transferred his palace to Otsu on Lake Biwa, far to the east of any previous location. Nihon Shoki says that this was unpopular with the common people and there were demonstrations against it and satirical songs. It doesn't say why. A much later poem makes reference to the issue and implies that the real opposition was from the officials who were going to have to move to what they thought of as the uttermost boondocks. I think it is fair to say that all future moves down to the final move to Heiankyo (Kyoto) caused similar resentment, with the exception of moves that abandoned one of the experimental locations to return to a previous one where buildings were already in place. By now it was not simply the ruler's household that moved, but large numbers of officials of high and low rank, all of whom had to build new housing. No reason was given, but it is speculated that just as Dazaifu was located inland, Naka no Oe was thinking about military security. Otsu is on the east side of a significant mountain barrier in respect to the coast at Naniwa. However, Yamato province is also well protected by mountains. Otsu does have the virtue that its location at the south end of Lake Biwa gives it excellent communication to the Hokuriku region, but that had always been much less important than communications to the west, which now became more difficult. There is another theory, which, because of numerous well-attested cases from later times, cannot be ignored. That is that Naka no Oe was worried about the ghost of Hashihito. Vengeful ghosts were a major concern among the aristocracy and they occasioned other moves of the capital, as well as a lot of activity at shrines and temples. If we assume that he was the aggressor in setting up their incestuous relationship, he may have had good reason to want to move somewhere far from where she had died. At any rate the court stayed at Otsu for 5 years.

In 668 at the palace in Otsu Naka no Oe finally assumed the throne. His empress was Yamato no Himemiko, a daughter of Prince Furuhito, whom he had killed. She had no children, but he had children by 8 other women, four of whom ranked as kisaki and four of whom were ladies in waiting. There were ten girls and four boys. His chosen heir, Prince Otomo, had a low status mother. The identity of his grandfather is not known for certain, but it is thought that he was of the kuninomiyatsuko class. Tenchi's only high status son was Prince Takeru, whose mother was a daughter of Soga no Ishikawamaro. However, Prince Takeru had died in 658 at the age of 8. Given that Tenchi Tenno had a powerful and respected brother in Prince Oama, the normal dynamic of the Yamato state made it almost certain that Oama would be his successor (if he lived long enough) in any contest with a prince with a low status mother. Such a prince had never made it to the throne so far. Of course, Tenchi Tenno was attempting to replace the Yamato state with a new one that worked on Chinese lines, where possible. The Chinese view of things was clear, the eldest legitimate son was the only valid heir. Tenchi Tenno and several later emperors fought fiercely to establish this principle for the ruling clan, but it never happened.

In 669 Tenchi Tenno's longtime collaborator Nakatomi no Kamatari died at the age of 56. Immediately before his death the emperor created the new office of Naidaijin specifically so that Kamatari could be promoted. He also announced the creation of the new clan name Fujiwara for Kamatari's descendants.

In 670 an edict ordered for the first time the completion of a census covering the entire country. For this to be done, a lot of progress must have been made in putting together some kind of bureaucratic administration in the provinces involving the participation of the rural aristocracy. No actual records from this census survive. However, we know that later, in the Nara period, the registers from this census still existed and were used as the starting point in working out the system specified in the Taiho code. We also know that the records for Kyushu took up 770 volumes and the records for Kozuke province in the Kanto region took up 90 volumes. These numbers are proportional to the known populations of these places in the 8th and 9th centuries. The Shosoin treasury in Nara preserves actual 8th century registers. They contain detailed information about every member of a household, down to the slaves, which was necessary for the planning of the subsequent distribution of the land. However, it is thought that the 670 registers did not extend so far. The reason is that later when Jito Tenno conducted a census it led directly to a redistribution of the land, but there is no indication that that occurred here. Also, if you have registers detailing every individual you would naturally use those in assessing tax burdens, but it is believed that the new taxation system called for in 646 had not yet been implemented. These registers would have been used to gather information to be used in planning the next phase, which would have been a more detailed census followed by a redistribution and the implementation of the taxation system implied by the redistribution.

The other achievement often credited to the last years of Tenchi Tenno was the creation of the "Omi Ryo", or Omi Code. Omi is the province in which Otsu is located. This has become a very controversial topic. It is not mentioned in Nihon Shoki nor in any book or document older than the 9th century. It is first mentioned in the preface to Konin Kyakushiki, one of a series of books that appeared over the years containing copies of edicts, judicial rulings, and the like that affected the application and interpretation of the administrative law codes. There is a book called Daishokukanden which was written by Fujiwara no Nakamaro in the 8th century and which is believed to be based on a compilation made by Nakatomi no Kamatari of edicts from the reign of Tenchi Tenno that does not mention it. One theory points out that after the Jinshin War the descendents of Temmu Tenno held the throne for 100 years until it was shifted over to the line of Tenchi Tenno's descendents with Konin Tenno. There may have been those who wanted to shift the credit for accomplishments of Temmu Tenno to his brother. At any rate, we don't have any idea what was in it, so it doesn't really matter. However, the Chinese were in the habit of compiling volumes detailing the administrative law and it was inevitable that at some point the Japanese would think of doing the same. However, perhaps not quite yet.

The Jinshin War

Late in Tenchi's reign signs of trouble began to appear in respect to the succession. Tenchi had three sons living, the oldest being Prince Otomo, who had already been appointed Dajodaijin. There are disagreements in the sources as to when this happened, but it obviously indicated that Tenchi intended to make Prince Otomo his successor, despite the fact that his mother had been a palace servant of low status (by imperial standards). It had long been the custom that provincial nobles of the kuninomiyatsuko and agatanushi classes sent girls to the palace to serve as high level servants to the wives and princesses. This custom continued for centuries after. Tenchi Tenno had left the highest ranks in the bureaucracy unfilled for a long time, but at the same time that he appointed Otomo, he made Soga no Omi Akae Sadaijin, Nakatomi no Muraji Kogane Udaijin, and appointed three men to the office of Okimononosutsukasa, Soga no Omi Hatayasu, Kuse no Omi Hito, and Ki no Omi Ushi. This last office did not survive into the later system but roughly corresponded to Dainagon, usually translated councellor and ranking just below the great ministers. Presumably, he was trying to ensure support for Prince Otomo among the leading nobles, who had up to now been kept at arm's length.

In order to make it possible for Otomo to succeed it was necessary to get Prince Oama out of the way, because the nobility was unlikely to support Otomo after Tenchi's death. To his credit, Tenchi did not want to kill his brother. He came up with a version of the method originally used to dispose of Prince Furuhito. The emperor openly offered the succession to Prince Oama, who responded saying that he had no desire to succeed to the throne, urged that Empress Yamatohime become Tenno and management of affairs be handed to Prince Otomo. He himself wished to become a Buddhist monk and retire to some quiet temple in the country. This took place on the 17th day of the 10th month of 671, when the emperor was already seriously ill. The same day, Prince Oama took the tonsure, and ordered that all weapons kept in his palace be turned over to the government. Two days later he requested permission to leave for Yoshino, the same temple that housed Prince Furuhito and many later imperial quasi-exiles. This was granted. Immediately after, the five leading officials were assembled and made to swear an oath of loyalty to Prince Otomo. A few days later the oath was repeated in the presence of Tenchi Tenno. Tenchi Tenno died at the start of the 12th month of 671.

Prince Otomo is listed in the official record of the successive emperors as Kobun Tenno. However, this was done only in modern times. Nihon Shoki immediately shifts to the article on Temmu Tenno, during the course of which Prince Otomo is never referred to as emperor. It retells the story given above, from a distinctly different perspective. It says that when the emperor became ill Soga no Omi Yasumaro was sent to summon Prince Oama to his presence. On the way in, Soga told the prince to be very careful what he said, leading the prince to suspect a plot. So, when he was offered the throne he turned it down as already reported. The clear implication is that if he had accepted the throne he would likely have been killed. Naturally, there are questions about whether this story is true. Essentially we only have Prince Oama's version of what happened. It makes a good story, perhaps too good. It is really just as likely that Tenchi directly ordered Prince Oama to publicly renounce the throne and retire to a monastery. In any event, Tenchi was desperately trying to find a way to secure the succession to his son in the face of the fact that the nobles would almost certainly support Oama if there was a fight over it.

When he got to Yoshino the prince assembled his "toneri" or personal attendants/body guards, and told them that he was going to devote his life to religion and that anyone who wanted a career was at liberty to go and find a new job. Eventually, half left and half stayed. Then the emperor died. There was at this time a stupendously large Chinese embassy just arrived in Kyushu, so big that they had sent a couple of ships ahead to assure the Japanese that it was not an invasion fleet. The ambassadors were notified of the death of the emperor. This is all discussed without any mention of Prince Otomo. Indeed, the entire story is told strictly from Prince Oama's point of view and there is no information about internal politics at the Omi court. It is not known when, or even whether, Prince Otomo was formally enthroned. Nihon Shoki allows the assumption that he was not since he is not listed as a ruler. No other book of the Nara period is known to treat him as an enthroned ruler. It was not until the Edo period in Dai Nihon Shi by Tokugawa Mitsukuni that it was first claimed that he had been enthroned but that this was suppressed in Nihon Shoki to support the legitimacy of Temmu Tenno. The posthumous reign title Kobun Tenno was conferred upon Prince Otomo by the Meiji Emperor. There is no evidence on this matter. However, there is no doubt that he functioned as ruler at the Otsu court for 6 months.

In the 5th month of 672 one of Prince Oama's retainers told him that he had observed large numbers of men gathering who claimed to be coming to work on Tenchi's tomb, but who were all armed. Another man then said that he had observed roadblocks and checkpoints at various places. Oama sent out men to investigate and found that this was true. He then told his men that he had retired in order to prevent trouble, but if they were going to kill him anyway, he was going to make a fight of it. His main problem was that he had been obliged to surrender his arms before leaving the capital, so was essentially defenseless.

On the 22nd day of the 6th month he therefore ordered three men to go to Mino province (just to the east) and alert the governor to what was happening. He was to mobilize whatever forces he had available and instruct the other governors of the east to do the same. A meeting point was designated at Fuwa, which is a pass on the border of Omi and Mino provinces used by the main east-west road, and a good location from which to launch an attack on Otsu. Then there was the matter of escaping safely from Yoshino. He sent a man to Asuka hoping to get passes that would allow them to use post horses, but the official in charge refused to help. So, they set out for the east on foot on the 24th. We have no way of knowing whether the court was contemplating an attack on Yoshino or not. However, it does appear that the court was taken by surprise when Oama left. They did not respond for several days. This departure was a full month after the notice in the previous paragraph, and there is no mention of increased danger, so it must be assumed that the previous month had been spent making plans and communicating with possible supporters.

The party soon ran into a supporter who had a horse, so the prince could ride. His wife (the future Jito Tenno) and his two sons, Princes Kusakabe and Osakabe, were carried in a palanquin. At this time the prince was accompanied by "approximately" 20 men, 13 of whom are named, plus 10 women. Soon they were joined by a few more, and the official in charge of an imperial estate they passed fed everybody. A little further on they encountered a hunting party of about 20 nobles, who were ordered to join the little army. Also a "Prince Mino," who presumably lived near the route, was invited to join them. Next they came across a train of 50 pack-horses carrying rice. They dumped the rice, and now they had cavalry. By this time it was getting dark, so they pulled down a fence to make torches. They finally reached a place they could stop at midnight. They burned the posting station and tried to rouse the commoners to follow them, but all refused. On the second day they picked up 700 men. Then more men appeared, so many that they could detach a force of 500 men to go back and protect their rear.

On the 26th the prince was informed that 3,000 men had come from Mino and were blocking the Fuwa road as ordered, and a large number of other supporters, many named, had come in. By this time we have the names of some 50 supporters. They were at Kuwana in Ise province and Oama felt that he could stop running. He now began sending messengers out in all directions seeking to raise troops. Nihon Shoki says that it was at this point that the government of Prince Otomo found out what was happening. The news threw the capital at Otsu into confusion. Some nobles fled, hoping to join Prince Oama, others fled just hoping to stay out of trouble.

Otomo asked his officials for advice. One minister advised an immediate attack with whatever cavalry force they had available, but Otomo decided to gather a proper army instead, and sent his own stream of messengers out. Whereas Oama's messengers were mostly circulating in the east, Otomo sent his to the west. The commander in Tsukushi refused to send men on the grounds that his job was to defend Kyushu from the Koreans and the Chinese. Otomo expected treachery from the commanders in Kibi and Tsukushi because they were princes connected to Oama and he had ordered his messengers to kill them if they showed signs of treason. They succeeded in killing the commander in Kibi, but the man in Tsukushi was too well guarded and they left. They could hardly have thought of bringing men all the way from Tsukushi quickly enough to do any good, so this was probably a defensive move trying to prevent these areas from declaring for Prince Oama. At about the same time an official, Otomo no Fukei, who had left the court at Omi earlier and returned to his home in the Asuka area, gathered his own personal forces and those of the nearby Aya clan and on the 29th seized control of the former Asuka palace on behalf of Prince Oama. On the other hand, the Miwa and Kamo clans of the area sent troops to Omi to support Prince Otomo.

Prince Oama now moved his headquarters from Kuwana, which was remote from the likely battlefields, to Fuwa. On the 27th he was joined by 20,000 more men from the east. Prince Oama appointed Prince Takechi, his oldest son, 19 years of age, overall military commander. His army was divided into two main columns. The first led by an experienced warrior, Ki no Omi Aemaro, was to go through Iga and Ise and proceed to Asuka to link up with Otomo no Fukei. The second was to directly attack Otsu under the command of Murakuni no Muraji Oyori, one of the toneri who had been with Prince Oama at Yoshino. This force was ordered to attach red badges to their clothing so that they could recognize each other on the battlefield.

On the 2nd day of the 7th month the court at Omi ordered an attack aimed at Fuwa pass. This attack fell apart in great confusion, according to Nihon Shoki, and one of the ministers of state, Soga no Hatayasu, was killed, along with Prince Yamabe. Prince Oama's army advanced, and won three successive battles ending at Yasukawa on the 13th, whereupon they were able to advance to Seta, which constituted the outer defence of the Otsu palace. There was a stream there with a bridge, where the court army prepared to make its stand.

On the other front, forces loyal to the court defeated Otomo no Fukei and were about to regain control of the Asuka palace, but the approach of Prince Oama's column distracted them and Fukei was able to hold on. It is believed that the decisive battle was fought on the 6th day of the 7th month. The battlefield site is marked by a tomb containing many of the fallen soldiers. The court army retreated northward after a long and bloody fight.

The fight at the Seta bridge occurred on the 22nd day. The army defending the bridge had taken out the flooring of the middle part and stretched a single plank across, tied to a rope so that it could be pulled away. One soldier of the Oama force put on two sets of armor and rushed across the plank, cutting the rope as he went. He then charged into the enemy array and threw it into confusion. His army followed him, naturally, and Prince Otomo's army broke and ran. The man who led this charge survived the battle. His death in 679 is mentioned in Nihon Shoki. Temmu Tenno appears to have been careful to take official notice whenever a man who had distinguished himself in the war died.

Oama's forces continued to attack successfully the next day, and Prince Otomo got separated from his army and committed suicide. No one knew this at first, and fighting continued all day and got very heavy as large reinforcements supporting Prince Otomo arrived. Oama's forces prevailed in the end and the Sadaijin and Udaijin were arrested. On the 25th Prince Otomo's body was found and his head was presented to Oama.

Exactly one month later sentences were handed down on the leading supporters of Prince Otomo. Eight men including the Naidaijin Nakatomi no Muraji no Kogane were executed, two men, the Sadaijin and the Udaijin, were banished with all of their families, the family of Nakatomi was also banished as was that of Soga no Hatayasu no Omi who had died in the fighting. Everyone else was pardoned. One official who would have been pardoned had fled into the hills and committed suicide.

All previous conflicts over the succession had been small affairs by comparison, but this was a full scale war that lasted one month from Prince Oama's flight from Yoshino and three weeks of actual field operations, involving several tens of thousands of men. The question arises whether there were other considerations involved that led so many men to fight so hard. The most popular theory in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was that Prince Oama was able to take advantage of opposition to the rapid pace of change under Tenchi Tenno, which is to say that the war was a conservative reaction. However, in actual fact Temmu Tenno pushed the changes inaugurated by his brother through to completion, so if his supporters were expecting a return to the old ways they were to be sadly disappointed. From about the 1920's it therefore became the fashion to argue exactly the opposite, that Prince Oama represented the "progressive" side, so Prince Otomo, or the officials behind him, must have been the "conservative" party. By his victory, Temmo Tenno gained the power needed to complete the restructuring of the government along the lines originally planned by Prince Naka no Oe and Nakatomi no Kamatari. This point of view was summed up by Ienaga Saburo in works written just before the Second World War. He thought that Prince Oama was mainly supported by lower level officials whereas the senior nobility were behind Prince Otomo. There was a class struggle, of sorts, not unrelated to what is seen by modern archaeologists in their studies of the changing patterns of late Kofun period tombs, with power devolving from the few kuninomiyatsuko class nobles to spread more uniformly among the nobility as a whole.

However, this argument suffers from the defect that there is in fact no evidence that in the later years of Tenchi's reign there was any turning away from the policies of the Taika reform. Once the military crisis of the early 660's was past, the stream of reform edicts picked up again and continued until the emperor's final illness. The end of the Second World War led to an entirely new phase of historiographical thinking in Japan because it liberated historians to become openly Marxist. It is fair to say, I think, that Marxism (of a mild sort) became the mainstream point of view among historians during the 1950's and 1960's, largely as a reaction to what had gone before, which naturally led historians to wonder (for the first time) whether the common people perhaps had a point of view in respect to what had been happening since 645. A historian named Kitayama Shigeo proposed that the changes since 645 had mainly worked to concentrate power at the center and meant that the forced labor portion of the taxation came under closer control of the central government. When it was under local control it was probably episodic, in that there was not necessarily anything special to work on every year, but the national government could always find something. The court itself, as it expanded, relied heavily on the labor tax. The guards, maintenance men, palace attendants, messengers and errand boys, and personal servants of all of the officials were recruited through the labor tax. This generated popular resentment against the system, he thought. However, the problem remains that there is no reason to think that either side in the Jinshin War represented the popular interest. The warriors on both sides were aristocrats. However, there are many who came to the conclusion that any popular resentment at the intensification of the system would have been felt locally, and would have threatened the ability of the rural nobility to keep control over the farming population. It is strongly implied from the account in Nihon Shoki that most of the nobility in Yamato province supported the Omi court and that Prince Oama drew his support from the provincial nobility of the east (and the west, though the war was over before any western troops could have intervened). It is conspicuous that the commander of one of Prince Oama's two columns was a toneri, which is to say a low-rank provincial noble. Prince Oama had been active in the government for years and these men may have had confidence in him and believed that he understood their problems. Many historians think that it is quite impossible that the complicated system that emerged by the Nara period could have been established unless it had been supported by the provincial nobility, which they would not have done had they not seen advantages in it for themselves. If you think about it, the overall absence of noticeable local opposition to the strengthening of the central government is the most surprising thing about the entire transformation after 645. The conclusion is that the old kuninomiyatsuko class was squeezed out and power was divided between the central government and the lower level local nobles who staffed the district governments under the new system. The local officials had the detailed knowledge to make things work, and the central government had the power to keep them safe from popular unrest. This was the basic deal that kept the Chinese Empire running for centuries, and the intention was to do the same thing in Japan.

Temmu Tenno

In the 9th month of 672 Prince Oama returned to the Asuka area, abandoning the Omi palace. He chose a site known as the Kiyomihara Palace. He formally ascended the throne in the 2nd month of 673. 673 was always recognized as the first year of his reign in his official documents. Later, when Kobun Tenno was added to the list, the official chronology made 672 equal to "Kobun first year," but Nihon Shoki consistently treated 672 as "Temmu first Year," and this became the norm in historical writing before the Meiji period. The government remained at the Kiyomihara Palace throughout the reign of Temmu and through the 7th year of Jito, or 21 years from 673 through 693. This was more permanent than any previous palace, and foreshadowed the eventual settling on a permanent capital city. There is a considerable group of poems in the Manyoshu collection expressing the theme that, thanks to his victory in the war, Temmu Tenno had unprecedented power to make things happen. One says that "like a god" he could transform a mountain into a sea. Temmu himself used a similar expression on an edict of his 12th year in referring to himself as "Yamato Neko no Mikoto, who rules Oyashimaguni as a god." Oyashimaguni is an ancient name for Japan. There were no nobles from the great Yamato families prominent at court at the beginning of his reign, and even Fujiwara no Fuhito, the son of Nakatomi no Kamatari, was too young to be influential as yet. Even in government, he tended to rely a lot on lower ranking men, including toneri. The most prominent was Murakuni no Muraji Oyori, already mentioned. It is thought that he was not of the kuninomiyatsuko class and that the title of Muraji was awarded because of his military achievements. These men were usually promoted to a high official rank as a reward around the time of their retirement or death, but held relatively low rank during their active careers. Murakuni was given the income from 120 households, which was not much by the standards of the great aristocrats. Such men had power because the emperor was behind them, not because of their high office or personal prestige.

At the start of his reign he left the highest offices, Dajodaijin, Sadaijin and Udaijin empty. The first appointment of a major noble to high office was in 675 when he appointed Otomo no Muraji no Miyuki to the position of Deputy Minister of War, under Prince Kurikuma. Altogether, Nihon Shoki names 7 Yamato nobles who received appointments from Temmu Tenno and 5 princes, and all 5 princes got higher ranking jobs than any of the nobles. Moreover, Nihon Shoki says that Temmu's Empress Uno (later Jito Tenno) was active in the government during his reign and participated in discussions of affairs. Moreover, two of Temmu's sons also became active when they became old enough, Prince Kusakabe from 681 and Prince Otsu from 683. Kusakabe was eventually appointed Dajodaijin. Temmu's government was clearly a matter of direct rule by the emperor assisted by members of the imperial family.

In 675 Temmu definitively abolished all private holdings of the highest nobility. These had been permitted by Tenchi in 664 to serve in place of salary, but now it is clear that the complete taxation system was to be applied throughout the country and the nobles would have to rely on salaries only. He also ordered that "near princes, other princes, officials, and temples" must return all lands of any sort, farmland or wilderness, which they had been granted over the years. In 685 Temmu reformed the rank system once more. Ranks were given to princes for the first time, new ranks that were outside the system that had existed so far. This was continued on into the Nara period where there were two parallel rank systems, one for princes and one for everyone else. The only people outside the official ranking system were now the emperor and his immediate family, his wives and children.

There are some signs of political disturbance. There was an incident in 675 when two middle rank officials were "forbidden to attend court" and a few days later one of them was "stripped of all office and rank." In the same year Prince Omi and two of his sons were banished to rural provinces, and in the next year the same thing happened to the chief officer at Dazaifu, Prince Yakaki. Also, though the year is not known, several persons were expelled from the ruling clan by being forbidden to use the kabane title "mikata." And, in 675 an edict ordered all officers of all ranks to equip themselves with weapons. In the next year agents were sent out to investigate the extent to which the population of the inner provinces maintained arms. In 679 the princes and officials were given warning that in the following year there would be a review in which they would be required to appear mounted and armed, and this was in fact conducted. In 684 Temmu Tenno observed in an edict that "military matters are the most essential part of government." Before 645 the ruler had only modest military forces directly available. There were always a certain number of toneri, mostly drawn from the eastern provinces, and there were also a number of yukeibe, which were peasant soldiers conscripted in Kyushu and sent to the capital where they mostly worked as building guards. No one has any idea of just how many men were involved in either category. Otherwise, everything depended on the military oriented uji of the Yamato countryside. It is thought, by the way, that the toneri were converted into the guards of the "left" and "right" Hyoefu 兵衛府 of the new state and the yukeibe became the guards of the Emonfu 衛門府. The two remaining guards units, the guards of the "left" and "right" Ejifu 衛士府 were manned by people conscripted through the labor tax. It is thought that men assigned to this duty were not ordinary farmers but members of the families of the minor local nobility. Overall, this means that the official military forces in the capital continued to be on the proper scale to provide police and guards, not a real military force. Presumably Temmu was concerned that all officials were armed and that the leading persons in the countryside throughout the inner provinces were armed so that he could raise an army quickly if he needed one. There does not appear to have been much military organization in the provinces. In 685 Temmu ordered that all types of military gear that were not personal but only relevant to organized military units, from things like horns, drums, and flags to crewed weapons like "stone throwers" and oversize crossbows should not be kept in private homes but in central armories under the control of district officials. This was not to disarm people, for they were to keep their personal weapons and armor, but to make sure that things could be quickly found when needed and kept in repair.

One small mystery of ancient Japan is why the "great shrine" at Ise should be the primary site for the worship of Amaterasu Omikami, the goddess from whom the ruling clan is presumed to have descended. The shrine was undoubtedly an ancient center of worship, but it is located in such a place where one would assume that the object of worship would be the Pacific Ocean, especially by persons about to set out to reach eastern Japan by sea. It is definitely not a place with any special association with the ruling clan. It has been hypothesized that the shrine only acquired the connection with Amaterasu at a relatively late time, and the best candidate for that is the reign of Temmu Tennu.

It is mentioned in Nihon Shoki for all reigns from Keitai through Suiko that princesses were sent to Ise to serve as Saigu or Itsuki no Miya, which is to say the head priestess of the shrine. However, this custom then lapsed until it was revived by Temmu Tenno fifty years later, in 674. According to Nihon Shoki, when Prince Oama fled Yoshino, on the 26th day of the 6th month, in Ise Province, he prayed to Amaterasu Omikami, and immediately after that messengers arrived with the news that he had an army of several thousand men waiting for his arrival and would be able to fight for his life and for the throne. There is no clear statement of this, but it is plausible that he revived the custom of providing a princess to the shrine at Ise in gratitude for this occasion. It is also plausible that it is only from his reign that Amaterasu was celebrated at the shrine.

Ise is not the only shrine that Temmu paid attention to. In 673 he sent his son Prince Kusakabe to present gifts to the Isonokami Shrine, and every year from 674 onward he personally participated in worship of the wind god at Tatsuta and Oimi no Kami at Hirose in Yamato province. Also, in 681 he issued an edict requiring the governors of all provinces to undertake repairs to Shinto Shrines. This is in clear contrast to Tenchi Tenno who mostly ignored religion, both Buddhist and Shinto. Temmu also paid attention to Buddhism. He constructed a new temple at Asuka which was apparently the first ever built using government funds, and Nihon Shoki records official participation in Buddhist feasts and ceremonies for every year of his reign. In 685 an edict ordered that in every province "each house" shall be provided with a domestic Buddhist shrine (such as are common in houses today). It was entirely impossible in the 7th century for every private residence in Japan to be provided with a shrine, so it is understood that by "each house" was meant the residences of the governor and provincial officials. It has been suggested that by requiring officials to set up such shrines, the population at large would be encouraged to do the same, thus spreading Buddhist consciousness.

Temmu is also credited with setting in motion the process that would ultimately result in the creation of Kojiki and Nihon Shoki. He ordered work to be done to collect materials in the possession of the various aristocratic clans that would permit the creation of a history of Japan. This is described in the preface to Kojiki. In 681 he ordered a committee of six members of the ruling clan led by Prince Kawashima and another of six government officials led by Nakatomi no Muraji no Oshima to begin work on editing a national history. This project was never completed, but it is believed that the work that was accomplished was later incorporated into Nihon Shoki. Independently of this large scale project, he ordered one of his toneri, Hieda no Are, to individually put together a simpler work, one within the scope of a single writer. Hieda died before completing his work, but it was taken up again early in the Nara period by O no Ason Yasumaro and published in 712 as Kojiki. Both works contain information about the origins of aristocratic clans, presumably drawn from traditions maintained by those clans. About 200 clan origin stories are found in Kojiki and there are around 110 in Nihon Shoki.

In pulling this information together, it would have become clear that with the many upheavals since the Taika Reform and the Jinshin War, that many ancient clans had faded from the scene and many new ones had risen to positions of influence. The result of this was that the ancient "kabane" titles no longer matched up well with the actual relative status and prestige of the politically active clans. It was quite natural, then, that in 684 Temmu undertook to restructure the kabane system. He decreed a system consisting of eight titles, several of them entirely new inventions. In order of rank they were Mahito (sometimes written Mabito) 真人, Asomi (almost always written Ason) 朝臣, Sukune 宿禰, Imiki 忌寸, Michinoshi 道師, Omi 臣, Muraji 連, and Inagi 稲置. The intention was to specify precisely the degree of separation of each clan from the emperor. Most of the clans that had formerly used Omi were now given the title of Asomi, indicating clans recognized as descending from branches of the ruling clan. Most of the clans that formerly used Muraji were given the title of Sukune. Mahito was reserved for clans that were particularly closely related to the main line of the ruling clan, specifically, clans that descended from Keitai Tenno or later rulers. The clans descended from the Ojin dynasty were all put in Asomi. The lesser titles were awarded mostly to provincial clans.

Temmu's reign also saw a lot of progress in putting together the bureaucratic structure that was to become established in the administrative law codes to follow. The backbone of the government in the Nara period was the set of eight ministries collectively referred to as the Dajokan, the "great offices". Seven of these were established already in the time of Temmu. The only one missing was the Nakatsukasa which managed the operation of the ruler's residential palace, as distinguished from the bureaucratic palace. In Temmu's day one ministry managed both. The names were all different, but that is not important. Many lower bureaucratic entity names and official titles were different as well. The main difference is that in the codes as finally established they were much more likely to use names and titles taken directly from contemporary Chinese practice.

In the second month of 681 the emperor and empress progressed to the main audience hall of the palace and summoned all of the princes and officials. The emperor announced that the time had come to prepare a formal administrative code to comprehensively describe the structure of the government and the rules under which it should operate. He acknowledged that this was a large task that would take time to complete, and it should not be permitted to disrupt the normal work of government, so it would be necessary to set up a special task force for the project. This was the beginning of what has come to be known as the "Asuka Kiyomihara Ritsuryo." It does not appear that this work was completed during the lifetime of Temmu Tenno. However, there is evidence that the structure of the government was adjusted as decisions were made in connection with this effort.

Temmu Tenno had 17 children whose names are known born of 9 different mothers, 10 male and 7 female. Empress Uno had one child, Prince Kusakabe. There were three other women recognized as kisaki who were the mothers of Prince Otsu, Prince Naga, Prince Yuge, and Prince Toneri plus one daughter. All four of these women were daughters of Tenchi Tenno. There were three additional women who ranked as concubines. Two were daughters of Fujiwara no Kamatari, who gave birth to Prince Nitabe and one daughter. The third was a daughter of Soga no Omi no Akae, and she gave birth to Prince Hatsumi and two daughters. Finally there were three women who had no official rank in the palace. Princess Nukata has already been mentioned. She gave birth to a daughter, Princess Tochi, who died as a child, causing considerable grief at court. Two palace attendants gave birth to Prince Takechi, Prince Osakabe and Prince Shiki plus two daughters. Prince Takechi has been mentioned as he served as a commander during the Jinshin War. Prince Osakabe was also an important figure and was given significant responsibilities.

The two highest ranking princes were unquestionably Prince Kusakabe and Prince Otsu. They attained ages where they could be incorporated into the government in 681 and 683 respectively. Prince Kusakabe's mother was the Empress, whereas Prince Otsu's mother had already died sometime before the Jinshin War. However, it seems that most people thought that Prince Otsu was the more impressive of the pair. Nihon Shoki mentions that as a child he was a favorite of his uncle and grandfather, Tenchi Tenno, and other ancient sources say that he was highly intelligent and an eager student. There is no surviving information as to what people thought about Prince Kusakabe. He died at the age of 28 and it is suspected that he was always sickly, which may explain why he was not made ruler when Temmu died. Temmu's reign was characterized by the extent to which he ruled directly, so in order to keep it going it was necessary that the next ruler be a forceful and intelligent person. It appears that the best qualified was in fact the Empress. If it were accepted that Prince Kusakabe was not suitable, then she would also serve as placeholder for his infant son Prince Karu (who eventually reigned as Mommu Tenno).

As it happens Kusakabe was made "crown prince" in 681. As previously noted, this had little to do with the succession, but established him as a prominent figure in the government. This occurred on the same day as the announcement of the plan to write the Asuka Kiyomihara Ritsuryo. It has been suggested that formalizing the rules of government would serve to bolster the position of the emperor so that he would be able to retain control even when he happened to be a person of only ordinary ability. In 683 Prince Otsu was also given office in the government. If it is granted that he was both healthier and more talented than his half-brother, then there is every reason to think that he would have a chance to become emperor when Temmu died. Temmu suffered a bout of illness in 685 but recovered for a time. However, he became seriously ill in the 5th month of 686 and in the 7th month announced that he was no longer to be bothered with matters of government, which would all be handled by the Empress and Prince Kusakabe. He died on the 9th day of the 9th month, at the age of 56 (it is thought). Nihon Shoki says that on the 11th he was temporarily interred in his mogari no miya, and on the 24th "Prince Otsu conspired against the Crown Prince." The continuation is in the article on Jito Tenno. It says that Prince Otsu's treason became known on the 2nd day of the 10th month and he was arrested along with about 30 others. He was executed the next day. His wife also died, but it is not clear whether she also was executed or she committed suicide. The next day all but two of the "co-conspirators" were pardoned. The two exceptions were exiled. Shortly afterwards Prince Otsu's sister, Princess Oku, who had been priestess at Ise for several years, returned to the capital, presumably having been fired. A poem in Manyoshu reveals that Prince Otsu had secretly gone to Ise to meet with her about the time of Temmu's death. This is perhaps the event that led Nihon Shoki to assign his act of treason to a specific date. For a prince to leave the capital and travel to the east while the succession was unsettled could easily have been seen as indicating rebellious intent. On the other hand, historians have noted with interest that several of the "co-conspirators" subsequently had careers at Jito's court. One of them worked on the committee that created the first completed Ritsuryo code. This raises the possibility that Prince Otsu was maneuvered into giving the impression of criminal behavior.

Nihon Shoki makes it clear that the Empress was in charge, but nothing was formally done about the succession for some time. The most prominent position in all of the official activities surrounding mourning the deceased emperor and preparations for his burial was taken by "the Crown Prince." This situation continued through the burial of Temmu in the 11th month of 688. Of course, it was the custom that the Emperor's widow resided in the Mogari no Miya and lived in deep mourning until this time. Then in the 4th month of 689 Prince Kusakabe died. It is therefore possible that the intention had been to enthrone the prince upon completion of the mourning period. His son Prince Karu was only 7 years of age and it was therefore necessary that the Empress formally take the throne. She is known as Jito Tenno. This was done at the start of 690. It was during this period, in the 6th month of 689 that the Asuka Kiyomihara Ryo was published in 22 volumes and copies were distributed about the government offices. It is this event which will be taken as representing the end of the Asuka period. Another significant event which occurred in 689 was the appointment of Fujiwara no Fuhito, eldest son of Kamatari, to government office for the first time.

Chapter 05 - The Nara Period

The Great Buddha at Nara (Tōdai-ji), 752 CE.

The traditional dates for the second Nara period are 710-784 (current era). The first is the date of the move to the new state and the last is the date of the move to Heiankyo. However, it is not difficult to find more meaningful dates. My starting date is 689, the date of the publication of the Kiyomihara Ritsuryo, which was the formal inauguration of the new system of government promised in 645. The end date is the death of Kammu Tenno in 806. This range provides complete coverage of what may be termed the second of five phases in the Japanese experiment with adapting the Chinese system of government to their needs.

The first phase was the Asuka period when the rulers of Japan first aspired to transform the political structure and culture of the country, starting in the time of Prince Umayado and Soga no Umako, continuing with the Taika reform movement of Samari no Oe/Tenchi Tenno, and culminating with the work of Temmu Tenno, leading to the accomplishment of the Kiyomihara code.

The second phase is the time when the Japanese rulers seriously grappled with the task of making the new system work. The Nara period is the high point of the enterprise, and in many ways can be considered a period of heroic achievement. It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that overall the effort was a failure. Japan did not have the economic resources to support a miniature version of the Chinese empire. However, they gave it a very good try. They did not achieve their goals, but they transformed Japan into a very different country from the tribal state of the 6th century, a country that can fairly be called civilized in terms of intellectual and artistic development, a status that would never be lost.


The basic text for a history of the Nara Period is Shoku Nihongi. It begins with the accession of Mommu Tenno in 697 and covers 9 reigns through the 10th year of the reign of Kammu, 791. It was begun in 791 by Fujiwara no Tsugutada, Udaijin. Tsugutada died in 796 and the last half of the book, which was already finished, was published that year. The first half was published after further work by Sugano no Mamichi the following year. The two halves of the book differ considerably. The first half covers 61 years and the second half 33 but each is roughly the same number of pages. What is now the first half seems to have been compressed from a planned 30 volumes to 20. Neither author was interested in recording the details of life, but rather moral and political lessons.

We also have a substantial portion of the original administrative codes and there are a considerable number of Heian period compilations of edicts and rulings that include commentary on the codes which have permitted scholars to reconstruct large sections that have not survived.

Kaifuso is a collection of poetry written in Chinese which contains biographical information about the poets. Toshikaden was published by Fujiwara no Nakamaro and records traditions concerning Fujiwara no Kamatari and other early members of the clan. Todaiwa Joto Seiden is a biography of the immigrant Chinese monk Ganshin. Approximately 12,000 items of 8th century government documents still exist. Some 99% of these come from Shosoin and were published in 25 volumes between 1901 and 1942 as Dainihon Komonjo. There are about 20 documents surviving from before the 8th century and some 10,000 from the entire 400 years of the Heian period. Nothing that might be called personal writing survives from before the Heian period. For those who may not know, Shosoin was an endowed foundation set up by Shomu Tennu and affiliated with Todaiji in Nara, a temple Shomu had built, which remains a major tourist attraction today. A wooden storehouse was constructed to hold the personal property of Shomu after his death, a time capsule, in effect, from the Nara period, which survives intact with its contents today. It contains clothing, musical instruments, art work from as far away as Persia, and the thousands of documents mentioned above. No one is sure why the documents wound up there, but we are certainly glad that it happened. A large part of the documents relate to the affairs of Todaiji, but there are also many generated during the normal operation of the government.

From the population registers included among these documents it is possible to estimate a population of 6 million people for Japan in this period. The calculation starts from a note in Shoku Nihongi dated 747 to the effect that the government had established a standard population for a "village" (an artificial unit created for tax purposes) of 330 taxable males, that is, free males between the ages of 17 and 65. This resulted from years of discussion about the proper allocation of tax burdens in the absence of a census. The people were grouped into "households" but these varied in size. It was argued that by grouping 50 households into a nominal "village" the differing family sizes would even out and a fair tax quota could be assigned at the "village" level. A lengthy research project then produced the figure of 330 men per village. It must be clearly understood that this village was a mathematical abstraction that had no necessary correlation with how the population's houses were grouped. Analysis of surviving household registers shows that the taxable males on the average amounted to 23.58% of the whole. That gives a calculated total population of 1399 persons per "village". There is a 9th century book by Minamoto no Shitagao, Wamyo Ruijusho that gives the names of all the "villages" of the nation. Excluding certain special types that were thought to have fewer than 50 households, the total is 4041. Another old book of very uncertain origins called Ritsusho Zanben gives a total of 4021 "villages". If we take 1399 persons per village and 4000 villages we get 5,600,000 persons total. There are other ancient figures for numbers of soldiers raised, areas of land cultivated and the like, that do not conflict with a total on this scale.

One of the most valuable and curious sources of information about this age are 5 surviving books called, collectively, fudoki. They were evidently prepared at the order of the government, and there were, presumably, a great many more like books that have not survived. However the oldest mention of their existence dates to 914. That says that an edict was issued in 713 that the local officials of each district and province were to prepare what we would call gazeteers, describing the districts and villages of the province, describing local products of note, whether grown or manufactured, giving the names of all mountains, rivers, and plains, and also recording any ancient traditions of interest.

We have all or part of books for Harima, Hitachi, Izumo, Bungo, and Hizen provinces. This is a nicely diverse group. Bungo and Hizen are in Kyushu, Hitachi is in the “wild east” near modern Tokyo, and Harima and Izumo are in western Honshu, on the Inland Sea and the Japan Sea sides respectively. Both of the latter were very important places as far back as history and tradition go. There are many doubts about these books despite their obvious value. They were ultimately put together under the direction of provincial governors, who were nobles from the capital serving short terms in places they had never seen before. How much do they represent authentic local traditions, and how much do they simply say what the officials back in the capital wanted to see?

It is possible to put together some inferences about who was responsible for the books. The governor of Harima in 713 was Kose no Oji and his assistant was a well known literary figure, Sakanami no Kochi. There is evidence that the Harima Fudoki was completed in 718 and at that time the governor was Fujiwara no Umakai, a famous poet. Another well known poet, Takahashi no Mushimaro, was one of his subordinates.

The styles of the Bungo and Hizen volumes are identical, and it is believed that they, and presumably the other Kyushu volumes, were put together at Dazaifu with a common editor. It is entirely possible that Fujiwara no Umakai was involved with these also, because he served at Dazaifu after his assignment in Harima. Internal evidence for the dating of these two volumes shows that they were completed earlier than 740.

Izumo Fudoki alone gives its date of publication, 733, and the name of its author, Izumo no Kuninomiyatsuko Izumo no Omi Hiroshima. As far as provincial aristocratic names go, this one is at the top. A hundred years earlier, his ancestors ruled Izumo as a minor kingdom loosely subordinate to the emperor. Now, he was, officially, a mere district magistrate. As shall be seen, it is not at all obvious that the real power of such men had been suppressed nearly as much as the new laws called for. However, for the time being, they were keeping a low profile. It would, however, be an important piece of information if such a rural person, with no known time of residence in the capital region, were actually able to create a well-written book, which this one is. It is notable that Izumo Fudoki is the only one that actually records significant ancient traditional history, which makes sense if it was the only (surviving) one actually written by a local author. Most of the anecdotes found in the other books actually could have been taken directly from Chinese books of a similar character. There is nothing local about them. Stories of spectacular acts of filial piety are the norm. The Japanese could talk the talk, but only the Chinese walked the walk. The Japanese used to dump the old folks on a hillside to starve when times were tough, on the grounds that the future child bearers had to be saved. Not acceptable thinking in China, nor in 4 out of the 5 Fudoki. Some stories in the Fudoki can actually be traced to specific Chinese books.


See Bibliography
There are a very large number of books on Japanese art in English. I would like to call attention to just one series at this point. It is a very big and very detailed series published in Japanese which has subsequently been translated into English. It is Heibonsha Survey of Japanese Art in 31 volumes published between 1972 and 1980 by Weatherhill in New York. There are also many books on Buddhism viewed from many different aspects. The most useful single book I have found that presents the history of Buddhism is Hinduism and Buddhism; an historical sketch by Charles Eliot, published in 1921 in three volumes. It has been republished several times. Eliot was a British diplomat and in the 1920s became the ambassador to Japan, which led him to write a sort of sequel, Japanese Buddhism, published posthumously in 1935. It has been reprinted more recently also. Another useful book is Religion in Japanese History by Joseph M Kitagawa, published by the Columbia University Press in 1966. This, naturally, covers more than just Buddhism, including some of the many "new religions" that have developed in Japan in modern times.

Outline of Nara Political History

689 (3rd year of Jito Tenno): Jito did not formally ascend the throne until 690, but historians traditionally date events from 687 as her first year. In the 6th month the "Asuka Kiyomihara Ritsuryo" was distributed to government offices in 22 volumes, and in the 8th month the work of implementing the system in the provinces was begun. This was a comprehensive set of law codes specifying the rules for the administration of the government and also laws pertaining to criminal matters and what we would call family law. "Ritsu" is the Chinese word for law as administered by judges and "ryo" is the word covering the administrative regulations. Japanese historians often use ritsuryo system as a shorthand term for the entire Chinese-inspired system.

Prince Kusakabe, Jito's son, whom it is assumed would have succeeded Temmu Tenno but for his bad health, died at the age of 28. This left Kusakabe's son, prince Karu as the preferred heir, but he was too young to be considered eligible at this time. If anything happened to Jito, it is assumed that the most probable successor was now prince Takechi, the oldest surviving son of Temmu Tenno. Prince Takechi would not be considered as a prime candidate because of the low status of his mother.

690 (4th year of Jito Tenno): The enthronement ceremonies were held at the beginning of the year. In the 7th month the central administrative system described in the "ryo" went into effect. This means that the names of offices and official titles were changed over and appointments were made to the new offices. Prince Takechi received the highest office in the system, Dajodaijin, in this period reserved for a prince.

692 (6th year of Jito Tenno): The dedication ceremony for the new capital city of Fujiwara was held. In the 9th month officials were sent to the provinces to supervise the surveying of the rice fields required for the new land redistribution system.

694 (8th year of Jito Tenno): The government moved into the Fujiwara capital at the end of the year.

696 (10th year of Jito Tenno): Prince Takechi died. The post of Dajodaijin was left vacant.

697 (1st year of Mommu Tenno): Prince Karu was granted the title of crown prince at the start of the year, and in the 8th month Jito abdicated in his favor. Miyako, a daughter of Fujiwara Fuhito, was married to the emperor at this time.

700 (4th year of Mommu Tenno): Fujiwara Fuhito and other officials were ordered to prepare a revised version of the ryo. There is no surviving information as to exactly why. However, it seems clear that the new code was a substantial rewrite of the original, though it only took one year to prepare.

701 (1st year of Taiho, a Chinese style reign title which was adopted in the 3rd month in celebration of a report (later found to be false) of the discovery of gold): The revised law code, known as the Taiho Ryo, was published in the 8th month, and there was a lot of effort to make sure that its provisions were put into effect, especially in the provincial and district administrations.

702 (2nd year of Taiho): The retired empress died at the end of the year. Earlier in the year, a project was conducted in the provinces to put together a register of all persons who were eligible to be considered "kuni no miyatsuko". This was now an out of date title, but it was used to determine which persons could become district magistrates in the new system. An edict ordered that any candidate for this post who was of kuni no miyatsuko status was to be given preference.

703 (3rd year of Taiho): A new office substantially identical to Dajodaijin was created and prince Nittabe was appointed to hold it.

705 (2nd year of Keiun, a new reign title): Prince Nittabe died and prince Hozumi replaced him.

707 (4th year of Keiun): In the 6th month Mommu Tenno died at the age of 25. His mother took over the government, and one month later ascended the throne. She is known as Gemmei Tenno.

708 (1st year of Wado): Shortly before his death Mommu had ordered work to begin on a new capital city. His death disrupted the project, but it was now resumed. The site of Nara was selected.

710 (3rd year of Wado): In the 3rd month the government formally moved into the new capital. Most historians begin the Nara period at this time.

715 (1st year of Reiki): In the 7th month prince Hozumi died and was not replaced. In the 9th month Gemmei Tenno abdicated and was replaced by a sister of Mommu Tenno who is known as Gensho Tenno. No real reason was given for this. Some think that the death of Hozumi changed the political balance at court depriving Gemmei of support, others think she simply wanted to retire.

718 (2nd year of Yoro): Fujiwara Fuhito and others were ordered to prepare a further revision of the administrative law code. This work was never completed, but a copy of the code in the possession of Fuhito was discovered many years later and is the only version of the code (substantial) parts of which survive. Heian period commentators did not possess any copies of either the Kiyomihara code or the Taiho code and used the Yoro code. There is much debate over the question of whether the Yoro code is different than the Taiho code or is simply a copy of the Taiho code that Fuhito planned to use as a starting point. I don't believe that anyone has ever shown a significant difference between the Taiho code (as known from mentions in edicts and other sources) and the Yoro code.

720 (4th year of Yoro): Fujiwara Fuhito died in the 8th month and soon after prince Toneri was appointed head of the government. Most historians believe that Fuhito had been functioning as the head of government since the death of prince Hozumi, and those who think that the replacement of Gemmei by Gensho was political think that he was behind it. Fuhito had 4 sons, two of whom were members of the Dajokan (cabinet) at the time of his death, and all of whom were prominent politically.

721 (5th year of Yoro): The retired empress Gemmei died at the age of 61.

724 (1st year of Jinki): Gensho Tenno abdicated and the son of Mommu Tenno ascended the throne. He is known as Shomu Tenno.

727 (4th year of Jinki): A male child was born to the emperor and the daughter of Fujiwara Fuhito. Within a month the child was named crown prince, a title which up to now had always been given to an adult who was functioning as one of the leaders of the government. This represents a transition to the use of the title as meaning the designated successor, which became routine in the Heian period. However, at no time in ancient Japan was there ever a clearly defined path of succession. Many crown princes failed to become emperor when the moment arrived.

728 (1st year of Tempyo): The infant prince died shortly after his first birthday.

729 (2nd year of Tempyo): In the 2nd month two low ranking officials accused prince Nagaya, a grandson of Temmu Tenno who held the post of Sadaijin, second ranking in the government at the time, of having caused the death of the infant prince through sorcery. Within 24 hours the prince was ruled guilty and was ordered to commit suicide along with his wife and sons. Fujiwara Fusasaki, the highest ranking of Fuhito's sons, was in charge of the investigation, and nearly all historians assume that this was planned by the Fujiwara to get rid of the strongest candidate to succeed to the throne if anything happened to Shomu Tenno. Soon afterwards Fujiwara Miyako was formally designated Empress, and it is thought that prince Nagaya had opposed this.

735 (7th year of Tempyo): Prince Toneri died and was not replaced.

737 (9th year of Tempyo): There was a great epidemic, believed to be Japan's first encounter with smallpox, that began in Kyushu and spread over most of the country, killing large numbers of people, including many nobles. All four sons of Fujiwara Fuhito died between the 4th and the 8th months. In the 9th month prince Suzuka became the head of government, though it is believed that Tachibana no Moroe, head of a new clan that had been branched off of the imperial clan during the reign of Gensho, was effectively in charge.

738 (10th year of Tempyo): Princess Ae, a daughter of Shomu Tenno, was designated crown prince and heir. Several women had reigned as Tenno, of course, but this was the first time one was ever designated the heir. It would appear that this was a decision of Shomu Tenno personally. He never showed much interest in routine affairs of government, but was a willful individual who always got his way. At the same time Tachibana no Moroe was promoted to Udaijin, second in rank (allowing for vacant posts) to prince Suzuka.

740 (12th year of Tempyo): Fujiwara Hirotsugu was son of Umakai and grandson of Fuhito. He had been working as a provincial governor but was denied promotion to an office in the central government and sent off to Kyushu. In the 9th month he sent in a memorial attacking the government (there were famines and conditions had remained bad since the epidemic of 737) and specifically recommended the dismissal of two close advisors to Tachibana no Moroe. He also began raising troops. The government responded quickly, mobilized a substantial army and sent it off to Kyushu. In the event, Hirotsugu's rebellion collapsed without a battle because many of his troops refused to fight. He tried to escape to China or Korea but was caught and executed. This event, and also the generally bad condition of the country, seems to have affected Shomu Tenno personally. He left the capital and wandered about for a bit and eventually settled at a palace in Yamashiro province, just south of the modern city of Kyoto.

741 (13th year of Tempyo): Shomu Tenno ordered that all officials of 5th rank and higher had to leave Nara and move to his new palace at Kuni in Yamashiro Province. In this year he also announced the "kokubunji" project. The plan was to construct a small Buddhist monastery and a separate nunnery in every province in the country so as to facilitate the spread of Buddhism among the common people. This turned into a very expensive undertaking. For a long time there were debates about whether this was ever actually done, those who didn't believe in it arguing that the government could not have afforded it. However, modern archeological work has conclusively demonstrated that large numbers of these facilities were built over the next several years following a standard plan. Some of them became the starting points for later temple projects, and in that sense still exist. A significant part of each province's tax revenues was designated for the construction and later support of these temples. In the same year Shomu further demonstrated his commitment to Buddhist principles by forbidding the slaughter of cattle or horses.

742 (14th year of Tempyo): Shomu moved his palace again, to Shigaraki in Omi province.

743 (15th year of Tempyo): Shomu ordered that Shigaraki become the new capital and abandoned Kuni.

744 (16th year of Tempyo): Shomu questioned officials and commoners both as to whether it would be better to have the capital at Kuni or Naniwa. He soon moved to Naniwa, and later in the year designated it the capital.

745 (17th year of Tempyo): Shomu once again undertook an opinion poll, and this time the officials almost unanimously voted to return to Nara. Shomu himself went to Kuni, but the commoners living at Kuni all evacuated and moved back to Nara and Shomu eventually followed and once again designated Nara the capital. I think that at this point it is fair to say that Shomu Tenno was rather unstable mentally. Even after he abandoned the constant moving about, he was subject to sudden enthusiasms and abrupt decisions. He was known, for example, for banishing people without warning and then equally suddenly pardoning them. In the general period between 741 and 745 there was a large amount of experimentation with the system of provinces. It is not known how much Shomu was involved with this. The return to Nara coincided with the start of Shomu's biggest project, the construction of Todaiji and its colossal Buddha statue. In this year prince Suzuka died and was not replaced.

747 (19th year of Tempyo): The construction of the great Buddha began.

748 (20th year of Tempyo): The retired Tenno Gensho died and was cremated in a Buddhist rite.

749: This was a busy year. In the 4th month the reign title was changed to Tempyo Kampo. Then in the 7th month Shomu abdicated in favor of his daughter, known as Koken Tenno. He had no son. This was a very remarkable step to take. Every previous female ruler had served as the protector of a male child or other near relative who was intended to later take the throne. However, once Koken took the throne her status became so high that she could never marry, so she could never have an heir. The state of the imperial clan was such that one could in 749 already foreshadow that the accession of Koken made it possible that the line of rulers descended from Temmu Tenno would come to an end. At the time that Koken assumed the throne the reign title was changed again, to Tempyo Shoho. A special office was set up for the support of Empress Komyo (Fujiwara no Miyako) and Fujiwara no Nakamaro was appointed to run it. The abdication of Shomu and accession of Koken also coincided with completion of major structural work on the great Buddha statue at Todaiji. Shomu took up residence at the temple, by the way, and lived the remainder of his life as a monk.

752 (4th year of Tempyo Shoho): Koken Tenno banned the slaughter of all animals and the "eye opening" ceremony was conducted for the great Buddha statue, the occasion for an enormous public celebration. Only a small bit of the original statue survives today. The present statue (and the hall it is in) is a medieval reproduction.

756 (8th year of Tempyo Shoho): Tachibana Moroe retired from public life and moved to Naniwa (he died early in the next year). Shomu Tenno died in the 5th month, and the Shosoin was established in his memory. Prince Funado, a son of prince Nittabe, was appointed crown prince.

757 (1st year of Tempyo Hoji): Early in the year prince Funado was dismissed as crown prince and was replaced by prince Ota, a son of prince Toneri. In this year Fujiwara Nakamaro discovered the Yoro code manuscript in his grandfather's library and publicized it. In the 7th month Tachibana Naramaro (Moroe's son) was accused of plotting to kill Fujiwara no Nakamaro and he and several other members of the clan were killed. Also, Fujiwara Toyonari, the Udaijin, was accused of involvement and was politely banished through appointment to a relatively minor post in Kyushu.

758 (2nd year of Tempyo Hoji): At the start of the year Koken Tenno abdicated in favor of prince Ota, who is known as Junnin Tenno. Immediately afterward, Fujiwara Nakamaro was permitted to establish a new clan. His name became Emi Oshikatsu. New names were assigned for most higher offices, and Emi Oshikatsu was appointed to the new office of Daiho, the highest office not vacant.

760 (4th year of Tempyo Hoji): Emi Oshikatsu was promoted to Daishi, which was the new name for Dajodaijin. Except for the posthumous promotion of Fujiwara no Kamatari, this was the first time anyone not a prince held this office. It is clear that by now Emi Oshikatsu was virtual dictator.

761 (5th year of Tempyo Hoji): Emi Oshikatsu conceived the idea of invading Korea and he ordered very extensive preparations, including training a number of young people in speaking the Korean language. His plans called for the construction of 393 warships and drafting 47,000 men.

762 (6th year of Tempyo Hoji): At the start of the year Emi Oshikatsu was promoted to senior first rank, a level that was nearly always left vacant. In the 6th month the retired Tenno Koken announced that she was superseding Junnin Tenno and would take over management of the government. A military review was held of the expeditionary force for Korea.

763 (7th year of Tempyo Hoji): Koken Tenno appointed a little known monk named Dokyo to the office that supervised Buddhist institutions.

764 (8th year of Tempyo Hoji): In the 9th month Emi Oshikatsu sent out officials to the provinces near the capital in order to inspect military preparedness. His enemies accused him of using this as a cover to start a rebellion and attacked him. He attempted to flee but was caught and killed. Dokyo was appointed to a newly created high office, and all of the official titles changed by Nakamaro were restored. In the end it appears that the spectacular career of Fujiwara Nakamaro depended on support first from Koken and later Junnin. It is believed that he worked to persuade Koken to abdicate and that he completely dominated Junnin. However, Koken had the clout to reel him in. When the crisis came nearly all of the nobles contributed men to fight Nakamaro and he was caught badly outnumbered. Dokyo was a monk of relatively humble origins who visited Koken Tenno when she was ill and she believed that he cured her and made him an intimate. The exact nature of the relationship between Dokyo and the empress is a matter of great controversy that will be discussed elsewhere. In the 10th month Junnin Tenno was deposed and exiled to Awaji and Koken resumed the throne. She was given a second reign title for this and is known as Shotoku Tenno.

765 (1st year of Tempyo Jingo): Many more of Nakamaro's changes were abolished. Officials and princes were forbidden from keeping weapons. Prince Waki was accused of plotting rebellion and killed. In the 10th month Junnin Tenno died. It is not known whether this was due to natural causes. He was 33. In the inter-calary 10th month Dokyo was appointed Dajodaijin. It would seem that Dokyo was almost exclusively interested in religious matters and, perhaps, nepotism for his extended family. Shotoku Tenno was pretty definitely in charge, as is proven by the eventual fate of Dokyo.

766 (2nd year of Tempyo Jingo): Dokyo's title was changed to one more suited to a Buddhist monk, Hoo. "Ho" is a reference to "the law" in the Buddhist sense, what we would be more inclined to call "the truth". "O" is the Chinese term used for "king" and is in this period the routine word for "prince". The Buddhists also use the word for supernatural protector figures based on Indian and Chinese dieties that fight evil on behalf of Buddhism, for example, the Shitenno "four heavenly kings" figures seen in many Buddhist temples trampling fiercely on demons.

770 (1st year of Hoki): Shotoku Tenno died. A conference of high officials considered various candidates for the throne and selected prince Shirakabe as her successor. Dokyo was not invited to this meeting. Dokyo was not important enough, by himself, to kill and he was merely dispatched to serve as abbot of a temple in a remote province in the east. Prince Shirakabe was enthroned and is known as Konin Tenno. What with one thing and another the line descended from Temmu had died out, and Konin was instead a grandson of Tenchi Tenno. All later emperors were descended from Tenchi through Konin. He was already an elderly man of 62 and had several sons.

771 (2nd year of Hoki): Prince Osabe was made crown prince. Very soon after this prince and his mother were arrested on the accusation of trying to recruit officials to support a coup d'etat. They were never tried, but were imprisoned.

773 (4th year of Hoki): Prince Osabe and his mother died on the same day and immediately afterward Prince Yamabe was made crown prince.

781 (1st year of Teno): Prince Yamabe took the throne before the death of his father later in the year, eliminating all chance of a succession crisis. He is known as Kammu Tenno, famous as one of the strongest emperors. There was never any question who was in charge, and it is thought that he had considerable power while his father was on the throne as well. He immediately named one of his sons, prince Sawara as crown prince.

782 (1st year of Enryaku): There was a minor rebellion resulting in banishments. In the 6th month Kammu dismissed the Sadaijin Fujiwara Uona from office.

784 (3rd year of Enryaku): Kammu began a project to move the capital to a new location. He selected a location in Yamashiro province known as Nagaoka. He himself moved to Nagaoka before the end of the year.

785 (4th year of Enryaku): The official in charge of constructing the Nagaoka capital was Fujiwara Tanetsugu. He was mysteriously murdered, perhaps by bandits, perhaps by enemies. It is not at all clear what really happened, but the crown prince, prince Sawara, was accused of being behind it and was exiled to Awaji, but was killed while en route. There is reason to believe that this episode had a powerful impact on Kammu, who showed many signs of feeling guilty about it. Prince Ate (who survived to ascend the throne) was the new crown prince.

787 (6th year of Enryaku): The government was ordered to transfer to Nagaoka.

793 (12th year of Enryaku): Kammu began to investigate the possibility of moving the capital once more, to a different location in Yamashiro province. Things moved fast this time. Kammu moved to the new location almost immediately.

794 (13th year of Enryaku): The government was ordered to move to the new capital. At the end of the year it was named Heiankyo. It may well be that it was only now that people began to refer to Nara as Heijokyo. It was a characteristic of Kammu's court that the culture was strongly Chinese. Chinese was the routine written language of government throughout the Nara period, but there is plenty of evidence that all of the Chinese office names and official titles had Japanese translations that were routinely used in speech. However, in Kammu's time it was definitely the fashion to pronounce all Chinese words as (the Japanese version of) Chinese. This custom has generally continued down to today. Heiankyo never did have an actual Japanese name. Kyoto is also Chinese. Most likely people usually simply called it "miyako" or "the capital," the Japanese word for the "kyo" character in Heijokyo and Heiankyo. For most historians the move to Heiankyo marks the end of the Nara period. However, Kammu's reign is very important in administrative and also military history (this was the time of the most important fighting against Emishi in the northeast), so I prefer to treat it all in one place. It is widely believed that this second move of the capital was because Kammu grew to hate and fear Nagaoka because of its association with his probably over-hasty execution of his son in 785. There is ample evidence over the next two centuries or so of a widespread belief in Japan in the power of the ghosts of people who were killed unjustly to come back and get revenge. Kammu is known to have put in a lot of effort in religious ceremonies intended to appease the ghost of prince Sawara.

806 (1st year of Daido): Kammu died at the age of 70 and prince Ate succeeded without fuss. He is known as Heizei Tenno. This is the end of my Nara period.

Nara period government

The new administrative system was put into effect in 689 by the publication of what is known as the “Kiyomihara Code.” Kiyomihara was the name of the imperial palace at that time. Nothing survives of this code. It is known that the names of many offices were substantially different than in later times, and it is hypothesized that the system of local administration was much simpler than in later times. However, the total amount of information about ways in which it might have differed from the later codes is small. It was replaced in 701 by the publication of the Taiho Code. This code does not survive either, but it has been largely reconstructed from citations in later books. In 718 the government began work on a third version of the code, but this project was put aside when Fujiwara Fuhito died in 720. A copy of the code remained in his library and was discovered 39 years later by his grandson. At the time of this discovery it seems that no official copy of the Taiho Code survived. The 718 version is known as the Yoro Code after the current year title. During the reign of Saga Tenno in the early 9th century copies were made and substantial portions of some of these survive. Efforts to reconstruct the Taiho Code and the missing parts of the Yoro code from later commentaries have so far failed to identify any differences between the two. It seems fair to hypothesize that the Yoro Code was actually a complete copy of the Taiho Code and that whatever changes were planned in 718 were not incorporated into this manuscript but existed in some other form. Only a small part of the judicial codes have been reconstructed, but the greater part of the administrative code is known. I frequently see statements, even in works in Japanese, that the Yoro Code was enacted and put into effect in 718, but this is wrong. Its existence was entirely unknown until its discovery by Fujiwara no Nakamaro. What happened was that later commentators, starting with the author of Ryo no Gige in 833, used and cited the Yoro Code because no copy of the Taiho Code survived.

It is important to realize that there were no further efforts to modify the code after 718. This, combined with the fact that the official copies of the Taiho Code had been allowed to deteriorate and disappear show that the code itself was no longer considered particularly important after the first two generations or so of the new era. What mattered was the existing structure of government on the ground and the collection of recent government documents including, especially, edicts and decisions. Starting with Ryo no Gige officials put together series of compilations of these materials to serve as guides for judges and administrators. New series were constantly needed because the actual practice of the government was constantly evolving during the period of the 8th, 9th, and 10th centuries. No one ever seems to have felt that it was necessary to stop and construct a complete new administrative code that would show exactly how things were done at a particular point in time. It would appear that practices were simple enough to keep straight in a more informal way.

If the central government was fully staffed as called for by the Taiho/Yoro Code there would be 8117 officials from 3rd rank through 9th rank. In addition, the code called for the assignment of 2 persons per village as laborers at the capital (there were 4000 villages). The first and second ranks were almost never awarded on the grounds that only rarely would a person appear who was worthy. At the start of the Nara period there were probably were about 8000 officials receiving salaries, but as time went on the number steadily dropped, and by the middle of the 9th century many offices in the table of organization had effectively ceased to exist. It seems that the original code was over ambitious and too closely modeled on the administrative code of the T'ang dynasty. China was, of course, much bigger than Japan and was also much more complex economically and socially. Japan's actual need for government was satisfied with less than full implementation of the code. There is also the factor that from the very start the government failed to reach its expectations as to the amount of tax revenues that would be received. This matter was a constant topic during the Nara period. The Japanese could not afford to pay 8117 officials and had to settle for less. It is also true that Japan's geographical isolation meant that the country could get along with extremely small military forces. The military represented a very large portion of the total expenditures of China and Korea, but this was not true in Japan. There were always active forces on the northern frontier, but these were essentially local militia that fed themselves. The government paid them by giving them tax breaks. In the early days two or three thousand conscripts from eastern Japan were sent to serve as coast guards in Kyushu, but this was abandoned rather early in the period. The only regular armed forces were the guards units maintained in the capital, and these probably numbered only one or two thousand men. When troops were needed, as in the case of Hirotsugu's rebellion in 740, they were conscripted from the rural population. Seventeen thousand were raised and marched to Kyushu on that occasion in quite a short period of time, as the entire rebellion lasted only four months.

The three most important parts of the government were the staff that actually operated the imperial palace and the government offices, the organization that supervised the provinces and collected and managed the tax revenues, and the provincial and district administrations, which were responsible for maintaining order and generating the tax revenues. Most of the revenue that came in was used for official and rank salaries and the imperial palace. There was also from time to time considerable spending on building and equipping temples, shrines, palaces, and entire new capital cities. During the Nara period there seemed to be plenty of money to spend despite all complaints about revenues. When the great epidemic of 737 hit agricultural work was heavily impacted and harvests failed around the country. The government had sufficient reserves of rice in its storehouses to permit the cancellation of taxes and provide relief for the people. There were complaints by 740 that the reserves had been mostly used up, and financial reforms were undertaken to attempt to get them built up again.

The taxation system included three separate components. There was a relatively small crop tax paid in rice which was stored in government warehouses, mostly at the provincial capitals. Most of this was used to feed laborers and soldiers, but some was sent to the capital and paid out to officials as part of their salaries, and a significant proportion was earmarked for the reserves already mentioned. Provincial and district officials also received salaries, of course. There was a second tax calculated on a per capita basis that was paid in handicraft items. The largest amount was paid in cloth, but the governors had the power to substitute other local products as needed. Among the items known to have come in were metal tools of all kinds, raw materials for lacquer and other luxury items, and ceramics. Many items were consumed by the palace, but cloth and metal tools were also important parts of the official salaries. It was the general custom that these items, especially cloth, for which there was a more or less official exchange rate, could be traded at markets for food or other products. The third tax was a labor tax, which had many complexities.

The labor tax was used for public works projects, to raise military and police forces, and to provide menial staff for palaces, government offices, and officials' private residences. Most men who were drafted worked locally and lived at home. If they were drafted in winter months they were liable for up to 50 days per year, or if drafted during times of the year when farming was active for 30 days per year. Often they worked less than the full amount because they were not needed. If people were dispatched from a rural area to the capital or some other distant location, they were often kept for a period of years. During that time the work they did was credited to their household and their village so that others were exempted from labor tax as a result, and their family would get tax adjustments to pay for their excess labor. This was because it was expensive and difficult to move numbers of men around the country. However, it was very unpopular, and eventually the government was forced to keep men for no more than one year before allowing them to return home. Shosoin documents make it clear that at least the men working in Nara were fed by the government and paid a quantity of cloth every 10 days which they could trade in the market for other necessities. They worked from dawn to dusk with no days off, but got a 2 hour break in the middle of the day during the heat of summer. If it rained there was no work, but rations were cut in half. There are constant complaints that men escaped from labor details and snuck home. The districts were responsible for this and had to send replacements. There were experiments with allowing people to buy their way out of labor service, but these were quickly abandoned on the grounds that they were too easily abused. There was no regular way possible in ancient times to hire casual labor. Everyone was bound to service somewhere. The appearance of mobile workers paid wages is one of the main markers for the transition from "ancient" to "medieval" conditions.

This makes a good point to say something about Marxism as it applies to Japanese history. Long before Karl Marx became a man of political renown he was an historian, and in Japan in the period after the Second World War it is fair to say that the majority of historians have been Marxist. This does not mean that they have necessarily been admirers of Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, or Kim Il-Sung, but that they accept the basic position of Karl Marx on the pattern of evolution of human society, and tend to use terms and phrases derived from Marx in their writings.

In the Marxist view human society has since the development of civilization gone through three successive phases which Marx called the slave society, the feudal society, and the capitalist society. He went on to predict that there would be a fourth phase, communist society, but the fact that he was wrong about that does not mean that he was necessarily wrong about the others. As the man said, prediction is difficult, especially about the future. For political reasons almost no American and relatively few European historians would admit to being Marxists, but most who study the evolution of political and economic systems would agree (quietly) that Marx was an important historical thinker and that not everything he said was wrong.

The "slave society" phase refers to the time when economic structure focused upon the control of labor as the primary form of wealth. By modern standards the ancient world was very thinly populated. There was farmable land everywhere, but only so many men available to farm it. Ancient Greece and Rome dealt with this problem by relying on formal slavery with markets where slaves could be bought and sold and this is why Marx used that term. However, most of the world did things differently, and Japan, Korea, and China relied on labor taxes. There were slaves, but they were a small part of the population and they were not bought and sold. A constant problem facing the Nara government was that farmland went out of production because there was no one to farm it. For several provinces we have records showing that 30 or 40 percent of the developed land had been abandoned. Once land was abandoned, the associated irrigation works started to collapse, so it was not always easy to get it back into use.

Looking ahead, the "feudal phase" is a period in which population growth had reached a point where essentially all of the good land was farmed and there was a surplus population that must be fed out of surplus food production, which required the development of a market system so that food could be moved to where it was needed and sold. It also led to an interest in applying technology to increase the productivity of farm land. Slaves disappeared and were replaced by hired laborers, who did not have to be fed when they were not needed, and who moved about the country as different crops required temporary extra manpower, or moved into the cities to work in emerging industries. In the feudal stage there are more than enough people and the focus for the elite shifts to the control of land as the primary source of wealth. Marx called this feudal because Western Europe had a feudal system of government during this stage, but that is not a requirement. Marxists are quite happy to call T'ang dynasty China a feudal society because it was a land owning society, despite the fact that there was nothing "feudal" about its governing structure. Still further off, the transition from feudal society to capitalist society means that the focus shifted again from the control of land to the control of money, because a steadily increasing portion of the total national wealth came from activities other than farming, and the "surplus" population was beginning to become larger and wealthier than the farming population.

In the case of Japan, the Asuka, Nara, and the first century of the Heian period represent the "slave society" phase. The latter part of the Heian period and the Kamakura period are a very slow transition towards a landowning "feudal" period, though even in the early Kamakura period only about half of the farmland in the country was owned by nobles or temples. The Muromachi period covers a rather rapid transition in which on the one hand you see the development of full-fledged political feudalism, very similar to the European variety, accompanied by the development of consolidated landownership in which every piece of farmland had one and only one specific owner, and simultaneously the beginnings of capitalism, in the form of banking and organized industry and real cities. Essentially, changes that in Europe took 500 years to develop, from 1100 to 1600, took only 300 hectic years in Japan, from 1300 to 1600. There was an awful lot going on during that time. Then things slowed down again. Technically, in Marxist terms, western Europe and Japan were both infant capitalist societies by 1600, but Japan in its northeast Asian isolation changed much more slowly than Europe after 1600 and had fallen far behind the pace of western development by the time that its isolation was forcefully ended in 1853. This put modern Japan in a very stressful situation which it could have handled better than it did. However, it has survived to become one of the main capitalist societies. Despite the assumptions of the westerners who first forced Japan to end its isolation, it was never a "third world country" but already a modern capitalist society, and by 1895 or so most who paid attention were aware of this.

However, our present concern is with the efforts of the Nara period government to monopolize as much of the national wealth as possible. Their main problem initially was to establish a balance of power and interest with the rural nobility. Before the Asuka period the court and its associated nobles lived entirely off of Yamato and nearby provinces, especially Kawachi province to the west. The surplus wealth of the remainder of the country went almost entirely to the local nobility. The only real exception seems to have been the "miyake" institution which was used to finance military operations in Korea. If the rulers were to move armed men from Yamato to Korea they had to be fed along the way and the miyake were granaries that were dedicated to that purpose. The new system called for wealth to be shifted from every province, however remote, to the capital or (in the case of Kyushu) to a location under the control of the capital (Dazaifu). In the original Taiho code every province was expected to transport 10% of the rice tax to the capital, but the extreme expense of doing this forced an almost immediate change. As before, the capital got all of its rice locally and rice collected in remote areas was spent in remote areas. The portion of the rice reserved for the central government was kept in storage and was available for use during times of famine, when taxes were normally forgiven. Some of the taxes in kind and often quite a large proportion of the labor taxes were consumed in the capital area. Major construction projects brought very large numbers of workers to the capital, and in those cases the provinces not only had to transport the workers but they had to feed them as well. The Taiho Code seems to have assumed that a party of workers being marched to the capital would be provided with all the food it needed which would be carried along. However this did not work and it was necessary to change the rules so that each province was required to feed parties coming through or returning home. The men carried documents showing that they were eligible (and travelling legally), a few of which have survived. Provinces close to the capital were required to provide extra food to the construction sites because Yamato alone would not have enough to handle the demand.

The challenge in all of this was to force or persuade the rural nobility to obey instructions from the center. Why would they do this? If the center gets more, they must get less. The answer seems to have been that they used the political structure to create a steeper hierarchy in rural areas than would have otherwise existed. That is, the district magistrate, known as dairyo, was paid generously and given considerable local power. Also, it is clear from many sources, that members of his family could go to the capital and find minor positions in and around the government. There are several cases in the record of men who petitioned the government for appointment as dairyo in their native district who had spent the previous 10 or 20 years working at low levels in the central government. Dairyo were appointed by the central government from a list of men recommended by the provincial governor. During at least one period they were required to go to the capital for a personal interview before they could be appointed. The post was clearly valuable and eagerly sought. If the provincial nobility as a whole had to take less, the dairyo and his family were not going to suffer because of it.

The other thing that the government did in this connection was keep the provincial and district administrations very small. Depending on its size, a district could have as few as two or as many as eight salaried officials. Everything else was handled by locals serving out their labor tax.

The taxation system depended completely on the national census that was supposed to be taken every six years. From the very beginning this schedule was almost never kept and the government at least investigated the possibility of skipping the census and simply assigning tax quotas to provinces, districts, and villages, but it continued regularly throughout the Nara period and beyond. The census was based on a report submitted by the head of each household, which was pulled together and validated (he was supposed to verify its accuracy) by the village head who passed it on to the district, where it was consolidated again and passed to the provincial governor, who sent it to the Dajokan. Officials in the capital were supposed to compare it carefully with their copy of the previous census and if there were any apparent discrepancies they would report this to the provincial governor, who had to investigate and provide corrections. Many of the surviving population registers show erasures and corrections. All in all the process of completing the census took the better part of a year.

Then the district magistrates were responsible for completing a survey of all farmland in the district listing the exact acreages and including maps. Several of these survive. They listed the status of all of the land, whether it was public land subject to redistribution, exempt from redistribution for one of many possible reasons, or abandoned. These were used in the capital to calculate the expected rice tax for each province and the provincial governor was informed as to his total quota. The district magistrate also prepared a tax register which was essentially the same as the census register, except it was intended to report all cases where a person listed in the census was not going to pay tax (perhaps because he was absent from the area and thus could not pay labor tax, or because he had died since the census was taken). These registers were used to calculate the head tax expected and the amount of labor available for corvee. Again, there was a cycle of checking the registers and demanding corrections if there seemed to be any discrepancies. The tax registers had to be done every year because they were the basis for the calculation of the national budget.

As a result of all of this work, the actual redistribution of land was performed three years after the census was begun. This delay was built into the system. Farmland was allocated for persons who were children at the time the census was fixed but who would be old enough to help in the fields by the time the land was allocated. Every official household was allowed to own permanently the land on which its houses and other buildings were located and a surrounding kitchen garden for vegetables, which was not taxed. Any land that was used only for farming crops other than rice was not included in the redistribution system. However, there does not appear to have been nearly as much reliance on wheat or millet as supplementary crops as in later times. Each household was supposed to be assigned land according to very precise rules with respect to the legal status, sex, and age of every member. If there was not enough available (actively farmed, with working irrigation) land, the allotments were reduced proportionately. The land was not allotted as coherent farms, but as parcels scattered around the area. Otherwise a redistribution system would probably have been impossible. One would assume that unless a household drastically grew or shrank it would receive mostly the same collection of parcels each time. Because of the fragmentation of parcels it was impossible for each farmer to be individually responsible for irrigation. That was a public responsibility and the work was arranged through the labor tax. The government constantly pressured the provincial governors and district magistrates to do what they could to expand the farmable land and construct new irrigation facilities, in hopes of increasing the total revenues. However, as noted, due to the limitation on the amount of labor available, opening new land in one place nearly always meant the abandonment of land elsewhere. This is a main reason why the land registers always show a significant fraction of "abandoned" land.

There were definitely cases where it was difficult to find enough land to assign. We know of farmers who were assigned parcels in a neighboring district and even in another province. There was a provision to cope with this because a farmer who had land he could not conveniently reach was permitted to apply for permission to rent it out.

Farmers cannot farm without seed rice. A farmer could keep back a portion of his crop for this purpose, but there was from the beginning an assumption that most, if not all, farmers would borrow seed rice at the time of planting. This meant that they did not themselves have to build facilities to store and protect it. The original system provided for official loans at fixed rates run by the provincial governor, but also permitted private loans. These would, naturally, be made by local nobles. There was definitely no class of businessmen or "rich peasants" who could make such loans as in later times. It seems that in practice private loans were usually made by the governor and his staff or the district magistrate. They were apparently quite profitable, and relatively soon the government abolished private loans. The anticipated revenue from public loans was built into the budget, and very soon the governors were given quotas, and eventually the loans were made compulsory to the farmers. It is possible that the revenue from the loans was larger than the revenue from the crop tax and was mainly responsible for the reserves that were kept to deal with famine conditions.

Back in the capital, one of the ministries, the Monbusho, was responsible for gathering all of the tax registers every year and putting them together so that it could present the Dajokan with a figure for the total revenues available. All government agencies had to draw up a proposed budget showing their needs, and these also went to the Dajokan. The Dajokan drew up a budget and the Monbusho would then administer it, apportioning out the funds during the course of the year. The budget was probably not an enormous amount of work most of the time, as nearly all of the regular revenue went to salaries, which must have been pretty steady year to year. It was definitely the assumption that in a good year reserves would be built up for future contingencies, whether emergencies or large scale projects. In difficult times it was common for taxes to be reduced or even cancelled, so in most years there must have been a significant surplus.

In 728 an edict was issued dividing the body of officials into "inner" and "outer" categories. Outer officials were the rural nobles who held posts in the districts and in the provincial administration. The highest rank permitted was senior fifth rank upper grade, which meant that an outer official could never be appointed to an important office in the capital. Before 728 there were a number of cases where an official had made the transition from district magistrate to an important central position. Moreover, even many lower level jobs were marked for "inner" officials only. The intent was obviously to try to guarantee jobs for the offspring of "inner" officials, but it had the unintended effect of forcing the provincial nobles to find other career paths outside officialdom, and in the long run this worked against the survival of the system.

Even among the inner officials there were sharp status distinctions. Ninth rank positions were essentially menial and for most purposes their holders were legally treated as identical to ordinary commoners. Like commoners, they could be sentenced to flogging for minor crimes, and they were subject to some taxes. Men from noble families were never appointed to any rank lower than 8th. There was a clear distinction between families where it was assumed that the entire career would take place between the 8th and the 6th ranks with the possibility of reaching the 5th rank at the very end of an especially distinguished career, and those where if a young man were forced to take a rank as low as eighth he would be rapidly promoted to at least 6th, where his career might actually begin. Noble youths who were appointed to low ranks usually did not actually take up low ranking offices, but waited until they were 25 or so and high enough in rank to get something worthwhile.

This is clearly shown in the compensation system. There were five separate components of the system, a basic salary paid annually, a seasonal salary paid twice a year, the allocation of servants drawn from the corvee tax pool, the allocation of the tax revenue from specific households, and the allocation of rank land. Not everyone received all types. Sixth through nineth ranks received only the seasonal payments, sixth rank receiving three times as much as nineth rank. These were payments of rice, two kinds of cloth, and iron farm tools. All ranks received this income. Third rank, the highest normally received, was paid 14 times as much as nineth rank. Only fourth and fifth rank officials received the additional salary that included a significant amount of silk cloth. The assignment of servants from the corvee labor pool started only at the fifth rank. Junior fifth rank got 20, senior third rank got 100. Only fifth rank and higher received land. Junior fifth rank received 8 cho, about 20 acres, and senior third rank received 40 cho. Only fourth rank and higher received the taxes of assigned households. Junior fourth rank received 80 households and senior third rank received 250. (This part of the income was as of 706, before then it was significantly lower and it only started at third rank.)

5th and 6th rank was the zone of middle management. From the point of view of the higher nobility, this was the zone where a young man would start his career. All provincial governors came from this pool. There was again a clear distinction between men who would ordinarily spend most of their working lives in these ranks with the chance of appointment to a higher one as a reward for long and effective service, and those who passed through rather quickly on their way to better things. The lower group comprised men who spent their careers in the ministries, or who were career provincial governors, transferred from province to province every few years. The upper group would quickly rise to the governor level, work in one or two provinces, and then be promoted to a 4th rank position in the capital.

The real aristocracy may be defined as that group where a successful career would require promotion to the 4th rank at a fairly young age, with the prospect of promotion to 3rd rank and a seat within the Dajokan as soon as one opened up. There was a restricted number of such seats and not all of them were always filled. The general rule throughout the Nara and Heian periods was that each politically important clan would have just one man in the Dajokan at a time, though the Fujiwara were frequently able to violate this rule and have several. As I believe I have mentioned, the second rank was very rarely awarded except to princes, and the first rank was only ever taken, two or three times, by egotistical dictators. The office of Dajodaijin, the highest in the formal bureaucracy, was a second rank office. Only 5 or 6 men ever held this post after the middle of the Nara period through 1600 and all of them had extraordinary political power and used this office to demonstrate it. Even in the early Nara period this office was frequently left vacant, on the theory that only rarely would there be a person worthy to hold such a lofty position.

The Dajokan was a committee of officials, including a senior group who had no routine administrative duties plus very senior ministers of departments, and may be considered the equivalent of a modern cabinet. They were the primary channel of communication between the government and the population at large, in that all petitions, memorials, reports, and the like were received by the Dajokan, which in turn published all routine orders and edicts. The Dajokan had a staff that handled this flow of documents. The Dajokan met as a body only when necessary and deliberated in secret. The emperor was not a member and the Dajokan and the emperor communicated by sending documents back and forth. Its primary tasks were to advise the emperor and to see to the execution of his commands.

Next below the Dajokan were two large bureaus of secretaries, designated as "left" and "right". The heads of these two were ex officio members of the Dajokan. Each of these offices supported four of the eight ministries. The individual ministers were also Dajokan level officials. The maximum size of the Dajokan if all offices were filled would (normally) consist of the 8 ministers, 2 secretaries, 3 chunagon "counsellors", 2 dainagon "senior counsellors", the "great minister of the right," the "great minister of the left," and the Dajodaijin. At times there was also a "great minister of the center." It was normal for some of these posts to be vacant. The position of commander of the Dazaifu in Kyushu was considered a Dajokan level post, and at some point it became routine for it held by an official who stayed in the capital and held some other post concurrently. The vice commander of the Dazaifu was the man in charge on the ground. That office had approximately the same prestige as the governor of a wealthy province. Dazaifu was also used as a high-level prison camp for officials in disgrace, who would be assigned a post there with no actual duties.

The Attempt to Start a Monetary System

Money was invented, according to the ancient Greeks, in the kingdom of Lydia sometime before 700 BC. It appeared in China 300 or 400 years later than that. Early money derived from the use of standard weights of precious metals as a medium of exchange. Coinage eliminated the necessity to weigh everything for routine transactions. The idea of developing a system of coinage implied a moderately well developed system of markets. There is little point in having money if there is no place to spend it. Throughout ancient history in western Asia, the main use of large denomination coins of gold or silver was to pay armies; a large amount of wealth was highly portable if it were in the form of precious metals. However, low denominations, usually of bronze, were widely used by ordinary people in cities, where most people pursued specialized occupations and could not produce everything that they needed, but must be able to buy many things on a regular basis.

There is a lot of evidence that during the Nara and Heian periods such domestic commerce as occurred was mainly financed through the exchange of standard bolts of cloth as produced through the poll-tax system. There was limited trade with China and Korea and Chinese coins certainly entered the country. Nihon Shoki records edicts of Temmu Tenno and Jito Tenno forbidding the use of silver coins and permitting only bronze coins. The Nara government ordered the establishment of mints and the production of both bronze and silver coins in 708. The bronze coin was of the type commonly referred to as ‘cash’ when produced in China, and was modeled after a T'ang dynasty issue of 621. It was a round coin with a square whole in the center, permitting quantities to be conveniently bound into bundles using a string. Many examples still survive. It was 2.4 centimeters wide and weighed 3.75 grams. The silver coin was twice the weight. Production of the silver coin was abandoned in 709, but the bronze coin was made regularly until 760, with a final run in 765 commemorating the thousandth anniversary of (the mythical) empress Jingu Kogo. The coins have been found all over Japan, and also in Manchuria, in the 8th century capital of Po-Hai (which had direct diplomatic relations with Japan across the Japan Sea). The coins were made in a number of locations ranging from Omi province (not far north east of Nara) to Dazaifu in Kyushu.

There is no information about what measures the government may have taken in 708 to place coins in circulation. The earliest recorded edict on the subject is dated 711. It established an official exchange rate between the bronze coin and rice. Later in that year a portion of official salaries that had been paid in rice was switched to payment in coins. At this time the people were instructed as to the purpose of coinage: “One who has coins can exchange them for things and thus obtain what he requires. Up until now the population has followed old custom and knows nothing about this method. If there is occasionally someone who wishes to use money to buy something, there is no one who is prepared to take it. Those who present money they have taken in exchange for goods to the court will be promoted in rank at the next promotion cycle.” Indeed, some persons took advantage of this and used coins to obtain rank. Then, in 712 the government began giving corvee laborers coins instead of feeding them, and it published an official exchange rate between the bolts of tax cloth and the coins, and permitted provincial authorities to substitute coins for in-kind items of the poll-tax. The first actual payments did not occur until 722, however, and all known payments were from the 8 provinces closest to the capital. This 8 province area is exactly the zone where coins most commonly occur in archeological excavations. There are surviving tax registers from Yamashiro province (immediately north of Nara) for 726 and 733 which show that there were tax receipts in coins amounting to an average of 9 coins per person in the registers. There are also 733 registers for the city of Nara itself showing that all receipts were of coins. There are entries in these registers that have proven difficult to understand that suggest that people were permitted to buy their way out of the corvee labor tax obligation. There is another theory that these amounts were fines assessed against families that evaded the labor tax by having people hide when the assessments were made. This is suggested by the fact that the amounts were very high given that the official exchange rate implied that one coin was worth one man-day of labor. In any case an edict of 737 forbade the substitution of coins for either the poll-tax handicraft items or the labor tax, and there is no later mention of such a practice. There is a complaint of 734 that people were registering to pay coins in return for exemption from tax but then failing to pay up.

There is no evidence that the use of coins ever spread beyond its issuance as part of official salaries and receipt as a component of taxation. There was an edict ordering the provinces to accept coins from corvee laborers who were returning home as payment for food. This may have been the main means whereby the provinces would obtain coins to then send back as a component of taxation. At some point the government began to deliberately take in more coins than it paid out so as to melt them down and use the bronze for the casting of Buddhist statues. Copper for bronze was always in short supply in ancient Japan. The regular production of coins ceased from 760, though, as noted, there was a special issue in 765 as part of a national celebration. There were a few sporadic issues of coins during the Heian period, but Heian period coins are rare in archeological sites and limited to only 5 provinces. As late as the 11th century Japanese fiction makes it plain that the primary currency in use was still the standard bolt of cloth. Coins are seldom mentioned. However, in the 13th century organized periodic markets began to spread into the countryside, and it was then that Chinese coins came into common use, as being far more convenient to carry for significant distances.

Overall, the history of Nara coinage provides solid evidence of the fact that the Japanese domestic economy was still primitive by Chinese standards, which demonstrates in turn that the administrative system that was adopted was much more complicated than would have been required by the demands of Japanese society alone, and could scarcely have evolved without the impulse to attempt to raise Japan to the level of civilization attained by Korea and China. However, once the system had been created and put into effect, we certainly see in everything that happened down at least to the accession of Shomu Tenno a steady determination to make it work. The attempt to establish a monetary system is but one aspect of this ambition.

Policies Respecting Private Landownership

It was a fundamental principle of the system announced in the 645 reform edict that all land was to be the possession of the ruler. The administrative system of the Taiho code called for the periodic redistribution of all irrigated rice land among the tax-paying commoners. However, there was always private property as well. First, the commoner households all held some lands permanently, the lands on which their houses and outbuildings were located and also vegetable gardens located there. Also, any farmland that was not irrigated rice paddy was not included in the redistribution system and must have been owned by somebody.

Then, all high ranking officials were granted lands in three different modes as part of their salaries. There were rank lands, tied to the court rank system, office lands tied to particular jobs, and then households whose tax revenues were assigned directly to an official. There are no clear statements about the details of how any of these were administered, but everyone seems to agree that the rank lands and office lands were possessed and administered by the clans. There is definite evidence that rank lands assigned to Fujiwara Fuhito were retained by the family after his death. If this was normal, then the common practice of giving a high official a posthumous promotion resulted in an increased pension to his survivors. This information comes from the fact that after Hirotsugu's rebellion the Fujiwara donated 5000 cho of Fuhito's office lands to the emperor, who returned 2000 cho but kept 3000 for financing kokubunji temples. If this is true of other clans, then rank lands, at least, were not redistributed, and any clan would permanently own land corresponding to the highest rank attained. It is assumed that these lands and the office lands were managed in the manner of a private estate and that they were exempt from normal taxation. The "assigned household" category would have been more of an accounting device. The main difference between that and normal salary would presumably have been that the tax revenues would vary from year to year depending on the number of taxpayers on the books and the quality of the harvest. There are no internal family documents from the Nara period and there was no narrative fiction either, so that we have no information at all about the domestic lives and economies of either aristocrats or commoners.

The realities of actually running the new system soon confronted the government with problems that required them to consider new categories of property. It has already been mentioned that this was an era in which the primary unit of wealth was a worker. The tax system was firmly linked to the census and the amount of revenue received from each district was directly proportional to its working population, not its geographical extent. Land without workers generated no revenue. The government was constantly concerned to ensure that as much land as possible was being farmed and taxed. It soon began to turn to "the private sector" in an effort to accomplish this.

As soon as we start to examine particular cases, it becomes clear that there was one category of wealth that was not fully accounted for under the system, which was land brought under cultivation through the private efforts of members of the provincial nobility. These were people who had rank and office and who therefore had rank and office lands. If they could bring new land under cultivation, they could increase their wealth outside of the official system as they would use labor that was not on the tax registers. They were remote from the capital and only loosely supervised by the very small staff of the provincial governor. The government attempted to deal with this anomaly by offering inducements to these people to develop land that would eventually be added to the taxable lands subject to the redistribution system. In order to do this they had to make sure that the land was recorded so that it could not be kept off of the tax registers.

In 722 there was a major conference of senior officials on the question of raising revenues by adding new farmland. This has occasioned a lot of discussion and it is not clear that we understand what was actually being attempted. The decision appears to state that the government would provide enough food and equipment to draft the entire farming population for 10 days per person with the view to opening up 1 million cho (2.45 million acres) of new farmland. This statement is hard to accept on its face. It has been pointed out that in modern Japan about 3 million cho is being farmed to feed a population 20 times the size of that in the Nara period. According to Wamyo Ruijusho there was a total of about 730,000 cho on the books in the early Heian period, so this project would have much more than doubled the total amount of farmland. It was, of course, entirely impossible to find farmers for such an increase. This leads to the theory that it was being assumed that the successful incorporation of the barbarian areas of the northeast would enable adding that much land with a population sufficient to farm it. If so, they were seriously mistaken about the population levels up there and unaware that much of the land is too far north and too cold for rice farming. However, given their remoteness from the area, there are scholars who think this is a more reasonable interpretation of what we are given by Shoku Nihongi. There is no further mention of such a project, by the way, if it was actually a project.

One year later, in 723, there was an edict announcing that anyone who opened new farmland could retain it in possession of his family and outside of the land redistribution process for 3 generations, and anyone who reclaimed land formerly registered but abandoned could keep it for one generation. There is no further information about what may have happened as the result of this law.

There is one local aristocrat about whom something is known, named Ikue no Omi Azumahito from Asuha district in Echizen province, because he had a close connection with Todaiji and several documents in which he is mentioned are part of the Shosoin collection. It is known that the dairyo of this district In 731 was Ikue no Omi Kanayumi and in 749 it was Ikue no Omi Yasumaro. Azumahito first appears in history in 749 as a clerk in the office for the construction of Todaiji. Sometime after this service, it is not known when, he returned to his district. There, at his own expense, he constructed an irrigation canal some 9.5 kilometers long and opened up about 100 cho of irrigated farmland. This he then gave to Todaiji. He is next heard of in 755 when he was dairyo of his district and worked in conjunction with representatives of Todaiji to put in place the administration for Kuwabara Sho, an estate of the temple within the district. In 768 he was awarded the extremely elevated rank (for a provincial) of (outer) senior fifth rank lower grade. Ordinarily only men who had distinguished themselves in military activities got such rank. He was almost certainly the administrator of the temple estate, which was in turn probably put together around the core of his gift. The scope of his gift makes it plain the he was a wealthy and powerful man. The decision to provide Todaiji with an endowment in the form of estates that were exempt from taxes and the redistribution system is the inauguration of the system of landholdings known as shoen that eventually came to cover about half of the farmland in the country.

The records concerning Kuwabara Sho are interesting. It was purchased in 755 from an aristocrat and was nominally 100 cho in size, but only 9 cho were irrigated. After the purchase Azumahito developed an additional 23 cho. However, by 757 much of this land was abandoned and replaced by 10 cho of new land. In 758 Azumahito reported that the original irrigation system had not been competently designed and that water could only be delivered to a small part of the potentially farmable land. He proposed a project, with a budget, to build a new set of ditches and ponds that would permit opening up a large area. The project would have to be coordinated with the provincial government because the ditches would have to take over 1.8 cho of public land which could not be done without finding land elsewhere to replace it. Such an estate required constant maintenance. A later record reveals that a few years later it had been abandoned. This estate may have been the equivalent of buying Florida swampland, not actually suited to the intended purpose. We cannot say whether the experience was typical.

The Northeast Wars

The people called Emishi have already been discussed in other contexts. To recapitulate briefly, they were inhabitants of the far northeastern part of Honshu, an area where the climate was significantly colder and less hospitable to rice farming. There has always been a line within this area north of which attempts to grow rice were not worth pursuing. The early centers of higher culture in Japan were in northern Kyushu and then in central Honshu and these lands were remote and backward. No one can say for sure whether the Emishi were racially different than the Japanese population further south. My guess is that they were not. I do not recall ever seeing mention of an Emishi language and must assume that they spoke a dialect of Japanese (even in recent times an inhabitant of Kyushu who spoke only the Kyushu dialect would not be able to understand a person from the northeast who only spoke that dialect). Some Emishi were rice farmers, some grew other crops, and some relied mostly on hunting and fishing. The main thing that distinguishes them is that they were mostly outside of the normal political structure established in the rest of the country. Emishi are found serving as soldiers and guards and parties of Emishi leaders occasionally visited the Japanese court. However, all references agree that they were relatively barbarian, they were loosely organized, and they lived simpler lives with little to defend, so that if attacked they could simply melt away into the mountain forests. Centuries later there are records of people who lived in the mountains and did not farm and followed customs and religious practices that were quite different from the ordinary Japanese. They often worked as miners and loggers. It is entirely possible that these were direct descendants of the Emishi.

The surviving accounts of the Emishi wars are very unsatisfactory from the point of view of those interested in technical military history. There are very few descriptions of battles and there is essentially nothing about the technical details of maintaining armies in remote locations. The main topic is the question of exerting imperial authority. There are two separate aspects of this which were emphasized at different times. Actually, I will correct that to say that there were three. At the very beginning of the process the government thought that it could take over new territories by importing thousands of settlers and simply ignoring the fact that Emishi were present. One assumes they thought that the Emishi that were affected would simply move away. Much later (and this is why I expanded the list to three) the government brought in large numbers of settlers specifically to grow crops for and provide other support services for existing military bases. However, at other times the focus was on recruiting, if you will, Emishi to become normal Japanese subjects. There were two aspects to this also. In the earlier period they tried to deal with chiefs, on the supposition that the chiefs could make their followers become Japanese. Later it was more a question of focusing on Emishi who were already rice farmers and putting off dealing with the Emishi whose life styles were differently structured. It is notable that in the later wars there were always Emishi who supported the Japanese, probably because they realized that incorporation into the Japanese state was inevitable. At any rate there is no doubt that a distinct Emishi line of descent was recognizable for centuries, down to the eleventh century at least. As in the American west, the Indians were not killed off completely, some survived to add flavor to the population.

The letter sent to the Chinese by the Japanese "King Wu" in 478 claimed years of fighting against the Emishi barbarians. We don't have any information about this from Japanese sources, which only seldom mention the Emishi. However, when the Japanese governments began keeping records (after about 600) the amount of information picks up. Essentially, all governments from that time forward took the position that the Emishi were or ought to be Japanese subjects, organized into provinces and districts and paying the same taxes as everyone else. The Emishi resisted this idea and the northeast wars were the result. The wars continued in some sense into the 11th century, but by that time they had evolved into political wars within the larger Japanese community. People were aware that some northeastern leaders were of Emishi descent, but they were not really a different people in any significant way. However, the main wars were mostly restricted to the Nara period and the most intense fighting occurred at the end of the Nara period during the reign of Kammu Tenno.

When we get into the time for which detailed information is available the southern limit of Emishi territory on the Japan Sea side was at the modern city of Niigata in the historical province of Echigo and on the Pacific Ocean side the modern city of Sendai in Mutsu province. The division of this region into provinces has varied a lot over the years. Much of the time the bulk of the area was covered by only two provinces, Dewa on the west (north of Echigo) and Mutsu on the east, but at times these have been divided into several smaller provinces. I will pretty much stick to Mutsu and Dewa. Throughout the main part of the wars the primary Japanese base was Tagajo, on the edge of modern Sendai. The "jo" character has been variously used. In Chinese it is the standard word for a walled city and this was also the normal use in Korea. Before the 16th century Japan didn't have walled cities, and the word was taken over to mean "castle." Given the nature of the wars, it seems appropriate to copy the Indian wars of the United States and use "fort." That is because these were not cities but they weren't castles either. Archeology shows that they were large rectangular enclosures with walls, like the Roman forts along the Rhine or the Saxon Shore. The walls were not intended to stand a siege, but to force people to come and go through guarded gates and to prevent surprise attacks. The Japanese also used a Chinese word that means "stockade". However, their walls were not made of bare poles, but poles that were covered with plaster to make smooth walls. To get an idea of what one looked like, Google Sawajo which has been restored as a tourist attraction. It has a web site which is in Japanese only, but with good pictures. By the way, Google offers to translate web sites to English. Do not bother with Japanese sites as the results are not comprehensible.

As a general rule one finds references to provincial notables named as "kuninomiyatsuko" south of the Emishi areas only. These were people who had some relationship with the ruling clan, either as branches of the clan or as early followers who were assigned to rule a district. Whatever process of conquest set up the polity covered by the earlier parts of Nihon Shoki never extended into the Emishi districts. On the other hand, there were kofun tombs within the Emishi zone, almost entirely on the southern boundary and the western side, around Niigata and Yamagata further inland. There was definitely some cultural overlap. There is also a late mention (837) that the Emishi fought as mounted archers exactly the same as aristocratic Japanese. In the context, the discussion was of the problems in teaching conscript commoners fighting as foot soldiers to deal with them. The solution was to give them Chinese crossbows that were more powerful than bows that could be used on horseback. Iron trigger mechanisms from such bows have been found in archaeological sites. In 789 there occurred a battle won by the Japanese and the report states that all 245 men killed or wounded on the Japanese side were struck by arrows. Japanese aristocrats back in the capital, by the way, were eager to get Emishi horses which were considered particularly excellent. There was a regular trade in horses. During the Nara period the government records distinguish two kinds of Emishi, those who lived a traditional tribal life style and those who had settled down as farmers and whose lives were little different from Japanese. The wars were all directed against the former.

Surviving records name 21 military bases used in these wars. The larger ones tend to be called forts and the smaller stockades. Some of them are called forts sometimes and stockades other times. The locations of 19 of them are known. Two were in Echigo province, five were in Dewa province, and twelve were in Mutsu province. The heaviest fighting was all in Mutsu. The dates of the references run from 647 to 812 and only a few of them were in active use at any particular time. The earliest expeditions were to Echigo, in 647 and 648. After that only locations in Dewa and Mutsu are mentioned.

In the main period of fighting there were 17 major Japanese expeditions to the north east, the first in 709 and the last in 813. The normal procedure was for the government to proclaim an expedition and appoint a general to command it. The highest level general was always a very senior official and it was not thought necessary that he have military experience. He was always assigned assistant generals to handle the technical side of the campaign. The emperor ceremonially presented a sword to the commander and then when the expedition was wound up, the commander returned the sword to the emperor. The sword was,in effect, the baton of office showing that the general was authorized to exercise powers normally restricted to the emperor. There is no mention of such a practice at the time of the war in Korea in 663 nor in the Jinshin War. It is believed that this practice was instituted as part of the administrative codes of 689 or 701. Swords were awarded also to ambassadors to China, presumably giving them the power of life-or-death over the members of the embassy as a general had over his soldiers. More practically, a sword bearing ambassador-designate had the power to requisition men and ships as he needed.

The authority given the general was great, which is why only a very senior man was ever appointed. The Japanese military normally had no generals on the books in peacetime. They were always appointed when needed and surrendered their rank when the expedition was ended. The field commanders tended to be military specialists, a few of whom have remained famous. Most of these men were from relatively minor clans and would spend their careers in the 6th rank and 5th rank zone. A few particularly successful commanders were rewarded with higher rank late in life. A handful reached sangi level, particularly after the smallpox epidemic of 737 killed numbers of high ranking nobles. The titles given generals were all either standard Chinese titles or modeled after them. They varied quite a lot, there were no real rules. The title "sei-i tai shogun" used by the later feudal rulers was one of them. It was used for the last four expeditions of 801, 804, 811, and 813 and this is why it was chosen almost 400 years later for a new role. It was a standard Chinese military title. In the Yoro code the three provinces of Mutsu, Dewa, and Echigo constituted a special case. The provincial governors were given special military powers and there was a lower ranking general, a "chinju shogun," attached to their staffs on a permanent basis. Since this comes from the Yoro code and not from reports about events in the northeast, we cannot be sure whether this was ever put into effect or whether it remained in effect for long.

Five of the expeditions (720, 724, 774, 780, and 813) were officially in response to Emishi "rebellions". The others were all attempts to extend the sphere of Japanese control. Mainly, the plan was to clear armed Emishi out of a specific area so that new forts and stockades could be constructed. For example, three of Kammu's expeditions were all directed at two districts known as Isawa and Shiwa, and as a result Isawajo and Shiwajo were established. Three administrative districts were set up under the protection of Isawajo and three more under Shiwajo. Other expeditions were based on forts already established and were intended to relieve pressure on them from hostile Emishi. There was also, inevitably, lower level conflict outside of the context of the major expeditions and extending earlier than 709 and later than 813.

The first major expeditions were those of Abe no Hirau between 658 and 660, but those were not directed at expanding the Japanese administrative system (which was still under construction) but more exploratory in character. Abe met with Emishi chiefs, awarded them Japanese titles, and encouraged them to send tribute to the court. His only battle was not with Emishi but with intruders from Hokkaido or Siberia that were raiding Emishi. I have discussed these in the Asuka section. He mainly operated in the area of the modern city of Akita, but the Dewa stockade (later renamed Akitajo) was not established until much later, in 733. At the other end, one may look at the rebellion of 878. This was in the area just north of Akita and was caused by misrule on the part of the local government. The response was not a military expedition, but the appointment of a known "good official", Fujiwara Yasunori, to temporarily take over Dewa province. He was able to calm things down and persuade the rebels to put down their arms without fighting. The "northeast wars" were over by this time.

The armies used were based on the regular military specified in the codes derived from conscription as part of the labor tax. That means that the soldiers were ordinary peasants, not specialist warriors. The Japanese aristocracy was still nominally a warrior aristocracy and everyone possessed armor and practiced with weapons. Rural aristocrats still had a genuine military role, but it was outside the codes for the most part. One of the regular guard units in the capital was manned by "toneri" as in early times and another used "kondei". These were traditional forces made up of young members of rural clans. However, this usage was intermittent; for quite a long time in the middle of the Nara period both the toneri and the kondei were suppressed. It would seem that the forces obtainable in this way were too small to make up a serious army.

The code set the basic military unit in the regular army as a regiment of 1000 men. According to the text of the Yoro code every household that had three eligible men (free and aged between 21 and 60) could be ordered to supply one for the army. One assumes that households with only one or two qualifying males were exempt, and that those with six could be asked for two men. Nowhere near that many men were actually taken (it would imply a total pool of 300,000 or 400,000 men based on approximately 1,250,000 free tax paying males). Normal military service lasted for 60 days in increments of 10 days with time off between and mostly took the form of military training at the provincial headquarters. The provincial governor was entitled to keep a force of about 20 men to guard the government storehouses and offices and keep watch on the roads to make sure that only people legally entitled to travel were passing through. The men assigned to this service were fed by their families and apparently also provided their own weapons and other gear. Throughout most of the Nara period 2000 or 3000 men were sent from the east to help guard Kyushu and about 1000 ordinary draftees were sent to the capital to serve as guards and police. In the Inland Sea area some of the local conscripts manned stations with signal fires so that news of a foreign invasion of Kyushu could reach the capital with maximum speed. There was also a network of post stations around the country where horses were provided for high speed messengers which were manned through conscription. Messages routinely passed back and forth between the capital and Dazaifu at very respectable speeds using these riders. This shows clearly in the detailed account given in Shoku Nihongi concerning communications back and forth at the time of Hirotsugu's rebellion (740).

There is not much information at all about the details of the operation of the military system in peacetime. It seems that a group of 2 to 4 districts would be responsible for 1 regiment. This suggests to me that a small province might have one regiment and a large one two, so that there might be as many as 40,000 men receiving training each year, but only if the training program was the size of a full regiment. It is possible that only a portion of each regiment trained in a normal year. We do know that the expeditions to the northeast normally consisted of between two and seven regiments. We also know that in the 9th century one regiment was routinely stationed in Mutsu. Nothing is known about the situation in the 8th century, but because the intensity of the conflicts varied a lot, it is likely that the size of the regular forces did also.

It is definite that during the Nara period the normal word for soldier, heishi, was used only for conscripts serving in regular regiments in their province. The units used for the expeditions were not regular regiments but were made up of detachments of soldiers from several regiments, presumably men with more than average military experience. When talking about the expedition armies the term "gunshi" was used exclusively. This should be translated as "expeditionary soldier."

The administrative code specified the organization of the staff of an expeditionary army. If the army had more than 10 thousand men a staff of 13 officers was specified, if the army was between 5 and 10 thousand there were 9 officers, and if the army was between 3 and 5 thousand there were 7. One commanding general could manage three armies on this scale. However, there are examples known where these relationships were not maintained. The code divided the officers into four ranks, just as a bureaucratic office had internally four ranks of officials, and this appears to have been consistently maintained.

The 709 Expedition and the Establishment of Dewa Province

I focus on this expedition because there is an unusually large amount of information about it.

Eight years after the enactment of the Taiho Code, the government undertook to project its authority into a new area for the first time. The target was what was then the northern part of Echigo province. In 702 there had been fighting with the Hayato people of southern Kyushu, but that was handled by Dazaifu and no special general was appointed. The Echigo expedition was not a response to anything done by Emishi, but was an outgrowth of the establishment of a new district called Dewa in Echigo province in the 9th month of 708. This area was the Shonai plain of the Mogami River and was inhabited by Emishi. It is assumed that the stockade at Dewa was constructed at this time, though it is first mentioned 7 years later. Several years later it was moved to a site at modern Akita, but its original location is unknown. In the Asuka period the settlement of Echigo province had reached only the area of Niigata. The province only had two districts before the establishment of Dewa. The intention was to move in a lot of new settlers from elsewhere, but the Emishi resisted, and it was decided to send in any army to establish control. It was ordered that troops be assembled from 7 provinces and three generals were appointed, headed by the Sadaiben (a member of the Dajokan) senior 4th rank lower grade Kose Ason Maro. The second in command was the vice-minister of the Monbusho but a member of a traditional military family, Saeki no Sukune Iwayu, and the third was a 5th rank man, Ki no Ason Morohito. Morohito's daughter was married to prince Osakabe and immediately after his return from the north Morohito became a grandfather. His grandson was to become Konin Tenno. In the 3rd month of 709 messengers went out to the designated provinces to raise troops. All of the provinces were in the east. The labor resources of the inner provinces were presently occupied by the construction of Nara.

The appointment of two senior generals was because there were to be two thrusts into the north, one into Echigo under the command of Kose and one on the Pacific Ocean side into Mutsu under Saeki. Clearly, this was not so much to suppress whatever petty resistance was being mustered in Dewa but to generally impress the Emishi with the futility of resisting at all. There were later occasions handled the same way, but this is the only one where the senior commander was on the Japan Sea side. All later invasions featured the Pacific Ocean side. It is theorized that the supporting force was intended to prevent the Emishi from reinforcing the other side of the island.

On the 13th day of the 7th month 100 boats from four Japan Sea coast provinces arrived at the Dewa stockade. There are no details about the fighting which took up the last two weeks of the 7th month and the first two weeks of the 8th month. By the 25th day of the 8th month both Kose and Ki were back in the Fujiwara capital and their appointments were terminated. In the 9th month all soldiers from 10 named provinces that had participated for at least 50 days were granted 1 year's exemption from labor tax. There is no information about casualties, nor about Mutsu. However, the expedition was deemed successful enough to permit the elevation of Dewa to the status of a province. This was done in 712, after the change of capitals from Fujiwara to Nara was completed. With the loss of Dewa Echigo was reduced to two districts, but it eventually expanded to 6 with a steady stream of settlers from elsewhere in Japan. Dewa became a barrier that enabled the development of Echigo to continue without further significant problems with Emishi. With the exception of the major Emishi rebellion of 720, the focus of the wars shifted from the Japan Sea side to the Pacific Ocean side. The reason is not hard to find. The northern part of Dewa province is largely uninhabited even today. The valley of the Mogami River is the only valuable part. Two inland districts were transferred from Mutsu province to make Dewa big enough pay a governor's salary. It should perhaps be noted that Dewa and Mutsu are modern contractions. The original names were Idewa and Michinooku.

The Emishi rebellion of 720

In 715 one thousand households of new settlers were brought into Mutsu from 6 provinces. That would be approximately 28,000 people if the households were typical, but for such a project they may not have been typical, excluding the usual extended family elements. They were settled in the Yamazaki plain, more or less due east of the Mogami plain on the other side of the island. In 719 the government appointed inspectors to visit all provinces and report on the state of affairs. In 720 word reached the capital that there had occurred an Emishi rebellion in Mutsu and that the inspector visiting Mutsu had been killed. The court responded by appointing a general to suppress the rebellion the day after this message was received.

The commander was senior 4th rank junior grade Tajii Agatamori, who was currently the inspector for Harima province and his assistant was junior 5th rank lower grade Shimotsukeno Iwashiro. There was also appointed a "pacification general" junior 5th rank upper grade Abe no Suruga. Tajii had previously carried a sword as ambassador to China, but had no known military experience. However, in 733 he wrote a military textbook. It took two months before it was possible to send out the orders to pull the expedition together, involving 9 provinces for men or supplies. By this time it was the 11th month. Tajii and Abe returned to the capital at the beginning of the 4th month of 722. There was a simultaneous rebellion of Hayato people in Kyushu and the victorious generals of the two expeditions were publicly rewarded the same day. Tajii brought with him many Emishi who had supported him, and early the next year the governor of Mutsu rewarded 52 other Emishi leaders who had supported the Japanese in the fighting.

The Hayato rebellion had actually started first, in the region that later became Satsuma province. It was not at this time organized as a province and was under the supervision of Osumi province to the east. At the start of the rebellion in early 720 the governor of Osumi was killed. Osumi itself had only become a province in 713. In 714 200 households of people from northern Kyushu were moved to Osumi to "educate" the Hayato. It looks like the two rebellions had similar causes. In Kyushu there was some hard fighting and when the generals returned they brought with them the heads of dead enemies and living captives totalling 1400. No breakdown is offered.

Political History

The political history of the Nara period naturally falls into three periods.

First is the period from the promulgation of the Kiyomihara Ryo in 689 through the abdication of Gensho in 724. During this period there were no major political upsets and the government was mainly devoted to attempting to make the new system work properly. There is not a lot of information about the personalities in government, and it is presumed by most that the earlier part of the period was dominated by Jito Tenno and the latter part by Fujiwara no Fuhito. The death of Fuhito in 720 does not seem to have caused a major problem and his son Fusasaki seems to have assumed the leading position in government without resistance.

The second period was dominated by more flamboyant personages, Shomu Tenno and his daughter Koken Tenno/Shotoku Tenno, and also Fujiwara no Nakamaro, alias Emi Oshikatsu, and the monk Dokyo. This was a time of significant political turmoil, and it is possible to argue that it had a powerful effect on future political history, as the practice of frequent resort to female rulers was abandoned after almost 200 years, not to reappear for another 900 years in a very different political environment.

The final period was dominated by Kammu Tenno. He had strong ideas and attempted to establish a structure for permanent rule by the imperial clan which did not, as it happens, survive him for very long. There were significant changes to the working of the central government and many attempts to deal with problems in the provinces during his time.

Because Nihon Shoki and Shoku Nihongi provide very little information about political incidents, the first period has really been covered already in the section on the workings of the new administrative system. There seems to be little doubt that the main problem faced by the government throughout was the constant recurrence of problems resulting from poor harvests and epidemics of disease, which were not unrelated because any time a large percentage of the population was sick, work in the fields suffered. On the whole they managed it successfully to the extent that in good years the grain taken in by the taxation system was sufficient in quantity to provide a reserve for the bad years, when there were normally remissions of taxes.

Another constant throughout the entire period was that relations with the Korean kingdom of Silla were bad and war was threatened on several occasions, though nothing ever happened. Nowhere do the sources explain exactly what the issues might have been. It is expressed in Shoku Nihongi in terms of diplomatic slights by Silla, not offering enough respect to Japan. There seems to have been a contest between the two to try to get T'ang dynasty China to recognize one of them as the "ruler" over the other, without success. The Chinese clearly did not want to get involved in anything, having their hands full with Turks. Late in the period Japan entered into direct diplomatic relations with the Manchurian kingdom of Po-hai, which claimed to be a successor state of Koguryo, and which controlled much of what is today North Korea, so that it could communicate directly with Japan by ship across the Japan Sea. This was natural as both were hostile to Silla. Ancient Korea is a particularly thorny topic because of the non-existence of good information about it, but it does appear that Silla was different from Paekche and Koguryo culturally, religiously, and probably linguistically, which meant that there was less sympathy between Korea and Japan than if one of the other kingdoms had accomplished the unification.

This general pattern of dislike has persisted down to the present day, even though periods when one side was actively annoying the other were few and far apart. The "Mongol Invasion" of Japan of the 13th century was largely actually a Korean invasion, then Japan invaded Korea in the 1590s and dominated it between 1905 and 1945. This doesn't even come close to the constant irritations imposed on each other by the French and the English over the centuries. In the Nara period it is notable that there continue to be frequent mentions of migration of Koreans into Japan, presumably persons from former Paekche and Koguryo territories who were unhappy with rule by Silla. It is easy to imagine that the government of Silla may not have been pleased about the constant leakage of taxpayers. We don't know enough about ancient Silla to know whether there were unhappy Japanese going the other way. We do know that there was a law against Japanese leaving the country except for diplomatic missions (which remained on the books for centuries, and led to an interesting court case in the Heian period we will come to later).

Shomu Tenno

Emperor Shomu

Shomu Tenno assumed the throne in 724 and ruled until his abdication in favor of his daughter in the 7th month of 749. He lived for another 7 years until 756. So far as Shoku Nihongi tells us, he was not associated with any specific approach to the problems of governance, nor is there any indication that he took much interest in the topic. He definitely does seem to have been interested in court ceremonial and he frequently appeared in public ceremonies before an audience of commoners. Earlier rulers functioned mostly in seclusion and ceremonies were observed only by nobles. Even when the ruler was present at a ceremony, he was often invisible behind a screen. There can be no doubt whatever of his strong interest in Buddhism and his devotion to its spread among the Japanese population. He was responsible for the very expensive "Kokubunji" project that sought to establish a monastery and a nunnery in every province, and the even more expensive project to construct an enormous temple at Nara, Todaiji, and provide it with a colossal bronze Buddha statue, one of the wonders of the ancient world and still very impressive in its modern incarnation. Then, there is also the vital importance of the Shosoin treasury, established on his death to preserve a selection of his personal possessions, including, more or less by accident, many thousands of original government documents of his reign.

Shomu Tenno was on the throne during the great smallpox epidemic of 737/738 and there is evidence that he accepted the Chinese theory that disasters of that sort were a reflection upon the moral worthiness of the ruler. This was clearly a major factor in his efforts to promote Buddhism. The main government response to the problem was a pragmatic one; it dispatched medicines and sent provincial officials copies of Chinese medical writings, some of which are quoted in Shoku Nihongi and were quite sensible. For a long time there had been a system called suiko for loans of seed rice to farmers. There were two types, public loans from unused tax revenues that were paid back with 50% interest and private loans using wealthy families unused funds that were paid back at 100%. At some point the loans became compulsory and the interest became a regular part of the revenue. In 737 Tachibana no Moroe’s government outlawed privately funded loans on the grounds that they were oppressive to the people, and in 738 the provincial governors were specifically forbidden to make loans to farmers out of their personal funds. Also, the conscription of men for military service was temporarily halted, to be resumed only early in 740 for normal conscripts. There had been two special categories of conscripts, "toneri" who were upper class warriors from eastern provinces with a special connection to the imperial clan, and "kondei" who were sons and other relatives of men of the district magistrate class. The recruitment of toneri did not resume until 746 and that of kondei only in 762. In addition to these practical responses to the crisis, Shomu organized a series of large scale Buddhist ceremonial responses as well.

The epidemic inevitably had a powerful effect on politics in the capital as a large number of high ranking nobles died, including all four of the sons of Fujiwara no Fuhito. One member of the next Fujiwara generation, Toyonari, was immediately promoted to the Sangi, but Tachibana no Moroe received the highest rank. Three men from minor clans were made Sangi, something that had never happened before and would never happen again. Fujiwara Hirotsugu was another grandson of Fuhito who, it seems, had been promoted to 5th rank in 737 on the death of his father, Umakai, and in 738 was made governor of Yamato province, a high prestige job. However, when the new Sangi was put together he was left out and instead transferred to a position at Dazaifu in Kyushu. At the beginning of 740 he sent in a memorial blaming the government for everything that had gone wrong, and claiming that it was necessary to remove two specific persons from positions of influence if the catastrophes were to come to an end.

The two attacked by Hirotsugu were comparatively low ranking men who had become influential when they returned after many years in China. One was a priest named Genbo, who had been sent to China in 717 and remained there for 18 years. When he returned he brought with him 5000 rolls of books which led to the establishment of several new sects of Buddhism in Japan. In 737, at the height of the smallpox epidemic, he became the head of Shomu Tenno's personal chapel in the imperial palace. The second man was a provincial noble from the Kibi region named Shimotsumichi no Kibi no Masabi. He was a companion of Genbo in China and returned at the same time. He was promoted to high rank (for his class) and made assistant director of the imperial academy, responsible for the education of young noblemen. By 740 he had very elevated rank for a person from a provincial clan and was working in the imperial palace where he was on intimate terms with the emperor.

Hirotsugu's rebellion didn't amount to much as the army he raised refused to fight for him when a powerful imperial army arrived and was wrapped up in the 1st month of 741. 26 persons were sentenced to death, 5 were sentenced to slavery, 47 were sentenced to exile, and 209 to lesser punishments. All of Hirotsugu’s brothers were included among the exiles.

In the 10th month of 740 the emperor along with his mother and his empress and all of the senior officials left the capital along with 4,000 troops commanded by Fujiwara no Nakamaro, and over the next two months proceeded to tour four provinces east of the capital before winding up at a palace in a place known as Kuni in Yamashiro province. About 10 days before the arrival the senior minister, Tachibana no Moroe, had left the main party and hurried to the final destination to supervise arrangements for the party’s arrival. The palace had previously been visited by the emperor’s mother (empress Gensho) and empress Gemmei on excursions of their own. The location is at the southern end of Yamashiro very close to Nara (probably 2 train stops today). Modern scholars have theorized that this was to get the emperor out of the capital just in case there was any follow up to Hirotsugu’s rebellion on the part of other descendants of Fujiwara no Fuhito. They stayed there through the punishment of the rebels. Immediately afterwards emissaries were sent to all major shrines to report the intention to move the capital. Throughout 741 a series of steps were taken to execute the transfer of the capital from Nara to the new location.

5500 workers were conscripted to work on the new palace and city. The site presented problems that Nara did not. There was a small mountain in the middle of it and a river running through it. Building bridges over the river turned into a major project. Transfer of all government functions had not yet been completed when in the 8th month of 742 Shomu picked a new location 30 kilometers to the northeast at Shigaraki in Omi province. He moved there immediately. The official transfer was not proclaimed for some time, so the Kuni palace, as it came to be called, was officially the capital for 3 years and 2 months.

The decision to order the construction of the kokubunji was made during the Kuni period. The decision to construct the Great Buddha at Todaiji was made during the Shigaraki period.

In the first month of 744 Shomu announced that he was moving to Naniwa. Naniwa had been the site of imperial palaces from time to time for more than 300 years. Then, a few weeks later, Shomu assembled all of the officials in the Kuni palace and asked them to vote on whether the capital should be at Kuni or at Naniwa. Among the officials of 5th rank and above 23 voted for each place. Among the officials of 6th rank and below 157 voted for Kuni and 130 for Naniwa. Hardly a landslide result. Three days later officials went to the market in Kuni and polled the people there. All but 2 voted for Kuni. One person voted for Naniwa and one, thinking outside the box, voted for Nara.

The emperor thought about it for a week and moved to Naniwa. In the second month the edict came ordering everyone to move. While traveling with his father to Naniwa Prince Asaka fell ill and died at the age of 17. Before the end of the month the emperor was back at Shigaraki. Empress Gensho and the senior minister Tachibana no Moroe did not go. They stayed in Naniwa. Two days later Tachibana no Moroe published an imperial edict saying that although the Emperor was going to be in Naniwa, the common people could freely choose whether they wanted to reside in Naniwa, Kuni, or Nara. In the summer of 745 serious forest fires broke out in the area of the Shigaraki palace, and the emperor evacuated. He held another meeting of officials to decide what to do and this time they were unanimous: go back to Nara. The emperor agreed and immediately returned to the palace there.

Moving the palace was expensive. Shoku Nihongi reports financial problems for the government for 734. When the decision was made to return to Nara the palace had to be cleaned, and the monks of the area and also farmers from nearby villages were drafted for the work. The official in charge dismissed the farmers immediately on the ground that it was a busy time of the year in farming. There were complaints among the nobles that the government was not handling things well. There were two young nobles who began to become prominent about this time. One was Tachibana no Naramaro, son of Moroe, who made no secret about his dissatisfaction with the way things were going. The other was Fujiwara no Nakamaro, who was more discreet.

Only three months after returning to Nara the emperor left again and went to Naniwa. While there he fell seriously ill. He summoned all living descendants of Tenchi or Temmu to Naniwa. There is no evidence as to exactly why, however one topic has to have been the succession to the throne. The senior member of the Tenchi lineage was Prince Shirakabe (future Konin Tenno). He was then 38, held comparatively low rank, junior 4th rank lower grade, and is said to have been a serious drinker with little interest in government. Shomu had 7 years previously established Princess Ae, daughter of empress Komyo, as the official successor. Never before had a princess received such designation. The previous two reigning Empresses had clearly been placeholders. This was very different. Nothing happened at this point because the emperor recovered and returned to Nara. However, he abdicated in favor of Princes Ae, Koken Tenno, three years later on the occasion of the auspicious discovery of gold in Mutsu province.

At the beginning of 741 the Fujiwara family offered to return to the court the office lands amounting to 5000 households that had been assigned to Fujiwara no Fuhito. This was immediately after Hirotsugu’s rebellion and was presumably a sort of apology. 2000 households were given back to Fuhito’s estate but 3000 households were retained by the government. At the request of former empress Komyo (Fuhito’s daughter), it is said, this revenue was assigned to support the construction of kokubunji temples. This project was announced one month later. It was presented as a pious act intended to help protect the nation from a repetition of the recent disasters. Up to now formal Buddhism had been pretty much limited to the immediate vicinity of the capital (and Dazaifu). No serious effort had been made to convert the common people or even the rural nobility. The kokubunji project called for the construction and subsequent support of two temples, one a monastery and one a nunnery, located at the provincial capital of every province. Archeological evidence has been found for quite a number of them, and some were the starting point for temples that survive today. This was actually the culmination of a process that started in 737 when an edict called for sending one 6 foot Buddha image to every province, to be placed in a suitable Shinto Shrine. Then in 740 it was provided for the construction of a seven story pagoda in each location.

Building a temple was a big project and it required specialized craftsmen who were not likely to be found out in the countryside. There were at the time 62 provinces, so the revenue donated by the Fujiwara amounted to 50 households per province. This was to be used for construction. Each of the two temples was to be assigned 10 cho (24.5 acres) of rice land for its ongoing support and the monastery temples were to have 20 monks and the nunnery temples 10 nuns each. There were definitely problems executing all of this. In 744 the government cut the primary grain tax quota for each province in half, ordering that the other half be used to forward the construction of the temples. In 747 it noted that many of the temples had not yet been completed and that this was causing natural disasters to continue. It increased the endowment for the monasteries to 220 acres and the nunneries to 100 acres, and urged provincial governors and district magistrates to press the construction. The district magistrates were offered rewards for finishing up within three years. Despite these problems it seems that by the end of the 8th century the project was generally complete. Recent studies indicate that all were constructed to the same plan, a miniature version of the plan used for Todaiji in Nara.

The government of Shomu Tenno also undertook the colossal project of the construction of the Great Buddha hall and statue at Todaiji. The emperor later reported that he made a vow to accomplish this in 740. It is theorized that the idea came from the spread of the Kegon sect of Buddhism at this time. Its scriptures are noted for utilizing very large numbers ("billions and billions" like Carl Sagan) in descriptions intended to inspire awe. The image was intended to represent Vairocana, heretofore unknown in Japan. The construction office was established in 743, and work began one year later on the framework for the statue. The site chosen was the kokubunji temple for Yamato province, just outside the city, which was remodeled for the purpose. According to Todaiji’s own history, ground was broken by the emperor personally in 745. The man in overall charge of the statue portion of the project was Kuni no Kimimaro, a member of a family that came to Japan from Paekche in 663. There can be little doubt that a large proportion of the technical specialists on the project would have been of Korean origin. However, Kimimaro’s three chief assistants all had names indicating descent from the minor nobility of Yamato province. Two were from a family that had been rewarded for fighting for emperor Temmu in the Jinshin War, and the third was from a family that had a Manyoshu poet. According to Todaiji, 51,590 men worked on the statue, supported by 1,665,071 laborers, and 372,075 men worked on the buildings, supported by 514,902 laborers. The labor forces were managed by 10 members of the local aristocracy. The most intense part of the project ran from 747 to 753. One assumes that the numbers are "man days" of labor, not of individual workers.

In 749 news reached the capital that quantities of gold had been discovered in Mutsu province in the northeast. Up to then there had not been enough gold in the country to gild the statue according to Shomu’s desires. This event was treated as a miracle, and a few weeks later the emperor assembled all of the officials at the construction site to announce the news.

Koken Tenno

Empress Koken

Retired emperor Shomu included in his will that after Koken Tenno prince Funado should reign. Funado was the son of prince Nitabe and a descendant of emperor Temmu. When Shomu Tenno (756) died the palace guards were put on alert and barriers on the main roads were closed. This appears to have been routine at the death of a ruler. However, two days later two men were arrested on charges of “slandering the court”. They were questioned, but after three days were released and permitted to go home. One of them was married to a sister of empress Komyo. Shoku Nihongi says that he had committed no slander but was falsely accused by Fujiwara no Nakamaro.

In 757 Tachibana no Moroe died at the age of 74. He had resigned his office a few months previously, perhaps ordered to do so. Two years previously one of his secretaries had been suddenly executed. It was said that Moroe got drunk and said slanderous things about the court at that time. A bit later it was discovered that during the mourning period for Shomu Tenno, Prince Funado had been dallying with girls and gossiping about court secrets. Empress Koken then revealed Shomu’s will to the courtiers saying “maybe we should be a little careful”. The Sangi, now led by Fujiwara Toyonari, decided to leave the will in force. However the Empress the same day demoted Funado from "Near Prince" (the group eligible for the succession) to ordinary prince and cancelled permission for him to live in the palace. He left to go to his own house in the city. Five days later he was dismissed as crown prince. Five days after that the Empress convened the Sangi to discuss the succession. The two senior ministers Fujiwara Toyonari and Fujiwara Nagate recommended prince Funado’s younger brother prince Shioyaki. Two other officials, Fumuya no Chinu and Otomo no Komaro recommended prince Ikeda, son of prince Toneri and also a grandson of Temmu. Only Fujiwara no Nakamaro declined to offer advice, deferring to the empress. Koken Tenno rejected both Shioyaki and Ikeda as unsuitable and nominated a brother of Ikeda, prince Oi, later Junnin Tenno. The Sangi agreed. Shoku Nihongi says that previously Fujiwara no Nakamaro had moved Prince Oi into his own mansion. Prince Oi was 25 at this time. His mother was said to have been Tajima Yamashiro, a family whose “kabane” name Mahito indicates that it was considered an offshoot of the imperial clan.

An extraordinary fuss was made over the nomination of Prince Oi. There was a general amnesty for convicted criminals, there were remissions of taxes for select groups, bonuses on salaries for others, and permanent tax cuts by shifting special (lower) tax rates for men aged 17 through 21 to apply to ages 18 through 22 instead.

Shortly afterwards the empress temporarily moved into the mansion of Fujiwara no Nakamaro so that the imperial palace could be remodeled. It was at this time that the text of the Yoro revision of the Taiho administrative code that Fujiwara Fuhito had been working on at the time of his death was discovered. As discussed previously this is the only version of the code that survives (in part) today.

In the same year there was a general round of promotions for the senior officials, including princes Shioyaki, Ikeda, Funado, and Shirakabe. Fujiwara Nakamaro was appointed to a new office called Shibi Naisho. This renamed and elevated the status of the office that ran the palace of the empress, placing it on the same level as Dajodaijin, heretofore the highest office of all. This was done on the first anniversary of the death of Shomu.

On the 6th month 9th day of 757 there was published an edict that forbade clan chiefs from overseeing public affairs or gathering clan members for meetings, and it also forbade families to accumulate horses and military weaponry or keep more than 20 armed guards at their mansions. On the 19th day there was a major shakeup within the government, especially affecting the offices with military functions. The minister of war, Tachibana Naramaro, was shifted to a civilian job and replaced by a close associate of Fujiwara Nakamaro, Ishikawa Toshitari, and two generals were appointed, something usually only done when actual military action was expected.

A very considerable amount of information exists about what happened next. On the 28th day prince Yamashiro (a son of Nagaya) came to the temporary palace and met secretly with the empress and Nakamaro. He claimed that Tachibana Naramaro had gathered troops and was planning to attack the palace. On the 7th month 2nd day the empress publicly announced that she had heard that dissident members of the nobility were planning a coup. She promised an investigation of the rumors. Then she gathered the senior officials and told them that she was counting on them to continue their long tradition of loyalty to the throne.

That evening a member of one of the guards units came to Nakamaro and claimed that that afternoon he had been approached by Ono no Azumabito (the commander of the force that handled Hirotsugu's Rebellion) to join a plot to assassinate the crown prince and Nakamaro. The leaders were said to be prince Kibumi, prince Asuka, Tachibana Naramaro, and Otomo Komaro. The next day Nakamaro stood beside the empress in the palace and read a statement she had written. It said that there was evidence that prince Shioyaki and the four named above planned to commit treason. She could not imagine why her near relatives would hate her. Had she not appointed them all to high office? They were not going to be punished. She urged them to reconsider their ways. They immediately left the palace, and outside the gate, bowed and apologized. This method where a leading official reads the edict of the emperor was routine, by the way, and had nothing to do with the fact that Koken was a woman.

The next day interrogations began, with the senior minister Fujiwara Toyonari in charge. Ono Azumabito confessed. He said that the plotters had held three meetings during the 6th month. He named a number of people and said there were others whom he never saw. The attack was supposed to be that very day. Nakamaro was to be killed, the crown prince deposed, and the empress also. Afterward a new emperor would be chosen from among princes Shioyaki, Funado, Asuka, and Kibumi. All of the named persons were arrested and interrogated in turn. Shoku Nihongi quotes prince Asuka’s confession and Tachibana Naramaro’s interrogation in question and answer format. Naramaro was asked why he rebelled and said it was because of bad government. What was bad about the government? The colossal expense of the Todaiji project had ruined the common people.

Another of the plotters said that Naramaro had spoken to him as early as 745, when emperor Shomu was ill at Naniwa, complaining of the ruinous government under Shomu, and said that many people agreed with him. He said he had similar discussions with Naramaro in 749 and 750 also.

Ten days after the incident the empress held an audience with an unusually large number of officials, including many local officials from the region who were brought in. Her statement which was read out said that the law requires that the traitors be executed. However, out of benevolence she was reducing the seriousness of the charges by one degree. Their names and ranks were to be changed and they were to be exiled. That was actually a lie.

Their “kabane” titles were certainly changed, essentially stripping them of aristocratic status. However, a number of them were then executed. Shoku Nihongi names six men including prince Kibumi, prince Funado, and Ono Azumabito, but not Tachibana Naramaro or several others prominently named. This has led some to conclude that those men were actually exiled, but none were ever heard of again. A granddaughter of Naramaro later married emperor Saga, so his name must have been restored then or earlier. There is an official statement dated 770 that a total of 443 persons were executed or exiled as a result of this incident. One of the confessions said that 300 soldiers were to be used. They would seem to be included in this total.

Fujiwara Ototada, third son of minister of the right Fujiwara Toyonari, was judged to have been involved and sent to Himuka province in Kyushu. Toyonari himself was judged to be unreliable and appointed to an “ingai” position at Dazaifu. This meant that it was outside of the official table of organization and received no salary, but required him to travel to Kyushu.

What are we to make of Naramaro’s complaints? There are no documents to show whether the nation’s finances were or were not ruined at the time, or whether the common people were particularly badly off. All of the surviving financial documents date to earlier in the period. There is a book written by Miyoshi Kiyoyuki about 160 or 170 years later. Miyoshi says that the enormous spread of the influence of Buddhism at that time did cause considerable strain. In particular the campaign to construct the kokubunji temples sucked up 50 percent of the national wealth.

A land distribution took place in 740 and three years later the government decreed henceforth the lands assigned to officials as part of their salaries were to be privately owned. We have seen that the Fujiwara family had retained the lands that had been assigned to Fuhito, and since office holding was essentially hereditary, baring political disaster a family was going to remain at roughly the same rank all the time, so it perhaps made sense to make this change. This would have been of particularly great benefit to the district officials it is thought. Once you can legally own land, many possibilities are opened. This is the starting point for privately owned shoen.

In 744 it was decreed that the profits from suiko (crop loans) were to firstly go to make up any deficit in the local provincial budget, then to make up any deficit in the taxes forwarded to the central government, and then anything left over went to the governor. The rice available for suiko loans came from surplus tax revenue over the quota the province owed the central government, and a governor who used it aggressively could make quite a profit out of it. Some studies have indicated that the total amount that was available to divide among all of the officers of the province (there was a rule about how to split it up) was about equal to the annual tax quota. Some scholars believe that already about 50% of the total revenue was allocated to local officials, and that the era is already starting where appointment to provincial office became a form of property unrelated to any work done.

Up to now the laws had been coming thick and fast, but for the 8 year period from the abdication of Shomu Tenno to the destruction of Tachibana Naramaro there was nothing at all. Fujiwara no Nakamaro had been born in the Fujiwara capital in 706, and so was 5 when Nara was occupied. From an early age he was noted for intelligence and also physical vigor. As was typical at the time, his youth was spent at the house of his maternal grandfather Ae no Sukunamaro. At the age of 15 he became a page in the palace, as his father had before him. His first office was in the university. This was at the time of the death of prince Nagaya and the establishment of his aunt as empress. At the age of 29 he was elevated to 5th rank, making him a member of the higher aristocracy. His older brother Toyotsugu had reached this rank at the age of 21. He passed through the smallpox epidemic without catching the disease. He was probably living in a house of his own by this time, not with his father. When Shomu Tenno evacuated the capital at the time of Hirotsugu’s rebellion, Nakamaro held the rank of general and commanded his armed escort. He was promoted to 4th rank and elevated to the Sangi as minister of the Monbusho at the age of 38. The law permitting private ownership of konden was issued by his ministry 20 days later. He was also minister at the time of the law regulating the disposition of profits from suiko loans. It is not known what kind of relationship he had with his cousin, 12 years younger, who became empress Koken. He was promoted to 3rd rank and minister of justice the day of her enthronement. He was now the third ranking member of the government after Tachibana no Moroe and Fujiwara Toyonari, his older brother. He concurrently held the post of commander of the palace guards.

We have already seen that Nakamaro played a conspicuous part in overcoming the conspirators led by Naramaro. His office as head of the empress’ palace staff meant that he was her spokesman at all public gatherings, standing at her side, reading her instructions aloud to the assembled officials. One month after the incident, the era name was changed, the main crop tax was cut in half, and the interest on suiko loans was forgiven. At the beginning of the next year officers were dispatched to tour the provinces and collect the grievances of the common people. Later in the year, as the result of these inquiries, the tax brackets were adjusted with adults defined as ages 22 to 59 and elders as age 60 and higher. In 759 all officials of the 5th rank and higher plus all monks of ranks that could be considered equivalent were solicited for opinions on what could be done to reform the government. The results were published a month and a half later.

Ishikawa Toshinari, 3rd rank, said that “the procedures needed to properly carry out the administrative laws have not been fully worked out. Additional procedures should be prepared.”

Fumuya no Chinu, 3rd rank, said that “every year during the first month there is a festival carried out at all temples from the 8th day to the 14th day when meals are served to the monks at government expense. Monks who happen not to be at the temple are given cloth worth 7 days meals in compensation. There are those who collect this from more than one temple. This distribution of cloth should be stopped.”

Prince Shioyaki, 3rd rank, said that “princes 3 and more generations removed from an emperor receive their stipends twice a year, in spring and autumn. The same as with officials and their salaries, on the day of payment it is necessary to present proof that the person is actually eligible for the payment. Since the stipends of the imperial family are a permanent entitlement, these examinations should be stopped.”

Yamada Komaro, 6th rank said that “commoners who have a large number of children to raise find it very difficult to pay their taxes. Fathers who have 5 or more children should be exempted from the labor tax.”

A monk who had been in China said that the roads should be lined with trees to protect travellers. Nakamaro actually did order the planting of trees along the main roads.

Junnin Tenno

In 758 empress Koken abdicated and prince Oi became emperor (Junnin Tenno). The emperor then awarded Nakamaro a new name, Emi Oshikatsu. Back in the 7th century Nakatomi Kamatari who had played a vital part in establishing the regime was granted a new name, Fujiwara, at the time of his death. This established his descendants as a new clan, entirely separated from the Nakatomi clan. Now his great-grandson Nakamaro was given the same privilege. He was granted the tax revenue of 3000 households and 245 acres of office land plus other entitlements. At the same time the names of most government offices were revised to match the names used by the T’ang dynasty. Nakamaro received the title Taiho, formerly minister of the right. He was then promoted at two year intervals. In 760 he was raised to junior 1st rank and Taishi, equivalent of Dajodaijin. This title had heretofore only been held by princes, and that rarely. In 762 he was made senior 1st rank. He couldn't be promoted any higher, but now his sons were given high rank. At the start of 762 his son Masaki was elevated to Sangi grade, and at the end of the year Kusamaro and Asakari were also given rank and office. The fourth son Masako was given rank but no office. All of this was without precedent.

However, it seems that 760 marked his high point and then things started to go wrong for him. It began with the death of Komyo in that year. She had always been a powerful ally. It seems that after the death of her mother, former empress Koken began to turn against Nakamaro. It was at this time that she began to become intimate with the monk Dokyo. In that year Nakamaro began the construction of a new capital at Lake Biwa and in the winter of 761 it was named Hokukyo (northern capital) and Koken and Junnin were moved there with a view to reconstructing the Nara palace. Koken became ill during this move, which was the event that brought her into contact with Dokyo. Nakamaro sent her a letter complaining about this through Junnin and Koken reacted angrily. In the summer of 762 she left the northern palace on her own initiative and returned to Nara, where she moved into a temple. Junnin soon also returned, going to the palace. In the 6th month Koken assembled all high level officials at the palace and announced “Although a woman, because there was no other successor I served as emperor. Since I resigned that office in favor of the current emperor, he has not been respectful, and has said things that ought not to have been said and done things that ought not to have been done. Since these are not things I should be forced to bear, I have taken up residence in a separate palace. From now on the present emperor is to be limited to ceremonial matters and small things, but I will handle all important matters and judgments.”

The government had a lot of problems at this time. There was still much military activity in the northeast, and in 759 orders had been sent to Dazaifu to begin planning for an invasion of Korea (this seems to have been Nakamaro's project). Relations with the kingdom of Silla had been bad essentially since it unified the peninsula, destroying Japan’s ancient ally Paekche in the process. It is thought that this project was the result of the widespread rebellions that were then raging in China. It was either thought that Korea should be conquered to provide a buffer against danger, or just because the weakness of China meant that Silla would receive no assistance. There is no evidence as to just what the government was thinking. They had clearly been thinking about it for some time because they had been promoting the study of the Korean language for some years. In 761 preparations began to send 394 ships, 17,360 sailors, and 40,700 soldiers.

Nothing much seemed to happen until 764. In that year two of Nakamaro’s close allies died, Ishikawa Toshitari and Fujiwara Nomitate. Nakamaro responded by placing a number of his supporters in key positions, including putting his 6th son in charge of one of the palace guard units, and making his 7th son governor of Echizen province and his 8th son governor of Mino province. In the 9th month emperor Junnin appointed Nakamaro to a post giving him military authority in 10 provinces around the capital. His specific mission was to gather 20 men from each of the 10 provinces and assemble them at Nakamaro’s mansion within 5 days. Nakamaro informed Takaoka Hiramaro, a secretary of the cabinet, and he in turn rushed off to tell the retired empress. She immediately instructed prince Yamamura to go to the quarters of Junnin in the palace and arrest him, and replace all of the guards in the area. The assumption, not spelled out clearly, is that Junnin Tenno and Nakamaro were planning to stage a coup that would remove the retired empress from power. When Nakamaro heard of the arrest of Junnin Tenno he ordered his son Kusumaro to attack prince Yamamura, but Kusumaro was defeated and killed. Meanwhile Nakamaro’s mansion came under attack by Ki no Funamori, an old enemy. One of Nakamaro’s men charged out wearing armor and on horseback to fight these forces, but was shot down by arrows. After this Nakamaro escaped his mansion and fled into Omi via Uji.

The empress rallied substantial forces from guards troops and also from Korean descended families that had served the imperial clan for many generations. The other branches of the Fujiwara clan also rallied around and provided forces of their own. These troops fanned out over the eastern districts looking for Nakamaro. Some also went to Echizen and attacked the governor, Nakamaro’s son. Eventually Nakamaro was cornered at Lake Biwa, and there was a fierce fight which he lost. He was captured and immediately executed. Some 30 or 40 other persons were also cut down on the battlefield. This was 10 days after he began to raise troops for Junnin and 8 days after the empress began taking action against him. Immediately afterward the empress’s friend Dokyo was raised in rank.

Shotoku Tenno

The empress resumed the throne. She was assigned a second reign title, Shotoku Tenno, following the precedent of Kogyoku Tenno and Saimei Tenno. These reign titles were all invented later, during the Heian period, in imitation of the Chinese practice. They were not used during the Nara period. Junnin Tenno did not abdicate, he was deposed, for the first time in history. He was then exiled. He died one year later at the age of 33, and it is widely thought this may have been as assassination. Shotoku Tenno ruled for 7 years relying heavily on Dokyo and taking a strongly Buddhist point of view on all issues. In the Heian period it was widely believed that Dokyo was a descendant of emperor Tenchi via prince Shiki. However, there is no basis for that. He came from a family called Yuke in Kawachi province. The Yuke name means bow-maker and they were connected with the Mononobe clan, the traditional providers of military equipment back in the barbarian period. When Temmu Tenno reformed the kabane names the Yuke were assigned sukune, a low ranking title. They lived in what is now part of Osaka and appear to have been involved in a military unit connected to prince Shiki. Dokyo's age is not known. However, he studied with a monk named Gien who died in 718. Nothing to speak of is known about his career before he came into the palace and became trusted by the empress. Bringing a monk in to pray over a sick person was routine practice, so it is easy to explain how he made his initial contact with her.

In 765 the empress and Dokyo took a trip to a scenic spot and on their way back to the capital stopped at Yuke in Kawachi, Dokyo's ancestral home. There, in the local temple, she promoted him to the office of Dajodaijin. The next year Dokyo was granted a new title Hoo where the final “o” is the Chinese word for king, used to write the Japanese prince, and the first element "Ho" means law, which in a Buddhist context means "doctrine", so that Hoo was a name better suited to a monk as an equivalent for Dajodaijin. In the same year two other monks close to Dokyo were raised to the Sangi. This was all very strange, of course, and the court was also unsettled by the fact that Shotoku had no successor. Junnin was dead. His brothers prince Funado and prince Ikeda were exiled. Junnin had a son, prince Wake, who had been hung (or strangled, the words are the same). It is said that at first he was to be exiled, but minds were changed and he was killed while en route to his destination.

What was different about the regime of Shotoku Tenno and Dokyo? It is hard to say. The total number of new people who were brought in was very small. The same nobles as always, Fujiwaras conspicuous among them, ran most of the government as always. Dokyo and his allies took positions at the top of the hierarchy. There was little additional movement of new people below, except that 14 members of Dokyo’s family were given jobs. There is no indication that either Shotoku Tenno or Dokyo had much interest in the daily business of government. Their main accomplishment was the construction of a new temple, Saidaiji, "Western Great Temple", to match Todaiji, "Eastern Great Temple" constructed by Shomu Tenno. To my mind the odd thing is that there was no sign of any opposition to Dokyo among the nobles. It shows, as had several oddities earlier, such as the behavior of Shomu, that there was an enormous amount of respect for the emperor, no matter how odd the emperor might turn out to be. An outsider like Nakamaro seems not to have had a chance in a real showdown with a ruling member of the imperial clan.

However, things continued to become more bizarre. In 769 it was reported that an oracle had been heard at the Usa Hachiman shrine in Kyushu saying that “if Dokyo were to be emperor, the world would be at peace”. The Usa shrine was the headquarters shrine for all the Hachiman shrines all over Japan. Oracular messages were not unexpected. When Shomu wanted encouragement that his project to build the Great Buddha statue could succeed, he asked for one. However, whatever this may or may not have been intended to evolve into, the empress became ill in early 770 and died in the 8th month at the age of 53. Dokyo immediately lost all power. It is noteworthy that no one thought it necessary to execute him or accuse him of crimes. He was appointed as abbot of a temple in eastern Japan. His power was merely a reflection of the wishes of the empress. The same had also been true of Nakamaro. He had no power of his own, but flourished when supported by Koken and Junnin, and then crashed when support was removed. He was only unique for his gluttony for extravagant titles.

Konin Tenno

When Shotoku Tenno died a conference of leading officials was called to choose a successor. Dokyo was not invited. There was no obvious candidate. The udajin, Kibi no Makibi, proposed selection of either Funya no Kiyomi or his younger brother Funya no Ochi. They were grandsons of emperor Temmu but had earlier been officially removed from the imperial clan and assigned to the new clan of Funya. Fujiwara Nagate, the sadaijin, supported by his cousins Fujiwara Yoshitsugu and Fujiwara Momokawa opposed this and suggested instead prince Shirakabe, a grandson of Tenchi Tenno. Shirakabe was a member of the Sangi, but had had a rather quiet career up to this point. Shirakabe was selected and is known as Konin Tenno. His son prince Osabe was immediately designated successor, and Dokyo was now removed to a remote province and Kibi Makibi was forced to retire. The new emperor was 62 years of age. The circumstances are not explained very well in Shoku Nihongi, but Konin Tenno's wife, who was a daughter of Shomu Tenno, appears to have been distressed by the amount of power held by Fujiwara Nagate and approached Fujiwara Momokawa to see whether he could be removed. Momokawa immediately reported this and Konin Tenno was enraged. The empress and prince Osabe were not tried, but were imprisoned at a rural location. After three years they both died on the same day, which is not likely to have been a coincidence, and immediately after another son, prince Yamabe, was made the official successor. Yamabe was an active member of the government already at the age of 37 and was minister of the department that managed the imperial palace. In the same year, 773, the government conducted a land redistribution.

The most notable event of the reign of Konin Tenno came near the end, in 880. An edict was issued that aimed at reducing the cost of the government considerably in order to relieve the burdens on the common people. Several offices outside of the official code that had been added over the years were abolished, and some regular offices were consolidated into a smaller number. Conscription for regular military service was abolished. To judge from the way that Hirotsugu's rebellion and the fighting that accompanied the fall of Fujiwara Nakamaro were handled, regular military forces had not been a serious factor for some time. There were supposed to be organized bodies of men available to the governor of each province, but there are a number of references that show that when forces were needed at the time of the overthrow of Fujiwara Nakamaro/Emi Oshikatsu, officials simply went out into the fields outside Nara and rounded up farmers and handed them weapons. Afterward these men made claims for compensation in the form of reduced tax liabilities, which were granted.

Kammu Tenno

Early in 781 Konin Tenno abdicated because of poor health and prince Yamabe ascended the throne. The retired emperor died at the end of the year. Early in 782 an armed man attempted to break into the palace, but was arrested. He supposedly claimed to have been operating on behalf of a son of prince Shioyaki. Kammu Tenno responded to this by a major purge of officials. Among the losers was Fujiwara Uona and his immediate relatives. This had the effect of permanently removing one of the four branches of the Fujiwara (descended from the four sons of Fuhito) from participation in high level politics. Kammu Tenno was an unusual emperor because his status within the imperial clan was quite low in conventional terms. Kammu had perhaps the most humble mother in the entire history of the imperial clan. She was not a princess, but a member of a minor aristocratic family of Korean origin. Kammu was thus not raised up in the expectation of elevated rank, and he did not behave like a normal prince or emperor. When Konin took the throne his first designated successor was Prince Osabe, whose mother was a daughter of Shomu. Only the disgrace and eventual murder of Osabe opened the way for Yamabe. There are many instances during his lifetime to show that Kammu Tenno was sensitive about this and was extremely suspicious and on the watch for signs that people were not giving him enough respect. This round of purges in 782 was only the first of several similar events.

Kammu, naturally, received many high status women into his palace. Three of his wives were Fujiwaras. Three of his sons became emperor. Two were grandsons of Fujiwara Yoshitsugu and the third was the grandson of Fujiwara Momokawa. He had many other wives and 30 children whose names are known. It was to be a long time before the dynasty had again to worry about a shortage of possible successors to the throne.

Upon taking the throne Kammu appointed no new high officials for a long time. Many posts were vacant, and he made it clear that he was going to be the day to day ruler, not merely the man who signed off on things. His enthronement proclamation made many references to Tenchi Tenno, who ruled the same way. Eventually he created a new office known as Kurando or Kurodo (both pronunciations are legal) which was a private secretariat outside of the administrative structure specified in the codes. It was a private office of the emperor and located inside his apartments in the palace. The chief of the Korodo became a very important official. This office took over some of the functions of the Dajokan, in particuler receiving and sending documents throughout the government. It was temporarily suppressed after his death, but was soon revived and served as a model, for during the course of the next few decades all of the major clans created offices of the same sort for themselves. Eventually large amounts of official business came to be conducted within private offices located in the mansions of the senior officials, offices which sent messages to each other and to the Kurodo, so the importance of the official ministries and bureaus declined. From its very start, the Heian period had a different political syle than the Nara period.

It may also be noted that the post of Dajodaijin was essentially abolished. It had been held by Dokyo, but now was left vacant for many generations. In later times it was claimed very rarely by men who held dictatorial power and were not content to rule with one of the normal titles. This post had originally had the purpose of ensuring that a member of the imperial clan had the highest ranking position in the government. From this time the participation of princes in the bureaucratic administration declined and soon ended completely. Already the Tachibana and Funya clans had been created to move a prince and his descendants from the imperial clan into the civil aristocracy, and this came to be repeated several times during the Heian period. Princes who were not immediately descended from an emperor (and thus plausible candidates for the succession) became irrelevant.

Almost the first event of the reign of Kammu Tenno was a census, and he applied pressure to make sure that everyone was counted, including people who were trying to hide, so that they could be forced to accept land and pay taxes. He demanded that officials refuse to accept "in kind" tax items of inferior quality and that fines were to be assessed for items turned in late. He was successful enough in these efforts to eventually provoke resistance. I am treating it as a separate topic, but when Kammu came to the throne the wars against the Emishi "barbarians" in the northeast were running hot and they consumed much of his attention and many resources. At the beginning of his reign he clearly thought that the men in charge under his father had not been performing well enough and there was a big shakeup. He decreed that the districts that were providing most of the soldiers were to be exempted from taxes for three years and appointed some very experienced men to take command.

Very soon after taking the throne Kammu began to investigate moving the capital. This should hardly be a surprise. The capital consisted of the emperor and the officials surrounding him and then a relatively small number of commoners who provided services to the aristocrats. It had been moved many times and would be moved again. However, by now, it had to have been clear that the government had become complicated enough that moving the capital was a major enterprise. I believe the ancient aristocratic tradition that when a man died his mansion was burned down as part of the funeral observations and his heir built a new one in a new location, not just across the street, was still a factor. This was probably not unrelated to the kind of consideration that kept most medieval European rulers constantly on the move from castle to castle so that they and their entourage did not totally impoverish the districts they stayed in. However, Kammu was almost the last to do it. There was one attempt to move the capital at the end of the 12th century which failed, Hideyoshi allegedly intended to move it to Beijing in China in the 1590s, and then it was moved from Kyoto to Tokyo in the nineteenth century. This again tells us that the reign of Kammu was at a point of transition from one mode to a new one.

Older histories often state that the move from Nara was to escape the excessive influence of the Buddhist temples. The writers were thinking about Dokyo. However, there is no reason at all to believe this. Most of the Nara temples were dismantled and re-erected in Hieiankyo, and many new ones were built. Some modern Japanese historians think that Kammu was motivated by rational concerns. Yamashiro province, where both of his new capitals were located, was better situated for communications with the east, where the wars were going on. Yamato province was the ancient heartland because it was big enough and rich enough to support many aristocrats, but relatively isolated because it was surrounded on all four sides by significant mountains, so it was easy to defend. Yamato means "within the mountains." However, supplies for the frontier wars were not being shipped out from the capital, they were all derived locally. The capital was a point of communications because messages went there, and Nara was not fundamentally inferior to Kyoto from that point of view. What made Yamashiro better than Yamato was the fact that by this time it was the richer province, with much more land suitable for rice farming. What made Kyoto the permanent capital was the evolution of ideas and society. The capital became more than just the fringes surrounding the palace. The emperors moved their palaces constantly, except that later they moved them within Kyoto. Many of the Heian period emperors' reign titles are actually the names of their palaces. The same applied to the senior aristocrats. When one died it often happened that his mansion was turned into a temple dedicated to his memory and his successor built somewhere else. Some mansion sites served for many generations, but often for men from different clans, for a man was more likely to inherit a palace from his mother than from his father. Men's palaces were often inherited by daughters.

Returning to Kammu Tenno and his ambition to move the capital, in 784 Fujiwara Tanitsugu recommended to the emperor that a place called Nagaoka should be selected. This was in the traditional territory of the Hata clan and Tanitsugu's mother was a Hata. It was located at the point where three rivers (the Uji, the Katsura, and the Kitsu) come together to form the Yodo river which flows to the Inland Sea through modern Osaka. The spot is slightly southwest of Kyoto, and also not very far from Naniwa, a frequent site of imperial palaces. The emperor accepted this choice, and assigned the tax revenues of a number of provinces to the project. Tanetsugu was put in charge of the construction office. Work began in the 6th month of 784 and the emperor moved to the site in the 11th month. The emperor personally appealed to wealthy persons to contribute. One man native to Omi province named Sururi no Ekimaro provided 30,060 man days of labor over a period of 8 months. This shows something of the scale of the wealth of provincial nobles.

In the 4th month of 785 Shoku Nihongi says that an official reported that a red sparrow had flown into the empress's palace. This was taken as a favorable omen and it was publicly recognized. This was immediately followed by a change in crown prince from prince Sawara to prince Ate. In the 8th month the emperor staged a hunting party, with prince Sawara, Fujiware Tanetsugu, and Fujiwara Korekimi participating. Late during the 23rd day of the 9th month Tanetsugu was shot by an unknown person. His body had two arrows in it, so it was unlikely to have been a hunting accident. An official investigation was started and several men were arrested. Saegi no Imaemishi, who had reported the auspicious sparrow, was reported to be one of the ringleaders. A member of one of the guards units was accused as the "hit man". The plan was allegedly to destroy the Fujiwara clan and bring the Saegi and Otomo clans to power, and the arrested men testified that prince Sawara was part of it. Prince Sawara was arrested and allegedly refused to eat. The emperor decided to exile him to Awaji (a province that was a small island near Osaka and a popular destination for exiles) but he died along the way. The officials in charge continued anyway and buried him on Awaji.

This event has attracted a lot of attention. Someone shot Tanetsugu and it was probably one of the guards. Several of them were arrested and tortured and the case grew out of that. The main result in the long term was that Kammu came to feel guilt about his hasty decision in respect to Prince Sawara. There is ample evidence that this bothered him, and it is alleged to be the main reason why he eventually abandoned Nagaoka for Kyoto, hoping that the ghost of prince Sawara might not be able to find him if he moved. There are numerous references to vengeful ghosts during this era. A person who was put to death unjustly was believed to be able to exact revenge. There is no doubt at all that Kammu took it seriously. There were many religious ceremonies intended to appease Sawara's ghost. Work on the Nagaoka capital continued despite the murder. 3,014,000 man days of conscript labor had been arranged and could not be diverted. Converted into actual men working 30 or 50 days this meant 10,000 to 16,000 men. This particular item proves that when numbers of men are stated for these projects man-days are meant, because 3 million men would be half the total population of the country including women, children, and old people, and we know from the analysis of census documents that only 25% of the population consisted of taxable adult males.

Shoku Nihongi records an edict of 788 on the construction project that says that many government offices that were supposed to move had done nothing about it. It also said that there were reports of popular unrest over the conscription of labor. Since there was no alternative to the corvee labor, the government decreed that the people were to be relieved by being forgiven a percentage of the interest due on the seed tax loans. In this general context we find a mention of an order to the governors of 7 provinces to provide labor for dismantling all of the gates of the Nara capital and reconstructing them at the site of the Nagaoka capital.

In 791 the crown prince fell seriously ill and diviners claimed that prince Sawara's ghost was responsible. Soon after there was a big earthquake. This seems to have tipped the emperor over to the idea of abandoning Nagaoka for a new site. The location was a site that had been an estate of Fujiwara Tanetsugu. Kammu spent four months there hunting and then decided that it would become the new capital. Nara still existed and most of the government probably still worked there, and workmen began immediately dismantling the buildings at Nagaoka to reuse the materials for Heiankyo.

The new capital site included 107 acres of farm land, and the emperor paid the affected farmers 3 years profit for the inconvenience. They would be allocated other lands elsewhere, but would have to buy land and build new houses and barns. He also tried to mollify the officials by offering all fifth rank and higher corvee laborers to help them move their residences.

794 saw both the second Mutsu expedition and all out work on the new capital going simultaneously. The new capital officially opened and the emperor moved into the palace in the 10th month. I have never found a discussion of the fact that the site of the Nagaoka capital was much smaller than Nara, but the new site of Heiankyo was larger than Nara (which was half empty). The basic layout of the new city was identical to the old one, both being modeled after the T’ang capital at Ch’ang-an. The palace is at the northern end facing south with a grand avenue proceeding all the way to the main city gate in the center of the southern wall. This avenue divided the city into left and right halves, each with its own mayor and market. The leading nobles were awarded large plots for their mansions, which they had to build at their own expense. The basic layout of the main streets survives today, though the palace and public buildings are all long gone. Only a handful of structures survive from the Heian period due to numerous fires, plus a few wars. The present imperial palace is in a different location and is much smaller than the original. It was set up in its current location in the 14th century and the present buildings date only to 1855 thanks to one of the fires. They are quite nice in an ultra-modern style (for 1855) that influenced European art deco.

The city is surrounded to the west, north and east by mountains. The Kamo River flows south. The present course of the river is east of the old city, but it is believed that originally the river followed Horikawa street in the “left” city a short distance east of the palace. The present river course was formerly the Takano River. The Kamo was diverted to merge with this river north of the city as part of the construction project. Along the west side of the city is the Katsura River. The Kamo and Katsura rivers merge just south of the city and almost immediately flow into the Yodo River (very close to the Nagaoka site). As a result of this the southwest section of the city was frequently flooded. The entire “right” half of the city remained mostly undeveloped in ancient times. On the other hand, the city early expanded to the east across the Kamo River into the Higashiyama (eastern mountain) district, now the touristic center of the city with numerous shrines and temples and the national museum. In the later Heian period the western part of the city was the slums, where gangsters and beggars lived. This shows up in anecdotes over the next several hundred years. Eventually, in the 14th century, it became fashionable in its turn and numerous buildings from the Ashikaga period remain there, including most of the famous zen temples. The south is the zone that never moved up. Poor people lived there in the 9th century and they still live there today.

It has been argued that between the construction projects and his wars Kammu needed to maximize revenues and tolerated many deviations from the administrative rules as long as they worked. The Kurodo office is but one example. This is alleged to have begun the trend that eventually led to the abandonment of all salaried offices and the absorption of such public functions as were still performed into the household offices of the leading nobles. It would be a mistake, however, to exaggerate the speed of this transformation. Kammu and several of his successors continued to fight to preserve the power of the central government to control things, primarily through the provincial governors.

The law codes include a rule that a governor at the end of his term could not leave his province until his books had passed an audit by his successor. This law had been allowed to lapse at some point during the reign of Shomu. Kammu revived it. He ruled that the incoming governor had to complete the audit within 120 days or his salary would be stopped. Kammu also took official notice of the fact that warehouses full of official rice burned down at a suspiciously high rate compared to privately owned warehouses. This was always attributed to lightning. Kammu first tried increasing the penalty for arson, and when this didn't work, changed the system so that the farmers were to keep the unused tax rice and some corvee labor would be allocated to build and maintain the storage facilities they would need. This indicates the Kammu believed that most fires were either fictitious or set to cover up embezzlement by the governor.

Kammu also enforced rules that prevented a governor from retiring in a province he had formerly ruled. Even aristocrats were registered and had an official home and retired officials were required to go there and to sign in with the local government when they did so. District magistrates were different because they worked only in their native district. In the system up to Kammu's reign there was a custom/law that said that only members of the ancient kuninomiyatsuko families could be magistrates. Kammu disregarded this and tried to appoint people who had shown signs of ability.

At one point Kammu sought to revive the institution of circuit inspectors who were supposed to travel a standard route checking out how effective the provincial and especially the district officials were. However, this was abandoned before it was implemented, and instead he carried out a nationwide survey in 799. He sent out officials whose mandate was to interview ordinary subjects to find out what they thought. Emperor Tenchi had done something similar. We have no details of the results except that it led to an edict prohibiting provincial governors from hiring armed guards.

Over the years Kammu paid a lot of attention to "vagrants", which is to say people who managed somehow to live without getting registered as taxpayers or participating in the land redistributions. In 783 there was a campaign in 8 eastern provinces in which local men who held aristocratic rank but no office were ordered to round up "vagrants" and then lead them to join the northern war as soldiers. The Dajokan estimated that 52,800 men could be found that way and took steps to assemble equipment and supplies for such a number. Late in the reign of Konin there was a special study of "vagrants", based on a close look at Ise province. The provincial governor reported that many people evaded the labor tax by hiding and other taxes by falsely claiming death. Also, there were people who, when the labor tax levy was being conducted, falsely claimed to be slaves. In 797 Kammu decreed that any one who had one parent who was free was free and subject to all taxes. The special study in Ise had identified about 1,000 tax evaders. Other people evaded taxes by leaving public lands and moving to estates owned by temples or aristocrats. There are also surviving records that seem to indicate that people who were unable to repay the suiko loans resorted to "disappearance." In an edict of 785 Kammu observed that when the time comes to distribute land families are large, but when the time comes to pay tax they are small. He was also aware that people who had disappeared from the registers were not necessarily hiding, they may have moved to a different area. Officials were urged to make sure to capture new arrivals and register them properly. A commoner who settled on an estate didn't own the land and was not subject to crop tax. However, he was still subject to the head tax and the labor tax. This was a major area of conflict over time with the owners of estates as they tried to hide their people from the tax collectors so they could use the labor themselves.

In 797 an edict of the Dajokan noted that a great many people had been moving into estates controlled by princes and nobles in order to escape taxes. It ruled that once a year the provincial authorities could enter such domains searching for absconders, and if they found them, could put them back on the rolls of taxpayers as far as the corvee and head taxes were concerned. They needed to first prepare a list of persons they were looking for. Any estate manager who resisted was to be severely punished. The problem here was that the officials had to have the names of the people they were looking for. Someone who had moved from a different province would be safe because the local officials would not have his name available for their lists.

The conducting of censuses and redistributions had become sporadic. It was supposed to happen every six years, but in fact there were distributions in 742, 755 (12 years later), and 773 (18 years later). This means that three out of six cycles were skipped. During Kammu's reign there were three censuses and two redistributions. In 801 he ordered that the cycle be set at 12 years since it had proved impossible to keep to the 6 year cycle. In 800, by the way, it was mentioned that a complete redistribution was conducted for the first time in Satsuma and Osumi provinces at the southern end of Kyushu. Formerly these had been "barbarian" terrorities only loosely controlled by the Japanese government.

In 802 there is the first recorded popular petition to the government. There are earlier mentions of petitions, but this is the first with a text. “When we assemble to prepare the taxes in kind, the officials force us to work as laborers to take everything to the warehouses. Everyone, male and female, old and young, is made to do this work. Because this happens during the 6th month in between harvests, there is not much food and yet people are forced to work hard. The work takes 10 days. We think that we should be fed while doing it.”

Through 804 Kammu remained vigorous as shown by the fact that he spent a lot of time hunting. However, at the end of the year he fell ill and never completely recovered. In the 4th month of 805 he assigned administrative responsibilities to the crown prince for the first time. He died in the 3rd month of 806 at the age of 70. Prince Ate was enthroned one month later without incident. The next day his younger brother Kamino was named crown prince.

Chapter 06 - The Spread of Buddhism in Japan

Daibutsu of Tōdai-ji.

Buddhism originated in northern India in the 5th or 6th century BC. It was founded by a prince named Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha) of a small kingdom that was evidently in what is now Nepal. He deserted his home and family and devoted himself to austerities and meditation in an effort to understand why the world was full of suffering and how one could find happiness in such a place. Upon attaining awakening, he began to preach his teaching to others, and a movement came to form around him which continued to expand after his death. In general, one can say that there are two main varieties of Buddhism. The oldest collection of texts is written in a language called Pali, and hence is known as the Pali Canon. It is rather consistent internally and is believed to represent the actual teachings of the historical Gautama fairly closely.

The core teaching is the four noble truths: (1) suffering exists, (2) the cause of suffering is craving, (3) there is freedom from suffering, and (4) the way to freedom is the Noble Eightfold Path. The first and second prongs centre on the realization that we crave and attach to things that are impermanent. We want things that we cannot have and we suffer. When we do get things that we want, either we lose them or we worry constantly that they will be taken from us or lost, and we suffer. Above all, we suffer because of the cycle of birth and death. There is one teaching that is called "the eye of truth," the simple fact that everything that has a beginning also has an end. We are born and it is certain that, if we manage to live long enough, we will grow old and feeble and die and we hate this and suffer. The third and fourth truths are about learning not to crave and attach to things that by nature are impermanent. This requires following the Noble Eightfold Path of virtue, concentration, and discernment: right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. The Pali Canon of texts makes no promises that accomplishing this is easy. Success essentially requires that you become what people would view as a saint, and not many are ever going to be capable of that.

Human nature being what it is this answer to the question of how to end suffering was not considered satisfactory by a great many people. The history of Buddhism over the centuries is essentially the history of providing additional paths that are easier to follow. This expanded view of Buddhism is associated with a second and much more highly varied body of texts written in Sanskrit over a period of several centuries after the completion of the Pali Canon.

The Development of Early Buddhism

At one time Buddhism was widespread in India and two of the ancient dynasties flirted with making it the state religion. However, the Hindu religion absorbed much of the philosophy of Buddhism and gradually diminished its scope, and then Buddhism in India was essentially destroyed when Islamic invaders swept through the areas where it was well established.

As a movement, early Buddhism took the form of the body of those who strived to follow the path of Gautama and withdrew from ordinary society to seek understanding, and a body of lay people who understood and respected the message but knew themselves to be insufficiently strong to find happiness this way for themselves. They admired and supported those who were trying. Buddhism developed in a society where people widely believed in reincarnation, so the idea emerged that lay people, by supporting the "sangha", the monks, would gain merit leading to an improved next incarnation, ultimately, perhaps, being born with the necessary determination to permit finally attaining enlightenment. A major early element of Buddhist literature is "jataka" stories, tales about previous incarnations of Gautama, showing the series of heroic moral actions that gradually qualified him for rebirth as Gautama, able to find enlightenment. A famous example often painted (including in Japan) is the occasion when he spotted a starving tiger and threw himself off a cliff to provide it with food.

If the entire human race were to find the same enlightenment as Gautama then it would quickly cease to exist, for no more children would be born. The original Buddhism was not a cheerful philosophy, and even the happiness of enlightenment might be better called the absence of pain rather than something positive. The later history of Buddhism is mainly made up of people trying to come up with a faster, easier, and perhaps more attractive way to salvation.

The results essentially fall into three categories. There is salvation through magic, there is salvation through faith, and there is salvation through good works.

Salvation through magic takes such forms as reliance on magical objects, such as a relic of Gautama or some saint, on rituals, on the recitation of magical texts, on pursuing "secret teachings" embedded in complex ways in dense and difficult to read texts or learned directly from a teacher and so on.

Salvation through faith turns to reliance on gods or god-like figures who can either aid people to to achieve enlightenment or even give it to them, or, more commonly, permit rebirth into a heaven where conditions are better than here and even weaker people can shut out the distractions of life and progress toward enlightenment. Many people are pessimistic enough to pray to gods who can at least help them avoid rebirth in a hell that is worse than here, and many others will settle for gods who can cure their diseases and slip them an occasional winning lottery number.

Salvation through good works is an extension of the idea of gaining merit by supporting monks. It encourages people to simply try to lead moral lives rather than immoral ones and promises that those who succeed will be rewarded upon death and rebirth. It tends to deny the efficacy of ritual and prayer alike. It often finds the donation of significant sums of money to temples to qualify as a highly moral action. In 587 before a life-and-death battle with the rival Mononobe clan, Soga no Imame and his ally Prince Umayado separately vowed to construct Buddhist temples if their side was victorious. Both delivered on their promises. This probably counts as a merging of types, combining the virtuous act of building a temple with the hope of favorable divine intervention.

The Spread of Buddhism into Japan

Buddhism became a missionary religion. It was carried from north India into south India, and then beyond to Ceylon and southeast Asia. This wave happened early and it is the Pali Canon and the relatively unreligious (in the usual sense) version of Buddhism that became established there, especially in the modern nations of Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, and Cambodia. There was a second wave that started several centuries later that carried Sanskrit Buddhism into Afghanistan first, and from there across much of central Asia and into China. Buddhism then developed in China for some time, developing new doctrines unknown in India, and was transmitted from there into Korea, Japan and Vietnam. The very latest of the missionaries from India carried a quite distinctive final type of Buddhism that became established in Tibet and Mongolia, passed through China without affecting it much but developed extensively in Japan, and somehow also reached Java.

Buddhism became particularly firmly established in Japan, more so than it ever did in China, where there were already strong native philosophical and religious systems. There are several important sects that developed in Japan that are unlike forms of Buddhism found elsewhere in the world. Very recently some Japanese Buddhists have also become missionaries, and some Japanese sects have spread widely in the modern world. The most conspicuous are Zen and Nichiren Shoshu.

There is evidence that Buddhism was noticed in China as early as the first century BC, but it only became significant after the fourth century AD collapse of the Chin dynasty and the invasion of north China by numerous groups of central Asian barbarians, some of whom were Mahayana Buddhist. Several dynasties with Turkish ruling families devoted much wealth and energy to the propagation of Buddhism and they enjoyed considerable success. The T'ang dynasty had roots in this Turkish influenced north and in at least the first half of the dynasty Buddhism ranked as the primary religion. However, as in India, the native religion of Taoism and the native philosophy of Confucianism adapted and gradually began to squeeze Buddhism into a more subordinate position. However, even after ferocious persecution by the Communists, Buddhism is far from dead in China today.

Buddhism began to spread into Korea sometime in the 5th century and into Japan in the 6th century. The first (known) presentation of Buddhism to the Japanese rulers was by King Song of Paekche. The traditional date for this is 538. Song was in fact the first ruler of Paekche to seek to adopt Buddhism as the state religion. He informed his Japanese counterparts that Buddhism was a powerful source of magical protection for the state that would ward off calamities like epidemics and foreign invasions, expressing the magical aspect of Mahayana Buddhism. This was certainly also important to the Chinese rulers who adopted Buddhism.

There can be little doubt that to a large extent the spread of Buddhism in Japan happened because it was Chinese and Japan was in a mode where it was trying desperately to become as Chinese as possible. The situation was not at all unlike a European barbarian ruler converting himself and his people to a very imperfectly understood Christianity in order to establish good relations with the late, Christian, Roman Empire. However, once Buddhism was established in Japan, people began to discover that it was more complicated and interesting than the way it was first presented. There is also the fact that the native religion of Japan did not have a philosophical layer to match Buddhism, nor did it concern itself with the happiness and cosmic fate of the individual. Buddhism had no competition in those areas except in comparatively recent times from Chinese Confucianism.

The Spread of Buddhism in Japan

The first active propagators of Buddhism in Japan were Soga no Umako and Prince Umayado (Shotoku Taishi). They built temples and paid for running them and training monks and nuns. It was not until about 50 years later that the first temple was built by an emperor, and it was another two generations after that before the government established two departments of religion, one to supervise Buddhism and the other Shinto. From that point, early in the Nara period, one may fairly say that Buddhism and Shinto jointly functioned as the state religion of Japan. Buddhism was in fact in the superior position from the Nara period into the nineteenth century. However, there was a revival of Shinto starting in the 17th century, and after 1885 Shinto displaced Buddhism as the only religion directly sponsored by the state. That status ended, of course, in 1945, and the two religions are on their own in recent Japan, along with numerous native and imported competitors. Modern Japan has produced an astounding number of "new religions," some nominally Buddhist in origin, some Shinto in origin, and some just plain new.

At the time that Buddhism was introduced to Japan the Chinese recognized a considerable number of "sects." This term should not lead to the assumption that these were necessarily popular movements. They were instead more philosophical tendencies or schools that were associated with reverencing certain texts from the Buddhist canon. Many Korean and not a few Chinese monks, and I believe one Cambodian and at least one or two Tibetan monks, came to Japan and settled there, usually bringing texts, and many Japanese were sent to China or Korea to study and when they returned they usually brought texts. Thus early Japanese accounts sometimes report the "establishment" of the same "sect" on three or four separate occasions, meaning that someone brought in texts and started to give lectures on them. Most of these early sects have disappeared in both countries.

Nara Period Buddhism

Probably the most important sect in the early Nara period was Hosso, which still exists in a small way, controlling two of the famous temples of modern Nara, Yakushiji and Kofukuji. It formerly also controlled Horyuji at the site of Shotoku Taishi's palace at Ikaruga and Kiyomizudera in Kyoto, but those two became independent after the Second World War. Hosso is rather typical of the sects of that era in that it was founded in China by a monk who returned from a visit to India with a quantity of texts heretofore unknown in China, which he proceeded to translate into Chinese and expound. It was therefore not truly a popular sect but rather the source of expertise on a collection of Sanskrit texts from India. The principal doctrine associated with the sect is the proposition that the universe which we appear to see about us is an illusion contructed by our minds, which are incapable of perceiving reality as it actually exists. In the light of quantum theory, it is difficult to deny that this statement is entirely correct. The importance of Hosso in Japan comes from the fact that it brought to Japan, or trained in Japan, a number of impressive monks who possessed important practical skills in the areas of architecture and engineering. The monk Genbo who aroused the ire of Fujiwara Hirotsugu was the Hosso abbot of Kofukuji. From a devotional point of view Hosso is associated in Japan mainly with the worship of the Bodhisattva Maitreya (Miroku in Japan), "the Buddha of the future" or a messiah figure, who inspired some of the best art of the era (much of which was made in Paekche). The goal of the worshipper was to secure the intervention of Maitreya so that one could be reborn in a heaven where one could wait for the eventual transformation of the universe into a mode where even ordinary people might hope for enlightenment. Hosso eventually faded as a sect, but the sutras which it brought to peoples' attention continued to be studied in many others.

A similar sect of importance was Kegon. This was founded when a Hosso abbot invited a Chinese monk to give lectures on the Avatamsaka Sutra. This monk, known as Shinjo in Japan, then settled at Todaiji. The statue of Dainichi Nyorai which Shomu Tenno had constructed at Todaiji represents Vairocana, the central figure in Kegon. Vairocana stands for the doctrine closely related to those of Hosso that the universe is fundamentally empty and what we think we see is illusory.

Tendai and Shingon

The basic philosophical tendency within Buddhism exemplified by Hosso and Kegon (and associated with the Indian monk Nagarjuna whose name is associated with many Mahayana sutras) is best known in Japan through the two sects that tended to dominate Buddhism during the Heian period, Tendai and Shingon. Both sects were founded by Japanese monks who travelled to China for study early in the 9th century. Tendai was founded by Saicho, posthumously given the honorific title of Dengyo Daishi, and Shingon by Kukai, later proclaimed Kobo Daishi. This is as close as Japanese Buddhism comes to identifying saints. Tendai is named after the Chinese T'ien-T'ai. This was a specifically Chinese sect that intended to combine all flavors of Buddhism under one roof and proclaim them all to be different aspects of a single reality, with the Lotus Sutra as the centerpoint. It was the most important sect in T'ang dynasty China. Shingon is in contrast an outgrowth of the same thread of late Indian Buddhism (Mantrayana) that led to the present-day Tibetan church and was obscure in China.

Saicho founded the monastery on Mount Hiei northeast of Kyoto named Enryakuji which remained one of the most powerful temples in the country until its destruction by Oda Nobunaga in 1571. The temple was rebuilt, much smaller than before, and is a major tourist attraction. Kukai, on the other hand, eventually became the abbott of Todaiji in Nara and later created the mountaintop monastery at Koyasan, south of Nara, yet another major tourist attraction today. He also presided over Toji, one of the main temples in Kyoto.

Unlike Hosso and Kegon, which tended to preach that enlightenment was so difficult that an ordinary person could only hope for a favorable series of rebirths, Tendai and Shingon offer practices within the reach of all that are entended to attain it in one lifetime. It was necessary to become a monk and to practice meditation as well as to participate in various rituals. For this reason, it became the fashion in the Heian period for men of a religious turn of mind to become monks late in life after retirement from active participation in secular affairs.

Shingon is explicitly "esoteric" in that it presents one layer of doctrine to ordinary believers but also possesses an inner, "secret," doctrine that is only for the initiated. It is not so much that the public doctrine is a lie as that the public doctrine is fitted to what ordinary people are able to understand. Those who spend years studying may become able to comprehend the much more sophisticated secret doctrine. For example, the public is presented statues of a Buddha, Dainichi Nyorai, or Vairocana, for worship, but the esoteric doctrine holds that Vairocana is a symbol representing the entire physical universe. Every item on the complex mandala drawings that are displayed in temples represents some aspect of the universe, but none can be understood without knowing the key to its symbolism. Tendai is also referred to as an esoteric form of Buddhism because it holds that there are five different levels or layers of Buddhist doctrine corresponding to five different levels of comprehension. The very highest level of comprehension enables one to understand the Lotus Sutra. Since Tendai is explicitly eclectic it must inevitably accept the doctrines of Shingon as valid as one aspect of the complex intellectual world of Buddhism. In practice it would seem that most people in Japan who were not monks did not make much of the differences and considered Shingon and Tendai to be essentially the same thing, divided mainly as the result of the fact that Saicho and Kukai did not get along.

Buddhism is in its essence a religion of individual striving for understanding rather than a religion that sees its role as acting out age old ritual and standing as a link between man and his gods. All sects of Buddhism vary considerably from teacher to teacher. Every sutra in the collection of sutras has something different to say, every teacher in the collection of teachers has something different to teach. The idea of heresy is almost unknown in Buddhism. Reality is too difficult for any human to understand perfectly. Every doctrine contains errors because humans make errors. This is without doubt the reason why the spread of Buddhism in Japan did not require the extermination of the native religion as the spread of Christianity has required everywhere it goes. From very early Buddhists were willing to accept the Shinto gods as yet one more way of representing reality. Indeed, all of the forms of Buddhism that were transmitted from abroad to Japan had already cheerfully incorporated numerous Hindu dieties into their iconography. Why would they balk at the gods of Shinto? Shinto did not represent a solid basis for resisting Buddhism because Shinto was not a religion of doctrine and was also not a religion of salvation. It is almost exclusively a religion of ritual and the purpose of the rituals was to appease the powers of nature so that they would leave people alone to work out their fates. In other words, the purpose was much more to avoid calamities than it was to secure benefits.

Nihon Shoki, in two or three places, tells stories that appear to show that early religious observances did not take place in a permanent location but were performed using temporary facilities that were dismantled afterwards. This is supported by Kofun period archaeology that finds sites where feasts were held in the open air using special pottery objects made for the ceremony and then smashed and dumped. There are several points in Nihon Shoki related to the question of where the sun goddess, Amaterasu Omikami, from whom the ruling clan was descended, ought to be worshipped. At first this happened within the palace of the ruler, but Sujin Tenno is stated to have felt that this was too terrifying and that he wanted the observances moved. The priestesses in charge wandered about from one place to another until some three generations later one wound up at Ise, which became the permanent home. However, when the Buddhists arrived and started building spectacular temples, Shinto responded by beginning to build permanent shrines. When the Fujiwara family provided the funds to build the Kofukuji temple in Nara, they also paid for the construction of the Kasuga Shrine, an easy stroll away. It became common to incorporate references to Shinto dieties in Buddhist temples and vice versa. However, differences remained. In the feudal period a Buddhist monk who wished to make a pilgrimage to a Shinto shrine was obligated to cover up his shaved head by wearing a wig. There were shops near popular shrines where people could buy them. This implies that a lot of monks wanted to visit Shinto shrines.

The intellectual freedom that characterizes Buddhism is an adequate explanation for the very large number of sects that have appeared everywhere, not least in Japan. I am not sure of the exact number, but I would venture to guess that there are at least 50 separate and distinct Buddhist sects in Japan. There is very little to prevent a preacher with a new idea from starting a new sect. However, the number of important sects is much smaller, and they can be grouped into families. For Japan before the 20th century, it is the consensus that the important sects are Tendai and Shingon, Amidism, which at first functioned as a part of Tendai in the later Heian period but then emerged as a family of related sects in the medieval period, and Nichiren which was a very peculiarly Japanese development unlike anything elsewhere in the Buddhist world, and Zen, which developed relatively late in China and became very successful among the warrior class of medieval Japan and then again in comparatively recent times.

Both the Tendai sect and the Nichiren sect focus on the "Lotus Sutra" or Hokkekyo. This sutra preaches that all men can become Buddhas and ought to aspire to that. The method urged is a combination of good works, featuring charity and tolerance, and coming to understand "the emptiness of all things." As mentioned above, Tendai specifically also recognizes all other writings in the Buddhist Canon and attempts to structure them into a hierarchy of understanding. Nichiren, which will be described later, differs in rejecting all other writings and accepting the Lotus Sutra only. The eclectic character of Tendai explains why the founders of nearly all significant later sects were educated in Tendai monasteries, where any flavor of Buddhist learning could be explored. Many Tendai temples, particularly Enryakuji, housed numerous teachers who favored different texts and taught different doctrines. Enryakuji was like a university with a dozen different departments. Tendai also explicitly worked to incorporate Shinto into the mix. The historical Buddha, known as Shaka in Japanese (from Sakyamuni) represents that aspect of the truth that can be expressed in simple language understandable by all men. Amida (Amitabha) represents a higher level that is associated, within Tendai, with meditation. Vairocana represents the highest level, not understandable at all by mere men, but only by those that have achieved the level of a Buddha themselves. Tendai recognizes four different categories of "paradise," which is to say lands very different from our ordinary world into which men might be reincarnated. One can be achieved by ordinary men. The later specifically Amidist sects focus on this one. The second represents the paradise associated with those who achieve personal enlightenment in the manner taught by the Pali Canon. The third is for monks who have attained enlightenment according to the standards of the Sanskrit Canon and Bodhisattvas (who are essentially the same thing). The fourth is the phase of existence occupied by Vairocana and the very few who have attained the same level, who have themselves become Buddha. As a popular religion it was the Amidist element that attracted the most attention and which inspired a large proportion of the religious art. This offered the possibility that a person of limited ability might qualify for rebirth in a paradise rather than be forced to put in another term in this world, definitely not considered as the best of all possible worlds.

Shingon, as mentioned, may easily be treated as hardly distinguishable from Tendai. However, the leading Tendai abbots were all in or near the capital and became powerful men intimately involved with politics. Enryakuji and other temples acquired their own military forces as the organs of the state withered away. In fact, Enryakuji waged war for many generations against another Tendai temple usually known as Miidera that was located only a few miles away, further down the mountain. Their differences were purely political and economic, not doctrinal. Shingon settled on Koyasan, located far away in the mountains and difficult to get to in early times. Today you can drive up the mountain in a car, but it is still a long journey from the urban centers of the Kinai. The esoteric nature of Shingon led to a situation where a monk could find complicated doctrines to study, but the common man could find things adapted to his understanding, such as magical interventions. There were rituals available for almost any purpose. Later religious reformers attacked this as base superstition, but it appeals to ordinary human nature. Shingon was also conspicuous in exerting its influence to protect Shinto shrines. It is rooted in three sutras that appeared in China late (about 725, it seems) and are very Indian. This follows into Shingon which incorporated many Hindu deities and Sanskrit writing into its iconography. Kukai supposedly studied Sanskrit himself in China and assisted in developing a modified version of the script which is used in Shingon texts. Like Tibetan Buddhism it tends to emphasize hells which the evil will fall into as much as heavens which the virtuous might aspire to. Most images of hells found in Japanese art are of Shingon origin.

All Shingon writings fall into the category of the public teaching, by the way. The secret doctrines are taught only orally. This makes them difficult to describe. However, from what I can find out they look quite a lot like Zen teachings. Zen in its pure form teaches that the aspirant is ultimately on his own since nothing significant about how to attain enlightenment or even what enlightenment feels like can be communicated by one person to another. The difference is that the secret doctrine of Shingon does give the monk significant clues which make it easier for him to discover his own path to enlightenment, which is what he must do. Hosso and Kegon taught that most people are utterly incapable of enlightenment no matter how many times they are reincarnated. Shingon and Tendai teach that all contain the essential nature of a Buddha and are capable of releasing it under the right circumstances. Kukai specified 10 different levels of understanding at which people would be found, and taught that improving yourself even one grade was a worthwhile enterprise. He put the teachings of Hosso at grade six, Tendai at grade 8, and Shingon, naturally, at grade 10. Passing through the previous nine stages merely eliminates errors, finally freeing one to understand the truth. It would appear that the final stage is the realization that you are, in fact, Vairocana.

Many Tendai temples survive, but it is no longer of significance as a popular religion. However, Shingon is still very visible with something like 3000 temples. It is often reckoned as being the third largest Buddhist sect and the only survivor from ancient times among the important sects. Buddhist temples in general may display one or more of a bewildering variety of Bodhisattvas and Buddhas and other sacred beings. Shingon temples have more of them than any others, including large numbers of Chinese deities. Shingon is also closely associated with the numerous figures of the "myo-o" or heavenly kings, of whom Fudo is most frequently celebrated, represented as a fearsome looking persecutor of demons. A great many temples feature Kannon (Chinese Kuan-yin and Sanskrit Avalokitesvara) which today is almost certainly the central figure in popular worship. Indian statues are male, but the Chinese and Japanese ones are female. Kannon is the goddess of sympathy for those who suffer. The Bodhisattva Jizo is also very common. He also is Indian, Kshitigarbha. He also is a merciful deity with a focus on mercy for the dead. In Japan he has come to be especially associated with dead children.


Amidism in Japan represents the mainstream of Buddhism as a religion of faith. Amitabha is a benevolent deity found only in Mahayana Buddhism outside India, including Tendai and Shingon temples in Japan. It is widely suspected that Amitabha is of Iranian origin and represents a sun god. This association is very clear in Amidist iconography in Japan, where Amida is often represented as the setting sun, shining in the face of the worshipper. Amithabha is linked to a theory of the transfer of merit that is rejected by much of Buddhism. If we view the process of gaining enlightenment as something like the accumulation of frequent flyer miles, then it is easy to see that a being that makes it all the way to Buddhahood might accumulate far more points than were actually needed. Amitabha is willing to share. In Japan, Hosso, Kegon, Tendai, and Shingon all reject the transfer of merit. If you want to become a Buddha, you are going to have to do it all by yourself. Tendai and Shingon, however, reverenced Amida but without allowing transfer of merit. Tendai considered that faith in Amida might give a person the confidence to realize some higher level of truth that he might not otherwise have attained. It was used as an aid to achieve the proper frame of mind for successful meditation. During the course of the Heian period the worship of Amida gradually became more and more important and by the late Heian period had become a major focus, especially among people who were not monks. The idea became widespread that devotion to Amida could lead to rebirth in a paradise known as the Pure Land, Jodo, in Japanese. Under the Tendai umbrella devotion to Amida was based on meditation, not prayer.

The monk Genshin (942-1017) is usually considered the first who elevated Amidism to the level of a separate teaching and who at least approached the doctrine that the mere prayerful invocation of the name of Amida was sufficient to gain rebirth in the Pure Land. Genshin wrote a popular book and was a noted painter also, but he did not attempt to organize a sect. The first to do this was Ryonin (1072-1132). His sect is called Yuzu Nembutsu and it still exists but has always been small. A much more important pioneer was Honen (1133-1212) who was much impressed by Genshin's book. His goal was the salvation of all through rebirth in Amida's Pure Land through the recitation of the Amidist mantra "namu Amida butsu" referred to as the practice of nembutsu. In Honen's view the recitation of the nembutsu was in fact a magical act that would accomplish the goal even for a sinful man. He began preaching in 1175 and attracted the attention of emperors and aristocrats. He wrote several books and travelled about the country preaching. He did not disparage the older methods of seeking enlightenment or salvation but said that the world had become so degenerate that it was unlikely that any of them would succeed. The only real hope was rebirth in the Pure Land, where conditions were such that all would be able to pursue enlightenment. The sutra that justifies the nembutsu approach says that 10 repetitions was enough, and Honen acknowledged that one recitation might be enough. However, his followers were encouraged to regard the recitation of the nembutsu as their main work in life, not to be placed second to anything else. I gather that one recitation with the proper mindset would get you in if you happened to die at that moment, but a few moments later your essentially sinful nature might have caused you to lose the focus of true faith and you are back in danger again. You could not recite the nembutsu too many times, and there were often organized sessions in which groups of people worked to achieve some goal of repetition. One million was considered a worthy target. One of the emperors was said to have achieved one million recitations twenty separate times.

Honen was attacked on the grounds that if a sinful man could be saved merely by saying the nembutsu, why not lead a life of merry crime and then repent on your deathbed? This was always a sticky point with the sect, but Honen replied that the faith had to be sincere, not a pretense, and that a man who sincerely regretted his sins would not lead a life of crime. Also, he said at times that one who is busy reciting the nembutsu in every spare moment is less likely to get into trouble than most.

Honen was unusual in that he managed to provoke persecution by the Tendai sect and by the authorities, something almost unheard of in the Buddhist world. In 1204 Enryakuji hosted a conference which petitioned the Tendai chief abbot to condemn Honen's teachings. Honen responded by publishing an open letter in which he ordered his followers to refrain from disparaging other forms of religion and condemned the theory that those who are saved by faith may therefore practice all manner of sins without worry. Fujiwara Kanezane, the regent, was a close ally of Honen and nothing resulted from that petition. However, in the next year monks of Kofukuji (a Shingon temple) managed to get the government to punish some of Honen's disciples for misbehavior. Again, Honen replied, and the nature of his replies make it pretty clear that the issue was one of whether or not Honen's teaching opened the way to excusing immorality. In 1207 the retired emperor Go-toba, the effective ruler of Japan at the time, had a falling out with some of Honen's disciples. The direct objects of his ire were executed, and Honen was exiled. Fujiwara Kanezane was able to use his influence to gain Honen a relatively comfortable location for his time of exile. Influential men continued to look out for Honen's interests and advantage was taken of a general pardon issued on the occasion of the dedication of a new temple and Honen's exile was relaxed at the end of the year. He could go anywhere he wanted except back to the capital. Finally in 1211 he was allowed to return to Kyoto, but he died only a few months later. He had many disciples and there is a large Jodo sect today which follows Honen's views exactly.

However, one of his disciples, Shinran (1173-1263), created a sect of his own that was spectacularly successful and became and has remained the largest Buddhist movement in Japan by a considerable margin. This is known as Jodo Shinshu or, one might say, Reformed Jodo. Shinran disposed of complexities and second thoughts and proclaimed a doctrine of salvation by faith alone. All magical power associated with the nembutsu is abolished as are all other paths to salvation. He also dispensed completely with the monastic tradition of Buddhism. He married and had children and Jodo Shinshu priests have been married men from the beginning. A Jodo Shinshu temple or church is the private property of the priest or preacher, who lives off of the offerings of his parishioners, much like a protestant preacher in the United States.

The biographical traditions about Shinran are confused. He was descended from the aristocracy, was trained as a monk from childhood at Enryakuji, and became a disciple of Honen in 1201. Allegedly, Fujiwara Kanezane discussed with Honen an idea of his that it ought to be possible for a man to serve as a priest and yet lead an ordinary life as a husband and father, and he wished to marry his daughter to such a man. Honen was not shocked by this and recommended Shinran. Shinran took a year to think about, but finally accepted. Shinran and Honen were certainly close and Shinran was exiled in 1207 at the same time as Honen. He was sent north and Honen south. Both were allowed to return to the capital in 1211. Shinran, however, ignored the offer at first and embarked on a long missionary journey in the north among the common people. The particular focus of Shinran's preaching was always with humble people and not with the aristocracy. He is famous for the observation that the fact that a good man can be reborn in the Pure Land means that the chances of a wicked man are even better. The good man is likely to be held back from sincere faith by the consciousness of his own goodness, whereas the wicked man knows that he has only one chance, trust that Amida's vow covers the unworthy as much as the worthy. Shinran spent most of the remainder of his active preaching life in the country and only returned to Kyoto in 1230, conscious of approaching old age. He died shortly before what would have been his ninetieth birthday.

Jodo Shinshu flourished in Shinran's day but became somewhat confused after his death. A main temple known as Honganji was constructed in Kyoto, but many rural congregations disliked the idea of being ruled from a main temple and went off in their own direction. The sect was radically transformed by the 8th hereditary head of Honganji, known as Rennyo (1415-1499). He was evidently a dynamic preacher and an effective organizer and he transformed the sect into a powerful organization. In the context of the times, when government was collapsing and chaotic civil wars erupted all over the country, the sect almost inevitably was sucked into politics. Rennyo resisted this, but unsuccessfully. In 1465 monks from Enryakuji, angry at the success of Rennyo in winning converts, raided Honganji and burned it down. Rennyo fled into the countryside, where he found a ready welcome among wealthy farmers. In the chaotic conditions of the day such men were heavily armed. In some places they functioned as low-level samurai in feudal regimes, called jizamurai, country samurai who lived in villages with humbler peasants. In other places where the feudal regimes were non-existent or weak, villages often formed leagues led by these rich peasants. Such leagues were able to raise militias for self defense. In several places such leagues took control of large parts of provinces.

Rennyo won many converts among such men and the local Jodo Shinshu priest often held a position of leadership in the village. Where village leagues and the sphere of Jodo Shinshu converts overlapped Rennyo inevitably found himself involved in feudal politics and warfare. He strenuously resisted this, but it was impossible to avoid. His successors decided to go with the flow and Honganji itself eventually became a major political and military power. After leaving Kyoto in 1465 Rennyo settled at a place called Yoshizaki in Echizen province on the Japan Sea coast where he found numerous followers. Yoshizaki became engulfed in local warfare and Rennyo fled in 1471, eventually ending up back in Kyoto where a new Honganji was constructed. However, Rennyo's followers in the area around Yoshizaki responded differently. They formed a league and very quickly succeeded in taking over the entire province of Kaga, just north of the Yoshizaki site. They were able to hold Kaga for approximately a century, defending themselves successfully against strong feudal regimes in Echizen to their south (the Asakura clan) and Echu and Echigo to the north (the Uesugi clan). They had sufficient surplus power that they were able to send troops to Kyoto to help defend Honganji. One alternate name for Jodo Shinshu in this period was Ikkoshu, meaning the "single minded sect" or, perhaps better, "the single path sect" because the reference is that they taught salvation by faith alone ignoring all other means. The armed leagues of Honganji followers are known as Ikko Ikki, Ikko leagues. Kaga was only the biggest of them. There were many others scattered around central Japan, plus other similar leagues that were not associated with Honganji. One of the most powerful of them was actually run out of a Shingon temple at Negoro. A personal note: my doctoral dissertation is about the Kaga Ikko Ikki and Rennyo and particularly his period at Yoshizaki figures largely in it.

The Honganji in Kyoto was destroyed a second time as the result of the enmity of another new medieval sect, the Nichiren sect, and it moved to Osaka where a great castle was constructed on the site of the current Osaka castle. The osaka Honganji was a major player in the wars of unification that eventually led to the formation of the Tokugawa Bakufu. Honganji was noted as an early and successful adopter of firearms. All of the various types of Ikki were suppressed in the wars that reunified the country and eventually Osaka was left alone. It withstood a long siege and eventually negotiated a surrender. It was allowed to continue as a religious organization only and surrendered all temporal and military power. In 1602 Tokugawa Ieyasu ordered that the sect split in two (there were no doctrinal differences, merely two organizations) and move back to Kyoto where two new Honganji temples were built, an eastern one and a western one only a short distance apart. They are still there, a short walk from the Kyoto railway station. After 1868 the government attempted to suppress the eastern Honganji, converting it into a memorial for Shinran, as the temple was built on the site of his tomb. There was resistance and confusion and several new sects were spawned, whereas the western Honganji remained stable. The western Honganji remains the largest Buddhist organization in the number of its followers in Japan by a large margin. It is probable that Honganji attained that status in the lifetime of Rennyo and has held it continuously since. The largest Buddhist organization in the United States, the Buddhist Church of America, is part of the western Honganji.


Another very important Japanese sect of the same approximate age as the Jodo sects is that founded by the monk Nichiren (1222-1282). As were Honen and Shinran, Nichiren was trained at Enryakuji as a Tendai monk. Nichiren and his followers through the years are conspicuous for the animosity they bear for all other forms of Buddhism. Nichiren once claimed that anyone who says the nembutsu even once will be condemned to a long term in hell. He constantly demanded that the government suppress all other sects of Buddhism, which annoyed people sufficiently that he was exiled twice and came (by his own account) close to execution once. He believed firmly in the concept of a state religion which all must share. It is almost as if a medieval European pope was accidentally reborn on the wrong side of the world. Even today his followers are among the most aggressive of the world's religions, putting great effort into missionary activities.

After 10 years study at Enryakuji Nichiren conceived the idea of reforming Tendai to what he considered to be its pure form in 1253. He proclaimed the absolute authority of the Lotus Sutra Myoho Renge Kyo or Saddharmapundarika and put forth his own mantra to combat the nembutsu, "nam myoho renge kyo". He was so assertive and violent that no monastery would put up with him and he wandered for a time and then set up his own hermitage near Kamakura. He worked mainly as in itinerant outdoor preacher and quickly acquired a reputation. In 1260 he wrote a book expounding his views and presented it to the Hojo Regent, the effective ruler of Japan in those days. The book says that to kill heretics is not murder and demands the extermination of the followers of Honen by the sword. Shinran is not mentioned, perhaps because he was not yet seen as the founder of a distinct sect. In later writings he attacked Zen and Shingon in the same mode. The Hojo regent was shocked by his extremism and members of the religions he attacked destroyed his hermitage. He was quickly arrested and banished to a remote location. However, he was soon released and returned to Kamakura. He refused to compromise and set out on a series of successful preaching circuits. At the time of the first Mongol invasion he proclaimed that Japan would be destroyed unless it returned to the true religion. Many of his preachings contained violent attacks on named members of the Hojo clan. He was arrested in 1271 and sentenced to banishment. Allegedly his captors decided to execute him instead (a not uncommon eventuality) but he was saved at the last second by divine intervention. He was in fact banished to Sado Island, the Alcatraz of the time, where the worst offenders went (and were not treated well; being sent to Sado was really imprisonment under harsh conditions).

He was released again after two years. He had friends, and the government offered to let him set up his own sect if he would only behave civilly towards the others. His response was to leave Kamakura and set up a small hermitage on the slopes of Mt Fuji. It was during this time that he established his first two temples, still the joint headquarters of the sect, at Minobu and Ikegami. He died at Ikegami in 1282. He had six chief disciples all of whom were experienced missionaries, and the sect grew steadily. It continued to be aggressive. It was behind the second destruction of the Kyoto Honganji, and in the 1530's fought a war against the Tendai sect (which it lost). It was just as disputatious internally and divided into many major, mutually antagonistic, sects. One sect was banned by the Tokugawa government in 1614 for the same reason that the Christians were banned: refusal to tolerate the other sects and refusal to permit its members to obey the government's order that as a mere matter of convenience all Japanese had to register at the nearest Honganji temple to save the government the expense of having to conduct a census and keep marriage and death records.

The Nichiren sect is best known today for an entirely modern organization, Nichiren Shoshu Sokagakkai. This is an extremely energetic sect that proseletizes actively all around the world. Nichiren Shoshu, "the true Nichiren sect" was founded by one of Nichiren's disciples in a dispute with others not long after Nichiren's death. It is radically different in that it deposes Sakyamuni, the historical Buddha who is the central figure in the Lotus Sutra, and substitutes Nichiren himself as a savior figure. This sect survived, just barely, down to the end of the Second World War. Two men who had converted to the sect in 1928 formed Sokagakkai, a laymen's association. In typicial Nichiren fashion they got themselves thrown in jail for refusing to pay homage to the Ise Shrine, then required by the military dictatorship. One died in 1944, but the second, after his release, revived the movement and in the new environment after 1945 it (along with many other new movements) enjoyed great, even spectacular success. In 1953 it had 200,000 members and in 1959 4 million members. It is a tightly disciplined authoritarian movement which also formed its own political party. It was famous for a practice called "shaku-buku" which was a form of forced conversion. They would lure an unsuspecting person into a mob of followers who would then attempt to force an acknowledgement of conversion by bullying. I believe that this has been officially renounced. I confess to being rather ignorant of how Sokagakkai has evolved over the last fifty years, my image dates from the 1960's.


A woodblock print of Bodhidharma by Yoshitoshi, 1887.

The last significant subsection of Japanese Buddhism should be well known to all at least as a name, Zen. It claims descent from a rather mysterious Indian monk who is supposed to have migrated to China named Bodhidharma. He is mysterious because his biography has attracted a vast cloud of clearly mythical material. Many historians think he is imaginary. However, there are thousands of paintings of him. In Japanese he is Daruma, usually presented as a rather scruffy bum, often as a comic figure. It is claimed that Zen was preached in Japan at various times starting in 654, but if this is so it failed to catch on. The real founder in Japan was Eisai (1141-1215), who managed to visit China twice and study there. That was not easy in those days as there was no organized communication between Japan and China. Chinese merchant ships occasionally showed up. Ch'an was all the rage in China at the time and it is no surprise that it attracted his attention. Some claims are made that Eisai also brought back tea. This does not appear to be true, but he made it fashionable and introducted the tea ceremony, always associated with Zen. In China monks often drank tea to help them stay awake for midnight rituals and this eventually acquired ritual elements of its own. Eisai wrote a book about tea and sought to persuade people that it was better to drink tea than sake.

Eisai was a close contemporary of Minamoto no Yoritomo and was on good terms with him and his successors. In 1203 the Shogun Yoriie appointed him to the highest ecclesiastical title at the disposal of the Shogun. He was in Kamakura supervising the construction of a new temple when he died at the age of 75. There are several sects of Zen. The one introduced by Eisai is known as Rinzai. The second main sect of Zen is Soto, which was brought to Japan by Dogen (1200-1253), a disciple of Eisai, who also was able to go to China. Another important early figure was a Chinese monk named Doryu who came to Japan in 1247. He served as abbott in various temples.

Soto is the most numerous branches of Zen and has no subdivisions (Rinzai has at least ten). It is the most conventional of the branches in that it avoids extravagance and stresses the need to follow standards of good conduct and morality. Rinzai tends to emphasize the importance of sudden enlightenment and does not consider what preceded it as of much significance.

Despite Bodhidharma, it is not clear that there is any connection between Zen and India. There is no known reference to anything like Zen in any Sanskrit source, and when examined in a Chinese context there can be no doubt that it was considerably influenced by philosophical Taoism. Its tendency to reject all scripture and all organized teaching is about as un-Indian as it is possible to be. Zen was immediately attractive to the newly dominant warrior class of 13th century Japan. Its rejection of book learning meant that it could be followed by a busy man with little time for study. Its main requirements on its followers are discipline and determination, virtues that are appreciated by the military. The book by Suzuki Daisetzu Zen and Archery explains this affinity perfectly. Indeed, I have been trying to use a Zen approach to help my golf swing. Don't think too much; empty your mind and let the body do what it knows how to do.

During the Hojo period there were five great Zen temples, three in Kamakura and two in Kyoto. Early in the Ashikaga period there were ten, five in each place. Zen was considerably more prominent in the Ashikaga period. The influential prelate Soseki (1271-1346) was able to see to it that a Zen monastery and temple was erected in every province of Japan and also to put the sect as a whole on a sound economic footing. Zen is associated with the best in painting, sculpture, and literature in that period. Unlike the Jodo and Nichiren schools Zen was an essentially aristocratic taste throughout this era. Zen never became a popular religion and during the civil wars it fielded no militias of musket firing peasants.

Zen in many ways seems to follow the Hosso sect idea that the universe is simply too complex for humans to understand. Rational explanations will always fail. If someone is to achieve enlightenment it will have to come in some non-rational intuitive way. The early sects all taught meditation as the way to attempt this, and Zen follows that path. It also, however, dispenses with the simplified versions of reality, the Cliff Notes that are supposed to give you a hint as to the right direction that the sutras all offer. That is the one single element that runs throughout Zen. If enlightenment comes it will be a surprise and it is just as likely that a teacher can cause it by hitting you in the head as by saying something. Some Zen teachers have implied that it is all accidental: you might be unexpectedly bitten by a rattlesnake, and you might unexpectedly get enlightened. However, most have taught that you have to work at it despite not knowing exactly what you are working for or how you are supposed to do it.

A Zen temple looks pretty much like any other Japanese Buddhist temple, down to the statues of Buddas and Bodhisattvas (excluding always Amida). Shaka, Kannon, and Jizo are commonly found. Modern Zen has three main divisions, sometimes counted as separate sects. Rinzai and Soto were present at the founding, Obaku was introduced in the 17th century. There is little if any difference in doctrine. Obaku resulted from the arrival of monks from Fujien who were fleeing the Manchu conquest of Ming China. When reading Chinese, they use pronunciations influenced by the Fujien dialect. Otherwise, it is considered identical to Rinzai. Soto Zen was counted as the second largest denomination in Japan after Honganji in the period before World War II (Shingon was third). Slowly, through the Tokugawa period and into the 20th century it acquired a substantial lay following. The popularity of the tea ceremony is a marker. The lay followers do not expect to attain enlightenment, but they admire the honesty and freedom from popular superstitions. Charles Eliot thought, and this seems reasonable to me, that Zen practioners tend to believe that what they are trying to do is essentially what Gautama accomplished before Buddhism existed, namely, to find enlightenment entirely unaided: the hard way. I think it is fair to say that most Zen teachers would say that success is unlikely, but that the attempt makes you a better person. Lay people are taught that it is most important to confess your sins to the Buddhas, meaning yourself, as no confessor is involved, and practice good conduct, meaning generosity, polite speech, benevolence, following the golden rule, and gratitude. The only real doctrine is that all beings "men, animals, plants, and trees" can become Buddhas. Zen acknowledges no sutras or sacred writings.

Chapter 07 - The Early Heian Period

I date this period from the death of Kammu Tenno in 806 to the death of Fujiwara no Tokihira in 909. This is one of several possible end points, but it may be said to mark the end of the last attempt to restore life to the model of government and social organization inaugurated by Tenchi Tenno and Temmu Tenno in the Asuka period. The early Heian period was clearly a continuation of the Nara period in that the government remained committed throughout to make the "ritsu-ryo" system established by the law codes of 694 and 701 work. On the other hand, in contrast to the Nara period, the early Heian period was clearly a time when the efforts of the government were inadequate to counteract new developments that were pushing in a different direction entirely, one that would eventually lead to the feudal society of the medieval period.

The issues fall naturally into three categories.

The first is the development and elaboration of what is known as the shoen system. Shoen refers to a legal category of estate that separated blocks of land from the "public" lands that were subject to the land redistribution system and the full range of taxes and made them "private" lands that were to some extent immune to taxation and to the interference of the provincial authorities. The original shoen were created by Shomu Tenno in the Nara period to finance his great Buddhist temple Todaiji. However, they only started to grow into an institution threatening the integrity of the system in the Heian period. By the end of the early Heian period shoen were on the verge of replacing the taxes from the public lands as the primary economic support of the ruling class in the capital. Taxes were still collected, but they mostly ceased to be available for budgeted expenditures of the government and flowed directly into the pockets of the governor and his subordinates as another form of essentially private income.

The second main theme is the development of the regency system. During the course of the early Heian period the imperial clan lost control of the government to the Fujiwara clan for a substantial portion of time. The institutional marker of this was the development of the offices known as Sessho and Kampaku. Both may be translated as "regent", one applied in the case when the emperor was a minor and the other in the case when the emperor was an adult, but the substance was identical. The regent had the authority to act without restraint in place of the emperor, to sign valid imperial edicts. The underlying mechanism was rooted in the marriage customs of the aristocratic class whereby wives continued to live in the house of their father and this was where their children were raised. The children came under the control of their father only when they became legally adult. The girls were usually moved into his house and his sons usually established houses of their own. This meant that a man had a much closer relationship with his father in law than with his natural father, and that a male child was essentially raised by his grandfather. The Fujiwara regent was in principle the grandfather of the emperor or, if the grandfather was dead, one of the emperor's uncles. Whenever it happened that an emperor came to the throne who was not a Fujiwara grandchild there was the possibility that Fujiwara dominance would be broken, and that eventually happened, but not in this period.

The third main development, which only became apparent late in the period under consideration, was a transformation of life among the provincial nobility which led them to become much more independent of the capital nobility and politically active in their own right. One aspect of this was to have enormous importance, the militarization of this class, leading to the development of the social group later known as bushi or samurai. In the early Heian period the word samurai meant servant and it had no military connotation and did not refer to a person of elite status. Actually, the more common term was rodo, which meant the same thing. When provincial nobles started to form private armed forces, they did so by arming their dependents, some of whom were farmers and some of whom were servants, rodo. These rodo were housed and fed and equipped by their master and were of humble status, but they eventually evolved into the haughty samurai of later times. We have some very valuable sources on the early stages of this process thanks to the emergence of Japanese language fiction at the end of the 9th century.

Outline of Political History

The political history of this period falls into three clear phases.

From 809 until the death of retired emperor Saga in 842 the sons of Kammu were in charge. Emperors Heizei and Saga were in complete charge of the government. Emperors Junna and Nimmyo were interested in other things and made no effort to challenge Saga.

When Saga died in 842 Nimmyo Tenno turned control of the government over to Fujiwara Yoshifusa, who converted his dominance into a new institutional form, the "regency". In 857 he took the title Dajodaijin, vacant since Dokyo, and in 866 invented a new title, Sessho, which is translated regent. When he died in 862 his power was maintained by his heir Mototsune. In 887 Mototsune invented a new title, Kampaku, to identify the regency when applied to an adult emperor. The regency temporarily lapsed when Mototsune died in 891.

The period from 891 to the end of this era was dominated by Uda Tenno who functioned as the ruler. He was able to refuse to appoint a new regent when Mototsune died, and also succeeded in transferring power to his son Daigo Tenno.

The Sons of Kammu

During his reign Kammu Tenno was unquestionably in complete charge of the government. He consistently left many sangi-level offices vacant and throughout his reign maintained only one "great minister", the Udaijin, held by a succession of members of the Fujiwara clan. There are sources which state that it was his intention to return to the ancient pattern for the succession which was a succession of generations. It was vital for the imperial clan to ensure that the ruler was an adult of ability, not a child, so when a ruler died who did not have an heir who was an adult, he was to be followed by a brother. There was another factor to this mode of succession because the status of a member of the clan was determined by the degree of his relationship to an emperor. If three brothers held the throne in succession then all of their sons would be of the highest status, ensuring a larger pool from which to make sure that the ruler was up to the task of keeping the clan on top. Of course, this also increased the possibility of conflicts over the succession.

When Kammu died his son prince Ate followed him and a second son prince Kamino was designated the official heir. These are Heizei Tenno and Saga Tenno respectively. Heizei was 33 at his accession, and the government immediately showed itself active, sending out circuit inspectors, with a particular mandate to look for cases where water from government irrigation systems was being diverted to open private farmland. Later the same year there was an edict directed to the management of temples, to ensure that people could not create a new temple and endow it with land (which became exempt from many taxes) but then continue to treat the land as their private property.

There were three branches of the Fujiwara clan active in court politics and they were very competitive. There had been four branches, of course, descended from the four sons of Fujiwara Fuhito, but the branch that led to Fujiwara Nakamaro had been eliminated from consideration. Prince Iyo, a brother of the emperor, was a grandson of Fujiwara Korekimi, who had been Udaijin from 783 to 789, and a nephew of Fujiwara Otomo, a member of the sangi. These men were of the "shiki" branch of the Fujiwara. The current Udaijin was Fujiwara Uchimaro of the "northern" branch. Prince Iyo was currently the administrator in charge of the imperial palace, a senior position. Fujiwara Otomo was the leader of the remaining "southern" branch and also a member of the sangi.

According to the official history, Otomo informed Uchimaro that he had heard that another Fujiwara of the southern branch, Munenari, had secretly approached Prince Iyo and urged him to rebel. Prince Iyo became aware of this report and immediately went to the emperor and reported that Munenari had approached him. Munenari was arrested and he claimed that Prince Iyo was the instigator of the plot. Iyo and his mother (the daughter of Korekimi) were arrested and immediately committed suicide by taking poison. Munenari was exiled and Otomo was removed from office and exiled as well. This largely eliminated the southern branch of the Fujiwara from the competition. The speedy resolution of this incident shows that Heizei shared his father's aggressiveness in handling any hint of a threat.

Early in 809 Heizei announced his intention to abdicate in favor of his brother. His own son, prince Takaoka, was appointed crown prince. He claimed to be too ill to fulfill the obligations of his office. It is speculated that he feared that he might die in circumstances which would lead to the exclusion of his sons from the line of succession.

The retired emperor changed his residence 5 times in the next few months seeking relief from his illness (a not uncommon practice at the time, seeking what we would call "good feng-shueh") without success. He then announced that he would move back to Nara, and without waiting for an official residence to be prepared he moved into a borrowed mansion in the old city at the end of the year. At about the same time Saga Tenno also became seriously ill and the court cancelled the usual new year ceremonies. This led Saga to revive the Kurodo office that had been used by Kammu so that he could work from his private suite, and it is from this time that it became a permanent institution. He recovered for a time but in the 7th and 8th months of 810 became seriously ill once more.

On the 6th day of the 9th month the retired emperor issued an edict announcing the abolition of Heiankyo and the restoration of Nara as the capital. He also named two illustrious officials, Sakanoue Tamuramaro and Fujiwara Fuyutsugu, to serve as body guards to the emperor. This might be interpreted as a request to the two to take the emperor into "protective custody," but little is certain about this episode. On the 10th day Saga Tenno overruled Heizei's edict and sent out officers to raise troops in nearby provinces. Heizei found out about this the next day and immediately made preparations to leave Nara for the east. Saga Tenno appointed Sakanoue Tamuramaro to take command of forces positioned to protect Kyoto. Heizei left Nara with a small party, but encountered troops and became frightened and returned to the city, where he shaved his head and took monastic orders. There was no actual fighting. Heizei and two officials who accompanied him were exiled. Heizei lived another 14 years. His son was removed from the succession in favor of another son of Kammu (future Junna Tenno). The future of the imperial clan belonged to the descendents of Saga via his son Nimmyo Tenno, successor to Junna. Saga took steps to eliminate Nara as a base from which to stage a takeover: he ordered the demolition of the city. However, an unofficial town just outside the official city centered on a cluster of important temples and shrines survived to become the modern city of Nara.

This incident has attracted a lot of attention, but there is really very little information about it. It is felt that Heizei Tenno was mentally unstable and impulsive and that he regretted abdicating and hoped to reclaim the throne before Saga could die and pass it on. As it happened Saga recovered his health and had a relatively long reign, abdicating in 823 and living until 842. He has the reputation of having taken his responsibilities seriously and generally continuing the policies of Kammu. He remained the effective ruler up to his death.

However, there are clear signs that there were problems. Saga conducted land redistributions in 810 and 828 (technically Junna), failing to make Kammu's schedule of 12 years. It is also not clear from the evidence whether these redistributions covered the entire country. It is only known for sure that the provinces near the capital were done. After Saga's death, the Nimmyo court undertook the census required for a redistribution in 844, but the redistribution itself was never performed. There is no record of another attempt before 879. It is thought that all attempts to keep the registers were abandoned, because the redistributions were their only purpose. The local officials naturally knew where all the farm land was and where to go to collect taxes from it.

The end of the redistribution system did not mean the end of the involvement of the government in agriculture. The government noted that farmers of the Uda district of Yamato province invented wooden drying racks for sheaves of rice that dried the grain (so that it could be threshed) more quickly with less chance of rot setting in, and in 841 an edict recommended that all farmers take up the practice, still in use today. In 829 there was an edict urging the use of a type of waterwheel that had been invented in China to power pumps for irrigation. Amidst a series of years in which harvests were poor, the government exerted efforts to persuade farmers to vary their crops by adding buckwheat and three kinds of millet, kibi, kibinomochi and hiemugi. As in the 8th century, the farmers seem to have ignored this advice. Only in feudal times did multiple cropping become widespread.

Saga Tenno supported the completion of a project that had been much discussed during Kammu's reign to put together an official compilation of materials that had the effect of amending the administrative codes. These fell into two categories, kyaku, which were administrative rulings, and shiki, which were legal judgments and interpretations of the law. A set of 10 volumes of kyaku and 40 volumes of shiki was completed in 820 and Saga ordered that copies be made and distributed throughout the government, a process that took 10 years to complete. They include documents created from the time of Konin Tenno forward. Fujiwara Fuyutsugu had a collection of Saga's edicts created in 821 and in 833 a group of scholars produced a very important book in Ryo no Gige (10 volumes) intended to provide a summary of all of the rulings that were considered to be currently in force. It was also during this period that copies of the Yoro code of 718 were made which are the only reason that large parts of it survive. Also, the "national histories" were continued. In 819 Saga ordered preparation of a continuation of Shoku Nihongi. However, the project apparently got sidetracked when Fujiwara Otsugu died, but it was revived later and completed in 840. This is Nihon Koki and it covers the period from 792 to 833 in 40 volumes. Unfortunately, only 10 volumes survive. Most of Kammu's reign is lost.

Another innovation of Saga's time was the establishment of the office of Kebiishi. The government kept guard units in the capital. There were six of them with a nominal total strength of 2,400 men. They were organized as military units and also provided security for the palace and official buildings. They probably also managed the city gates. The Kebiishi on the other hand amounted to a civilian police force for the city, showing that it had become densely enough populated to need one. They were conspicuously successful in keeping order when the city was seriously flooded in 837 and in 839 were given control of all police related functions that were, under the code, spread among a number of small offices. By 850 they were also running a prison system and in 857 two executioners were added. Also Kebiishi began to be posted to rural areas around that time. Kyoto was from the 830's at least overrun with professional criminals and the Kebiishi were only moderately successful in suppressing them. In 837 the emperor came across two female robbers stealing clothing in the palace who pulled knives on him.

Saga Tenno was 38 when he abdicated. Fujiwara Fuyutsugu, the chief minister at the time, objected on the grounds that the government could not afford two palaces and two emperors, but Saga insisted. He continued to run things and there is no evidence that Junna Tenno, who was mild-mannered and scholarly, objected to this. Junna abdicated as soon as Saga's son Masayoshi was old enough to become emperor, and his own son Tsunesada was in turn designated the crown prince. Fuyutsugu was right to be worried, it seems, as Saga and Junna (and Nimmyo later) were fond of high living and were noted for giving frequent and expensive parties.

Saga Tenno lived a long time and had many wives. The result was approximately 50 children. Because there were so many of them, he took a group with low status mothers and set them up as a new clan, Minamoto. Several later rulers followed this precedent, leading to several different groups of Minamotos (and Tairas, another clan name used the same way). The group descended from Saga are in later times known as "the Saga Genji." Genji is "Minamoto clan" if pronounced as Chinese. Several of the Saga Genji had prominent political careers from the reign of Nimmyo Tenno forward. They were moved into high status jobs at very early ages. Minamoto Tokiwa was made Udaijin at the age of 29 whereas the Sadaijin at the time was Fujiwara Otsugu, aged 69. Fujiwara Yoshifusa, the future dictator, was merely Chunagon at age 37 at the time.

During the reigns of Kammu and Heizei men appointed to high office had lengthy experience of low ones that would have exposed them to the lives of the ordinary population, usually including service as an active military officer in the field or as provincial governor. One of the sangi at this time, Ono Minemori, is known to have worked at Dazaifu where he was active in setting up a chain of hostels that could be used by corvee laborers while travelling. He also worked on an experimental system of kueiden in Kyushu. This was a project to find out whether it was feasible for the government to take direct command of farming activity. The government designated a special block of land and peasants to farm it. The government then fed the workers and paid all of their expenses directly, collected the entire crop, paid the workers' taxes and the expenses out of it and kept what was left as profit. The goal was to split the wealth between the peasants and the government and freeze out the local aristocracy, who usually creamed off most of the profit. The foremen who controlled the work were also peasants, paid extra. The project was considered a success, though it was not followed up. A man like Ono Minemori would have had a pretty good idea what the real world was like by the time he rose to high office. That would not necessarily be the case for a man like Minamoto Tokiwa who stepped directly from a youth in the palace to appointment as a senior minister.

The year 842 marks a major transition, the death of the retired emperor Saga, who had dominated the government since his accession to the throne in 809. Junnin had died two years earlier and Nimmyo Tenno was now on his own. He was clearly not up to it, and power almost immediately shifted into the hands of Fujiwara Yoshifusa. He was a high-ranking official but by no means the highest, but he quickly demonstrated high-class conspiratorial skills, and then maintained his control without much effort for many years. Clearly, he knew what he was doing.

The first Fujiwara Regency

Eight days after the death of Saga Nimmyo arrested Tsunesada and deposed him. A large number of officials were demoted and others were promoted to replace them, headed by Fujiwara Yoshifusa. One month later Nimmyo Tenno's son prince Michiyasu was designated crown prince. The most unusual thing about this episode is that Tsunesada was not killed. Like Heizei Tenno he was allowed to live out his life. It is worthy of noting that both princes involved, Tsunesada and Michiyasu, had Fujiwara mothers. However, Tsunesada's mother was of a branch that was rival to Yoshifusa. Michiyasu's mother was Yoshifusa's sister.

Yoshifusa was the second son of Fujiwara Fuyutsugu who had been Sadaijin. However, Fuyutsugu died while Yoshifusa was still quite young and he was only a mid-level official without great prospects when he was assigned to work in the palace of the crown prince and became friendly with the future Nimmyo Tenno. Once Nimmyo became emperor Yoshifusa began to rise rapidly. When Michiyasu was made crown prince he was already married and had three children headed by prince Koretaka. In 843 Yoshifusa was able to introduce his daughter into this family. She was a granddaughter of Saga Tenno because Yoshifusa had been able to marry a daughter of the emperor, something currently permitted only to Fujiwaras among the aristocracy. This girl quickly produced a son who eventually enabled Yoshifusa to transform the political situation in his favor.

Nimmyo's reign was not a successful one. All of the registers and maps were prepared for a land distribution in 844, but it was never carried out. There is no explanation given as to why. There was to be no further attempt for more than 30 years. The quality of life in the capital was deteriorating visibly. There were thieves and bandits everywhere and fires were constant. It appears that thieves often set fires and sounded the alarm and when the occupants of the house fled out one side, the thieves entered the other side to loot it. Occasionally such fires spread and destroyed large sections of the city. The Kebiishi proved unable to cope successfully with this and for a time the regular guards troops were deployed in the streets in the area around the palace where most noble mansions were located as patrolmen.

Nimmyo became ill in 850. Two days before his death he took the vows of a Buddhist monk. He was only 41. His mother became a Buddhist nun and two of his brothers became Buddhist monks. This was unprecedented in that Kammu Tenno and his three sons had all been conspicuously Confucian in orientation. When they wrote poetry, they wrote it in Chinese. However, Buddhism was now very obviously on the rise among the common people and the nobility alike. This is often associated with the noted monk Kukai, later considered the equivalent of a saint and awarded a posthumous name, but it went far beyond the efforts of one man. From this time forward imperial monks become common, and many other nobles also took monastic vows late in life as a sign of retirement from public life.

Montoku Tenno was 24 years old when he ascended the throne. His son by Yoshifusa's daughter was immediately appointed the official heir despite being but one year old. This was entirely unprecedented, and particularly opposed to the system that Kammu Tenno had attempted to set up. Given that Saga Tenno had 50 children, there would have been no difficulty about finding a brother of Nimmyo capable of taking the throne. However, it is clear that we have returned to the general situation that had prevailed during the Soga dominance and at intervals during the Nara period when the relationship to the dominant noble family at court controlled the succession. To be fair, no one expected Montoku Tenno to die young, but still, the risk was obvious. At the time the senior official was Minamoto Tokiwa and Yoshifusa ranked second. However, Tokiwa died in 854.

The main problem afflicting the government at this time was rapidly falling revenue from taxes. The response was a series of edicts urging the people to pay attention to agriculture. The actual cause was the spread of shoen and the removal of lands from the tax registers. The government made no effort to enforce the land redistributions, nor did it follow up on the experimental direct farming system explored during Saga's reign.

The year 857 saw numerous examples of dissatisfaction around the country. On the island of Tsushima, which was also a province, a mob of 300 men led by the district magistrates stormed the residence of the governor and burned it down, killing him and 16 other persons. In other places the locals limited themselves to sending in petitions protesting against misrule. In the same year Yoshifusa was appointed to the office of Dajodaijin, last occupied in 765 by the monk Dokyo. It may be that that was an attempt to respond to the crisis. Montoku's edict making the appointment specifically states that it was because Yoshifusa was his relative, and it may be that this was a first pass at the regency that followed soon after. A few months later the emperor fell gravely ill and he died in the 8th month of 858 at the age of 33. It is believed that he was always frail and it seems that he almost never left the palace. His son was placed on the throne becoming Seiwa Tenno. He was nine, the previous record (which occasioned much controversy at the time) was Mommu Tenno aged 15.

Despite his youth, Seiwa Tenno already had a Fujiwara wife, whose father was Yoshifusa's younger brother Nagayoshi. This woman eventually became the mother of Yozei Tenno. Nagayoshi was also the father of Yoshifusa's eventual successor, Mototsune. Yoshifusa did not have a son, nor did he have a spare daughter to marry to Seiwa Tenno. In the official genealogies Mototsune counts as Yoshifusa's son, but he was adopted.

In 862 a rather strange edict said, essentially, that everything was going to hell and all government officials needed to work harder. There is no evidence of anything specific being done. This is the beginning of the phase in which the provincial administration ceased to operate for the benefit of the government and instead became the personal fief of the governor, to loot to whatever extent he was capable. It is from this time that we see in the record frequent mentions of "good officials" who were honest and actually tried to run things in a manner that was fair to all. This flows from the Chinese idea that all that is necessary to have a successful government is moral officials.

In 863 there was a major influenza epidemic and there was a wave of popular belief that it was caused by vengeful ghosts from imperial scandals going all the way back to the overthrow of Tenchi Tenno's son prince Sawara. The government held a public propitiation ceremony at Shinsenen, which was a vast garden that had been added to the southern side of the palace. A portion of thr garden survives today just south of Nijo Castle, which sits on the southeast corner of the ancient imperial palace. Many private ceremonies were also held, some of which attracted large crowds. The gatherings continued and the government attempted to prohibit them in 865. In 866 the emperor and all the leading nobles went to the mansion of Yoshifusa for a lavish cherry blossom viewing party. Ten days later one of the gates of the imperial palace, known as Otemon, burned down. This was popularly taken as a divine criticism of the government. The government tried to respond by mobilizing military forces which were sent out to deal with pirates in the Inland Sea and bandits operating in various places. In the midst of this one official informed another that he had heard that the fire had been set on the orders of Minamoto Tokiwa. The second official immediately ordered Tokiwa's arrest. The officer who received this order was Fujiwara Mototsune. Instead of carrying it out he went to ask Yoshifusa what he thought about it, and Yoshifusa replied that he was sure that Tokiwa was innocent. He sent people to circulate around the palace and calm everyone down.

The man who started the rumor about Minamoto Tokiwa was Otomo Yoshio. Five months after the "Otemon incident" an informer accused Otomo of having burned the gate himself. He continued to protest his innocence under torture but was convicted and exiled along with four of his relatives. He was the grandson of a man who had been convicted in the murder of Fujiwara Tanetsugu in 785 and exiled.

When Yoshifusa died in 872 the government treated it as a crisis and mobilized the guard units and activated the barriers on the major roads, something ordinarily done only on the death of an emperor. However, there was no trouble and his heir Mototsune continued to exercise his authority and was immediately appointed regent. Seiwa Tenno abdicated in 876 and was replaced by Yozei Tenno, Mototsune's nephew. Yozei was nine and the regency continued.

In 878 there was a large-scale rebellion of Emishi in Dewa province. There had been no serious fighting in the north since early in the reign of Saga Tenno. A provincial of neighboring Mutsu province who had the title of Oryoshi, which was a provincial version of the Kebiishi, on his own authority assembled an army of 2000 men and marched to Dewa where he found 5000 men at the provincial capital. About a month later they were attacked by rebels and the bulk of the army fled. Only one small unit commanded by a man named Funya Arifusa stayed to fight, but they were defeated. The rebels captured large quantities of military gear.

Back in the capital, Fujiwara Yasunori, a man noted as a "good official" but with no military experience, was appointed governor and sent off to deal with the situation. He appears to have had only 600 men with him, but he found 300 more in Dewa, and then was reinforced by 2000 more men following behind him. He came under a lot of pressure from the government to attack the rebels, but he said that the rebels had problems of their own and he thought that with good government he could resolve the situation without fighting. He said that he wanted to get the farmers back to work, settle refugees, and build up his resources. The government permitted him to take this approach and the rebellion in fact came to an end with no more fighting and Yasunori was back in the capital before the end of 879. This is the last item in the history of the frontier wars. The northeast region remained an unusual region with a history in many ways independent of the rest of the country for a very long time, even into the 19th century in some ways, but it was administratively now a permanent part of Japan. The name Emishi went out of use soon after.

The record shows Fujiwara Mototsune as being much more aggressive than had been Yoshifusa in attacking the problems facing the government. He backed Fujiwara Yasunori's policies in Dewa and made an effort to try to put an end to the abuses commonly practiced by governors. However, it is clear that his focus was on trying to get moral men into office rather than changing administrative systems. He was responsble for last iteration of the land redistribution system. His edict on the matter pointed out that because of the lapse of this system the government had almost no idea of what was happening in the provinces. The registers were not being kept, so that there were no maps of the arable land and no indication of the numbers of taxpayers or where they were living, making it impossible to manage the tax system intelligently.

In the five inner provinces we know that the government appointed five senior officials (all sangi) to go to the five provinces to supervise. The original law called for female members of the family to receive 2/3 of the allotment of a male, but this had been cut in 828 to 1/3 and now in 880 it was eliminated. Also, the allotments for males were changed from entirely rice paddy to a mixture of paddy land and dry land for wheat or millet. The redistribution was ordered for all provinces, but outside of the inner provinces the details were left up to the governor. There was a flood of complaints about difficulties, but there is evidence that the redistribution occurred in at least 7 provinces and it is believed that it was pretty widespread, though we don't know how thorough it was outside of the inner provinces.

In 882 Yozei Tenno became a legal adult at the age of 15, and he inquired about terminating the regency. Instead a new title, kampaku, was invented to apply to the regency in respect to an adult emperor. About one year later Mototsune and the emperor quarreled about something unknown and refused to make up. Whatever one proposed the other tried to sabotage. At one point Mototsune proposed ending the regency and Yozei refused. Yozei was definitely an exception to the recent run of weakling emperors who died young. He lived to be 82. There is speculation that he was not sane. In late 883 there was an unsolved murder inside the imperial palace and the rumor was that it had been committed by the emperor in a rage over something. Mototsune increased his pressure on the emperor and in early 884 he abdicated. There was no designated successor. There was a prince who was Mototsune's grandson, Sadatoki, age 7. However, he was a son of Yozei and Mototsune appears to have been determined not to appoint a son of Yozei. Many candidates were discussed and the selection was prince Tokiyasu, a brother of Montoku Tenno. His mother was a Fujiwara, though from a different branch of the clan than Mototsune. He was 55 years of age and had a modest career working in the government. He was Koko Tenno. Despite the age of the new ruler and his experience working in the government the regency was continued. It is claimed that this was the decision of the emperor himself. The best man should rule, and the best man was Mototsune.

In 885 Mototsune's son Tokihira achieved adulthood and was launched on his official career.

There was no immediate decision on an heir to Koko Tenno. The emperor wanted his 7th son Minamoto Sadami. This presented a problem in that as a Minamoto he had been removed from the imperial clan, legally speaking. Mototsune had rejected one candidate to succeed Yozei on exactly that ground. However, this time he agreed. Sadami was formally restored to the clan and made crown prince. His mother was not a Fujiwara but an imperial princess. The same day this was accomplished the emperor died and prince Sadami immediately succeeded. He is designated Uda Tenno. When the retired emperor Yozei was informed of this he said, "but isn't he a servant?" As Minamoto Sadami the new emperor had served as a page in the palace. This all occurred in 887.

The first edict issued by Uda Tenno contains the first use of the word Kampaku. The edict changed the name of Mototsune's office to "ako." Mototsune protested that the new word didn't mean anything. The two fought about this with many arguments for six months before Uda finally issued an edict putting everything back the way it was. One historian called this "the Ako War." It signalled that Uda was not going to be anyone's puppet emperor.

Mototsune then died in 891 before he could arrange for a proper successor through a new grandson or get his sons advanced to high positions in the government. He had 4 sons, Tokihira, Kanehira, Nakahira, and Tadahira, and 4 daughters. Two of them were married to Seiwa Tenno, one was married to Uda Tenno, and the last would eventually become married to Daigo Tenno. Tokihira was 21 years old and not yet of Sangi rank. As manager of the fortunes of the northern branch of the Fujiwara clan Mototsune seems to have made a real mess of the position achieved by Yoshifusa.

At this point in time occurred the beginning of the great age of classical Japanese literature. Up to then literature in Japan had meant Chinese literature, even though Nihon Shoki and Kojiki contain snippets written in Japanese by using Chinese characters for their sound only, and the great Manyoshu collection of Japanese poetry had been put together using the same method. Now, a simple and elegant system for writing Japanese with a syllabary of about 50 characters (the exact number varied for a time) based on highly simplified Chinese characters had been invented and come into wide use. There were some exceptions, but it was generally thought that there was no need for women to learn to read and write Chinese, so any literature intended for both men and women must necessarily be written in Japanese. The first major book published was Ise Monogatari which may be considered a tribute to the life and works of Ariwara Narihira, a poet who died in 880. The exact date of the book is not known, but it was early in the 10th century. Another crucial book for this era is Konjaku Monogatari. It is thought to have been completed around 1077 but it is a collection of short stories that includes much old material, including many pieces evidently written about this time.

When Mototsune died emperor Uda wasted no time in reestablishing the principle that the emperor is the ruler. The office of Kampaku lapsed and was not revived for forty years.

Yasunori, Michizane, and Tokihira

The emperor took several measures to try to assure that control would remain in hands of the imperial clan. He made sure to promote men from several lineages of the Fujiwara clan so that they could be rivals of each other, and he also moved many of his relatives into the Minamoto clan and appointed them to high office. At the same time that the 21 year old Tokihira was raised to the sangi level, so was Uda’s brother Minamoto no Osamoto. And, over the next few years Osamoto was followed by Sadatsune, Tato, Mare, and Noboru. In 893 the emperor established as crown prince Atsuhito, 9 years old, whose mother, although a Fujiwara, was only a cousin of Tokihira. Her father, Takafuji was first raised to the sangi at this time, possibly to serve as a rival to Tokihira. Finally, he raised two relatively obscure “good governors” to high office. They were Fujiwara Yasunori, one year after the death of Mototsune, and Sugawara no Michizane, the year after. Yoshifusa and Mototsune had run things for 30 years, between them, and Uda was now trying to do something quite different.

At the top level his government had 7 Fujiwara and 6 Minamoto and one lonely representative of the remaining ancient aristocracy in the person of Sugawara no Michizane. The sadaijin was Minanoto Toru, aged 72, followed by Fujiwara Yoshiyo, also 72, Minamoto Yoshiari, only 50, Minamoto Hikaru, 49, Fujiwara Morokatsu , 66, and Fujiwara Tokihira, now 23. Yoshiyo was now the chief of the Fujiwara clan, however Tokihira’s prospects were still pretty good since he was going to outlive all of these men and inevitably rise to the top barring some disaster. And, it was not enough for Uda to assert himself. He had to show that he could pull it off, politically, over the long run. His elevation of Yasunori and Michizane was going to be very important to him. It was necessary that it work out. There were plenty of problems to deal with. It was pretty clear that the pattern of rural government established in the Nara period had broken down.

Fujiwara Yasunori was from the “southern” branch of the Fujiwara that had been knocked out of the top aristocracy. His grandfather had held the rank of chunagon, but his father never got higher than vice-commander of one of the guards units, barely clinging to aristocratic status. In 855 Yasunori got a low ranking post in the central bureaucracy, and in 871 he went to Bitchu province as a zuryo, and subsequently transferred to Bingo. In 878 when the rebellion in Dewa broke out, Mototsune assigned him as the governor supporting the forces sent to deal with it. He was, as previously noted, very successful and suppressed the rebellion despite an extreme shortage of resources and with a minimum of violence. After that he went back to work as a zuryo, but he continued to attract attention as a “good official” in Sanuki province and as the deputy commander at Dazaifu. Immediately after Mototsune’s death emperor Uda brought him back to the capital and in the next year raised him to the sangi level. At the time he was 68 years old (and therefore no real threat to Tokihira).

Yasunori was certainly well qualified to advise the government about conditions in the countryside and what it took to be able to keep the peace, as he had successfully done for many years.

Sugawara no Michizane’s route to high office was somewhat different. Following his grandfather and father, he was a scholar attached to the university and a well-known poet (since the age of 11). Neither his grandfather nor his father had had any political or governmental role. However, his father Koreyoshi had been promoted to sangi rank in 872 (when Michizane was 28), opening the way for Michizane to seek a career, if he wished to. In 874 Michizane was given 5th rank, passed through several minor bureaucratic offices, and in 877 was given a concurrent appointment as professor at the university. In 886 he was appointed governor of Sanuki province and decided to actually go to his province, resigning 3 other posts in the central government to do so.

He was in Sanuki for 4 years. While there he wrote a book of 140 poems, but also worked hard to be a “good official” in the mode of Yasunori, with whom he was familiar, work that shows up in many of the poems. When he returned to the capital he was among those who criticized Mototsune’s determination to remain Kampaku over an adult emperor. This naturally attracted Uda’s attention.

Emperor Uda had a strategy for dealing with the problems facing the government, but it was not one that involved creating new arrangements. Rather it was an attempt to go back to the approaches of the Nara period system. The main idea seems to be that if the system were run humanely, people would accept it. This is very Confucian, holding that morality is far more important than structure in solving governmental problems. His reign title combined characters for benevolence and tranquility.

The immediate goal was to return to the policy of the first years of Mototsune’s control (877-884) and resurrect the handen system. Yasunori had been in the field as a zuryo when the last distribution was accomplished. Historians are inclined to think that the reform effort did not just depend on the men at the top, because the middle and lower ranking officials in the central government realized that if the tax revenues failed they were doomed. Only the very highest in rank could form shoen. And, although zuryo were doing very well at the moment, if the opposition of the local aristocrats, the farmers, and the shoen owners did not weaken, their long term prospects were not good either. Fujiwara Tokihira was not opposed to this line of thinking and came to be counted among the reformers himself.

Yasunori led the efforts to reform rural government from 892 until his death three years later. Afterward, Michizane and Tokihira were the leaders. The first thing that was done was to repeat a step taken several times since the time of Tenchi Tenno and send out inspectors to gather information about conditions in the countryside and what local people thought about them. In actual fact the district magistrates were responsible for gathering testimony from locals and passing it on to the inspectors. There are no details about exactly what was done, but it is usually assumed that shoen were ignored since the focus was to be on zuryo and whether they were performing properly or abusing their powers.

Another aspect of the effort was an attempt to cut the cost of the central government by abolishing unnecessary offices and combining their functions into the remaining ones. The number of men on duty in the various guards units was considerably reduced also.

There was also thought given to resuming contact with China. The last embassy had been more than 60 years previously. In 894 it was ordered that an embassy was to be organized and that Michizane should be the ambassador, but only 1 month later he recommended that the project be abandoned, and it was. The T'ang dynasty was in the process of collapsing at this time and the prospects for a successful embassy were actually not very good. The kingdom of Silla in Korea was also in a state of collapse. After 890 or so it had almost no control over its provinces, and local groups began fighting each other for primacy. In 900 there began a large-scale civil war that only resulted in unification under a new dynasty in 936. This breakdown of order led to a major increase in the incidence of attacks by Korean pirates on Japan, at first mainly on the island of Tsushima, but later in much of northern Kyushu. In 893 there was a large scale raid in Higo province and many farmers' houses were burned. In 894 the government sent additional troops to Tsushima, and provinces along the Japan Sea coast were ordered to take precautions. This of course shows that they still had the resources to respond to such a situation.

In 896 Yasunori died, and he was soon followed by the sadaijin Minamoto no Toru, and at the end of the year, the newly promoted sadaijin Fujiwara Yoshiyo also died. In 897 the udaijin Minamoto Yoshiari followed. Suddenly Tokihira at the age of 26 was the senior official in the government. Uda was worried about this and consulted with Michizane. The decision was to immediately enthrone the emperor’s son. Uda abdicated and emperor Daigo took the throne at the age of 13. This was clearly to obviate any threat that Tokihira might manage to manipulate the succession to his advantage. A daughter of emperor Koko was immediately married to the emperor and made empress. One of Michizane’s daughters was married to Uda’s second son, prince Tokiyo. As usually was the case, Uda planned to continue ruling despite his abdication.

In 899 Tokihira was appointed sadaijin and Michizane udaijin. Fujiwara Takafuji and Minamoto Hikaru were made Dainagon. Takafuji was soon promoted to naidaijin but died almost immediately afterwards. However, his son Sadakuni was immediately promoted to the sangi to take his place.

It is believed that Tokihira began actively plotting to remove Michizane at about this time. His wedge was the fact that Michizane had been rapidly promoted to a much higher rank than his pedigree qualified him for because of the improper favor of emperor Uda. This made it easy to promote resentment against Michizane among the other courtiers. Uda continued to shower favors on him, which made the campaign all the easier. Finally, at the beginning of 901 Tokihira sprung his trap. Having made an ally of Minamoto Hikaru, they went together to emperor Daigo and told him that Michizane planned to force him to abdicate so that his son in law prince Tokiyo could become emperor. Retired emperor Uda had already agreed to this plan, they said. After a few days of this, they secured an edict denouncing Michizane’s crime and banishing him to Kyushu in the usual role of unpaid supernumary official at Dazaifu. 5 days later Uda went to the palace to discuss the matter with the emperor, but Tokihira had arranged that he would not be allowed to enter. This was a case where Tokihira was able to take advantage of the abdication. In much later times retired emperors issued edicts directly, but in this period valid edicts came only from the reigning emperor.

This coup did not change the fact that Uda generally ran the government until his death, and Tokihira learned to get along with him. However, Michizane was eliminated as a political factor. This event is still well remembered in Japan. Because Michizane was a prominent poet, the writers and artists of the day were all on his side, so his fate was accorded a lot of artistic attention over the years. He died of illness at Dazaifu in 903 at the age of 59. He had time to write a book about his experiences in exile.

Soon after the coup emperor Daigo’s wife Onshi, a sister of Tokihira, gave birth to a son, prince Munekata, the future emperor Suzaku. With this the Fujiwara for the third time put themselves in position to gain a special position in relation to the throne. Only three months later this prince was made the heir.

Starting in 902 the government issued a stream of edicts directed toward the reform of provincial government. They were all aimed at restoring the proper operation of things according to the original ryo, except as modified by subsequent kyaku and shiki. And, the government took up the matter of handen. Nothing had been done about this since 881 despite the reforming aspirations of Yasunori and Michizane, and this had had a big effect upon local government.

There had been time for the relationship between population and the allocation of the land to drift so that some had too much land and some too little, which made it difficult to assess and collect taxes. The government ordered all provinces to conduct a thorough census, 12 years after which the distribution would be conducted. This was a huge gap. All previous distributions had been carried out over a three year period from census to execution. There is no explanation as to why this was decided.

From the associated edicts it was clear that the government intended to strictly enforce the letter of the law in respect to the quality of goods accepted for the head tax and the timing of their delivery. There was to be no retreat from fill compliance with earlier practices.

There were obstacles to making this work as planned. “Wicked farmers, seeking to evade the taxes, move to the capital on their own initiative and attach themselves to wealthy households, or lie about their lands claiming that they have been donated, or claim that their houses have been sold, or take documents issued by a noble and affix seals to them and claim privilege. Even though they suspect these seals are forgeries, the governors cringe before higher authority, say nothing, and do not prevent these crimes.”

Also, in the absence of any census and distribution, all "new land" opened up on the initiative of locals was effectively private land and most likely not entered on any registers, making it effectively shoen land even if it didn't have documents. A thorough census and land survey would find it all, of course, and was not likely to be very popular.

The government now prohibited people in the countryside from donating lands and residences to temples and shrines, and the opening of new lands under protection was also to be stopped. Only shoen which could demonstrate valid documents from the dajokan and minbusho were to be continued. It was not at all clear exactly what might have come out of all of this because Tokihira died in 909 at the age of 39 and the reform effort died with him.

The development of the shoen system

Shoen is the name given to private estates that were exempt from the land redistribution process and were also immune to all or some taxes and were sometimes also immune to the entry of public officials. For most historians shoen were considered such a conspicuous aspect of life in the Heian period that the term "the shoen system" is often considered synonymous with the Heian period, to be contrasted with "the ritsuryo system" for the Nara period and "the feudal system (hoken)" for the subsequent periods.

The prohibition of privately owned land was never absolute, but the intention of the authorities was clearly that it would be limited to rare and special purposes. During the Nara period there were experiments with permitting nobles to pay for the necessary work to bring new lands under cultivation and then to be reimbursed by being allowed to treat the land as private property for a limited period of time, after which it would be taken into the redistribution system. Various edicts make it clear that there were abuses in which men tried to grab public lands and claim that they had reclaimed them, or illegally used public resources and corvee laborers to reclaim land which they then claimed for themselves.

That type of private land had disadvantages as well as advantages for it remained fully taxable and remained under the police powers of the provincial and district governments.

Shomu Tenno decided to provide funds for the operation of his new Todaiji temple by granting the temple lands that would be exempt from taxes, the taxes instead going to the temple as revenue. Subsequently, numerous other temples were financed the same way, and as the result of complaints from the monks, rules were passed granting these estates various degrees of immunity from the local officials. The nobility took notice, because this type of landholding looked attractive. The monks had no interest in farming land themselves. The normal mechanism for creating a shoen was for a management contract to be entered into whereby a local aristocrat would take responsibility for running the estate in return for a share of the profits. Usually the noble would open up new land and then "donate" it to the temple in return for such a management agreement. This removed the land permanently from the tax rolls.

Almost all surviving documents relating to shoen were preserved in temple archives, mainly the Todaiji archive, and there is no real documentation for the process whereby shoen began to be used for estates owned by noblemen rather than temples, but there is no doubt that it happened. It probably started during the period when Saga Tenno was in charge, but a lot of people suspect that it was mainly Fujiwara Yoshifusa who fostered the process. Essentially all that was required was to secure a charter from the emperor designating the land as shoen and defining its privileges. As regent, Yoshifusa was legally entitled to create such charters on his own. It now became possible for Yoshifusa to enrich himself that way, and also to extend the privilege to his political allies within the nobility. It is very clear from complaints coming in and the efforts of reformers that one very important channel for the creation of shoen was via the provincial governors. The governor with his political connections in the capital could arrange for charters relatively easily, raking off a share of the profits for himself. In particular we see numerous edicts attempting to prevent governors from retiring to a province they had ruled, out of the expectation that if they could do so they would aspire to put togther a collection of shoen lands there to finance their retirement.

The shoen system eventually became very complicated. The way it was structured several different parties had explicitly recognized "rights," called by the Japanese historians "shiki," in various aspects of the shoen. In addition to the "proprietor" (ryoshu) in the capital, the on-site manager had a property right that was shiki, and the several lower level officers who were necessary for the management of the estate and the collection of its revenues also had explicitly defined shiki. Once these existed, it became possible to inherit them and to sell them. Logically enough, it followed that they could be divided. A man might leave his shiki to be divided equally among his children, for example. It therefore became possible for a person to own one quarter of the shiki pertaining to the office of collector of rents, without any personal obligation to do any of that work. It became merely the right to a certain specified income. As you may easily imagine, this led enevitably in the direction of causing numerous lawsuits. In principle, the proprietor was responsible for handling disputes over shiki that were entirely internal to the shoen. This was one of the factors in causing the Heian period nobles to set up business offices within their mansions. Sometimes, of course, people on the shoen found it desirable to sue the proprietor, or the proprietor might have a problem with their behavior.

The official legal system had no way to handle these matters. The very concept of a lawsuit was not a part of the administrative laws. If people had a complaint they could petition the Dajokan, which might appoint someone to investigate the matter and determine how the law applied to it. This was where shiki in the sense of kyaku and shiki came from. When an official determined how the law applied to a situation he wrote out his conclusions and filed a copy and this was called a shiki. Clearly the shiki considered as a property right in a shoen was thought of as being much the same, a written description of the rule that had been agreed on for the particular situation.

In the time of Saga Tenno it is most likely the case that law suits went mainly to his Kurodo office. The ultimate decision was credited to the emperor, but would actually be made by some official within the office. As regent, Fujiwara Yoshifusa set up his own version of the Kurodo, since "the regency" was not a legal office and did not appear in the budget or have a suite of offices assigned to it. From this time as long as the system lasted, whoever was the top dog in the political structure had to maintain a private lawcourt where officials of his appointment could examine the documents and interview witnesses pertaining to disputes over rights within shoen. This court had to appear to be at least moderately efficient and moderately fair or people would stop coming. After the collapse of the official administrative system these courts were almost the only regularly functioning organ of government, and the fact that someone had to provide them was the most powerful factor in permitting the government to hang onto existence in a context where it no longer had meaningful revenues.

Even in Yoshifusa's day, and to a steadily increasing extent as time passed, the government had no regular means to enforce judgements made by these courts. It was assumed that the two parties would abide by the judgement. The only lever it had was that if the losing side ignored the decision the court could disestablish the shoen and declare its charter void, turning it over to the mercies of the provincial governor. A particularly egregious individual could also be proclaimed an outlaw, in which case his heavily armed neighbors were free to go after him and seize his property.

There was a lot of violence in the countryside starting roughly in Yoshifusa's time, and the best way to mitigate it was for provincials to respect the shoen system and the regent's (or later the retired emperor's) court. People did not actually want to live in a lawless society, so there was always a delicate balance. The government could not afford to maintain real police forces, so the people had to police themselves, which was inherently messy and open to abuse, but by resorting to the courts and respecting their decisions people were able to put pressure on the armed landowners to behave themselves, more or less. This was a time of what might be termed restrained chaos.

A highly similar set of arrangements developed within the district and provincial administrations also. Appointments to local office were mostly hereditary anyway, but now it came to be treated as a formal property right that could, again, be inherited, sold, and subdivided. By the 10th century this process was far advanced, so that although the legal terminology was different, the actual way of life was not much different on a shoen and on "public" land. The main difference is that the provincial governorship did not ever become truly hereditary but was handed out for a term of years. However, it came to be the case that the governor ceased to actually travel to his province but sent an agent known as a zuryo, which means someone serving in your place. Even the governorship became a shiki right and in the 12th century, a man of great power might hold six or eight governorships simultaneously, solely for his cut of the revenue.

This was a very peculiar system, obviously. The best way to understand it is to see it as a process of very slow collapse. Things always got worse, they never got better, the success rate of the courts in enforcing decisions went down, the level of local violence went up. At some point it was inevitable that the whole thing would fail completely, and many people were aware of this. It follows that some of those people began to put together new systems to take its place. However, the early Heian period is the era of decline. The first signs of new types of arrangements do not appear until the following century.

There is a lot of information about conflict in the countryside between governors (mostly now zuryo) and the locals over taxes and other matters. In the absence of proper tax registers, we find the zuryo improvising. There is a memorial from a zuryo in Kii province in 894 to the Dajokan. He said that rather than try to sort out taxes using the old rules, which was impossible given the information he had, he assessed a flat rate on everyone farming land no matter what their status might be of a fixed number of sheaves per unit of area. This was a comprehensive amount intended to cover crop tax, head tax, and corvee. The government approved this method, which completely ignored all of the laws. One might say that at this point the original system of the Taiho code was completely extinct.

In 884 there was an incident where a mob stated to consist of 170 farmers was organized by two district magistrates of Iwami province to attack the zuryo, who was seriously beaten, and other outrages were committed. The government sent officials to the province to investigate and the case was resolved 2 years later. The zuryo was exiled on the grounds that his illegal behavior caused the uprising. However, the two magistrates and three others who took leading roles were also punished for resorting to violence, but they were merely sentenced to suspension of their offices for one year. There was also a case in which locals petitioned against the governor and investigators were sent who found the governor guilty of crimes. However, the same man was later appointed governor again, and was accused again in his new province, though he died before the new investigation was completed.

Between 892 and 909 there occurred a major effort at "reform" of the government of the provinces including a project to restart the land redistribution system. There is no clear information as to exactly what impacts this had upon the ground, but it does seem certain that the effort came to an end when Fujiwara Tokihira died in 909. From that time onward the shoen system expanded steadily and eventually came to have equal status with the taxation system and the joint sources for the incomes of the nobles of the capital. It is the consensus that officially speaking no more than about half of the country's farm land ever came to be treated as shoen. The rest continued to be "public land" subject to the authority of the provincial governor and district magistrates. However, as noted above, the practical difference between the two from the point of view of the people living on the land became less and less over time.

The shoen system lasted for some time and started to fall apart only in the 13th century, when a completely new form of landholding began to appear, essentially the beginning of the type of landownership that exists today, with the concept that the land belongs to the state replaced by an explicit recognition that land is private property which can be inherited, sold, or rented at the discretion of its owner, who may be a commoner or an aristocrat or an organization. The interest of government in the land is limited to the right to tax it.

The Regency (Sessho and Kampaku)

The offices of Sessho and Kampaku that gave the holder the power to speak for the emperor (whether the emperor wanted this or didn't) were always the exclusive property of members of the Fujiwara clan. In archaic times the imperial clan was surrounded by a number of other clans of varying status. Almost the first thing that happens once we get into a period where detailed information about politics is available is that we find a ferocious struggle amongst the Otomo, Mononobe, and Soga clans for a position of dominance at court. Sometimes the emperor is actually the man in charge, but sometimes he is not up to the task and someone else has to do it. The Soga clan appears to have pioneered the strategy of manipulating the imperial succession so that the successive rulers are all children of Soga mothers. They managed to do this for three generations, but were then defeated by prince Naka no Oe, assisted by Nakatomi no Kamatari. Kamatari played such an important part in subsequent events that when he died a grateful imperial clan created an entirely new clan for his descendants. The name of this clan was, of course, Fujiwara. At the time that this happened the imperial palace was located at a place called Fujiwara, and I presume that that is the origin of the name.

Kamatari's son was Fuhito who also played a crucial role in the continued evolution of the new system of government. He had four sons who established four branches of the clan, but among these only the "northern" branch descended from Fusasaki survived the Nara period in a position of considerable political power. Yoshifusa, the first Sessho, was Fusasaki's great-great-grandson. During his lifetime Fusasaki took second place to his older brother Muchimaro, but had a successful career in his own right. Muchimaro's son Toyonari continued in the highest position, but Fusasaki's son Matate reached the sangi also. He died in 766 during the Dokyo era. His son Uchimaro reached the position of naidaijin when Heizei became emperor after the death of Kammu in 806. He died in office in 812. His son Fuyutsugu played an important part in the events of 810. He had been appointed head of the Kurodo office by Saga Tenno at the start of the year and he was one of the two officials to whom Heizei appealed for support against Saga. However, he remained loyal to Saga. Fuyutsugu became the senior minister in 821 and died in 826 at a comparatively early age, 52, leaving his son Yoshifusa in a relatively low position. Montoku Tenno who took the throne in 850 was a grandson of Fuyutsugu, but this had little practical effect given that Fuyutsugu was long dead.

Yoshifusa was able to seize power from a relatively humble starting position when the retired emperor Saga died in 842. He had been assigned to work in the palace of the crown prince who eventually became Nimmyo Tenno, who was on the throne in 842. Apparently the two became very close, so when Yoshifusa informed the emperor that there was a plot against him he was believed. We have no way of knowing the truth of the matter, but the end result was the demotion of one group of officials and the promotion of a second group headed by Yoshifusa. In 848 he became the senior minister lasting through the transition to Montoku Tenno and in 857 was able to claim the office of Dajodaijin, the highest of all. He was the first to hold this since the unfortunate precedents of Fujiwara Nakamaro and the monk Dokyo in the Nara period. He was thus in complete control of the government and able to designate his own grandson, a mere infant, as heir to the throne. When Montoku Tenno died and the child became emperor as Seiwa Tenno he was 9 years old and obviously required a regent and the only candidate was Yoshifusa. This was in 858. In 866 Yoshifusa secured formal appointment to the newly created office of Sessho. There had been one previous regency in the Nara period but the regent had been an imperial prince.

Yoshifusa died in 872 when Seiwa Tenno was 23 years old, but the regency continued under his son Mototsune right up to Seiwa's abdication in 876. The new emperor Yozei Tenno was also a child and the regency continued. Yozei appeared to be insane and was forced to abdicate in favor of Koko Tenno in 884. Koko was 55 years old but the regency still continued, as it did when Uda became emperor at the age of 21. It only lapsed when Mototsune died in 891 and Uda refused to appoint a replacement.

The office remained in abeyance through the reigns of Uda and Daigo, which is to say up to 930. However, it resumed under Fujiwara Tadahira, Mototsune's son, who was the grandfather of Suzaku Tenno, age 8. This time the office remained permanent, even outlasting the power of the Fujiwara clan. It was abolished in 1868 but revived again in 1889 in the Meiji Constitution, but it was taken away from the Fujiwara clan and restricted to the imperial clan. Taisho Tenno, Mutsuhito, was considered to be mentally disabled and his son Hirohito, the future Showa Tenno, served as Sessho from 1921 to 1926.

In 1947 the law which defined the Imperial Household Agency continued to recognize the office.

The beginnings of the warrior (bushi) class

Since at least 400 AD Japan had been dominated by an aristocracy that was notionally a warrior class. When we first see them in Nihon Shoki they wore swords on all occasions and used them frequently. In battle they fought wearing armor and riding on horseback and their principal weapon was the bow. This description would apply without any change to the rural aristocracy of the 12th and 13th centuries. However, a lot happened between the archaic period and the beginnings of the feudal era. Still, even in the peaceful Heian period members of the aristocracy routinely trained with weapons. This tends to be obscured because of the fact that much of the literature of the late Heian period was written by women whose view of the daily activities of the male aristocrats was limited. Young nobles played violent sports, they practiced sword fighting and archery, and they went on long hunting trips where they hunted deer from horseback with bows and wild boars on foot with spears.

The establishment of Chinese style government in the 7th century made significant changes, however. An official army was set up officered by aristocrats but made up of conscripted peasants who were expected to fight on foot with spears and bows in the Chinese manner. In the middle of the 7th century this army was significant due to the threat of invasion by the Chinese or Koreans, but the absence of any invasion or any serious threat of invasion after the 660s allowed the army to mostly wither away except for the guard regiments in the capital. The government sought to sequester all military arms in armories to be distributed in time of need.

The only significant regular armed forces were border guards maintained on the northern coast of Kyushu and forces in the northeast that were frequently engaged in conflict with barbarian people beyond the effective Japanese frontier. These troops were essentially militia modeled after the regular army, meaning aristocratic officers and commoner soldiers who fought on foot (because commoners didn't know how to ride horses). There is a very interesting note from the Heian period about the problem of training foot soldiers to fight Emishi barbarians who fought in the ancient Japanese manner as mounted bowmen. The solution was to equip the troops with powerful Chinese crossbows, parts from which turn up in northern archeological sites. Whenever a political blowup occurred in the capital that led to violence, the persons involved attempted to flee to the east or send messengers to the east in order to raise experienced troops. There were also occasions when officers would simply go into the fields near the capital and grab peasants, shove spears into their hands, and proclaim them an army. This was done at the time of "Nakamaro's rebellion" in the Nara period.

This began to change as the result of the spread of the shoen system and the corresponding collapse of the system of provinces and districts. The authorities had conscripted peasants for a short period of military training and some of these trained men had served police functions as part of their obligation for corvee labor. However, the financial changes of the 9th century caused large areas of land to be removed from the authority of the provincial governor and the district magistrate as shoen. The men who managed the shoen had to provide their own police services. And, in the land (roughly half even at the height of shoen) that remained "public" the offices associated with the province and the district came to be matters of revenue only, with no requirement of doing any work. The provincial governor ceased to go to his province and merely sent out agents to plunder it at thoroughly as they could manage. As a consequence local landowners of all sorts began to arm some of their men as a private militia.

There is a collection of short stories Konjaku Monogatari that report on conditions late in the 9th century and many of the stories concern rural landowners. One particularly charming one concerns two men who conceived a dislike for each other and therefore concluded that they should settle matters by fighting a war. They each formed up their parties of armed peasants and marched them off to an agreed upon site at an agreed upon time. The two principals were equipped as proper warriors with horses, armor and bows. Their followers were foot soldiers with spears. What actually happened was the two little armies drew up opposite each other across a large field to watch as spectators, and the two principals fought a duel, on horseback, with bows. They charged about seeking a good shot at each other. Each was able to fire once and hit his opponent but failed to penetrate his armor. Then they paused for a rest, complemented each other on the quality of their riding and their shooting and decided that they would be friends. The war was called off.

It is impossible not to conclude that significant elements of the ancient warrior ethos seen in tales of the 5th and 6th centuries had survived among the rural nobility thoughout the intervening period. This suggests that the changes in rural life imposed by the new regime may have been less impressive on the ground than they were in the law books. In social terms everything is present for the development of the bushi class (more often called in English the samurai class) of later times.

The difference between the scene in Konjaku Monogatari and what one would see in Heike Monogatari (13th century) or Taiheiki (14th century) is that the warrior tradition was disseminated to a much wider segment of the rural population. In archaic times the warriors were all aristocrats, a completely different class of person than the ordinary farmers. In the later periods every landowner who could afford the expense normally equipped himself as a warrior and also equipped a number of his men to fight in the same mounted archer style.

At first these men remained of low social status and were referred to as rodo which meant a man who had no land and who worked for his food and lodging at whatever task he was given, a common laborer. However once a man was trained to fight in the aristocratic style and had placed his life on the line alongside his master his effective status tended to rise quickly. The term rodo fell by the wayside somewhere along the line, but samurai is derived from the verb meaning "to serve" in the sense of to serve dinner but was gradually elevated to a term of pride.

The actual social status of a warrior could be relatively high or relatively low. Some of them were authentic aristocrats, descendants of emperors and commanders of armies numbering thousands. Others were large or small landowners with large or small bands of personal followers. Still others were individuals who owned no land and were provided with food and lodging by their master. But they were all warriors and treated each other with respect.

Another matter of importance is that there is a great difference between organizing some of your dependents into a personal militia for local self defense (or annoying your neighbors) and creating something like an army. An army must necessarily include men who are not your personal followers whom you have known since childhood. This was dealt with by forming a system based on patronage. In the classical American big city political machine the leader would be able to mobilize an army of election workers who would go out and do everything that they could to persuade the voters to vote the right way. If the election was a success, then those workers would be rewarded by being appointed to city jobs. You scratch my back and I will scratch yours. Feudalism is a method of government that is based on this principle.

An ambitious aristocratic warrior who wanted to build an army would attempt to recruit landowners to serve him on the promise that a major task of the army that resulted would be to protect the landowners who comprised it. You fight for me when I need it, and I will fight for you when you need it. He could not demand support in the way that emperors demanded it, he needed to persuade men to support him, and to do that he had to make deals. Feudal vassalage is not slavery, it is a deal which requires mutual support and also mutual respect. It contains the element that if a feudal leader treats his men badly they will desert him and they will not be thought disloyal for doing it.

You will say, but that's not the way it works in the samurai movies! The answer to that is that the samurai movies are not about feudalism but about a later time when the armor looked similar but the rules were completely different. In the society that is the real basis for the movie samurai the armies were once more peasants fighting on foot with spears or guns and the samurai were the officer class. It was much more like serving under an emperor and not at all like serving in a feudal band.

At the point that this section ends, 909, there were not yet any actual feudal armies, there were only well-armed landowners who fell into the usual categories of public spirited defenders of law and order and neighborhood hoodlums. There are accounts of gangs of thugs who stole whatever they could and others about bands of vigilantes who rose up against crooked governors. We will not see the first true example of feudal warfare until 40 years or so have passed.

Chapter 08 - The Middle Heian Period

The Middle Heian Period consists essentially of the 10th century. It covers the restoration of the Fujiwara Regency and the withering away of almost the entire central bureaucracy along with the tax revenues that financed it. The higher aristocracy of the capital financed itself from shoen and provincial governorships and no longer received meaningful salaries. For the first time political events in the countryside have to be taken note of and it is possible to see the first stirrings of the evolution of the future feudal form of government.

There is little political information for the period from the death of Tokihira in 909 until 930. The early death of Tokihira was only a modest setback to the fortunes of his family; by 914 his brother Tadahira had risen to the highest rank among active officials. Tadahira dominated politics for a very long time, until his death in 949 at the age of 70. He is not associated with any significant initiatives and was well known as a man devoted to the pleasures of aristocratic life. Retired emperor Uda lived until 931 when he died at the age of 65. He outlived his son Emperor Daigo who died in 930. The new emperor was Suzaku Tenno, a child of 8 who obviously required a regent, inevitably his grandfather Tadahira. The leadership group at the time of the reestablishment of the regency included 15 men, 11 of whom were members of the Fujiwara clan, including the 7 highest in rank. There was but one Minamoto, a son of Daigo Tenno. The important developments of this era were occurring in the countryside.

The fact that things were changing in the relationship between the provinces and the capital became obvious between 936 and 941 when two celebrated "rebellions" occurred. The difficulties of moving bulky goods in a mountainous chain of islands with almost no true roads meant that boats were always of the greatest importance and that the most important waterway was always the Inland Sea extending from the area of modern Osaka to the northeast coast of Kyushu. When you hear of security problems in China, it almost always concerns bandits. In Japan, it is usually pirates, and especially pirates in the Inland Sea. In the period between 936 and 941 a man with connections in the capital named Fujiwara Sumitomo organized these pirates into a force powerful enough to cause panic in the capital and the appointment of a general to suppress him. Then, in 940 and 941 there was a simultaneous set of disturbances in eastern Japan, the general area of modern Tokyo, instigated mainly by a man named Taira Masakado, leading to the appointment of a general against him also. There is a well known book, Shomonki ("Shomon" is Masakado pronounced as Chinese, so the title means "History of Masakado"), written by a well-informed contemporary, so quite a lot is known about Masakado and the people in the east with whom he was involved. These two episodes are the precursors of a series of ever more serious disturbances that eventually, two hundred years later, resulted in the loss of power by the old capital nobles and its assumption by men whose power came from relationships in the outer provinces.

After the death of Tadahira there was another lapse of the regency (but not of Fujiwara power). The Fujiwara predominance became so strong, in fact, that from this time the Fujiwara began to subdivide into distinct lineages that eventually acquired new family names to permit people to keep them straight. In this era these new names began to come into use, although only informally. They were geographical names derived from the address of the primary family mansion, and might vary as mansions burned in the frequent fires and were replaced, only becoming fixed in the 13th century.

For most, the absolute epitome of Fujiwara power would be the time of Michinaga, who died in 1027, and that is when I will end the Middle Heian period.

Sumitomo's Rebellion

Fujiwara Sumitomo was the great-grandson of Fujiwara Nagayoshi, the natural father of Mototsune (Mototsune was adopted to continue the main Fujiwara lineage). This meant that he was in fact moderately closely related to the regent Tadahira, who was also descended from Nagayoshi. Sumitomo's father Yoshinori held the rank of governor of Chikuzen and junior deputy commander at Dazaifu. Sumitomo himself was a zuryo who stayed in his province of Iyo when his term ended. Iyo province, on the Shikoku side of the Inland Sea, was the most characteristic pirate base from this era through the 16th century. Sumitomo almost immediately began subordinating pirate bands and turning them into something bigger. He had an island base at Hiburishima off the west end of Iyo. It is said that he controlled 1000 boats. The names of about 30 of his followers are known. All of them had known aristocratic names of the district magistrate class.

By 936 Sumitomo was troublesome enough that Tadahira appointed a governor to Iyo province who had a specific mandate to suppress piracy and especially Sumitomo. This was Ki no Yoshihito, a man from a family with a tradition of military service. Yoshihito was evidently pretty successful at this and for a time piracy was reduced and Sumitomo's name was not heard. His method appears to have been to put pressure on Sumitomo's subordinates to accept pardons and settle down. He is said to have caused 2,500 men to abandon piracy, and it is from accounts of this that we get the list of names mentioned above.

It the period after Yoshihito's term as governor of Iyo, Taira no Masakado began to cause problems in the east, taking attention away from Iyo. However, Sumitomo had not gone away and he suddenly became conspicuous again just at the time that the government was beginning to think that something must be done about Masakado. At this time the government offered Sumitomo a pardon if he would surrender, but he ignored them.

In 940 Tadahira appointed 3 men as tsuibushi, each of whom was given a block of provinces within which to raise troops. Two of them were to take their forces east to deal with Masakado and the third was to go after Sumitomo, who was raiding various locales around with Inland Sea with a large fleet. One of Sumitomo's raids was on Awaji island, at the eastern end of the sea, which caused a panic in the capital. Now Tadahira appointed a general who was to raise a substantial army to oppose him. However, Sumitomo's career was ended before this commander could do anything substantial. Sumitomo did not attack the capital but moved steadily westward from Awaji, fighting several battles with men dispatched by the tsuibushi, and eventually landed in Kyushu where he assaulted Dazaifu, captured it, and burned it. When they heard of this the various officers pursuing him rounded up every man they could and headed to Kyushu themselves. As chance had it their fleet arrived on the north coast at a beach where Sumitomo's forces were camped. Sumitomo was taken by surprise and his band was destroyed. The official report says that the tuibushi destroyed 800 boats and killed several hundred men. Sumitomo escaped in a small boat with only a couple of companions and tried to get back to Iyo province. However, he was intercepted by two soldiers patroling in a small boat of their own who captured him. He was sent to the capital where he was immediately executed (or committed suicide, there are two versions).

This event shows clearly that the government no longer maintained anything like permanent armed forces. During the earlier reform period associated with Sugawara Michizane, the size of the guard units in the capital had been reduced to save money and they were now nothing more than security guards. A tsuibushi was a temporary officer (except on the northeast frontier) given a mandate to raise men and command them. His status was lower than that of a general and should be thought of as more a police office than a military one. The men who were raised to fight Sumitomo themselves came from the Insland Sea area, drawn from the provinces on the northern, Honshu, side of the Inland Sea but otherwise men of the same general sort as those making up Sumitomo's band.

Masakado's Rebellion

Taira no Masakado

In 890 a low-ranking imperial prince, Takamochi, who was a great-grandson of Kammu Tenno, was granted the clan name Taira and appointed to a term as zuryo in Kazusa province in the northeast, near modern Tokyo. When his appointment ended he stayed in the province. Two of his sons became military officers who served in the far northeast, others worked as zuryo. They seem to have maintained political connections with Fujiwara Mototsune and Fujiwara Tokihira and were given various offices and titles. They tended to settle down not just anywhere but at a provincial or district capital and they obtained office titles in the provincial system, often as oryoshi or kebiishi, commanders of policemen or security guards. Men of this class would also be found as the on-site managers of shoen.

It is not known when Takamochi's grandson Masakado was born. As a youth he went to the capital and worked as a servant in the mansion of Fujiwara Tadahira. He never seems to have taken a government job, but his brother Sadamori was posted to one of the guards regiments.

In about 931 Masakado fell out with his uncle Yoshikane. It is not clear whether it was over a woman or property. Yoshikane had a high post in the provincial government and was altogether a much more important person than Masakado. His brother was married to a daughter of Minamoto Mamoru, another important person in Hitachi province. In 935 there was a battle between Masakado and a force belonging to Minamoto Mamoru which Masakado won. Three of Mamoru’s sons were killed.

Mamoru sent messengers to the capital and claimed that Masakado had rebelled against the provincial government. In 936 the two parties had a second battle. Shomonki says that Yoshikane had “several thousand” soldiers. Masakado won this battle also

The government sent out an order to the parties to desist and submit their dispute to legal judgement. Masakado immediately went to the capital and offered his version of what had happened the previous year. The kebiishicho investigated and concluded that Masakado was in the wrong and convicted him of a crime. However, just at that time Emperor Suzaku celebrated coming to adulthood at the age of 15 and Masakado along with many others was pardoned. He went back to the east, determined never to submit himself to such a risk again.

His enemies had taken advantage of his departure to overrun his properties and attack his allies. However, he rallied his forces and launched a counter attack and routed his enemies but failed to destroy them. After this fight he sent Tadahira a letter denouncing Yoshikane. Yoshikane gave up the idea of fighting Masakado in battle and sent an assassin to try to get close to him at his house, while he assembled a small raiding party to hide nearby. The plot was detected, and Masakado attacked again. This time he destroyed Yoshikane’s forces so thoroughly that he was unable to make a comeback from it.

Taira Sadamori, who had been Yoshikane’s ally went to the capital in 938. Masakado heard of this and assumed he was going to denounce Masakado to the government. He put together a force of 100 horsemen and set out after him. He caught up with him in Shinano province and there was a fight. Sadamori was able to escape, however.

At just about this time there was a large earthquake in the capital, and 4 persons in the imperial palace were killed. The soothsayers reported that this was caused by the fighting that was taking place in the provinces. At the end of 937 Mt Fuji had erupted, and this was now interpreted as meaning the same thing. Then the emperor fell ill and the udaijin died. The era name was changed.

Meanwhile, Masakado was feeling good after having routed his enemies and decided to involve himself in a fight taking place in Musashi province between the zuryo and a district magistrate. The rivals were prince Miokiyo and his assistant Minamoto Tsunemoto versus the district magistrate Musashi no Takeshiba.

Shomonki says that Musashi no Takeshiba was a particularly violent person. He had long been a thorn in the side of the zuryo, who decided to get rid of him. Takeshiba decided that he did not have the forces to fight them directly, so he abandoned his house and took to the hills with his men. Meanwhile, clerks in the provincial office had sent a complaint to the capital about prince Miokiyo, and news of this became general knowledge. Shomonki says that Masakado decided that since he was not related to either side he could be a mediator, and he would intervene to make peace. Up to now he had just been fighting a family civil war. Now he was presenting himself as, in some sense, a ruler.

Masakado persuaded prince Miokiyo and Musashi to talk with each other, but Minamoto Tsunemoto refused and continued military action, so Musashi attacked and routed him. Tsunemoto went to the capital to complain. Meanwhile Taira Sadamori was already there and had petitioned the court and secured a commission to suppress Masakado. Bearing this document, he headed back east and arrived in the 6th month of 938. Sadamori found that Masakado was currently too strong, so he bided his time about trying to do something to fulfill his commission. Now Tsunemoto was in the capital airing his own complaints about both Masakado and prince Miokiyo. Tadahira responded by sending out an emissary to meet with Masakado and to determine whether or not there was actually a “rebellion” going on. He reached Masakado in the 3rd month of 939. This time Masakado did not go to the capital to defend himself. Instead he sent to Tadahira a request that he send out documents to the 5 provincial headquarters in the northern Kanto stating that the charge that Masakado is a rebel is false. At about this time Masakado’s original opponent Yoshikane died.

The court now appointed a new man as governor of Kazusa, Kudara no Konishiki Sadatsura. Kudara no Konishiki means King of Paekche and this person was presumably a descendant of the Paekche royal family. He began investigating and soon determined that prince Miokiyo had been behaving illegally. Miokiyo fled to Masakado for protection. At this same time a new upheaval began in Hitachi province, a war between Fujiwara Genmyo and the zuryo Fujiwara Korechika. Korechika determined to arrest Genmyo, but the latter learned of this and fled to Masakado with his family. On the way he looted the storehouses of two districts, bringing a large amount of supplies to Masakado. Korechika requested Masakado, as the effective governor of Shimosa, to arrest Genmyo, but Masakado replied that no one knew where Genmyo had gone. Now Masakado was protecting two men who had been officially declared criminals.

Masakado and Genmyo now decided to attack Korechika, and Miokiyo decided to join them. This was the 11th month of 939. According to Shomonki Masakado had 1000 men and Korechika had 3000. The raid destroyed 300 buildings in and around the provincial capital, and permitted Masakado to steal the official seal of Hitachi province and capture Korechika and several others. His previous actions could be argued about, but this was pretty obviously a rebellious act. He did not stop with that. According to Shomonki, he not only planned to take over all of the 8 Kanto provinces, but considered himself to have a claim on the throne, as a direct descendant of emperor Kammu. Whether this is true or not, in the 2nd month of 940 he attacked Shimotsuke province with “several thousand” men and seized its headquarters, and immediately after he also attacked Kozuke.

At this point he sent another letter to Tadahira. In it he announced his appointments to governor for the 7 provinces excluding Musashi. Miokiyo, Genmei, and Masakado’s brother are on the list.

Then Kudara no Konishiki Sadatsura returned to report, which he did in an audience with the Emperor and the leading officials. This was probably in the 12th month of 939. The courtiers were astounded by the news and demanded that an all out effort be made to deal with both Sumitomo in the west and Masakado in the east.

Tadahira responded by assembling all available men to guard the 14 gates of the city. It is known that in later times the city's defenses had been torn down, but it is not clear what the situation was at this time. He also ordered prayers for peace at all major shrines and temples. A special emissary was sent to the Ise Shrine, and the emperor performed a ceremony calling on all of the gods to protect the country. This marks the point at which the government tried to persuade Sumitomo to surrender, followed by the appointment of tsuibushi. Two months later the dajokan circulated to the eastern provinces a notification that anyone who killed Masakado would be given 5th rank (and the associated salary). Meanwhile Masakado invaded Hitachi province a second time, raiding districts he had not reached the first time.

In the 2nd month of 940 things started to go badly for Masakado. The army with which he had invaded Hitachi had to be released to go home. These "armies" were forces composed of volunteers recruited from land owners, men who had other business that needed to be taken care of. News of the reward offered by the government had arrived and Taira Sadamori, who possessed a written commission to capture Masakado formed an alliance with Fujiwara Hidesato, who had a position in the Shimosa provincial government to raise troops to accomplish that. Shomonki says that they gathered 4000 men. Masakado's ally Genmei decided to attack them without consulting Masakado and was disastrously defeated. Thirteen days after that fight the army moved against Masakado. With only a handful of men, Masakado had to flee his mansion which was taken and destroyed. Masakado is said to have had "only" 400 men.

Masakado was eventually cornered and forced to fight. He took advantage of a severe storm and attacked in the middle of it with the wind at his back and threw Hidesato's force into confusion, leading half of them to flee the battlefield. However, the wind direction suddenly changed and Hidesato and Sadamori seized the chance to launch an attack of their own that overwhelmed him. Masakado died on the battlefield.

The official expedition against Masakado was proclaimed 6 days before this battle and the news of Masakado's defeat and death reached the capital 11 days after the event. A detailed report from Fujiwara Hidesato followed and he was rewarded by appointment to 4th rank while Taira Sadamori received 5th rank. Hidesato became a somewhat prominent personage in the capital until his involvement in a later political controversy on the losing side. The soldiers recruited by tsuibushi to fight Masakado were all released to go home, and new zuryo were dispatched to take charge of the provinces that were involved.

The most noteworthy bit of knowledge resulting from consideration of the affairs of Fujiwara Sumitomo and Taira Masakado is that these disturbances raised by wealthy provincials with private armies were by rival private armies from the same provinces. Troops organized by the central government and commanded by government generals were not involved. The tsuibushi received no government resources other than the power to commandeer items from the provincial authorities. Whatever rewards the warriors involved received had to come from the tsuibushi himself; the government paid them nothing. This was, in effect, what Masakado and the others themselves did. Masakado's two raids into Hitachi province had the goal of seizing the government rice storehouses to provide resources necessary to support his army. When Hidesato and Sadamori took Masakado's mansion Shomonki says that they captured thereby large quantities of food and other essential supplies for their own use.

Shomonki does not name its author. It provides a lot of detailed information about Masakado and the other prominent actors, and it is clear that the author was highly knowledgeable about the Kanto region, both geographically and politically. He was also very clear about personalities and events in the capital, and his text gives ample evidence of knowledge of Chinese literature and of Buddhism. This has led to the theory that the author was a Buddhist monk who was a native of the Kanto but resident in the capital. The work is dated to the 6th month of 940, 4 months after the death of Masakado. There is also a more or less contemporary book about Sumitomo, called Sumitomo Tsuitoki ("The History of the Destruction of Sumitomo"). It is not nearly as well informed and seems to consist mainly of material copied from official documents.

Capital Politics

In the midst of the excitement about Sumitomo and Masakado the 14th son of the retired emperor Godaigo (Suzaku's brother) became a legal adult. He was immediately married to a daughter of Fujiwara Morosuke, the second son of Tadahira. In 944 this prince became the designated heir to Suzaku Tenno. Suzaku then abdicated the throne in 946 and the heir assumed it. He is known as Murakami Tenno. Contemporary sources say that Suzaku was forced to abdicate under pressure from his mother who wished to see both her sons on the throne. Suzaku continued to lead an active life after his abdication and was noted for giving excellent parties. There is no indication that he ever showed any interest in matters related to government. Murakami was 21 at the time of his enthronement, but Tadahira continued as regent with no fuss.

At this time the sangi level officials were 16 in number. Nine of them were Fujiwara, including Tadahira and all four of his sons. Six were Minamoto, including two sons of retired emperor Godaigo. Two were from lesser clans, including Ono Yoshifusa, who was the tsuibushi put in charge of raising forces to oppose Sumitomo and the man who brought Sumitomo to the capital in chains. He was the only member of the group with any experience in the provinces.

Tadahira died in 949 and Murakami appointed no successor as regent. The leader of the Fujiwara interest was Tadahira's son Morosuke. He was only the second son, but his older brother appears to have had no interest in politics. Morosuke was Murakami's father-in-law and it seems that despite the lack of the regent's title, Morosuke ran the government as if he were the regent.

Contemporary records mention no fewer than nineteen major fires in the capital between 949 and 965. In 960 one of them burned down the imperial palace, and in discussing this event one source provides a description of the capital. It says that the western half of the city was almost entirely deserted, with only a few buildings and those dilapidated. It was inhabited only by the extremely poor. It flooded during the rainy season and was unhealthy. In the eastern part of the city, the area north of Shijo (4th street) was the most desirable region and was thickly settled by both rich and poor. It was higher ground that stayed dry. Today, the eastern end of Shijo is the main shopping street with most of the famous department stores and the area north of Shijo is the higher status part of the city as it was then.

Fujiwara Morosuke died rather young (53) in 960. His grandson prince Norihira attained adulthood in 963 and was married to a daughter of Suzaku, as if Murakami were trying to open the way to an heir who did not have a Fujiwara grandfather. However, Murakami himself died young (42) in 967 so it is difficult to know what, if anything, he was planning. Prince Norihira was enthroned without incident. He is known as Reizei Tenno. A regent was immediately appointed, Fujiwara Saneyori, the older brother of Morosuke. There are rumors in contemporary sources that the reason a regent was necessary despite the fact that Reizei's grandfather was dead was that Reizei was not mentally normal. The only symptom that is mentioned is that he apparently cared for nothing but playing football. It was, of course, necessary to designate an heir. There were only two plausible candidates, Reizei's brothers Prince Tamehira and Prince Morihira. Both appeared to be mentally normal. Tamehira was the oldest, but he was married to a daughter of Minamoto Takaakira, so Saneyori selected prince Morihira. He claimed that this was at the request of Murakami Tenno. In the event, the Fujiwara position was soon reinforced when Reizei's Fujiwara wife, Koretada's daughter, gave birth to a son. Fujiwara Koretada was the eldest son of Morosuke, followed by Kanemichi and Kaneie. This prince eventually became emperor as Kazan Tenno.

In 969 there occurred a political upheaval known as the "Anna Incident" after the year title in use. It occurred when two relatively low ranking officials accused two others of treason. There was an investigation and several people were arrested. It was concluded that Minamoto Takaakira was somehow involved (there is no clear statement as to the justification for this) and he was sent to serve at Dazaifu. This removed the highest ranking official who was not a Fujiwara. The entire incident was over and Takaakira was on his way to Dazaifu under guard within 24 hours. The next day the two accusers were promoted. One of the lower ranking officials who was exiled as a part of this was the son of Fujiwara Hidesato, one of the conquerors of Taira Masakado. That particular branch of the Fujiwara disappeared from prominence from this time, in the Kanto as well as in the capital. Takaakira's exile did not last long. He was allowed to return to the capital two years later, but lived quietly and was no longer involved in government.

One of the officers whose accusation triggered the affair was Minamoto Mitsunaka. His father had fought against Masakado. This group of Minamoto were "Seiwa Genji," descended from Seiwa Tenno of the 9th century, and the ancestors of the politically and militarily prominent Minamoto of later times. There were at the time nine different "branches" of the Minamoto, descended from nine different emperors. The government appointed an official Minamoto clan chief, always the one who held the highest rank at court, but neither they nor others considered them as being anything like a traditional aristocratic clan. At this period the Seiwa Genji were among the least important of the Minamoto groups. This of course, explains why one of them should have been living in the Kanto at the time of Masakado's activity and become involved in the fighting. In 960 there had been rumors that a son of Masakado was planning to attack the capital, and two officers were appointed to organize a defense. One was Minamoto Mitsunaka and the other was Okura Haruzane, a warrior from Kyushu who had participated in the fighting against Sumitomo. The government appears to have adopted the "use a thief to catch a thief" theory of dealing with armed provincials, relying on officers with provincial backgrounds.

Five months after the Anna Incident Reizei Tenno abdicated in favor of his brother who became Enyu Tenno. Saneyori continued as regent. Reizei's son, the grandson of Fujiwara Koretada, was designated the heir. Reizei lived for another 40 years after his abdication. Saneyori died in 970 and was followed as regent by Koretada. Koretada died only two years later and was succeeded by his brother Kanemichi. At the time the highest ranking Minamaoto at court was Kaneakira, brother of Takaakira (both sons of the retired emperor Godaigo). He did not have any daughters married to emperors. In 977 he was officially restored to the imperial clan and given elevated rank, but was effectively removed from participation in government. It is not known whether this was at his request or forced on him by the Fujiwara.

Fujiwara Morosuke had 10 sons altogether (from 5 wives) and three of them became regent. Koretada and Kanemichi have been mentioned. The third was Kaneie. At the time that Reizei abdicated Kaneie was suddenly promoted to a higher rank than Kanemichi. There is no explanation as to why. In 972 when it seemed likely that Koretada was going to die there was discussion as to who would succeed him. A document written by the emperor's mother turned up which stated that the succession to the regency ought to go to the oldest. The emperor said that he could not go against his mother's wishes and appointed Kanemichi as regent. When the next high ranking spot for a Fujiwara opened up Kanemichi refused to appoint his brother and instead chose Fujiwara Yoritada, a son of Saneyori. In 977 when Kanemichi lay dying, Kaneie decided to go to the palace and petition the emperor to be allowed to succeed him. Some of Kanemichi's servants noticed this (their palaces were next door) and he dragged himself out of bed and raced Kaneie to the palace and told the emperor that it was his dying wish that Yoritada succeed him as regent. He died a month later. It appears that these two did not like each other very much.

Yoritada was the next regent, but the power of Kaneie's position became too much to resist. He was grandfather to four imperial princes whereas Yoritada had none. In 984 Enyu Tenno abdicated in favor of Kazan Tenno and the next heir designated was one of Kaneie's grandsons. Kazan was the grandson of the deceased Fujiwara Koretada. Yoritada continued as regent. The change of ruler benefited Koretada's son Yoshichika, who now joined the rapid-promotion track. It may be easily seen that political struggles between the Fujiwara and others had all but ceased and now the competition was among the steadily increasing number of active Fujiwara lineages.

Kazan Tenno's favorite wife died in an advanced stage of pregnancy in 986 and the emperor became distraught and started to talk of abdicating and becoming a Buddhist monk. If he did so Kaneie would be the grandfather of the next emperor and the inevitable next regent. Yoshichika would be shut out, and he formed a small conspiratorial group. One night in the 6th month of 986 they kidnapped the emperor and smuggled him out of the palace into a carriage. They started to head out of town but were intercepted by a party of soldiers who took the carriage away to an unknown location. It eventually transpired that the commander of this force was Minamoto Mitsunaka and he was acting under the instruction of Kaneie. Kaneie was in the palace and he seized the imperial regalia and posted guards, and dispatched his youngest son, the future regent Michinaga, to inform the regent Yoritada that the emperor had been taken away. Kazan was taken to a rural temple where he shaved his head and entered monastic orders. That same evening Ichijo Tenno was hastily enthroned. This was Kaneie's grandson, aged 7. Kaneie was designated regent on the spot. Yoshichika was now informed of the newly retired emperor's location and went to join him, also entering the priesthood and retiring from public life.

Up to this point Kaneie had been sufficiently in the shadow of his brothers and other Fujiwara that he had been unable to raise his own sons to the higher level of ranks. Now he set to work to make up for this. He had three sons (with high ranking mothers) and all were jumped up to sangi level almost simultaneously. As it happened this worked very much to the advantage of Michinaga. In the normal course of events he would have followed along well behind his older brothers. The advantage gained was not in respect to competition with his brothers, by the way, but with the other branches of the clan. It meant that when his older brothers unexpectedly died young he had the rank to compete.

Kaneie was regent for only 4 years when he died at the age of 62. He was followed by his oldest son Michitada. Michitada was a notorious drunkard who embarrassed himself in public many times. The next brother, Michikane was both able and ambitious and determined to replace his brother as soon as possible. However, in 995 there was a dangerous epidemic of measles (a new disease to Japan at the time) and 8 out of the 14 sangi level counselors died during a period of months. Michitada was one of them. It appears that he did not die of the epidemic but showed symptoms characteristic of diabetes, a disease common to heavy drinkers. He appealed to the emperor to designate his own son, Korechika, the next regent, but this was refused. Korechika was given all of the essential powers of the office but not the title. The reason was probably that he did not have the degree of relationship with the emperor felt necessary. This launched a power struggle between Korechika and Kaneie's second son Michikane. After 17 days of politicking Michikane was named regent. However, he died of the measles 7 days later and is remembered as the "Seven Day Regent." Two other sangi level officials died the same day. Now the fight began all over again, between Korechika and Michinaga. The immediate result was that the regency lapsed, not to be restored for 20 years.

In the first month of 996 a strange incident occurred. Korechika was keeping company with a certain woman and this woman's sister was also keeping company with the retired emperor Kazan. Korechika happened to see Kazan with the correct sister but leaped to the conclusion that it was the wrong sister and became enraged. He formed a gang of young aristocrats and went out at hight to hang around Kazan's house. When Kazan returned home from some expedition on horseback, with attendants, there was a confrontation during which some arrows were fired. Two of Kazan's guards were killed and Kazan claimed later of have had an arrow shot through the sleeve of his coat. Kazan reported an attack by bandits who he thought were trying to kidnap him, but the truth quickly came out. Korechika was dismissed from all rank and office and an order was issued to arrest him. However, when guards came to his house, he escaped them. A couple of months later the mother of the emperor became seriously ill and there were rumors that Korechika had had her magically cursed. This prompted the government to look for him more serously, and he was found hiding at the house of a sister who was one of the maids of honor at court. Korechika refused to come out and the kebiishi surrounded the place for four days before going in. When they did so, Korechika had escaped again. However, he was caught a few days later and packed off to exile. He wasn't finished. He escaped exile and sneaked back to the capital again, but was again captured and this time taken all the way to Kyushu and closely guarded.

Aristocratic Marriage Customs

At this point in time it is possible to insert a pretty detailed discussion of marriage customs among the aristocracy. The proximate cause is the existence of the book Kagero Nikki. This is an autobiography in the form of a diary of one of the celebrated poets of the time who happened to have been one of the wives of Fujiwara Kaneie. Reference has already been made of the institution of "visitation marriage" in the context of the early origins of the regency. With Kaneie we are now just about at the end of the existence of this practice.

In its simplest form it was the custom that when a young man was accepted by the family of a young woman as her husband, the woman continued to live at home where she was visited for longer or shorter periods by her husband, who might have other wives in other homes. The children were raised in their mother's home in circumstances in which the social role of the father in what we would consider a more normal type of marriage was taken by the grandfather. A man's sons may never actually live with him or associate with him particularly closely. When his daughters reached marriageable age he usually claimed them and moved them into his own palace so that he might then assume the role of raising his own grandchildren. When a house was passed on through inheritance the heir was more likely to be a daughter than a son. The son would naturally have a mansion of his own long before his father died. The daughters, on the other hand, often had no other place to live.

Kaneie's wife, whose name is not known, discusses all of this in considerable detail. Kaneie appears to have been one of the last to live this life in its complete form. It was already considered old fashioned, and it mostly died out with the following generation. When Kaneie's son Michinaga married he acquired a house and moved his new wife into it and they lived together as long as they both lived.

When they married Kaneie's wife was probably 18 and he was 26. This was early in his career and his rank was not particularly high. His father-in-law was a member of the second tier of the nobility, whose highest ranking office was on about the same level as Kaneie's first office. This wife was not the mother of any of his sons who became regent, but a fourth one with a less distinguished career. In Japanese she is usually referred to as "Michitsune's mother."

The relationship began with the exchange of notes that took the form of short poems. This was absolutely mandatory. Even if you were the worst poet in the city, you could not avoid writing at least a few if you wanted to start up communication with a marriageable girl. It had to be in your own handwriting and it could not be copied out of a book of old poems. The primary subject should be passionate requests for the opportunity of a meeting in person, and it was expected that the first several would be rejected, probably in poems written by a maid or the girl's mother. When you got one written by the girl herself you were making progress.

If you did get a meeting, you were expected to sneak in after dark and to leave before dawn. In actual fact this visit would be expected and everyone would be careful to stay out of the way and make it easy. Both Kagero Nikki and the novel Genji Monogatari make it clear that the permission to visit would be extended only after discussion within the family, with the mother most of the time making the final decision. If you repeated the nocturnal visit for three nights you would then be approached by the girl's family before leaving the third dawn and invited to join them and from that point you would be considered a husband. You could visit any time and would be able to set up a room in the house where you could keep changes of clothing and anything else you might wish to have handy in that part of town. Divorce was equally simple. Sometimes the man simply stopped coming, sometimes he came in and removed his things and informed everyone that he was not planning to return. It sometimes happened that a woman who thought she had been divorced would accept a new husband only to have the old one show up again.

According to Kagero Nikki Kaneie was a pretty rotten husband by almost anyone's standards. He visited intensely for an initial period but that stopped when his wife became pregnant. After that his attendance was sporadic and it soon became common knowledge that he was spending his free time with other women. Sometimes he would even come to the house to change clothes before going off to visit another woman. Another time the servants reported that he was moving a woman from one house to another and everyone went up to peek out the front as the procession went right by the front gate. He did not completely abandon Michitsune's mother, though he never again visited her as a husband, but he did take a rather remote interest in the raising of the child. The husband was not expected in this model to financially support his wife, by the way. After her father died she lived on whatever she inherited from him. Kaneie sent an occasional present, but provided no regular income and this was perfectly normal.

At the time Kaneie married Michitsune's mother he already had a wife, the mother of his three politically important sons. Afterwards he acquired several more women and, as was often the case, it is sometimes hard to say which counted as wives and which as merely concubines. The difference was mainly whether the woman's father was important enough that you wished to be known as his son-in-law. If the woman was so poor that you needed to move her into your house, or at any rate into a house you owned, she was a concubine.

It appears that in very ancient times this type of marriage was normal throughout Japan and aspects of these customs survived into modern times in some rural areas. However, as early as the time of the Manyoshu poetry collection of the Nara period many, if not all, commoners had shifted over to a pattern featuring nuclear families.

The main change was that it became common for the new husband to actually move into the father-in-law's house and make it his principal residence. This was accompanied by a reduction in the number of wives. It became rare to visit elsewhere. When Michinaga married he did not do this, but he borrowed a house from his father-in-law and moved into it along with his wife. It has been suggested that the mansion in question, the Tsuchimikado mansion (after the street it was on), was the inherited property of Michinaga's mother-in-law which she was thereby passing to her daughter. Afterward it became the property of one of Michinaga's daughters. The custom gradually shifted to the point that a man would only have one woman considered a wife, though he might, if he could afford it, also have concubines. Once a man started to live in the same house as his wife he also assumed a more intimate involvement in the raising of his children. Michinaga had a second wife and at the time that he married her she was living in the former mansion of his father, Kaneie, the Higashi Sanjo mansion. This had been inherited by one of Michinaga's sisters who had loaned it to his new wife (as she was living in the palace as empress). Michinaga is also credited with two children born to women who were not considered wives. He had two sons and four daughters with his first wife and four sons and two daughters with the second, so he does not seem to have been a hit-and-run husband in either case.

The imperial household was different and it remained different for some time. Emperors did not ever (as far as there is evidence) visit wives in their father's houses, the wives moved into the palace. However, it was common for the wives to return home for long visits, often months at at time. It was almost the rule that a pregnant wife would go home to have the baby and probably stay there for a significant time afterward. When she returned to the side of the emperor, she normally left the child behind with its grandparents. Most imperial children, including the future emperors, were raised in their grandparents' homes and only started coming to the palace when they were old enough to behave properly.

Status and Promotion

The original administrative codes called for an annual review process for considering the awarding of official rank and promotions within the ranks, to be held in the 1st month, and a semi-annual process to similarly deal with assignments to office. This system was still in effect and was of great importance to those whose livelihoods depended on it. There are several surviving examples of letters written by people to senior officials in which they advocated their own appointment to rank and office.

The system held 30 grades of rank which fell into four categories. Holders of the 9th rank were humble laborers, holders of the 6th, 7th and 8th ranks were low level bureaucrats, holders of the 4th and 5th ranks were middle managers, and holders of the 3rd rank and higher were the rulers of the state. This last group consisted of some 20 persons if all of the offices at this level were filled. Often the number was much smaller than that. By the late 10th century the ranks below 5th were essentially meaningless. Nearly all of the bureaucratic apparatus, the "8 ministries and 100 offices," had disappeared. The exceptions were the six guards units, the kebiishi police force (which was not in the ritsuryo structure) and the two high level secretarial offices, the Udaiben and Sadaiben. To these may be added the staffs that ran the numerous palace operations (emperor's palace, retired emperor's palace, empress's palace, crown prince's palace) and the emperor's private secretariat, the Kurodo (also outside the ritsuryo structure). Far more people were employed in the private offices, mandokoro, run by the leading aristcrats from within their private mansions to manage their properties, incomes, and retenues of servants.

It would appear that the bureaucratic center was the Kurodo which took care of the preparation of all official documents and handled the flow of documents within the government. The two regular secretarial offices provided low level scribes for the use of officials and handled the document archives. The two joint heads of the Kurodo, called Kurodonoto, controlled all of this activity. The official career of a relatively humble member of the aristocracy would begin as either an officer in a guards unit or a clerk in one of the secretarial offices, and might rise as high as 5th rank and appointment as governor or zuryo of a province. A higher ranking aristocrat might start at 5th rank (rank only, no actual office for a teen-ager) with his first real job at 4th rank and a solid chance of promotion to 3rd rank late in his career. The sons of senior aristocrats started at 4th rank and the eldest son of the Fujiwara regent usually started at 3rd rank, already eligible to move up if his father should die young.

The officials of 3rd rank and higher were collectively known as Sangi (Sangi was also an office, the lowest ranking one that counted as part of the Sangi group) or Kugyo. They formed the members of the Dajokan, which was a committee that functioned as the decision making center of the government. It met only when needed. This also was an informal body, not mentioned in the administrative codes. When a meeting was called it was because of some problem that needed a decision and there would be an agenda, prepared by the Korodo and personally delivered to the meeting by one of the Kurodonoto along with any supporting documentation. The matter would then be discussed. The formal structure called for all except for newly appointed Sangi to speak in order, lowest rank first. Newcomers spent their first year just listening. If a consensus emerged, the matter was decided. If there was any dissent, the matter was postponed. If there was a decision, a clerk would be called in to write it up under the direction of the Dajokan members, and this would be delivered to the Kurodo, which would convert everything into documents of the proper form to be submitted to the emperor or the regent for signature. If the decision required action by governors or others, the Kurodo would handle that communication. By very ancient custom in Japan really important business was supposed to be conducted before dawn. In a rare case where the information is available, an important Dajokan meeting is known to have started at 2 am and finished at dawn.

As an example of how the distribution of offices was handled, in 996 Minamoto Kunimori was appointed governor of Echizen. This was a very good appointment as Echizen was a first grade province (out of four grades) and its governor could reasonably expect to become wealthy, if he was not so already. On the same occasion Fujiwara Tametoki was appointed governor of Awaji province, a fourth grade province. Tametoki was a poor man (by aristocratic standards) with a large family and he was upset about this. Tametoki was a well known writer of poetry and he was also the father of Murasaki Shikibu ("the Murasaki Lady," after the main female character in her book), the writer of Genji Monogatari. It is not known whether an early version of her novel was already in circulation at this time as the earliest mention of it is dated 1007. Tametoki complained in the form of a poem and made sure that the poem was shown to Emperor Ichijo. Ichijo was supposedly sympathetic but indicated that he had no control over those appointments. However, the incident caused gossip and news came to Michinaga, who called in Kunimori and "suggested" that he turn down the appointment. Tametoki was then made governor of Echizen, and his daughter accompanied him to his province, so the bits in her book about provincial life may have been based on her own experiences. A few months later Kunimori received a replacement appointment to Harima province, also a first grade province. Neither the Emperor nor Michinaga could change the official appointment once the appointments had been published.

Sei Shonagon's well known book Makura no Soshi, "The Pillow Book" also discusses poor aristocrats and their efforts to gain appointment to office.


After the fall of Fujiwara Korechika Fujiwara Michinaga was appointed to 2nd rank and Sadaijin, the highest available rank and office. He was the effective ruler even though Emperor Ichijo still declined to permit the appointment of a regent. He had already been given the power of "nairan" which was the core of the regency. This was the power to control the flow of documents to and from the emperor and to issue edicts in the name of the emperor. As it happens, Michinaga and Emperor Ichijo got along quite well together so the somewhat anomalous situation did not cause any problem. Michinaga had no standing to try to force anything because, having been brought to the top office at an early age though the deaths of his brothers, his oldest daughter was only 9 years old and it would be years yet before he might have an imperial grandson of his own.

He certainly tried to push the process along as fast as he could. He held the "coming out" ceremony for his daughter in the 2nd month of 999 when she was 12 (Japanese count, 11 by our method). This ceremony proclaimed that the girl was of marriageable age and it was usual to hold it at 16 or 17. The next day she was assigned 3rd rank (women got rank, and some got office, working in the women's apartments of palaces). This made her officially eligible to enter the palace as Imperial concubine. There was a delay because the palace burned down in one of the many fires of the period, but she was accepted as a resident in the 11th month. The actual process officially started 5 weeks earlier when a committee was appointed to organize it. A new resident needed a new apartment set aside somewhere in the palace, and it had to be furnished and supplied with a force of servants. There is reason to think that Fujiwara Shoshi had 40 attendants of all levels as this was the size of the party that followed her into the palace. Michinaga almost certainly paid for setting up her apartment. He is known to have arranged for the privacy screens used in lieue of internal walls to be painted by the most famous painter of the day Asukanobe Toshikata.

All of the leading courtiers sent in congratulatory poems that were copied into a book by the most famous calligrapher, Fujiwara Kozei. Only one refused, Fujiwara Sanesuke. This is important because Sanesuke was the author of the most invaluable book from this period, a political diary Shoyuki that covers the time from 982 to 1032 with gaps. The majority of what we know about the daily interactions among the ruling group comes from this book. Sanesuke consistently appears in his own book as rival and enemy to Michinaga. There is no clear statement as to exactly how this enmity arose, but the rivalry was natural as the rise of Michinaga threated to permit his descendants to crown Sanesuke's out of the top aristocracy.

At the time that Ichijo became emperor there were three living empresses Reizei's widow, Enyu's widow, and Ichijo's mother who had been a secondary wife of Enyu with the title nyogo. This had come to replace the variety of earlier titles for imperial women. The principal wife was called chugu and all others were nyogo. The old Nara period "empress" titles were reserved for the widows and imperial mothers. Fujiwara Shoshi was made nyogo soon after her arrival in the palace. Ichijo already had a chugu, Minamoto Teishi, the mother of a prince, Atsuyasu. Michinaga desperately wanted his daughter to become chugu, but thought that the only way he could do that was to elevate Teishi to empress, opening up the position. It took him a year of negotiation with Ichijo and his mother to get their agreement. This was finally done in 1000. Then Teishi died in childbirth at the age of 25 before the end of the year, so it proved unnecessary, though it did establish a new precedent. Michinaga did not get his imperial grandchild until 1008 when Atsuhira was born. Then, in 1011 Ichijo became seriously ill and abdicated in favor of the crown prince, who was prince Iyesada, like Ichijo himself, a grandson of Fujiwara Kaneie. Ichijo died 9 days later at the age of 32. The new ruler is known as Sanjo Tenno as he was raised in Kaneie's Sanjo palace. Sanjo was also an adult emperor and refused the appointment of a regent. This became much more important than before because both Michinaga and Sanjo were domineering types and they soon began to fight each other, with Sanesuke offering Sanjo encouragement while carefully avoiding coming out into the open himself as an enemy of Michinaga. As soon as Sanjo was put on the throne Michinaga's grandson was made the crown prince, so Sanjo had to have known that Michinaga would try to pressure him into an early abdication.

The style of the struggle is well suggested by the following entry from Sanesuke's diary (from 1011): “Michinaga suggested that something he wanted to do should be done on the fifth day, but I secretly communicated to the emperor through one of the servants that the fifth would be a bad day, and, as I had hoped, the emperor agreed with me and ordered otherwise.”

The most famous incident in the political cold war occurred in 1012. When he took the throne Sanjo already had two important wives, a daughter of Michinaga named Kenshi and a daughter of Fujiwara Naritoki named Seishi. Kenshi had been promoted to chugu at the time that Shoshi was made empress but Seishi remained merely nyogo. Naritoki had died 16 years earlier, so Seishi was without an external protector. However, Michinaga had an even bigger problem that Kenshi was already either 18 or 19 and had no children, whereas Seishi was the mother of Prince Atsuakira and 5 other children. Sanjo was unhappy that this woman, whom he considered as his wife, merely had the status of nyogo. He therefore decreed that she would be raised to the status of Empress, following the precedent recently established for Shoshi. However, there was no precedent for elevating a woman whose father had the relatively low status of Fujiwara Naritoki, who had never held a higher office than Dainagon. Sanjo got around that by posthumously appointing Naritoki to the office of Udaijin. Michinaga found out about this long before Sanjo's edicts were made public. He did nothing public to oppose Sanjo's plans.

What he did do was arrange that his daughter Kenshi, who was currently staying at his palace, would make her ceremonial return to the imperial palace on the same day as that scheduled for the elevation of Seishi to Empress. The leading noblemen were forced to decide which ceremony they would attend. According to Sanesuke's diary, it was a rainy day, but nearly all of the nobles felt that they had no choice but to go to Michinaga's palace and join the procession carrying Kenshi to the palace. Michinaga had a notable temper and no one wanted to cross him. Sanesuke, of course, went to the enthronement ceremony and ended up being the highest ranking official present, accompanied by only 3 others. One of the others was Fujiwara Takaie, who had just been appointed the administrator of the new Empress's palace, the second was Sanesuke's brother, and the third was Seishi's brother. Messengers were sent to Michinaga's palace to attempt to round up some others, but the messengers were jeered at and, Sanesuke says, one of the Sangi threw rocks at them.

Then Michinaga began making trouble about the paperwork. It seems that Sanjo's original edict had been written in Japanese and it had to be translated into Chinese to become an official document. Michinaga was in control of the office that handled that and the edict disappeared within and never emerged. Then he started complaining about the wording of it and demanded changes. Still later he made difficulties about arranging for guards for the new palace. This style of a steady barrage of annoyances was evidently his standard way of expressing his displeasure. As of this incident everyone was aware that there was a conflict between Michinaga and the Emperor. The next fight occurred when the Emperor wished to appoint a son of Sanesuke to the office of Kurodonoto. Michinaga absolutely obstructed that.

In 1013 there was another public humiliation of the Emperor on the occasion of the annual festival of the Kamo Shrine, the famous Gion festival which is still performed much the same way it was then. Sanesuke had previously proposed that something be done to reign in the extravangance of the parade floats constructed by the nobles and the Emperor had issued an appropriate degree that limited the number of participants and regulated the lavishness of their costumes. Michinaga made no public opposition to this. Indeed, one of the other noble diarists of the time wrote that Michinaga had proposed the limits in numbers and Sanesuke was responsible for the part limiting the cost of the costumes. However, when the day of the festival came around the display was even more extravagant than in previous years, and it came to be known that Michinaga had told everyone to ignore the edict and hold nothing back. When Sanesuke saw this he hid in his cart and had it sneak away from the parade area. The Kebiishi police, who were supposed to enforce the edit, did nothing, and Michinaga did nothing to punish those who had ignored the edict. Four days after the parade the Emperor asked Michinaga to investigate why the police had done nothing, and Michinaga turned the task over to Sanesuke. Sanesuke collected testimony and wrote a report which he sent to Michinaga, who ignored it.

After this it appears that Michinaga decided that it would be necessary to force the Emperor to abdicate so that his grandson Prince Atsuhira (a son of Empress Shoshi who was born in 1008) could take the throne. However, it took a long time. During the course of 1014 the emperor went blind in his left eye and deaf in his left ear, and by the end of the year he was almost completely blind and unable to do any paper work. Sanesuke's diary for a date early in 1015 says that "someone" said that it appeared that the Emperor could no longer perform his duties, and in the 10th month Michinaga proposed that under the circumstances the regency ought to be revived. In the 11th month the palace burned down only two months after it had been repaired after a fire the year before. Michinaga now claimed that these calamities were the result of the inadequacy of the Emperor. Sanjo finally agreed and abdicated in the 1st month of 1016, on condition that his son Prince Atsuakira be appointed crown prince to the new emperor. Atsuhira was enthroned at the age of nine and is known as Goichijo Tenno. Naturally, Michinaga was appointed regent. Sanjo died in 1017 at the age of 42.

Only a year later Michinaga resigned his office and his son Yorimichi was appointed to replace him. Michinaga continued to run things from behind the scenes. This was unprecedented. No one as young as Yorimichi (who was 26) had ever been regent, and no one had ever resigned the regency so as to turn it over to someone else. In this Michinaga was behaving much more like an emperor than any official had dared to do before.

Michinaga's next problem was Prince Atsuakira. Up to this time almost all princes who found themselves in Atsuakira's position were accused of treason and either killed or exiled. Once again, Michinaga did things differently. Historians cannot be sure whether it was Michinaga or Atsuakira who came up with the solution, but it was both clever and humane. Atsuakira was 24 years old and the father of several children. In the 8th month of 1017 Prince Atsuakira requested a meeting with Michinaga and Michinaga went to the palace to see him. Atsuakira told him that he wished to resign from the position of crown prince. The diaries all say that Atsuakira's father in law and mother were horrified and tried to talk him out of it, but he remained firm. Atsuakira was given a suitable title and an establishment that were both comparable to those of an abdicated emperor or a widow empress. It was noted that one component of his new establishment was the right to the income of one province and the power to appoint the zuryo.

Later the same year Michinaga allowed himself to be appointed Dajodaijin, the highest office in the ritsuryo structure and normally left vacant. Only men whose powers were essentially dictatorial ever had the nerve to assume this office. He resigned it only 4 months later, but was entitled to be styled "the former Dajodaijin" for the remainder of his life.

In early 1018 the coming of age ceremony of Emperor Goichijo was held. He was only 11 years old, but this made him eligible to marry. Michinaga's daughter Ishi was soon received in the palace. The diaries allow us to know something of the details, not unlike a normal aristocratic marriage though the status of the emperor was so high that he could not visit outside the palace to court a girl. A letter from the Emperor to Ishi was delivered by a Kurodonoto to Michinaga's palace where all of the senior nobles were gathered. The letter was received by Michinaga's younger brother who carried it into the women's quarters. There was no reply. A couple of days later there was a second letter and this one received a reply. Two days after that Ishi's procession went from Michinaga's mansion to the palace. Ishi was 20 years old but was very small and everyone said that she and the Emperor looked good together. Ishi was a sister of the Emperor's mother. As has been noted earlier, this would be considered incest only if she had been a sister of the Emperor's father. Rather soon after Ishi was promoted empress. That meant that there were four empresses alive, one of Michinaga's sisters and three of his daughters.

Michinaga's last years were politically quiet. He had been seriously ill in 1016 and made preparations to retire from public life and become a monk, but he recoverd. In 1020 and 1025 the measles returned. People noted that it seemed to affect only persons who were too young to have been touched by it during the first epidemic. In 1025 two of Michinaga's daughters died, one at least partially due to the measles (she caught it, but died during childbirth). Emperor Goichijo and his Empress Ishi both caught the measles but survived. During this year Michinaga moved into the Buddhist temple Hojoji, which he had constructed and which seems to have occupied most of his attention since at least 1019. Almost the only occasions where he is mentioned during these years are when he complained to Yorimichi about things related to the construction project. In 1027 a son who was a Buddhist monk died, then the retired Empress Kenshi and at the end of the year Michinaga himself, after a lengthy illness. He was 62 years of age.

He makes a suitable ending for this phase of history because he stands at the very pinnacle of Fujiwara power, and also at the end of the time when it can be said that the ritsuryo system of government still had relevance. The next stage is mainly the story of the decline of the Fujiwara and the rise of new contenders for power and of the beginnings of new types of institutions to replace the surviving remnants of the ritsuryo state. Discussions of the power of the Fujiwara usually focus on the regency and the ability to ride on the back of the emperor, as it were. However, it was equally important that the Fujiwara were able to use their position to make sure that the dominant lineage also controlled the Dajokan through secure control of most of the highest offices in the bureaucratic system. The main thing that is different about the next period is that while the emperor remained important the importance of the Dajokan and the offices that conferred membership faded to almost nothing.

Foreign Relations

Very little has needed said about Japan's foreign relations since the end of the wars with Silla over the Mimana region of southern Korea for the good reason that there were essentially no foreign relations to write about. However, there were two instances during Michinaga's time where the government had to take note of the outside world.

On the 1st day of the 10th month of 997 an emergency messenger arrived from Dazaifu in Kyushu and interrupted a ceremony at court to deliver his message. He had ridden all the way using the post system of relays of horses that had been set up for this purpose. The courtiers initially had the idea that the message concerned an invasion by Koreans, but when Michinaga read the letter from the commander at Dazaifu, it became clear that what had happened was an attack by pirates from Amami Oshima, the second largest island of the Ryukyu chain, south of Kyushu. The Ryukyus were not made a part of Japan until the 19th century and did not come under Japanese political control until the 17th century. This is the only time that they caused a problem that reached the central government. Michinaga decided that this was not a real emergency and the ceremonial was resumed. A meeting of the Dajokan was set for the next day.

The report stated that 3 coastal provinces of Kyushu and the two island provinces of Iki and Tsushima had been raided and that some 300 persons had been captured by the pirates. The Dajokan prepared instructions for Dazaifu to fight the pirates, arrange for prayers at shrines and temples, and be prepared to reward anyone who accomplished anything. Even though it wasn't a real war, they also decided to have prayers performed at shrines and temples in the capital. One month after the original message Dazaifu sent word that 40 pirates had been captured and that the situation had been restored to normal.

Twenty-two years later, in 1019, there was a similar event that was more serious in nature, announced by another emergency messenger from Dazaifu. This one took 10 days. The previous messenger had needed 17 days. The message stated that a people called "Toi" had attacked Iki island with about 50 ships, killed the governor in battle, and captured many people. They then proceeded south and landed on the mainland of Kyushu. Sanesuke was sick that day and at home, but he received a private visit from the messenger who carried a letter from a friend of his who was at Dazaifu that provided details which are found in his diary.

The first response of the Dajokan was identical to that of 997 except that this invasion seemed larger and it was arranged to send messengers to all governors in provinces in the west telling them to gather forces and prepare to fight any invaders. Sanesuke was put in charge of this task and he went to the archives and looked up letters sent to governors in 893 and 894 when Korean pirates were a problem at the time of the collapse of the kingdom of Silla and its replacement by Koryo. He then copied those letters. This was shortly before the Gion festival and preparations for that continued as normal.

A few days later a second message arrived saying that the raiders had been defeated. It said that among the raiders captured were three Koreans who claimed that they were prisoners of the raiders. The Dajokan ordered that an investigation be held to find out whether the raiders were actually Koreans and not "Toi" barbarians as originally claimed. It also said that Dazaiful could handle all of this and there was no need to send prisoners to the capital. Dazaifu was urged to send troops to Iki and Tsushima to aid their defense. After that the Dajokan pretty much ignored the entire issue and the Gion Festival went off as scheduled.

However, in Kyushu this event was a major issue as the raiders did a lot of damage before they were driven off. They came in large boats described as being about 15 meters long on average with 30 or 40 oars and able to move very fast. Each carried 50 or 60 men. When they landed they combined the crews of different boats into companies of 100 men. 20 or 30 men would carry halberds or long swords, the rest were armed with bows. The total force that landed was between 1000 and 2000 men. All horses and cattle that were encountered were killed and eaten, as were dogs. They killed the old and weak and took healthy persons captive. They looted food and burned all houses. On Iki about 400 people were killed or taken prisoner.

When the raiders reached the Ito district on the north coast of Kyushu the local district magistrate raised a force of men and claimed to have killed several dozen of them. The raiding force proceeded to Dazaifu itself and attempted to capture it. There was a desperate battle and they were eventually driven off. During the fighting Japanese prisoners aboard some of the beached ships called to nearby Japanese soldiers and told them that all of the able bodied men were fighting on shore and only the sick had been left to guard the boats. These men then attacked the boats and rescued many of the prisoners.

It was reported that the enemy arrows were short but their bows were very stong and men who did not have shields were often killed or wounded. On the other hand, Japanese war arrows had arrowheads that were designed to make a loud noise in flight and these appears to frighten the raiders.

For two days after the fight at Dazaifu the weather was bad and there was no fighting. The Japanese took the opportunity to try to scrounge up boats they could use. They were then able to send out a squadron of 37 boats to search for raiders. They found beached ships at Ito and attacked them, capturing 40. Then the raiders appeared a few miles further west, around Matsuura, where they were resisted by the locals. They were no longer seen after that.

The results were then totaled up. 365 Japanese were killed and 1289 were taken captive. 380 horses and cattle were killed. Most of the casualties were on Iki island and the Ito district.

None of the surviving materials says anything about where the name Toi came from, but it is presumed to have been supplied by the Koreans. There is no certain knowledge as to where the raiders came from except that it was somewhere in the north, possibly Hokkaido, possibly eastern Siberia, possibly Manchuria north of the area controlled by the Korean kingdom. About 4 months after the attack a document showed up in Kyushu from the Korean government warning about Toi raiders who had attacked many places on the east coast of Korea, and two months after that a Korean fleet arrived in Kyushu to return 270 prisoners who had been rescued.

During the attacks a man named Nagamine Morichika had been captured on Tsushima along with 9 other persons, members of his family and servants. They were carried along during the subsequent attack on Kyushu and passed by Tsushima on their way back north, where he was able to escape by jumping overboard and swimming ashore. After things had quieted down, he stole a small boat and proceeded to cross to Korea to attempt to find his family members. He came into contact with Korean armed forces. As the raiders passed the Korean coast a large Korean fleet went out to attack them and mostly wiped them out. When the raiders realized they were doomed they attempted to kill all of their captives. Many were thrown overboard and 300 of these were picked up by Korean ships. The rescued included no members of Morichika's family, but one of his servants was saved. Morichika knew that he had broken the law by leaving the country, and arranged with the Koreans an official appointment to lead a mission returning 10 captives. This party arrived several weeks before the Korean fleet carrying the bulk of the people who had been saved. Most of this information comes from interviews with three of the persons brought back by Morichika. Dazaifu officially recommended that Morichika be punished else others might think they could get away with breaking the law. It is not known what the central government decided to do.

As to the Korean fleet, Sanesuke recommended that it be driven away, but the Dajokan ruled that it had been proven that the raiders were Toi and the Koreans were only trying to help and should be treated well. The Korean commander was invited to Dazaifu and banqueted. It is mentioned that during this general period two Korean merchant ships showed up claiming to have been blown off course by storms. They were sent away and not permitted to trade (as they had apparently been hoping) and Japan returned to its customary isolation.

These incidents do show that Japan maintained an official policy of refusing to deal with foreigners and especially Koreans, something that would otherwise not show in the record for this era. Given the thinness of government in Japan it is impossible that such a ban could have been enforced rigorously. It is entirely likely that in quieter times when the Dajokan was not thinking about Kyushu that the occasional Korean or Chinese ship was able to sneak in and do a bit of trading and that Japanese fishermen would be able to cross to Korea and do a little smuggling. There is no doubt that in the following century there was a significant amount of Chinese coinage in circulation in Japan and it had to have some way of getting in.

Bandits etcetera

In this part of the Heian period the appearance of unofficial writing in the form of diaries provides a lot of information about events that do not show up in surviving government documents. It is hard to tell how much conditions might have changed from the previous few generations because we don't have similar information about those periods, but it is notable that the government was clearly doing a rather poor job of taking care of security in the capital. It is possible to name a significant number of professional criminals and to give some detail about some of their exploits.

There were criminal gangs and there is one account of an event that looks very much like gang warfare, in which a group of armed men surrounded a house in the poor section of the city and massacred the inhabitants. This happened on a day when the Emperor was being taken to visit a shrine so that most of the police must have been involved with the procession. A common tactic of the gangs was to set fire to a mansion and then break in during the resulting confusion to steal as much as they could grab. Michinaga himself was once robbed of a considerable quantity of gold and silver in what looked like an inside job involving his servants. The police put a lot of effort into this case and arrested a number of men two weeks later in Harima province and recovered a considerable portion of what had been taken. Robbers were encountered inside the imperial palace on numerous occasions, and in one incident two ladies in waiting were attacked and robbed of their finery.

Our newspapers are full every day of incidents of robbery and violence. Someone took the trouble of cataloging known incidents for the first 4 months of 1019. There were 10 instances of major fires including one definitely set by robbers in which one woman died, the only reported casualty. There were two instances of daylight robbery by gangs of armed men, one group broke into a mansion, the other rampaged in the streets. One woman was robbed inside the imperial palace by a man who threatened her with a sword. These are just the incidents that made surviving diary entries.

In some sense all this really means is that Kyoto had become a real city in which the kinds of things happened that happen in all cities. However, the brazenness of the armed gangs and the clear lack of security even in the imperial palace indicate that the police forces were not nearly large enough to maintain a reasonable degree of order. The handling of the wars with Sumitomo and Masakado and the response in Kyushu to the raids of 977 and 1019 show that the government no longer had the resources to field properly organized military forces. The wealthier men living in the countryside were all armed and they dealt with incidents that arose by forming themselves and their servants into impromptu militia units. The same applies to policing. All of the nobles had walls around their mansions and considerable numbers of servants and also owned estates in the countryside near the capital from which they were able to import additional servants when they needed them, such as for construction projects. They provided their own security. In that roundup of incidents in early 1019 it is mentioned that when a nearby mansion was set afire one of the leading nobles posted armed servants on the roof of his own mansion to keep watch all night long.

Ever since the latter part of the 9th century delegations of farmers had come to the capital to protest against crooked governors and other things that bothered them. They continued to do this through the time of Michinaga. When it eventually stopped that was a sign that the government had become so ineffective as to be unnoticeable to such people. 1019 affords an interesting example based on entries in Sanesuke's diary. A delegation of farmers arrived from Tamba province, just north of the capital and part of modern Kyoyo Prefecture, to hand in a petition against the governor Fujiwara Yorito. Yorito was in the capital and presumably was relying on a zuryo to manage the province. They gathered outside a gate of the palace and since the officials inside refused to accept their petition, they came back day after day. After 5 days, without warning, soldiers on horseback appeared and attempted to arrest the farmers, who scattered. 10 of them ran into the palace and sought shelter in various offices. When Michinaga and Yorimichi heard about this they loudly denounced Yorito and dismissed him from his post. A few days later the farmers reassembled and Michinaga retracted the firing and ordered Yorito to go out to his province. Sanesuke was amused at this because it seems Michinaga had been forced to change his mind, something that didn't happen often. Then just two months later the farmers were back. Sanesuke was astounded to discover that this time they wanted to hand in a document praising Yorito as a good governor, or at least better than the zuryo. My guess is that Yorito spotted an opportunity and grabbed it. This was a period when middle ranking nobles from the capital were beginning to be squeezed out as the number of salaried posts continued to shrink. Many governors started to go to their provinces again and quite frequently failed to return. They made connections, married into a powerful local family, and settled down. This practice is reflected in Genji Monogatari also. There was an incident involving a different governor of Tamba in 1023 and that man also was out in his province when it happened.

Chapter 09 - The Late Heian Period

The Heian Period ends with the Genpei War (源平合戦), fought between the Minamoto (源) and the Taira (平) clans. It occurs during the Late-Heian Period and marks the rise of the military class, and the formation of the Kamakura Shogunate under Minamoto Yoritomo.

Scene of the Genpei war


The Genpei War was the culmination of a decades-long conflict between the two clans over dominance of the Imperial court and control of Japan. In the Hōgen Rebellion and in the Heiji Rebellion of earlier decades, the Minamoto attempted to regain control from the Taira and failed. The Taira then began a series of executions, intended to eliminate their rivals.

In 1177, relations between the Taira clan and the retired Emperor Go-Shirakawa became highly strained, and the latter attempted a coup d'état to oust the Daijō Daijin (prime minister), Taira no Kiyomori. Kiyomori defeated the former emperor and abolished the Insei system. This provoked strong anti-Taira sentiment.

On March 21, 1180, Taira no Kiyomori put his grandson, Antoku (then only two years of age), on the throne, after the abdication of Emperor Takakura. Go-Shirakawa's son, Prince Mochihito, felt that he was being denied his rightful place on the throne and, with the help of Minamoto Yoritomo, sent out a call to arms to the various samurai families and Buddhist monasteries on May 5. In June, Kiyomori moved the seat of imperial power to Fukuhara (modern day Kobe), in the hope of promoting trade with Song Dynasty China, and on the fifteenth of that month, Prince Mochihito fled Kyoto to take refuge in Mii-dera.

Beginnings of the War

The actions of Taira no Kiyomori having deepened Minamoto hatred for the Taira clan, a call for arms was sent up by Minamoto no Yorimasa and Prince Mochihito. Not knowing who was behind this rally, Kiyomori called for the arrest of Mochihito, who sought protection at the temple of Mii-dera. The Mii-dera monks were unable to ensure him sufficient protection, so he was forced to move along. He was then chased by Taira forces to the Byōdō-in, just outside Kyoto. The war began thus, with a dramatic encounter on and around the bridge over the River Uji. This battle ended in Yorimasa's ritual suicide inside the Byōdō-in and Mochihito's capture and execution shortly afterwards.

It was at this point that Minamoto no Yoritomo took over leadership of the Minamoto clan and began traveling the country seeking to rendezvous with allies. Leaving Izu Province, heading for the Hakone Pass, he was defeated by the Taira in the battle of Ishibashiyama. However he successfully made it to the provinces of Kai and Kozuke, where the Takeda and other friendly families helped repel the Taira army. Meanwhile, Taira no Kiyomori, seeking vengeance against the Mii-dera monks and others, besieged Nara and burnt much of the city to the ground.

Fighting continued the following year. Minamoto no Yukiie launched an unsuccessful sneak attack attempt against the army of Taira no Tomomori at the Battle of Sunomatagawa. He was pursued by them to the Yahahigawa, destroying the bridge over the river in order to slow the Taira progress. He was defeated and forced to withdraw once again, but Taira no Tomomori fell ill and called off his pursuit of Yukiie's forces.

Taira no Kiyomori died from illness in the spring of 1181, and around the same time Japan began to suffer from a famine which would last through the following year. The Taira moved to attack Minamoto no Yoshinaka, a cousin of Yoritomo, who had raised forces in the north but were unsuccessful. For nearly two years, the war ceased, only to resume in the spring of 1183.

Turning of the tide

Minamoto no Yoritomo, suspicious of the strength of his cousin, launched a series of attacks against Yoshinaka. Yoshinaka had sought to take for himself lands controlled by Yoritomo, which had earlier belonged to Yoshinaka's father. Though the two reconciled with one another and agreed to focus on their common enemy, the Taira, this rivalry would remain strong throughout the war. Forced to recognize Yoritomo as the head of the clan and to send his son Yoshitaka to Kamakura as a hostage, Yoshinaka would not truly fight alongside his cousin for much of the war. He sought to defeat the Taira himself and to reach Kyoto before Yoritomo, claiming victory and the according honor and power.

Placating Yoritomo's suspicions of treachery or betrayal, Yoshinaka survived an assault on his fortress at Hiuchiyama by Taira no Koremori and engaged Koremori again at the battle of Kurikara. Yoshinaka's victory for the Minamoto at Kurikara, also known as the battle of Tonamiyama, would prove to be the turning point in the war. Through creative tactics, skillful division of his forces and a series of bluffs and diversions, Yoshinaka inflicted heavy losses on the Taira, who fled, confused and demoralized.

The Taira loss at Kurikara was so severe that they found themselves, several months later, under siege in Kyoto, with Yoshinaka approaching the city from the northeast and Yukiie from the east. Both Minamoto leaders had seen little or no opposition in marching to the capital and now forced the Taira to flee the city. Taira no Munemori, head of the clan since his father Kiyomori's death, led his army, along with the young Emperor Antoku and the Imperial regalia, to his clan's fortresses in western Honshū and Shikoku.

Internal Minamoto clan hostilities

The Taira clan set fire to their Rokuhara palace and the surrounding district, leaving Minamoto no Yoshinaka with the only force of any significant power in the Home Provinces surrounding the capital. Empowered with a mandate by Emperor Go-Shirakawa to pursue the Taira and destroy them, Yoshinaka once again sought to gain control of the Minamoto clan and regain his ancestral lands from his cousins Yoritomo and Yoshitsune.

Meanwhile, the fleeing Taira set up a temporary Court at Dazaifu in Kyūshū, the southernmost of Japan's main islands. They were forced out soon afterwards by local revolts, spurred by Emperor Go-Shirakawa and sought refuge at Yashima, a small island in the Inland Sea.

Yoshinaka sent a force to pursue the Taira, while he led a second force back to Kamakura to delay his cousins' actions. While his men lost to the Taira at Mizushima, Yoshinaka conspired with Yukiie to seize the capital and the Emperor, possibly even establishing a new Court in the north. However, Yukiie revealed these plans to the Emperor, who communicated them to Yoritomo. Betrayed by Yukiie, Yoshinaka took command of Kyoto and, at the beginning of 1184, set fire to the Hōjūjidono, taking the Emperor into custody. Minamoto no Yoshitsune arrived soon afterwards with his brother Noriyori and a considerable force, driving Yoshinaka from the city. After fighting his cousins at the bridge over the Uji, where the war began, Yoshinaka made his final stand at Awazu, in Ōmi province.

Final stages of the conflict

As the united Minamoto forces left Kyoto, the Taira began consolidating their position at a number of sites in and around the Inland Sea, which was their ancestral home territory. They received a number of missives from the Emperor offering that if they surrendered by the seventh day of the second month, the Minamoto could be convinced to agree to a truce. This was a farce, as neither the Minamoto nor the Emperor had any intentions of waiting until the eighth day to attack. Nevertheless, this tactic offered the Emperor a chance to regain the Regalia and to distract the Taira leadership.

The Minamoto army, led by Yoshitsune and Noriyori, made their first major assault at Ichi-no-Tani, one of the primary Taira fortresses on Honshū. The fortress was surrounded, and the Taira retreated to Shikoku. However, the Minamoto were not prepared to assault Shikoku; a six-month pause thus ensued during which the Minamoto took the proper steps. Though on the retreat, the Taira enjoyed the distinct advantages of being in friendly, home territories, and of being far more adept at naval combat than their rivals.

It was not until nearly a year after Ichi-no-Tani that the main Taira fortress at Yashima came under assault. Seeing bonfires on the mainland of Shikoku, the Taira expected a land-based attack and took to their ships. This was a deceptive play on the part of the Minamoto, however, who lay in wait with their own navy. The Yashima fortress fell, along with the improvised imperial palace built there by the Taira, many of whom however escaped along with the Imperial regalia and the Emperor Antoku.

The Genpei War came to an end one month later, following the battle of Dan-no-ura, one of the most famous and important battles in Japanese history. The Minamoto engaged the Taira fleet in the Straits of Shimonoseki, a tiny body of water separating the islands of Honshū and Kyūshū. After a series of archery duels, hand-to-hand fighting broke out. The tides played a powerful role in the development of the battle, granting the advantage first to the Taira, who were more experienced and abler sailors and later to the Minamoto. The Minamoto advantage was considerably enhanced by the defection of Taguchi Shigeyoshi, a Taira general who revealed the location of Emperor Antoku and the regalia. The Minamoto redirected their attention on the Emperor's ship, and the battle quickly swung in their favor.

Many of the Taira samurai, along with Emperor Antoku and his grandmother Taira no Tokiko, widow of Taira no Kiyomori, threw themselves into the waves rather than live to see their clan's ultimate defeat at the hands of the Minamoto.


The Taira clan was destroyed, and the Minamoto victory was followed by the establishment of the Kamakura shogunate. Though Minamoto no Yoritomo was not the first to ever hold the title of Shogun, he was the first to wield it in a role of nationwide scope. The end of the Genpei War and beginning of the Kamakura shogunate marked the rise of military class and the suppression of the power of the emperor, who was compelled to preside without effective political or military power, until the Meiji Restoration over 650 years later.

In addition, this war and its aftermath established red and white, the colors of the Taira and Minamoto standards, respectively, as Japan's national colors. Today, these colors can be seen on the flag of Japan, and also in banners and flags in sumo and other traditional activities.


A sphere map on 1183 at Genpei War. However, it was not clearly divided in this way, and there were conflicts among Genjis as well as Tairas.
  • 1180 First Battle of Uji - regarded as the first battle in the Genpei Wars, the monks of the Byodoin fight alongside Minamoto no Yorimasa.
  • 1180 Siege of Nara - the Taira set fire to temples and monasteries, to cut supplies to their rivals.
  • 1180 Battle of Ishibashiyama - Minamoto no Yoritomo's first battle against the Taira. Minamoto Yoritomo loses the battle.
  • 1180 Battle of Fujigawa - the Taira mistake a flock of waterfowl for a sneak attack by the Minamoto in the night, and retreat before any fighting occurs.
  • 1181 Battle of Sunomatagawa - the Taira thwart a sneak attack in the night but retreat.
  • 1181 Battle of Yahagigawa - the Minamoto, retreating from Sunomata, attempt to make a stand.
  • 1183 Siege of Hiuchi - the Taira attack a Minamoto fortress.
  • 1183 Battle of Kurikara - the tide of the war turns, in the Minamoto's favor.
  • 1183 Battle of Shinohara - Yoshinaka pursues the Taira force from Kurikara
  • 1183 Battle of Mizushima - the Taira intercept a Minamoto force, heading for Yashima.
  • 1183 Siege of Fukuryuji - the Minamoto attack a Taira fortress.
  • 1183 Battle of Muroyama - Minamoto no Yukiie tries and fails to recoup the loss of the battle of Mizushima.
  • 1184 Siege of Hojujidono - Yoshinaka sets fire to the Hojuji-dono and kidnaps Emperor Go-Shirakawa.
  • 1184 Second Battle of Uji - Yoshinaka is pursued out of the capital by Yoshitsune and Noriyori.
  • 1184 Battle of Awazu - Minamoto no Yoshinaka is defeated and killed by Minamoto no Yoshitsune and Minamoto no Noriyori.
  • 1184 Battle of Ichi-no-Tani - the Minamoto attack one of the Taira's primary fortresses.
  • 1184 Battle of Kojima - Taira fleeing Ichi-no-Tani are attacked by Minamoto no Noriyori.
  • 1185 Battle of Yashima - the Minamoto assault their enemies' fortress, just off of Shikoku.
  • 1185 Battle of Dan-no-ura - the decisive naval battle ending the war.

Chapter 10 - The Kamakura Period

Minamoto no Yoritomo

This chapter of the book deals with the Kamakura Period (鎌倉時代 Kamakura jidai, 1185–1333). This period marks the transition of Japan to it's medieval era, which will last, for nearly 700 years until the Meiji Restoration. This period of Japanese history is marked by the governance of the Kamakura Shogunate, officially established in 1192 in Kamakura by the first shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo, who beating the rival Taira clan at sea, ended the Gempei War and established the Kamakura Shogunate.

The Kamakura period ended in 1333 with the destruction of the shogunate and the short reestablishment of imperial rule under Emperor Go-Daigo by Ashikaga Takauji, Nitta Yoshisada, and Kusunoki Masashige.

The Shogunate and The Hōjō Regency

The Kamakura period marks the transition to land-based economies and a concentration of advanced military technologies in the hands of a specialized fighting class. Lords required the loyal services of vassals, who were rewarded with fiefs of their own. The fief holders exercised local military rule. This type of rule is known as feudalism.

Once Minamoto Yoritomo had consolidated his power, he established a new government at his family home in Kamakura. He called his government a bakufu (幕府, tent government), but because he was given the ancient high military title Seii Tai-shōgun by the Emperor, the government is often referred to in Western literature as the shogunate. Yoritomo followed the Fujiwara form of house government and had an administrative board Mandokoro (政所), a board of retainers (Monchūjo), and a board of inquiry (Samurai-dokoro (侍所)). After confiscating estates in central and western Japan, he appointed stewards for the estates and constables for the provinces. As shogun, Yoritomo was both the steward and the constable general. The Kamakura shogunate was not a national regime, however, and although it controlled large tracts of land, there was strong resistance to the stewards. The regime continued warfare against the Northern Fujiwara, but never brought either the north or the west under complete military control. However, The 4th leader of the Northern Fujiwara Fujiwara no Yasuhira was defeated by Yoritomo in 1189, and the 100-year long prosperity of the north disappeared. The old court resided in Kyoto, continuing to hold the land over which it had jurisdiction, while newly organized military families were attracted to Kamakura.

Despite a strong beginning, Yoritomo failed to consolidate the leadership of his family on a lasting basis. Intrafamily contention had long existed within the Minamoto, although Yoritomo had eliminated most serious challengers to his authority. When he died suddenly in 1199, his son Minamoto no Yoriie became shogun and nominal head of the Minamoto, but Yoriie was unable to control the other eastern warrior families. By the early thirteenth century, a regency had been established for the shogun by Hōjō Tokimasa—a member of the Hōjō clan, a branch of the Taira that had allied itself with the Minamoto in 1180. The head of Hōjō was installed as the regent for the shogun is called the Shikken in the period, although later positions were created with similar power such as Tokuso and Rensho. Often the Shikken was also the Tokuso and Rensho. Under the Hōjō, the shogun became a powerless figurehead.

With the protector of the Emperor (shogun) a figurehead himself, strains emerged between Kyoto and Kamakura, and in 1221 the Jōkyū War broke out between the Cloistered Emperor Go-Toba and the second regent Hōjō Yoshitoki. The Hōjō forces easily won the war, and the imperial court was brought under the direct control of the shogunate. The shogun's constables gained greater civil powers, and the court was obliged to seek Kamakura's approval for all of its actions. Although deprived of political power, the court retained extensive estates.

Several significant administrative achievements were made during the Hōjō regency. In 1225 the third regent Hōjō Yasutoki established the Council of State, providing opportunities for other military lords to exercise judicial and legislative authority at Kamakura. The Hōjō regent presided over the council, which was a successful form of collective leadership. The adoption of Japan's first military code of law—the Goseibai Shikimoku—in 1232 reflected the profound transition from court to militarized society. While legal practices in Kyoto were still based on 500-year-old Confucian principles, the new code was a highly legalistic document that stressed the duties of stewards and constables, provided means for settling land disputes, and established rules governing inheritances. It was clear and concise, stipulated punishments for violators of its conditions, and remained in effect for the next 635 years.

As might be expected, the literature of the time reflected the unsettled nature of the period. The Hōjōki describes the turmoil of the period in terms of the Buddhist concepts of impermanence and the vanity of human projects. The Heike monogatari narrated the rise and fall of the Taira, replete with tales of wars and samurai deeds. A second literary mainstream was the continuation of anthologies of poetry in the Shin Kokin Wakashū, of which twenty volumes were produced between 1201 and 1205.

The Flourishing of Buddhism

In the time of disunity and violence, deepening pessimism increased the appeal of the search for salvation. The Kamakura period was the age of the great popularization of Buddhism in Japan. Two new sects, Jōdo shū and Zen, dominated the period. The Mount Hiei monasteries had become politically powerful but appealed primarily to those capable of systematic study of the sect's teachings, while the Shingon sect and its esoteric ritual continued to enjoy support largely from the noble families in Kyoto. During this time, a number of monks who had left the Tendai sect founded separate Buddhist sects of their own, including:

  • Hōnen, founder of Jōdo shū (Japanese Pure Land Buddhism).
  • Shinran, disciple of Hōnen and founder of Jōdo Shinshū sect.
  • Ippen, founder of the Ji sect, which emphasized devotion to Amida Buddha through an ecstatic dance.
  • Dōgen, founder of the Sōtō school of Zen Buddhism.
  • Eisai, founder of the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism.
  • Nichiren, founder of the Nichiren Sect, which emphasized devotion to the Lotus Sutra itself.

The older Buddhist sects such as Shingon, Tendai and the early schools of the Nara period continued to thrive through the Kamakura period, and even experienced some measure of a revival. However, with the increasing popularity of the new Kamakura schools, the older schools partially eclipsed as the newer "Kamakura" schools found followers among the new Kamakura government, and its samurai.

Mongol Invasions

The repulsions of two Mongol invasions were momentous events in Japanese history. Japanese relations with China had been terminated in the mid-ninth century after the deterioration of late Tang Dynasty China and the turning inward of the Heian court. Some commercial contacts were maintained with the Southern Song Dynasty of China in later centuries, but Japanese pirates made the open seas dangerous. At a time when the shogunate had little interest in foreign affairs and ignored communications from China and the Goryeo kingdom, news arrived in 1268 of a new Mongol regime in Beijing. Its leader, Kublai Khan, demanded that the Japanese pay tribute to the new Yuan Dynasty and threatened reprisals if they failed to do so. Unused to such threats, Kyoto raised the diplomatic counter of Japan's divine origin, rejected the Mongol demands, dismissed the Korean messengers, and started defensive preparations.

After further unsuccessful entreaties, the first Mongol invasion took place in 1274. More than 600 ships carried a combined Mongol, Chinese, and Korean force of 23,000 troops armed with catapults, combustible missiles, and bows and arrows. In fighting, these soldiers grouped in close cavalry formations against samurai, who were accustomed to one-on-one combat. Local Japanese forces at Hakata, on northern Kyūshū, defended against the superior mainland force, which, after one day of fighting was destroyed by the onslaught of a sudden typhoon. Kublai realized that nature, not military incompetence, had been the cause of his forces' failure so, in 1281, he launched a second invasion. Seven weeks of fighting took place in northwestern Kyūshū before another typhoon struck, again destroying the Mongol fleet.

Although Shinto priests attributed the two defeats of the Mongols to a "divine wind" or kamikaze, a sign of heaven's special protection of Japan, the invasion left a deep impression on the shogunate's leaders. Long-standing fears of the Chinese threat to Japan were reinforced. The Japanese victory, however, gave the warriors a sense of fighting superiority that remained with Japan's soldiers until 1945. The victory also convinced the warriors of the value of the shogunate form of government.

The Mongol war had been a drain on the economy, and new taxes had to be levied to maintain defensive preparations for the future. The invasions also caused disaffection among those who expected recompense for their help in defeating the Mongols. There were no lands or other rewards to be given, however, and such disaffection, combined with overextension and the increasing defense costs, led to a decline of the Kamakura bakufu. Additionally, inheritances had divided family properties, and landowners increasingly had to turn to moneylenders for support. Roving bands of ronin further threatened the stability of the shogunate.

Civil War and the End of The Kamakura Shogunate

The Hōjō reacted to the ensuing chaos by trying to place more power among the various great family clans. To further weaken the Kyoto court, the bakufu decided to allow two contending imperial lines—known as the Southern Court or junior line and the Northern Court or senior line—to alternate on the throne. The method worked for several successions until a member of the Southern Court ascended to the throne as Emperor Go-Daigo. Go-Daigo wanted to overthrow the shogunate to restore imperial rule, and he openly defied Kamakura by naming his own son his heir. In 1331 the shogunate exiled Go-Daigo, but loyalist forces, including Kusunoki Masashige, rebelled. They were aided by Ashikaga Takauji, a constable who turned against Kamakura when dispatched to put down Go-Daigo's rebellion. At the same time, Nitta Yoshisada, another eastern chieftain, rebelled against the shogunate, which quickly disintegrated, and the Hōjō were defeated. This restoration of the emperor is known as the Kenmu restoration and will be explored in the next chapter.

Timeline of the Kamakura Period

  • 1185: the rival Taira clan is defeated at sea at the Battle of Dannoura by Yoritomo's brother Minamoto Yoshitsune.
  • 1192: The emperor appoints Yoritomo as shogun (military leader) with a residence in Kamakura, establishing the bakufu system of government
  • 1199: Minamoto Yoritomo dies
  • 1207: Hōnen and his followers are exiled from Kyoto or executed. This inadvertently spread the Pure Land doctrine to a wider audience.
  • 1221: The Kamakura army defeats the imperial army in the Jōkyū Disturbance, thereby asserting the supremacy of the Kamakura shogunate (Hōjō regents) over the emperor
  • 1227: The Sōtō sect of Zen Buddhism is introduced to Japan by the monk Dōgen Zenji
  • 1232: The Jōei Shikimoku code of law is promulgated to enhance control by the Hōjō regents
  • 1274: The Mongols of Kublai Khan try to invade Japan but are repelled by a typhoon.
  • 1274: Nichiren is banished to Sado Island
  • 1293: On May 27, a major earthquake and tsunami hit Sagami Bay and Kamakura, killing 23,034 people. It followed a 1241 and 1257 earthquake/tsunami in the same general area, which both were magnitude 7.0.
  • 1333: Nitta Yoshisada conquers and destroys Kamakura during the Siege of Kamakura ending the Kamakura Shogunate.

Chapter 11 - Kenmu Restoration

Japanese History/The Kenmu Restoration

Chapter 12 - The Nanboku-chō Period

The Nanboku-chō period (南北朝時代 Nanbokuchō jidai) spanned from 1336 to 1392. It was a period that occurred during the Muromachi Period.

During this period, there existed a Northern Imperial Court, established by Ashikaga Takauji in Kyoto, and a Southern Imperial Court, established by Emperor Go-Daigo in Yoshino. Ideologically, the two courts fought for fifty years, with the South giving up to the North in 1392. However, in reality the Northern line was under the power of the Ashikaga shoguns and had little real independence.

Since the 19th century the Emperors of the Southern Imperial Court have been considered the legitimate Emperors of Japan. Other contributing factors were the Southern Court's control of the Japanese imperial regalia, and Kitabatake Chikafusa's work Jinnō Shōtōki, which legitimized the South's imperial court despite their defeat.

The consequences of events in this period continue to be influential in modern Japan's conventional view of the Tennō Seika (Emperor system). Under the influence of State Shinto, an Imperial decree dated March 3, 1911 established that the legitimate reigning monarchs of this period were the Southern Court. After World War II, a series of pretenders, starting with Kumazawa Hiromichi, claimed descent from the Southern Court and challenged the legitimacy of the modern imperial line which is descended from the Northern Court.

The destruction of the Kamakura shogunate of 1333 and the failure of the Kemmu Restoration in 1336 opened up a legitimacy crisis for the new shogunate. Furthermore, institutional changes in the estate system (the shōen) that formed the bedrock of the income of nobles and warriors alike decisively altered the status of the various social groups. What emerged out of the exigencies of the Nanboku-chō (Southern and Northern Court) War was the Muromachi regime, which broadened the economic base of the warriors while undercutting the noble proprietors, a trend that had started already with the Kamakura bakufu.

The fall of the Kamakura bakufu

The main conflicts that contributed to the outbreak of the civil war were, in ascending order of importance, the growing conflict between the Hōjō family and other warrior groups in the wake of the Mongol invasions of Japan of 1274 and 1281 and the failure of the Kemmu Restoration, which triggered the struggle between the supporters of the imperial loyalists and supporters of the Ashikaga clan.

Disaffection towards the Hōjō-led Kamakura regime appeared among the warriors towards the end of the thirteenth century. This resentment was caused by the growing influence of the Hōjō over other warrior families within the regime. The Mongol invasions were the main cause behind this centralization of power that took place during the regency of Hōjō Tokimune (AD 1268-1284). During the crisis, three things occurred: Hōjō family appointments to the council of state increased; the Hōjō private family council became the most important decision making body; and direct vassals of the Hōjō were increasingly promoted to shugo posts. They essentially narrowed down their constituents by including only Hōjō family members and direct vassals, at the expense of a broader base of support. When a coalition against the Hōjō emerged in 1331, it took only two years to topple the regime.

Wealth in agrarian societies is tied to land, and medieval Japan was no different. In fact, land was the main reason for much of the discontent among the warrior class. Since the rise of the warriors under the Minamoto, it was expected that victory in battle would be rewarded by land grants given to those who served on the victorious side. However, unlike any war that had been fought until then, the Mongol invasions presented a problem since this war, which was seen by most Japanese as a patriotic duty, did not take place against another warrior family, but against a foreign enemy. After the foreign enemy’s defeat there were no lands to hand out to the victors. This was especially a problem for those warriors who had fought valiantly and petitioned the Hōjō regents for land. Even in the beginning of the fourteenth century this discontent put a tremendous pressure on any regime that emerged. They had to immediately satisfy this group in order to succeed.

The Nanboku-chō War was an ideological struggle between loyalists who wanted the Emperor back in power, and those who believed in creating another warrior regime modeled after Kamakura. It was as if the two previous periods in Japanese history, the Heian and the Kamakura, were clashing on the ideological level. Noble warriors like Kitabatake Chikafusa were pragmatic about the need for warriors to participate in the Restoration on the instrumental level, but on the ideological level a severe divergence between Chikafusa and Takauji polarized the leaders for many years to come. Hammered together during war time, the emergence of the Muromachi regime followed on the heels of the Restoration's failure.

Vassalage ties and the rise of the Muromachi bakufu

Serious fighting between the two sides raged on for nearly thirty years before supporters of the new warrior regime gained the upper hand. Ashikaga Takauji relied on three main policies to accomplish the task of assembling power:

1. The half tax (hanzei) policy of dividing estate lands
2. Vassalage ties to samurai housemen (gokenin);
3. The use of shugo lords as bakufu governors and vassals in the provinces (covered below in a separate section).

Both the vassalage ties with the samurai and control over shugo lords were established after the regime had solidified in the 1350s. These two hierarchies were the most important connections in determining the shogun's power. The bureaucratic organs are the most difficult to assess, because the early bureaucracy was altered after the Kannō disturbance (see the section below), and much of these eventually concerned just Kyoto and Yamashiro province.

The estate (shōen) from Kamakura to Muromachi

The half tax policy was straight forward: it was a drastic policy of recognizing the legality of samurai incursions on estate lands, but at the same time guaranteed the survival of the estate system.

To examine how the estate system changed we must first look at the Kamakura period. The vassalage ties between the samurai stewards (jito) and the Kamakura regime (AD 1185-1333) were intermediary, because they placed the samurai steward (Jitō) in a position where he was answerable at the same time to both Kamakura and Kyoto. By being chosen as a samurai he was placed in a direct vassalage relationship to the shogun as a member of his house in a fictive kinship tie. As a steward, the samurai became a shogunal houseman (gokenin) and trusted vassal, and given the management of an estate that legally belonged to a noble in Kyoto (Varley 1967:22-5). This is where the intermediary nature of Kamakura vassalage ties lies. As a vassal of the warrior regime in Kamakura he was answerable to the shogun in the form of military service and dues, but as a manager of an estate owned by a noble, he had to pay rent to the latter. We will first examine the nature of the samurai steward as Kamakura vassals, and then examine the vassalage ties that emerged under Ashikaga Takauji.

The stability of the Kamakura system of rule rested upon the regime's guarantee of stewardship rights (jito shiki) to the dominant warriors, and of rent and land ownership rights to the noble proprietor. Through the vassalage ties to samurai stewards, the new warrior regime was grafted onto the older estate system, and in the process bridged the conflicting tendencies that were latent between the upstart warriors and the nobles.

The samurai stewards who had direct vassalage ties to the shogun or the Hōjō regents were also known as housemen (gokenin). The tradition of the Kamakura houseman was a prestigious one, and set the precedent for what followed in the Muromachi period. Yoritomo and the Hōjō Regents were only concerned about controlling their own housemen, consciously limiting themselves to hearing the land dispute cases of their own vassals and rewarding stewardship rights to their followers, letting other disputes from other groups be taken care of by the civil administration. This precedent was followed by the Ashikaga shoguns as they endeavored to protect the interests of their house vassals against the incursions of the shugo lords throughout the Muromachi period.

Not only were shugo given more power as lords of the provinces, but the half tax policy (hanzei) that Takauji used to divide estate lands multiplied the number of fiefs owned outright by samurai warriors. However, Takauji could have gone further if he had followed the advice of his trusted generals, the Kō brothers, who wanted to do away with estates altogether. What emerged was a redrawing of the estate system where warrior interests predominated, but noble interests were still preserved. In helping to preserve the estate system, the half tax measure was a policy that still managed to connect the rights of the noble with those of the warrior.

The half tax policy began as an emergency tax designated for military rations (hyororyosho) collected during war time: half the income from particular temple, shrine and estate lands in the provinces of Mino, Ōmi and Owari would be taken to support armies of the Muromachi regime. Increasingly, this was reinterpreted and changed by Takauji as the permanent acquisition of half the land for the purpose of enforcing vassals . This was a radical departure from previous practice. As was indicated above, during the Kamakura period, most of the lands, particularly in the central and western provinces of Honshū, were owned by the nobles, but managed as stewardships (jito shiki) by Kamakura house vassals, uniting both the interests of the nobles and the interests of the warriors together in the estate institution. With the advent of the half tax measure, Takauji was removing one half of the estate lands from noble control and giving it in fief to his warriors.

Rise of local samurai (kokujin)

When the Nanboku-chō conflict broke out, vassalage ties became more serious. The loyalty of vassals became a big issue. During the relatively peaceful Kamakura period, military skills were not placed at a premium, but after the outbreak of civil war this criterion became the most important one (Mass 1989:113-4,117). A new intermediary consideration emerged in the vassalage ties of the post 1336 environment: the need for loyalty and a tighter tie between lord and vassal. The tighter ties between the shogun and his vassals emerged as a result of the need for military action against rivals. Vassalage ties were either established by the Ashikaga or there was a risk of losing a potential warrior to another warrior hierarchy controlled, at best, by emerging shugo lords loyal to the Ashikaga, and at worst by rival imperialist generals. So, in a true sense, vassalage ties during the civil war period were used to bridge potential conflict through the recruitment of warriors.

At the same time that vassalage ties tightened between samurai and shogun, the legitimacy of these ties were sorely tested. This apparent paradox is logically explained by the existence of many claims to samurai loyalty that were presented: towards rival imperialist generals, shugo lords, and even towards local samurai alliances.

A few examples will illustrate the emergence of vassalage ties between the shogun Ashikaga Takauji and his new housemen. The Kobayakawa family became loyal vassals when they were entrusted with defending Ashikaga interests in the province of Aki province after Takauji had retreated to Kyūshū in 1336 (Arnesen 1985:108). Another Aki samurai family, the Mori clan, became vassals of Takauji in 1336, and served under Kō Moroyasu until the outbreak of the Kannō Incident. In the 1350s, the Mori sided with the enemies of Takauji, Tadayoshi and his adopted son Tadafuyu, and not until the 1360s were they back again as vassals of the shogun (Arnesen 1985:114-5). Vassalage ties to the Kawashima clan and other warrior families near Kyoto were established by Takauji in the summer of 1336 in the latter's drive to retake the capital. The Kawashima case is of considerable interest because of a document pertaining to the terms of vassalage bearing Takauji's signature: they would exchange military service for stewardship rights (jito shiki) over half of Kawashima Estate, leaving the other half in possession of the noble proprietor in the form of rent.

The Kannō Incident and the resurgence of the Southern Court in the 1350’s

The events

Takauji was nominally shogun but, having proved not to be up to the task of ruling the country, for more than ten years Tadayoshi governed in his stead. The relationship between the two brothers was however destined to be destroyed by an extremely serious episode called the Kannō Incident, an event which takes its name from the Kannō era (1350–1351) during which it took place and which had very serious consequences for the entire country. Trouble between the two started when Takauji made Kō no Moronao his shitsuji, or deputy. Tadayoshi didn't like Moronao and, every other effort to get rid of him having failed, tried to have him assassinated. His plot was discovered, so Tadayoshi in 1349 was forced by Moronao to leave the government, shave his head and become a Buddhist monk under the name Keishin. In 1350 he rebelled and joined his brother's enemies, the supporters of the Southern court, whose Emperor Go-Murakami appointed him general of all his troops. In 1351 he defeated Takauji, occupied Kyoto, and entered Kamakura. During the same year he captured and executed the Kō brothers at Mikage (Settsu province). The following year his fortunes turned and he was defeated by Takauji at Sattayama. A reconciliation between the brothers proved to be brief. Tadayoshi fled to Kamakura, but Takauji pursued him there with an army. In March 1352, shortly after an ostensible second reconciliation, Tadayoshi died suddenly, according to the Taiheiki by poisoning.

Their background

The extremely divisive Kannō Incident that divided the Muromachi regime put a temporary hold on integration. Since this incident took place as the result of bureaucratic infighting, it will be necessary to first take a look at the bureaucratic organs, then examine where the conflict emerged.

The bureaucratic organs of the early regime were under the separate jurisdiction of the Ashikaga brothers Takauji and Tadayoshi, creating a bifurcated administration. Takauji was the leader of the house vassals, and thus controlled the Board of Retainers (Samurai Dokoro) and the Office of Rewards (Onshō-kata), while Tadayoshi was the bureaucratic leader controlling the Board of Inquiry control over the judicial functions of the regime (Sato 1977:48; Grossberg 1981:21-24).

The Board of Retainers was used as a disciplinary organ towards house vassals: brigandage and other crimes were prosecuted (Grossberg 1981:88,107). The Office of Rewards was used to hear the claims of and to enfeoff deserving vassals. The Office of Rewards was used to enroll new warriors who were potential adversaries of the regime. The major judicial organ, the Board of Coadjutors, decided on all land dispute cases and quarrels involving inheritance (Grossberg 1981:88). All judicial functions are par excellence used to resolve conflicts and disputes legally, within an institutional framework. Bureaucrats (bugyōnin) for the new regime were recruited from the ranks of those who served the Hōjō regime before its fall (Grossberg 1981:90). They were valuable because they knew how to read and write, a task beyond the reach of most warriors.

In the 1350s, the Kannō Incident and its aftermath divided and nearly destroyed the early regime (Sansom 1961:78-95). On the surface the incident looks like a factional struggle pitting Ashikaga Tadayoshi, Takauji's brother, against the Kō brothers, Moronao and Moroyasu backed by Takauji (Wintersteen 1974:215; Arnesen 1979:53-54). The conflict can be pinpointed to differences in opinion regarding the estate system, and behind these differing opinions, the different bureaucracies that were controlled by Takauji and Tadayoshi. On the whole Takauji was the innovator while Tadayoshi played the conservative, wanting to preserve the policies of the past. In his capacity as a military leader of vassal bands, Takauji did two things that conflicted with Tadayoshi: he appointed vassals to shugo posts as a reward for battlefield heroics, and he divided the shōen estates giving half of it to his vassals in fief or as stewardships. Tadayoshi strenuously contested these policies through the drafting of the Kemmu Formulary that opposed the appointment of shugo as a reward for battlefield service. He also opposed any sort of outright division of estate lands in his capacity as the leader of the Board of Coadjutors (Grossberg 1981:23-4). There was a clear division between the policies of Takauji and his brother Tadayoshi.

Conflict broke out as a result of having two heads of state whose policies contradicted each other. The events which followed the incident testify to the extent to which the regime began to lose its support. Deep divisions between members of the Ashikaga family strengthened the opposition. Both of the pillars of the Muromachi regime, Tadayoshi and Takauji, enacted token submissions to the Southern Court to push their own agendas: Tadayoshi in his desire to destroy the Kō brothers, and Takauji in his desire to defeat Tadayoshi. Ironically, even though the Southern Court was the enemy, it was used as the justification by regime members to attack each other.


One of the main effects of the incident was to reinvigorate the war effort of the Southern Court. To a large extent this renewed offensive was made possible by turncoats from the Muromachi regime. The imperialist offensive of 1352 directed against Takauji in Kamakura was made possible by the vast numbers of former adherents of Tadayoshi who became supporters of the imperialist leader Nitta Yoshimune. The imperialist offensive against Kyoto in 1353 was made possible through the defection of the shugo lord Yamana Tokiuji. Tadayoshi's adopted son Ashikaga Tadafuyu was the outstanding example of defection: he became the leader of the western armies of the Southern Court during the imperialist offensives against Kyoto in 1353 and 1354.

The Rise of the shugo lords

To understand the vicissitudes of this age we must now turn to the example of the shogun-shugo lord relationship. The competing loyalties that characterized the Nanboku-chō era were played out on many levels. At once we see the defection of local samurai families like the Mori—not uncommon during the terribly divisive Kannō Incident; and at a higher level, shugo lords continued to act in a dangerously independent manner until the latter half of the fourteenth century.

The Ashikaga shogun Takauji appointed branch family members as shugo lords in the different provinces of western and central Japan. The shugo acted as governors, and served the function of mediating between the regime center and periphery. As local governors, and lords in their own right, they represented the authority of the regime in the provinces. They came to hold much greater authority than the samurai houseman by virtue of having a province-wide appointment, not limited to single estates. Here we will look at their ties to the Ashikaga shogun during the early Muromachi period.

The success of shugo appointments lie not in the direction of kinship ties, but with how well they were tied to the regime through other factors. Warrior families since the Kamakura period were characterized by the use of headship rights (soryo) where leadership over branch families was accorded to the leader of the main family. However, headship rights were extremely unstable because branch families often asserted their own independence, particularly as new generations emerged to dilute the ties of kinship (Mass 1989:119).

The exigencies of the day called for the successful use of military skills by those who were appointed to shugo posts. As in vassalage ties between the Ashikaga shoguns and the local samurai, the tie between the shoguns and the shugo lords was intermediary in a similar sense: in the world of competing loyalties, the Ashikaga shoguns by appointing warriors to shugo posts endeavored to tie these men closer to themselves. The successful generals, who were at the same time branch family heads who had cast in their lot with Takauji's rebellion, were the ones often rewarded with the post (Grossberg 1981:23). The cost of not tying them to the regime was to lose their support, and to encourage their independence from the regime.

Ashikaga branch families appointed to shugo posts included the Hosokawa, Yamana, Imagawa, Hatakeyama, Niki, Kira, Shiba, Ishido, and the Isshiki families (Papinot 1972:27). In particular provinces, the Ashikaga failed to displace the original shugo families: the Sasaki, Togashi, Takeda and the Ogasawara in the central provinces, and the Shimazu, Otomo and Shoni in Kyūshū (Arnesen 1979:60). In the central and western provinces roughly half were new appointees. During the Kannō Incident, Ashikaga headship (soryo) ties to the new appointees did not prevent these shugo from outright rebellion towards the regime at all. In fact, the coercive institutions of the regime were woefully lacking in this time period vis-a-vis the shugo lords.

What prevented the shugo lords from simply doing whatever they pleased was the tenuous link of appointment, particularly new appointees who had emerged with Takauji—they had a vested interest in maintaining their links to the regime, insofar as they had not yet built up their power in the provinces. Those provincial families who had accumulated power throughout the Kamakura period, like the Ouchi of Suo and Nagato provinces and the Shimazu of Satsuma province, were lords in their own right, and were, thus, less dependent on the regime and on their shugo titles.

After 1372, shugo lords were given the responsibility to collect taxes (tansen) for the Muromachi regime. These taxes hit every category of landowner from the nobles to the samurai. As middlemen, the shugo profited by inflating the amount of taxes required from each individual landowner (Grossberg 1981:75). By this date, they had become unassailable as governors and hence were given the added responsibility of overseeing a new regime centered tax.

Shugo usurpation of civil functions and shugo uke

What comes into focus is the gradual but steady usurpation of the office of civil governor by the shugo lord, and his use of this position to effect feudal ties. The shugo was able to make his provincial power effective, not through his traditional administrative capacity like the earlier governors, but through the intermediary ties of vassalage with the samurai who had taken over the estate lands during the Nanboku-chō War, and with the samurai residing on public lands (kokugaryo). The shugo lords were both governors, having certain legitimate duties given to them by the Muromachi regime, and feudal lords attempting to enfoeff vassals.

The Nanboku-chō War was merciless to the nobles whose lands were taken outright by previous samurai stewards and converted into private holdings (chigyo) illegally. This revolutionary development was the harbinger for the total liquidation of the estate system that took place later. The shugo lords also participated in this wholescale land grab by accumulating former estates under their control by enfeoffing samurai on them (Nagahara 1982:12). Ironically, this lawless situation created by samurai encroachments on land, at the height of the war, caused security problems for all landed interests from petty samurai to the kokujin, and provided further impetus among local samurai to seek intermediary ties to the shugo lords in the form of vassalage. By tying themselves to the shugo, they were able to ally themselves to the one person in the province who could provide some form of local security.

Vassalage ties between the shugo lord and kokujin often took place on the estates in a three way intermediary tie called the shugo contract (shugo-uke): a noble proprietor would give the responsibility of managing his estate to the shugo in exchange for a guaranteed year end (nengu) income delivered to the proprietor residing in the capital. The shugo lord then enfoeffed vassal samurai (hikan) on those estates as managers (Miyagawa 1977:92; Nagahara 1982:14). Supposedly, shugo contracts tied the interests of the shugo lord, the samurai kokujin and the noble together, but were not based on equality of interests. They were truly instruments of shugo encroachment on the estates. There is no doubt as to the intermediary nature of the contract, because it connected the interests of three groups of people, but it was most favorable to the shugo lord who used this instrument to expand his ties of vassalage with the local samurai (kokujin), and at the same time to expand his land base at the expense of the nobles. Shugo contracts (shugo-uke) emerged in the 1340s and gradually became widespread (Wintersteen 1974:211). By looking at how this contract operated, it is apparent to what extent the estate system (shōen) was taken over by the warriors, and had become a skeleton of its previous life. Shugo lords gave the management of the estate to samurai in exchange for military service, but the noble stripped of all powers on the estate, was reduced to waiting for his portion of year end (nengu) income in Kyoto where he lived. The noble hired tax overseers (nengu daikan) to guarantee his own portion of the income, but had to pay an exorbitant amount to hire him. Noble income already reduced by the kokujin and the shugo lord, was further reduced once the tax overseer took his half. This reduction in noble income was the result of gradual non-payment on the part of both shugo and samurai; as a last measure, the nobles hired moneylenders (doso) and bureaucrats (bugyōnin) as a way to put pressure on the warriors. But even this remedy produced spotty results since the hired hands had to negotiate with the warriors (Nagahara 1982:16).

Shugo and public lands (kokugaryo)

A largely missing picture until recently, was the fate of public lands (kokugaryo) during the Muromachi period, and the role of the shugo lords in their encroachment on them. Public lands (kokugaryo) during the Heian period were distinguished from private lands of the estates (shōen), because the latter were immune from state taxation. Before the rise of private estates, the only kind of lands were public lands maintained under the old civil administration. With the rise of private estates called shōen, during the Heian period, public lands by no means disappeared: in details, the public lands differed very little from private estates. Both were owned by absentee proprietors. They differed only in terms of administration: private estates were directly managed by noble officials, whereas, public lands were managed by the civil governors (kokuga or kokushi) on behalf of the former (Arnesen 1979:94). By the Kamakura period, public lands were owned by different landowners as private holdings (chigyo). These landowners included noble houses, religious establishments and warriors. Whole areas of the Kantō and the northeast were held by warriors not in the capacity as estate managers, but as private holdings (Nagahara 1982:15): Kantō provinces were granted to the Kamakura regime as private lands (chigyokoku). The Ashikaga regime inherited these lands, and decided, fatefully, to place shugo lords over them (Arnesen 1979:94).

One of the main functions of the civil governor's office (kokushi) was the oversight of criminal justice in the provinces, and the maintenance of the private holdings within the public lands (kokugaryo), but his function began to change with the advent of the Kamakura regime (Hall 1966:202-03). With the appointment of shugo constables by Kamakura, all criminal jurisdiction within the provinces passed into his hands. But the civil governor (kokushi) remained as the key officer in the civil administration (ritsuryo), who made sure that rent from private holdings reached the absentee nobles and religious establishments (jisha honjo) in Kyoto and in Yamashiro province. His oversight did not include the private holdings of warriors, most usually concentrated in the Kantō and further north.

With the outbreak of the Nanboku-chō War, the civil administration (ritsuryo) began to break down rapidly, and shugo lords, who had a minor role in provincial governance during the Kamakura period, emerged to usurp the civil governor's functions. This did not happen immediately in every province, but occurred without interruption until the shugo lords had become true governors over public lands (kokugaryo). As they took over the oversight of private holdings within public lands, they established ties to many kinds of landowners: nobles, samurai of various kinds (kokujin, jizamurai), and to religious establishments. They enfoeffed their own followers on these lands, and reconfirmed the lands of existing samurai in exchange for military service, and established shugo contracts with the nobles with predictable results (Nagahara 1982:15). Along with vassalage ties to local samurai (kokujin) on the estates, vassalage ties on public lands became a key resource that augmented the power of the shugo lords.

Furthermore, in 1346, ten years after the emergence of the Muromachi regime, the shogun decentralized authority by giving the shugo the right to judge cases of crop stealing on the estates, and to make temporary assignments of land to deserving vassals taken from the imperialist forces (Arnesen 1979:65). This was significant, insofar as traditional areas of Kamakura jurisdiction were "given up" by the Muromachi regime. Previously, all cases of crop stealing or land assignments were strictly under Kamakura administration. Also, about this time, the imperialist forces were suffering their worst defeats, opening up enemy land for confiscation and reassignment. By giving these new jurisdictions to the shugo lords, it further augmented their position as governors over their assigned provinces.

Legitimation and limits to power

In this dual capacity, the shugo lords had to compete with other landed samurai in the provinces for land they administered as governors, but did not personally own. Like the noble proprietors, a single shugo lord owned lands in widely dispersed areas in several provinces. His power was not built upon personal ownership of land like the territorial lords (daimyo) of the sixteenth century, but upon the loyalties of the local samurai through ties of vassalage (Miyagawa 1977:91-93). There was much greater coercive potential exercised by the territorial lords of the sixteenth century, because their ties of vassalage were based on their ownership of the lands around them: as owners they could dispense with the land as they saw fit, getting rid of recalcitrant vassals without much ado. In the fourteenth century, the shugo lords could not claim province wide ownership of territory: first, the concept of personal provincial ownership was as yet undeveloped; second, they never amassed large amounts of personal property, relying rather on using the traditional framework of estate lands and public lands to enfoeff their vassals. This is the central enigma of the fourteenth century: the fragmentation and dissolution of the estate system, and the disappearance of the civil administration coincided with the proliferation of private lands, but the external framework of the estate system (shōen) and the public lands system (kokugaryo), though devoid of content, still remained (Kierstead 1985:311-14). Given the fragmentation, it was the intermediary ties of shugo vassalage, and the shugo role as provincial governor, that helped to integrate the disparate forces to some degree.

It becomes a wonder how the estate system survived at all given the depredations it suffered at the hands of the warriors. There were two reasons why it survived in the attenuated form described above: one, was the existence of the Muromachi regime that consistently upheld the estate system in the face of warrior incursions (Nagahara 1982:16). As described in section two, Ashikaga Takauji tried to make sure that the limits set on the warriors by the half tax measure was not exceeded, but he failed to circumvent arrangements like the shugo contract that really denuded the noble of his estate and its income. The half tax measure itself did not protect the noble from the outright takeover of the estate at the hands of the samurai, even if the latter were required to hand over a portion to fulfill the half tax law. In the end, it was the Muromachi administration that made sure that the samurai paid their portion of income to the nobles.

The other reason behind the survival of the estate system was connected to the legitimacy of the noble class. The rise of the warriors was not popular among the farmers living on the estates. The more gentle hand of the nobles was also the hand the people came to respect. To prevent outright disobedience and rebellion among the populace was one reason why both shugo lords and kokujin came to respect the outward form of the estate structure. To make their rulership legitimate in the eyes of the farmers, the warriors worked within the framework of the estate structure, even though this structure had been totally altered (Nagahara 1982:16-7). A case can be made that the estate system, outside of Yamashiro province, had become eroded to such an extent that the nobles had little if any influence left in the provinces.

Consolidation of Ashikaga power: 1360-1370

In 1358 after the death of Takauji, the shogunate passed into the hands of his son Yoshiakira. Under his leadership, and that of the kanrei Hosokawa Yoriyuki's, the regime succeeded in integrating the shugo lords in the 1360s and '70's: shugo branch families of the Ashikaga were employed within the government bureaucracy. I will cover the following points: 1) the emergence of the kanrei council system, and the Board of Retainers as intermediary instruments that tied shugo lords more firmly to the regime; 2) the emergence of a coercive instrument in the form of shogunal hegemony that was used to discipline errant shugo lords, and the final defeat of Southern Court forces; 3) the use of the court ranking system as an intermediary instrument that tied the regime to the imperial court, and in connection to this the hanzei half-tax decree of 1368 and its effect; and 4) the limitations to Muromachi authority in the Kyūshū and Kantō regions.

It was left to the shogun Yoshiakira to heal the wounds of the Kannō Incident by reorganizing the regime. In 1362 he established the most important intermediary institution that connected the shugo lords to the regime: the kanrei council system. This system was made up of two components, the kanrei office and the senior vassal council (jushin kaigi) over which the kanrei presided. The kanrei council system involved the most powerful shugo families as participants in directly governing central and western Japan. Along with the shogun, the kanrei council emerged to form the heart of the Muromachi regime to such an extent that historians have come to characterize this regime as the bakufu-shugo system (Tanuma 1976:12; Harrington 1985:67).

The kanrei council and the reorganization of institutions

The kanrei council system was intermediary, because it tied together the military side of the regime with the bureaucratic. The very conflict that emerged with the Kannō Incident had to do with the separation and clash between the military vassal institutions controlled by Takauji and the bureaucratic-judicial institutions controlled by Tadayoshi. With the emergence of the kanrei council system, the shugo lords who represented the military side of the administration were tied firmly to the bureaucracy, as important players in the creation of policy.

The kanrei office itself is a good example of mediation by tying together the interests of the shugo lords with those of the shogun. The job of the kanrei was to act as a spokesman between the Senior Vassal Council (jushin kaigi) and the shogun, mediating between the two (Kawai 1977:70). The kanrei also had the responsibility of looking over the bureaucratic elements of the regime on a daily basis, consulting and transmitting shogunal orders to the council and to the bureaucracy. The kanrei was consistently selected from a hereditary group of three shugo families related to Takauji within four generations (Papinot 1972:27): the Hosokawa, the Hatakeyama and the Shiba. The three families took turns in filling the post. They were the highest ranking shugo families in the regime, and the post of kanrei helped to tie their interests in support of it.

The other component of the kanrei council system was the Senior Vassal Council (jushin kaigi). The kanrei presided over the meetings of the council, relayed the decisions reached by the council to the shogun, and transmitted orders from the shogun to the council. In this system, regime policy was formulated in consultations between the council and the shogun, though final decisions were made by the latter (Kawai 1977:70-71; Sato 1977:48). In the beginning, the council was composed of the heads of the three shugo families from whom the kanrei was regularly selected along with four other heads of powerful shugo families: the Yamana, the Isshiki, the Akamatsu and the Kyogoku (Varley 1967:27-9). The latter two families were unrelated to the Ashikaga family. This trend of including unrelated shugo families into the council continued with the recruitment of the Ouchi, the Sasaki and the Toki families in the next few decades. This trend indicates that powerful shugo families, irrespective of kinship, were tied to the regime through the intermediary nature of the Senior Vassal Council: conflict and potential conflict of interests between shugo lords and the shogun was institutionalized by letting the shugo lords voice their opinions in discussions within the council. The Board of Retainers (samuraidokoro) was also headed by a Senior Vassal Council member selected in the fourteenth century from among the Imagawa (who became a council member a little later), the Hosokawa, the Hatakeyama, the Shiba, and the Toki. The Board of Retainers had the responsibility over police functions and the execution of criminal justice in the capital of Kyoto (Grossberg 1981:88,107). The office holder automatically became the shugo over Yamashiro province, the wealthiest and most densely populated in Japan, and had the responsibility of protecting the regime headquarters and the city of Kyoto (Varley 1967:57). By the beginning of the fifteenth century, the head of the Board of Retainers was chosen from among four shugo families: the Yamana, the Akamatsu, the Kyogoku, and the Isshiki. The Board of Retainers did what the kanrei council system did: it connected the interests of the shugo lords to that of the regime, and thereby mediated potential conflicts between them. It was intermediary insofar as the sources of potential conflict to the regime, the shugo lords, became participants in an institution of the regime.

Shugo participation in the Senior Vassal Council and in the Board of Retainers were two of the more prominent examples of their participation within the remodeled regime. The importance of this participation cannot be overestimated: it was through the use of these intermediary instruments whereby the Ashikaga shoguns were able to centralize the state under their direction. As we shall see time and again, kinship in the form of headship ties (soryo), looms large as a recruiting mechanism at all levels of Muromachi society: here too, the shugo lords of the highest standing were mostly branch families of the Ashikaga. However, these kinship ties did little in the way of mediating between the semi-independent shugo lords and the regime. It was rather the effective participation of the shugo lords in governing through the kanrei council system which bound their interests more firmly than before to the regime.

Ashikaga and the use of shugo coalitions

In 1362, the two most powerful shugo houses in the country, the Ouchi and the Yamana, submitted themselves to the Ashikaga regime on condition that the shogun would not interfere with the internal affairs of their respective provinces (Grossberg 1981:25). Subsequently, the Yamana, who were related to the Ashikaga, and the Ouchi, who were not related, began to play an increasingly important role in government affairs. However, within a few decades, both shugo houses became powerful enough to incur the wrath of the shogun.

In 1366, the first kanrei office holder's father, Shiba Takatsune who held real power over his thirteen year old son, and who engineered the placement of Shiba family members in key government offices was declared a traitor, because of his growing power and arrogance (he felt demeaned by accepting the kanrei post, so he had his son appointed instead). In the first show of force against an important shugo family, Yoshiakira ordered the Yamana, Sasaki, Yoshimi and the Toki shugo lords to attack the Shiba in the province of Echizen. The Shiba were defeated, and their territory in Echizen was redistributed (Grossberg 1981:92). In 1367, following the ouster of the Shiba family, Hosokawa Yoriyuki was named as the successor to the post of kanrei: after the shogun Yoshiakira's death, Yoriyuki managed during the minority of the young shogun Yoshimitsu to place the regime on a firmer foundation. The use of shugo lords to attack one of their own colleagues in the 1366, points to the growing authority of the shogun vis-a-vis the shugo lords, and the emergence of an effective instrument of coercion that would grow with age. Up till now, we have seen the virtual non-existence of true disciplinary mechanisms that the shogun could use against his shugo lords. In conjunction with the new intermediary instruments that emerged between the shogun and the shugo lords, the new coercive instrument of pitting one shugo lord against another, through shogun-shugo coalitions, strengthened the shogun's hand.

In 1362, the last Southern Court offensive against Kyoto forced the Ashikaga to withdraw from the capital, but like many previous attempts, the imperialists had to eventually retreat in the face of a large counterattack without having accomplished anything (Sansom 1961:108). The exuberance that existed during the 1350s among the imperialist armies had faded. Resistance after this date became sporadic and completely defensive. Finally, in 1369, a year after the death of Emperor Go-Murakami, the stalwart imperialist general Kusunoki Masanori submitted himself to the regime. His capitulation ended the imperialist threat to the central provinces (Sansom 1961:108).

Seeking legitimation from the court

In 1370 Imagawa Sadayo (Ryoshun) was appointed by the kanrei Yoriyuki and the Senior Vassal Council to bring down the last bastion of Southern Court resistance in Kyūshū. After a grueling twelve year campaign, imperialist resistance collapsed with the defeat of the Kikuchi family in 1381; and with the death of Shimazu Ujihisa in 1385, the last Kyūshū provincial domain declared its allegiance to the regime (Sansom 1961:112). With the fall of Kyūshū the whole of western Japan came under the rule and influence of the Ashikaga regime. However, campaigns alone were inadequate to legitimize Ashikaga rule over the nobles. After 1367, during the minority of the shogun Yoshimitsu, the kanrei Hosokawa Yoriyuki became active in trying to legitimize the regime in the eyes of the nobles. He did this through a series of extremely conservative measures, gaining prestige among the nobles in Kyoto. He used an ancient court ranking system by having the young shogun participate in it (Grossberg 1981:26). He also associated the regime with the court much more closely than had any other past warrior leader. By doing this, he tied the regime closer to the imperial court, thereby erasing the stigma of the ideology that fueled the Nanboku-chō conflict: Ashikaga Takauji was seen as a traitor fighting against the restoration of imperial power.

The court society survived such a long time because of its popularity among the different classes in Japanese society. On the estate level, farmers felt much closer to the nobles than towards the warriors. The waning power of the nobles notwithstanding, their influence went far beyond their actual power, because they possessed a legitimacy of tradition and the charisma of culture that the warriors did not possess. It is no wonder that Yoriyuki had the young shogun participate in court ceremonies: this participation was intermediary, involving the highest military leader in a court ranking system that dated back several centuries, and had as its premise the primacy of the imperial line over everyone, including the warriors, who had to receive titles from the emperor. By participating in this court ranking ritual, the Ashikaga regime was sending a strong message to the entire society: that the legitimacy conferred by the court was still valid and still important (Grossberg 1981:20). This participation bridged the tensions between the warrior regime and the court, and had the unintended effect of disseminating court culture among the warrior class, creating a fusion of taste that has forever marked this period of Japanese culture as one of brilliant innovation. In a way this participation was an anachronism that seemed removed from the real world where power was directly exercised by warriors. However, the question of legitimacy is not necessarily tied to the direct exercise of power. Legitimacy is tied to ideology, and the ideological basis for aristocratic noble rule had a better basis than the rule of warriors. Force alone cannot make legitimacy, and the cultural milieu that surrounded the court was still much more persuasive, much more elegant than the samurai sword. The warriors themselves were attracted to the culture of the nobles, and enthusiastically emulated the latter's tastes until they were able to produce a synthesis that went beyond what had existed earlier such as the rise of rock gardens influenced by Zen among other art forms that has had a lasting impact to this day. And for these reasons alone, the connection effected between the shogun and the imperial court during the last few decades of the fourteenth century, had the effect of broadening the legitimacy of the shogun's power.

The kanrei Yoriyuki promulgated the last half-tax decree (hanzei) in 1368. This decree was a comprehensive and decisive intermediary instrument that was used to tie noble interests to the regime: it outlawed the halving of lands owned by the imperial family, those lands under the control of major temples, and those that were owned by the imperial regents (the Fujiwara). Exceptions also included noble lands that were given full title by the previous shogun (perhaps Yoshiakira ?), and estates managed by the samurai stewards (jito) (Wintersteen 1974:219-20). This decree was applicable to all estates nationwide, and its real importance was the strong language used to deter further samurai incursions onto the estates, and to defend the interests of the nobles in the face of the samurai incursions that had already taken place. Unlike the earlier half-tax decrees, this one was conservative, and its aim was to protect noble lands from division rather than to justify it.

With the 1368 half-tax decree, the regime had come a long ways from the 1352 decree, but the realities of samurai incursions that had already taken place could not be reversed. Here, what was ideologically stated openly departed from what was actually taking place in the provinces. As we saw above, the incursions of the samurai and the shugo lords on the estates were severe despite the 1368 decree. And with the fifteenth century, this trend of land grabbing became ever more pronounced. I must conclude that the 1368 decree was, on the whole, ineffective in stopping the warriors from taking control over the estates and their income, given the evidence of continued warrior takeovers. In a sense, the 1368 decree was an ideological document that attempted to legitimize the Ashikaga regime in the eyes of the nobles, following from the closer connections that were established between the shogun and the imperial court. Furthermore, the Ashikaga shoguns were not able, even if they had the desire, to stop the continued incursions of warriors on the income of the estates. However ineffective, the 1368 decree recognized noble interests were defended ideologically by a warrior regime, and in the process tied together the interests of both.

Finally, the direct rule of the Muromachi regime that emerged in the 1360s was limited geographically to the western and central provinces in contrast to the previous Kamakura regime based in the Kantō. Outside shugo lords (tozama) unrelated to the Ashikaga like the Takeda, Chiba, Yuki, Satake, Oyama, Utsunomiya, Shoni, Otomo, Aso, and the Shimazu families, all of whom were concentrated in or near the Kantō and Kyūshū regions did not participate in the kanrei council system, and were semi-independent of the regime (Varley 1967:29; Hall 1966:199). They were tacitly recognized and given shugo titles by the Ashikaga, because of their predominant positions in areas that were not easily controlled from Kyoto (Harrington 1985:67).


After the Kyūshū campaign that began in 1370, the Kyūshū deputy (tandai) became the representative of the Muromachi regime on that island. Imagawa Sadayo (Ryoshun) effectively prosecuted the campaign against the Southern Court forces, and continued to press his attack against the forces of Shimazu Ujihisa, garnering support from local Kyūshū kokujin in the process (Harrington 1985:85-6). Deputies like Sadayo were Muromachi representatives in the areas they controlled, even when they arrogated the full powers of vassalage to local samurai . For example in 1377, a contract was signed between Sadayo and a samurai alliance (ikki) consisting of sixty-one local samurai. The contract stipulated that all disputes between alliance members would be taken to the Kyūshū deputy, while disputes between alliance members and the deputy himself would be taken to the Muromachi regime in Kyoto (Harrington 1985:87). The Kyūshū deputy was an intermediary figure who united the interests of the regime and the interests of the local area under his jurisdiction together. It was a precarious position because of the temptation to independence it presented. But for whatever reason, the Muromachi regime did not extend their direct control over the whole nation, and so came to rely on appointees like the Kyūshū deputy to act as their representatives to influence the shugo lords and samurai of the region through coercive and intermediary instruments.

The Kantō

In the late fourteenth century, the Kantō region was dominated by powerful warrior families. Of these, the Uesugi were the most powerful. They were able to take advantage of the fighting that erupted between families in the region to advance their own interests. In 1368, the Utsunomiya family revolted against the Kamakura headquarters of the Muromachi regime, because they had lost their shugo posts to the Uesugi. The Uesugi family was able to extend their influence by amassing shugo posts under their jurisdiction, and by enfeoffing vassals in the Kantō region at the expense of other families (Harrington 1985:82-3). One could advance a theory that the Kantō region had become semi-independent from Kyoto, and that the Kamakura headquarters of the Muromachi regime existed because of Uesugi support. The Uesugi family was legally recognized by the Muromachi regime by their appointment to the Kantō kanrei post because of their unassailable position.

The Kamakura headquarters of the Muromachi regime acted in much the same way as the Kyūshū deputy (tandai): it became the regional intermediary office through which regime orders were transmitted to the outlying Kantō region. In practice as seen above, the Kantō was dominated by powerful families like the Uesugi. Increasingly, the Kamakura headquarters became independent from the Muromachi regime, and for all essential purposes took care of regional disputes, regional taxation, and developed ties with shugo lords in the Kantō with minimal reference to the Muromachi government in Kyoto—even though the right to confirm fiefs and the right to ratify shugo appointments technically remained in the hands of Kyoto (Harrington 1985:83-5).

Centralization of Ashikaga power and the end of the Nanboku-chō War: 1379-1399

One area of resistance after another fell to the Muromachi regime during the crucial decade of the 1360s: tellingly, powerful shugo lords like the Ouchi and the Yamana submitted themselves as semi-independent lords; Southern Court resistance became more futile as time passed. Militarily the regime was able to call upon the services of the shugo lords to attack one of their own colleagues in 1366, pointing to the increasing subordination of the shugo to shogunal control. Hand in hand with the creation of the kanrei council system and the increasing participation of the powerful shugo families in the bakufu bureaucracy, ties to the imperial court broadened the legitimate base of the regime. These key developments were used not only to increase shogunal control, but to bind the interests of the shugo lords and nobles more closely to the regime.[18] However, geographically, the Muromachi regime was limited in scope, delegating its jurisdiction of the Kantō and Kyūshū areas to regional representatives, holding more or less direct control over the central and western provinces of Honshū.

For fifty years after Yoshimitsu's assumption of authority in 1379, the Muromachi regime entered its most powerful phase as the unrivaled government of the country. The connection between the shogun and the shugo lords tightened as shogunal control increased. The main instruments and their effects that enabled the shogun to exercise control over the shugo lords, and to broaden the base of the legitimacy of the regime involved: 1) a continuation of close ties between the Muromachi regime and the imperial court; 2) the compulsory residential policy aimed at the shugo lords; 3) further development of the shogunal army (gobanshu); 4) the rise of shogunal hegemony using the coalition of several shugo lords; and 5) the use of commercial and agrarian revenue and taxes by the regime. All of these changes exemplify the continuing trend of centripetal forces that augmented the power of the regime. The Ashikaga and the Imperial Court

Under Yoshimitsu (active 1379-1408) who took the reins of power after the dismissal of Yoriyuki as kanrei, the effects of this particular connection encouraged one of the most brilliant periods in Japanese history, renowned for the maturation of architectural and cultural forms that have since characterized Japanese culture. His close association with the imperial court and its culture, and his patronage of the new arts helped to disseminate this culture to the military aristocracy, particularly through the shugo lords (Grossberg 1981:31-32; Kawai 1977:72). This connection between the shogun and the imperial court brought added prestige to both institutions, and gave the shogun an aura of civil legitimacy and culture that the previous Kamakura regime had lacked.

By participating in court institutions, the shogun also adopted much of the refined pastimes of court culture. Cultural pursuits came as a result of a prior institutional connection. Culture has more in common with ideological justifications: as we saw in the previous section, much of court culture enjoyed a legitimacy denied to the warriors.

Monopoly of force: compulsory residence

Moving to the shogun-shugo relationship, in the 1380s the kanrei council system was strengthened by Yoshimitsu when he persuaded the western and central shugo lords to take up residence in Kyoto. He even went to visit Ouchi Yoshihiro in 1389, and persuaded him to live in Kyoto during one of his so-called pilgrimage circuits. These circuits were used to display his power through the provinces in which he traveled (Grossberg 1981:29-30). This compulsory residential policy that Yoshimitsu instituted was the main coercive policy that aided the kanrei council system, and enabled the shogun to tighten his grip around the shugo lords. Permission to leave the capital city was rarely granted to the shugo lord: it was only granted after discussion in the Senior Vassal Council. Even when permission was granted in the case of provincial rebellion or Southern Court guerilla activity, suitable hostages were left behind in Kyoto. If the shugo lord left without permission, it was seen as tantamount to treason (Kawai 1977:68-9; Tanuma 1976:13).

The Kantō and Kyūshū shugo were exempt from this order of compulsory residence in Kyoto. However, the Kamakura headquarters of the Muromachi regime instituted a similar policy in regards to the Kantō shugo lords, and made them establish mansions in Kamakura just as the western and central shugo lords made mansions in Kyoto (Kawai 1977:68). Mansion building in Kyoto became fashionable, and eventually included shugo lords like the Shimazu of Kyūshū, who decided to live in Kyoto even though he was not required to do so. The shugo lords really had little choice in the matter. They either resided in Kyoto or were branded as traitors of the regime. Along with institutions like the kanrei council system, the compulsory residential policy had incalculable effects both from a national standpoint, and from a provincial standpoint. For starters, the power of the shugo lords was severely restricted by this policy: their freedom of movement was circumvented. Second, as time passed into the second quarter of the fifteenth century, real power in the provinces moved away from the shugo lords and came to rest upon the deputy shugo (shugo-dai), and upon other independent samurai (kokujin) who resided in the provinces. Therefore, from the standpoint of shugo lords the compulsory residential policy proved to be a long term disaster (Kawai 1977:73). The hiring of deputy shugo was necessitated by the compulsory residential policy if the shugo lords were to maintain their power in the provinces. In the short term, hiring branch family members and samurai kokujin as deputy shugo, and using them as their own representatives in the provinces worked well; but in the long term, power passed from the hands of the shugo lords into the hands of those they hired.

The Shogunal Army

Yoshimitsu did not hesitate to use military force to reduce the shugo lords to obedience on the pretext that they had become too powerful. He assembled a new shogunal army (gobanshu) made up of five divisions totalling some three thousand warriors dependent on him (Grossberg 1981:106-7). This force was a formidable array, particularly when they were augmented by contributions from other shugo lords. The importance of the shogunal army goes beyond quantity, but strikes more at what this force represented: a separate force connecting the shogun directly with his own vassals made up of kokujin samurai. The shogunal army served as a check on shugo forces. As we saw in section two, the first Ashikaga shogun, Takauji, had created ties with samurai stewards by enfeoffing them on estate lands. Throughout the early Muromachi period, this separate vassal hierarchy under the command of the shogun was an important check on shugo power. We will see how this earlier army differed from the shogunal army of Yoshimitsu.

The shogunal army had two components: the shogunal bodyguard (shin'eigun) consisted of Ashikaga branch family members, shugo relatives and shugo branch family members, other sons and brothers of regime officials, and most importantly, powerful kokujin. Numbering (at most) three hundred and fifty men, this group was a cohesive and loyal body, ready to defend the shogun's person at any cost (Arnesen 1985:102). Surrounding this small band was a number of direct vassals of the shogun tracing its origins back to 1336, when the shogun Takauji enfeoffed many samurai as house vassals who were probably used as a reserve army (Gay 1986:95-6); a larger number of indirect vassals connected to the members of the shogunal bodyguard probably made up the bulk of the shogunal army under Yoshimitsu. This last point is well illustrated by Arnesen, who calculated that the number of direct vassals in the shogunal bodyguard was sixty to seventy percent the number of direct vassals enrolled under the Late Hōjō clan of the sixteenth century (1985:126). And if the Late Hōjō were able to field fifty thousand troops in the Odawara campaign, the shogunal bodyguard of three hundred and fifty could easily have mobilized their own vassals to come up with the three thousand troops that Grossberg claims took part in the Meitoku Rising of 1391 (1981:107). The creation of the shogunal bodyguard, and the central position of this group over other shogunal vassals is what differentiates the shogunal army of Yoshimitsu from the shogunal vassals of Takauji. A tighter organization and esprit de corps emerged with the new shogunal army.

Use of shugo coalitions to defeat powerful shugo

However, the shogunal army alone was not adequate to meet and defeat kanrei class shugo lords on the field of battle, but were perfectly suited to the kind of warfare Yoshimitsu practiced: pitting one shugo lord against a family member, and against other shugo lords. The new shogunal hegemony, that emerged under the previous shogun, Yoshiakira, came to dominate the politics of Yoshimitsu. Shogunal prestige informally dictated that no single shugo lord should exceed a certain level of power without incurring the wrath of the shogun. It was in the interest of the shugo lords themselves, that none of their own colleagues should become too powerful and dominant over the rest (Varley 1967:63-64).

In pursuit of this policy in 1389 Yoshimitsu ordered Toki Yasuyuki, the shugo lord of the provinces of Mino, Ise and Owari to give up the latter province to a relative. Yasuyuki refused, and Yoshimitsu ordered the cousin of Yasuyuki, Yorimasu, to attack him. After three years Yasuyuki was defeated, and gave up the province of Mino to Toki Yorimasu in 1391 (Papinot 1972:659). To Yoshimitsu it did not matter whether the province that was given up was Mino or Owari as long as Toki Yasuyuki was shorn of some of his power in the central provinces.

Before the Meitoku Rising (ran) in 1391, the Yamana family possessed eleven provinces in western and central Japan which made them the most powerful shugo family in the country. Yoshimitsu looked for an excuse to attack them; and when Yamana Mitsuyuki (who was shugo over the provinces of Izumo, Tamba, Hoki, and Oki) took possession of some estates belonging to the imperial family in Izumo, Yoshimitsu recalled the ex-kanrei Hosokawa Yoriyuki to plan a campaign against Mitsuyuki (Papinot 1972:744). The Yamana shugo lords Mitsuyuki and Ujikiyo attacked Kyoto, but were severely defeated by the shogunal army in concert with the forces of Ouchi Yoshihiro (Grossberg 1981:30,107; Arnesen 1979:82). The other shugo contingents that made up the shogun's forces numbered no more than three hundred horsemen each (Grossberg 1981:107). After the campaign, the Yamana were assigned only two provinces, Tajima and Hoki, and the leaders of the rebellion were killed, Ujikiyo in battle and Mitsuyuki through assassination in 1395 (Papinot 1972:744). This pitting of one shugo lord against another reached a head in 1399. Ironically, this time the target was Ouchi Yoshihiro, who had served the regime well in the campaign against the Yamana. Yoshihiro was ordered to attack the Shoni in 1397 which he did, losing his brother in the process. He later learned of the Byzantine duplicity of Yoshimitsu: Shoni was also ordered to attack the Ouchi. Angered by this duplicity, and fearing for his life when the shogun summoned him to Kyoto, he opted to disobey (Grossberg 1981:32). Not surprisingly, he was declared an enemy by the regime. At the battle of Sakai, Yoshimitsu along with the forces of five shugo lords, the Hosokawa, Akamatsu, Kyogoku, Shiba, and the Hatakeyama, overwhelmed Yoshihiro's defensive works by setting fire to the city (Grossberg 1981:33; Sansom 1961:149). The allied force led by Yoshimitsu numbered 30,000 warriors against Ouchi's 5,000: Yoshihiro was simply overwhelmed in battle where he committed suicide (Arnesen 1979:82,86). As each of these previous examples illustrate, shogunal hegemony became very effective. It was used to divide the shugo lords by making them attack and destroy fellow colleagues. Shogunal hegemony would not have succeeded without the cooperation of the shugo lords in uniting their forces with the shogunal army. However, without finances to support the shogunal army and other expenses of the regime, this coercive policy would have been unthinkable.


Kyoto in the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was a brilliant center for economic activity. With the compulsory residential policy that emerged under the shogun Yoshimitsu, shugo lords with their vassals and servants added to the distinguished population of the city that included nobles, the imperial court and the Muromachi government. This translated into a vast market for a variety of goods and services that spurred the economic growth of the city. This growth was important to both the shogun and shugo lords who lived in the capital: they tapped the wealth of the moneylenders (sakaya-doso) on a consistent basis. The shogun even employed them as tax collectors in the city (Kawai 1977:71; Grossberg 1981:37,78-80). What made the Muromachi regime so different from the previous Kamakura regime was the basis for its income. Much of its revenue came from commercial taxes in addition to its landed base.

The Board of Administration (mandokoro) was used as a clearing house for matters concerning the revenue of the Muromachi regime. It was the chief bureaucratic organ that connected the regime to various commercial groups in the city for purposes of taxation. In 1393, the regime legalized its right to tax the moneylenders directly (Grossberg 1981:78,95-6). Commercial taxes assessed in Kyoto became the foundation for the new urban based Muromachi regime, and decisively changed the nature of the regime from one solely based on landed estates to a regime partly based on commerce.

Traditional agrarian based revenue came from three major sources: from shogunal estates, from shogunal vassals, and from taxes assessed against the shugo lords. The landed base of the Ashikaga shoguns was paltry compared to their successors, the Tokugawa; however, there were approximately two-hundred shogunal estates (goryosho) scattered between Kyoto and the Kantō region, and revenue extracted from these estates were significant (Grossberg 1981:70-3). Moreover, the connection between the shogunal estates and the shogunal army was decisive: some of the men who served in the army were also managers over the shogun's personal estates (Grossberg 1981:112). Furthermore, many local samurai paid land taxes directly to the regime (kyosai) as one of the privileges they enjoyed as house vassals (gokenin), being immunized from shugo tax collectors in the process (Grossberg 1981;109-10). In addition, shugo lords were taxed directly (shugo shussen) according to how many provinces they administered. This was assessed by the regime whenever there were buildings to be built or fixed, and when the shogun needed cash for various projects (Kawai 1977:71; Grossberg 1981:74). The sources of revenue for the Muromachi regime were varied to a much greater extent than it was under the Kamakura regime due to the emerging market economy in Kyoto and Yamashiro province. It came in novel form as commercial revenue extracted from the moneylenders (sakaya doso): a tax was assessed once the power structure of the Muromachi bureaucracy had effectively taken the city of Kyoto.

Southern Court Emperors

  • Emperor Go-Daigo「後醍醐天皇」(1288–1339, r. 1318-1339)
  • Emperor Go-Murakami「後村上天皇」(1328–1368, r. 1339-1368))
  • Emperor Chokei「長慶天皇」((1343–1394, r. 1368-1383)
  • Emperor Go-Kameyama「後亀山天皇」(1347-1424, r. 1383-1392)

Northern Court emperors

  • Northern Ashikaga Pretender 1: Emperor Kōgon「光厳天皇」(1313–1364, r. 1331–1333)
  • Northern Ashikaga Pretender 2: Emperor Kōmyō「光明天皇」(1322–1380, r. 1336–1348)
  • Northern Ashikaga Pretender 3: Emperor Sukō「崇光天皇」(1334–1398, r. 1348–1351)
  • Interregnum, November 26, 1351 until September 25, 1352
  • Northern Ashikaga Pretender 4: Emperor Go-Kōgon「後光厳天皇」(1338–1374, r. 1352–1371)
  • Northern Ashikaga Pretender 5: Emperor Go-En'yū「後円融天皇」(1359–1393, r. 1371–1382)

Chapter 13 - The Muromachi Period

So far we have seen how the wars of this period had an effect however we must now have a look at the Muromachi Period more generally. The Muromachi period (室町時代 Muromachi jidai) also known as the Ashikaga period is the period of Japanese history running from 1336 to 1573. The period marks the governance of the Ashikaga shogunate, which was officially established in 1338 by the first Muromachi shogun, Ashikaga Takauji, two years after the brief Kemmu restoration (1333–1336) of imperial rule was brought to a close. The period ended in 1573 when the 15th and last shogun, Ashikaga Yoshiaki, was driven out of the capital in Kyoto by Oda Nobunaga. The early years from 1336 to 1392 of the Muromachi period are known as the Nanboku-chō or Northern and Southern Court period. This period is marked by the continued resistance of the supporters of Emperor Go-Daigo, the emperor behind the Kemmu restoration. The years from 1465 to the end of the Muromachi period are also known as the Sengoku period or Warring States period.

Ashikaga bakufu

Ashikaga Takauji

Emperor Go-Daigo's Kemmu restoration(see last chapter) for various reasons disappointed the samurai class. Ashikaga Takauji obtained the samurais' strong support, and deposed Emperor Go-Daigo. In 1338 Takauji was proclaimed shogun and established his government in Kyoto. However, Go-Daigo escaped from his confinement, and revived his political power in Nara. The ensuing period of Ashikaga rule (1336–1573) was called Muromachi from the district of Kyoto in which its headquarters were located by third shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in 1378. What distinguished the Ashikaga bakufu from that of Kamakura was that, whereas Kamakura had existed in equilibrium with the Kyōto court, Ashikaga took over the remnants of the imperial government. Nevertheless, the Ashikaga bakufu was not as strong as that in Kamakura had been, and was greatly preoccupied with civil war. Not until the rule of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (as third shogun, 1368–94, and chancellor, 1394–1408) did a semblance of order emerge.

Yoshimitsu allowed the constables, who had had limited powers during the Kamakura period, to become strong regional rulers, later called daimyō. In time, a balance of power evolved between the shogun and the daimyō; the three most prominent daimyō families rotated as deputies to the shogun at Kyoto. Yoshimitsu was finally successful in reunifying the Northern Court and the Southern Court in 1392, but, despite his promise of greater balance between the imperial lines, the Northern Court maintained control over the throne thereafter. The line of shoguns gradually weakened after Yoshimitsu and increasingly lost power to the daimyō and other regional strongmen. The shogun's influence on imperial succession waned, and the daimyō could back their own candidates. In time, the Ashikaga family had its own succession problems, resulting finally in the Ōnin War (1467–1477), which left Kyoto devastated and effectively ended the national authority of the bakufu. The power vacuum that ensued launched a century of anarchy (see Provincial Wars and Foreign Contacts).

Economic and cultural developments

Contact with the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) China was renewed during the Muromachi period after the Chinese sought support in suppressing Japanese pirates in coastal areas of China. Japanese pirates of this era and region were referred to as wokou, by the Chinese (Japanese wakō). Wanting to improve relations with China and to rid Japan of the wokou threat, Yoshimitsu accepted a relationship with the Chinese that was to last for half a century. In 1401 he restarted the tribute system, describing himself in a letter to the Chinese Emperor as "Your subject, the King of Japan". Japanese wood, sulphur, copper ore, swords, and folding fans were traded for Chinese silk, porcelain, books, and coins, in what the Chinese considered tribute but the Japanese saw as profitable trade. During the time of the Ashikaga bakufu, a new national culture, called Muromachi culture, emerged from the bakufu headquarters in Kyoto to reach all levels of society. Zen Buddhism played a large role in spreading not only religious but also artistic influences, especially those derived from painting of the Chinese Song (960-1279), Yuan, and Ming dynasties. The proximity of the imperial court to the bakufu resulted in a commingling of imperial family members, courtiers, daimyō, samurai, and Zen priests. Art of all kinds—architecture, literature, Noh drama, comedy, poetry, the tea ceremony, landscape gardening, and flower arranging—all flourished during Muromachi times.


There also was renewed interest in Shinto, which had quietly coexisted with Buddhism during the centuries of the latter's predominance. In fact, Shinto, which lacked its own scriptures and had few prayers, had, as a result of syncretic practices begun in the Nara period, widely adopted Shingon Buddhist rituals. Between the eighth and fourteenth centuries, Shintoism was nearly totally absorbed by Buddhism, becoming known as Ryōbu Shinto (Dual Shinto). The Mongol invasions in the late thirteenth century, however, evoked a national consciousness of the role of the kamikaze in defeating the enemy. Less than fifty years later (1339–43), Kitabatake Chikafusa (1293–1354), the chief commander of the Southern Court forces, wrote the Jinnō Shōtōki. This chronicle emphasized the importance of maintaining the divine descent of the imperial line from Amaterasu to the current emperor, a condition that gave Japan a special national polity (kokutai). Besides reinforcing the concept of the emperor as a deity, the Jinnōshōtōki provided a Shinto view of history, which stressed the divine nature of all Japanese and the country's spiritual supremacy over China and India. As a result, a change gradually occurred in the balance between the dual Buddhist–Shinto religious practice. Between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries, Shinto reemerged as the primary belief system, developed its own philosophy and scripture (based on Confucian and Buddhist canons), and became a powerful nationalistic force.

Provincial wars and foreign contacts

The Ōnin War (1467–1477) led to serious political fragmentation and obliteration of domains: a great struggle for land and power ensued among bushi chieftains and lasted until the mid-sixteenth century. Peasants rose against their landlords and samurai against their overlords as central control virtually disappeared. The imperial house was left impoverished, and the bakufu was controlled by contending chieftains in Kyoto. The provincial domains that emerged after the Ōnin War were smaller and easier to control. Many new small daimyō arose from among the samurai who had overthrown their great overlords. Border defenses were improved, and well fortified castle towns were built to protect the newly opened domains, for which land surveys were made, roads built, and mines opened. New house laws provided practical means of administration, stressing duties and rules of behavior. Emphasis was put on success in war, estate management, and finance. Threatening alliances were guarded against through strict marriage rules. Aristocratic society was overwhelmingly military in character. The rest of society was controlled in a system of vassalage. The shōen (feudal manors) were obliterated, and court nobles and absentee landlords were dispossessed. The new daimyō directly controlled the land, keeping the peasantry in permanent serfdom in exchange for protection.

Economic effect of wars between states

Most wars of the period were short and localized, although they occurred throughout Japan. By 1500 the entire country was engulfed in civil wars. Rather than disrupting the local economies, however, the frequent movement of armies stimulated the growth of transportation and communications, which in turn provided additional revenues from customs and tolls. To avoid such fees, commerce shifted to the central region, which no daimyō had been able to control, and to the Inland Sea. Economic developments and the desire to protect trade achievements brought about the establishment of merchant and artisan guilds.

Western influence

By the end of the Muromachi period, the first Europeans had arrived. The Portuguese landed in southern Kyūshū in 1543 and within two years were making regular port calls, initiating the century-long Nanban trade period. The Spanish arrived in 1587, followed by the Dutch in 1609. The Japanese began to attempt studies of European civilization in depth, and new opportunities were presented for the economy, along with serious political challenges. European firearms, fabrics, glassware, clocks, tobacco, and other Western innovations were traded for Japanese gold and silver. Significant wealth was accumulated through trade, and lesser daimyō, especially in Kyūshū, greatly increased their power. Provincial wars became more deadly with the introduction of firearms, such as muskets and cannons, and greater use of infantry.

Christianity in the Muromachi Period

Christianity had an impact on Japan, largely through the efforts of the Jesuits, led first by the Navarrese Saint Francis Xavier (1506–1552), who arrived in Kagoshima in southern Kyūshū in 1549. Both daimyō and merchants seeking better trade arrangements as well as peasants were among the converts. By 1560 Kyoto had become another major area of missionary activity in Japan. In 1568 the port of Nagasaki, in northwestern Kyūshū, was established by a Christian daimyō and was turned over to Jesuit administration in 1579. By 1582 there were as many as 150,000 converts (two per cent of the population) and 200 churches.


  • 1336: Ashikaga Takauji captures Kyoto and forces Emperor Go-Daigo to move to a southern court (Yoshino, south of Kyoto)
  • 1338: Ashikaga Takauji declares himself shogun, moves his capital into the Muromachi district of Kyoto and supports the northern court
  • 1392: The southern court surrenders to shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and the empire is unified again
  • 1397: Kinkaku-ji is built by Ashikaga Yoshimitsu.
  • 1450: Ryōan-ji is built by Hosokawa Katsumoto.
  • 1467: The Ōnin War is split among feudal lords (daimyō)
  • 1489: Ginkaku-ji is built by Ashikaga Yoshimasa
  • 1542: Firearms are introduced by a shipwrecked Portuguese
  • 1546: Hōjō Ujiyasu who had won the Battle of Kawagoe becomes ruler of the Kantō region
  • 1549: The Catholic missionary Francis Xavier arrived in Japan
  • 1555: Mōri Motonari, who had won the Battle of Miyajima, becomes ruler of the Chūgoku region
  • 1560: Battle of Okehazama
  • 1568: The daimyō Oda Nobunaga enters Kyoto and ends the civil war
  • 1570: The Archbishopric of Edo is established and the first Japanese Jesuits are ordained
  • 1570: Battle of Anegawa
  • 1573: The daimyō Oda Nobunaga overthrows the Muromachi bakufu and extends his control over all of Japan
  • 1573: Battle of Mikatagahara
  • 1575: Battle of Nagashino

Chapter 14 - The Warring States Period

The Sengoku period (戦国時代 Sengoku Jidai) or Warring States period in Japanese history was a time of social upheaval, political intrigue, and nearly constant military conflict that lasted roughly from the middle of the 15th century to the beginning of the 17th century. The name "Sengoku" was adopted by Japanese historians in reference to the Warring States period in Chinese history which preceded the unification of China. Likewise, the Sengoku period in Japan would eventually lead to the unification of political power under the Tokugawa shogunate. Although the Ashikaga shogunate had retained the structure of the Kamakura bakufu and instituted a warrior government based on the same social economic rights and obligations established by the Hōjō with the Jōei Code in 1232, it failed to win the loyalty of many daimyo, especially those whose domains were far from Kyoto. As trade with China grew, the economy developed, and the use of money became widespread as markets and commercial cities appeared. This, combined with developments in agriculture and small-scale trading, led to the desire for greater local autonomy throughout all levels of the social hierarchy. As early as the beginning of the 15th century, suffering and misery caused by natural disasters such as earthquakes and famines often served to trigger armed uprisings by farmers weary of debt and taxes. The Ōnin War (1467–1477), a conflict rooted in economic distress and brought on by a dispute over shogunal succession, is generally regarded as the onset of the Sengoku period. The "eastern" army of the Hosokawa family and its allies clashed with the "western" army of the Yamana, and fighting in and around Kyoto lasted for nearly 11 years, after which it spread to outlying provinces.


The upheaval resulted in the further weakening of central authority, and throughout Japan regional lords, or daimyo, rose to fill the vacuum. In the course of this power shift, well established clans such as the Takeda and the Imagawa, who had ruled under the authority of both the Kamakura and Muromachi bakufu, were able to expand their spheres of influence. There were many, however, whose positions eroded and were eventually usurped by more capable underlings. This phenomenon of social meritocracy, in which capable subordinates rejected the status quo and forcefully overthrew an emaciated aristocracy became known as gekokujō (下克上?), which literally means "the underling conquers the overlord." One of the earliest instances of this phenomenon was Hōjō Sōun, who rose from relatively humble origins and eventually seized power in Izu province in 1493. Building on the accomplishments of Sōun, the Late Hōjō clan remained a major power in the Kantō region until its subjugation by Toyotomi Hideyoshi late in the Sengoku period. Other notable examples include the supplanting of the Hosokawa clan by the Miyoshi, the Shiba clan by the Oda clan, and the Toki by the Saito. Well organized religious groups also gained political power at this time by uniting farmers in resistance and rebellion against the rule of the daimyo. The monks of the Buddhist True Pure Land sect formed numerous Ikkō-ikki, the most successful of which, in Kaga Province, remained independent for nearly 100 years.

The Rise of Oda Nobunaga

Oda Nobunaga

During the last half of the 16th century, a number of different daimyo became strong enough either to manipulate the Muromachi bakufu to their own advantage or to overthrow it altogether. One attempt to overthrow the bakufu was made in 1560 by Imagawa Yoshimoto, whose march towards the capital came to an ignominious end at the hands of Oda Nobunaga in the Battle of Okehazama. In 1562, The Tokugawa clan who was adjacent to the east of Nobunaga's territory became independent of the Imagawa clan, and allied with Nobunaga. The eastern part of the territory of Nobunaga's was not invaded by this alliance. And, he moves the army to the west. In 1565, an alliance of the Matsunaga and Miyoshi clans attempted a coup by assassinating Ashikaga Yoshiteru, the 13th Ashikaga shogun. Internal squabbling, however, prevented them from acting swiftly to legitimatize their claim to power, and it was not until 1568 that they managed to install Yoshiteru's cousin, Ashikaga Yoshihide, as the next Shogun. Failure to enter Kyoto and gain recognition from the imperial court, however, had left the succession in doubt, and a group of bakufu retainers led by Hosokawa Fujitaka negotiated with Nobunaga to gain support for Yoshiteru's younger brother, Yoshiaki.

Nobunaga, who had prepared over a period of years for just such an opportunity by establishing an alliance with the Asai clan in northern Ōmi Province and then conquering the neighboring province of Mino Province, now marched toward Kyoto. After routing the Rokkaku clan in southern Omi, Nobunaga forced the Matsunaga to capitulate and the Miyoshi to withdraw to Settsu. He then entered the capital, where he successfully gained recognition from the emperor for Yoshiaki, who became the 15th Ashikaga shogun.

Nobunaga had no intention, however, of serving the Muromachi bakufu, and instead now turned his attention to tightening his grip on the Kansai region. Resistance in the form of rival daimyo, intransigent Buddhist monks, and hostile merchants was eliminated swiftly and mercilessly, and Nobunaga quickly gained a reputation as a ruthless, unrelenting adversary. In support of his political and military moves, he instituted economic reform, removing barriers to commerce by invalidating traditional monopolies held by shrines and guilds and promoting initiative by instituting free markets known as rakuichi-rakuza.

By 1573 he had destroyed the alliance of Asakura clan and Azai clans that threatened his northern flank, obliterated the militant Tendai Buddhists monastic center at Mount Hiei near Kyoto, and also had managed to avoid a potentially debilitating confrontation with Takeda Shingen, who had suddenly taken ill and died just as his army was on the verge of defeating the Tokugawa and invading Oda's domain on its way to Kyoto.

Even after Shingen's death, there remained several daimyo powerful enough to resist Nobunaga, but none were situated close enough to Kyoto to pose a threat politically, and it appeared that unification under the Oda banner was a matter of time.

Nobunaga's enemies were not only other Sengoku daimyō but also adherents of a Jōdo Shinshu sect of Buddhism who attended Ikkō-ikki. Their leader was Kennyo. He endured though Nobunaga kept attacking his fortress for ten years. Nobunaga expelled Kennyo in the eleventh year, but, by a riot caused by Kennyo, Nobunaga's territory took the big damage. This long war was called Ishiyama Hongan-ji War.

To suppress the Buddhism, Nobunaga supported Christianity. And, a lot of cultures were introduced to Japan by the missionary from Europe. Those things include new foods, new drawing methods, astronomy, geography, medical science, and new printing techniques.

Unification of Japan

After nearly a century and a half of political instability and warfare, Japan was on the verge of unification by Oda Nobunaga, who had emerged from obscurity in the province of Owari (present-day Aichi Prefecture) to dominate central Japan, when in 1582 Nobunaga himself fell victim to the treachery of one of his own generals, Akechi Mitsuhide. This in turn provided Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who had risen through the ranks from ashigaru (footsoldier) to become one of Nobunaga's most trusted generals, with the opportunity to establish himself as Nobunaga's successor. Hideyoshi eventually consolidated his control over the remaining daimyo and, although he was ineligible for the title of Seii Taishogun because of his common birth, ruled as Kampaku. When, in 1598, Hideyoshi died without leaving a capable successor, the country was once again thrust into political turmoil, and this time it was Tokugawa Ieyasu who took advantage of the opportunity. This topic will be discussed in more detail in the next chapter.

Notable People of the Sengoku Period


Other notable individuals

Chapter 15 - The Azuchi–Momoyama Period

The Azuchi-Momoyama period (安土桃山時代 Azuchi-Momoyama jidai) came at the end of the Warring States Period in Japan, when the political unification that preceded the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate took place. It spans the years from approximately 1573 to 1603, during which time Oda Nobunaga and his successor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, imposed order upon the chaos that had pervaded since the collapse of the Ashikaga Shogunate. The name of this period is taken from Nobunaga's castle, Azuchi Castle, in the present-day town of Azuchi, Shiga Prefecture and Hideyoshi's castle, Momoyama Castle (also known as Fushimi Castle), in Kyoto. Although a start date of 1573 is often given, in more broad terms, this period begins with Nobunaga's entry into Kyoto in 1568, when he led his army to the imperial capital in order to install Ashikaga Yoshiaki as the 15th, and ultimately final, shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate, and lasts until the coming to power of Tokugawa Ieyasu after his victory over supporters of the Toyotomi clan at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600.

Japan around 1582

During the period from 1576 to 1579, Nobunaga constructed on the shore of Lake Biwa at Azuchi (in present-day Shiga Prefecture) Azuchi Castle, a magnificent seven-story castle that was intended to serve not simply as an impregnable military fortification but also as a sumptuous residence that would stand as a symbol of unification. This castle gives us the first part of the name of this period.

Having secured his grip on the Kinai region, Nobunaga was now powerful enough to assign his generals the task of subjugating the outlying provinces. Shibata Katsuie was given the task of conquering the Uesugi clan in Etchū, Takigawa Kazumasu confronted the Shinano Province that a son of Shingen Takeda Katsuyori governs, and Hashiba Hideyoshi was given the formidable task of facing the Mōri clan in the Chūgoku region of western Honshū.

In 1576, Oda Nobunaga the new Arquebus, first shown to the Japanese by the European's, and beat the Takeda clan of a traditional samurai at the Battle of Nagashino. The Samurai's traditional combat style declined after this.

In 1582, after a protracted campaign, Hideyoshi requested Nobunaga's help in overcoming tenacious resistance. Nobunaga, making a stop-over in Kyoto on his way west with only a small contingent of guards, was attacked and by one of his own disaffected generals, and committed suicide.

Hideyoshi completes the unification

Toyotomi Hideyoshi

What followed was a scramble by the most powerful of Nobunaga's retainers to avenge their lord's death and thereby establish a dominant position in negotiations over the forthcoming realignment of the Oda clan. The situation became even more urgent when it was learned that Nobunaga's oldest son and heir, Nobutada, had also been killed, leaving the Oda clan with no clear successor.

Quickly negotiating a truce with the Mōri clan before they could learn of Nobunaga's death, Hideyoshi now took his troops on a forced march toward his adversary, whom he defeated at the Battle of Yamazaki, less than two weeks later.

Although a commoner who had risen through the ranks from foot soldier, Hideyoshi was now in position to challenge even the most senior of the Oda clan's hereditary retainers, and proposed that Nobutada's infant son, Sanpōshi (who became Oda Hidenobu), be named heir rather than Nobunaga's adult third son, Nobutaka, whose cause had been championed by Shibata Katsuie. Having gained the support of other senior retainers, including Niwa Nagahide and Ikeda Tsuneoki, Sanpōshi was named heir and Hideyoshi appointed co-guardian.

Continued political intrigue, however, eventually led to open confrontation. After defeating Shibata at the Battle of Shizugatake in 1583 and enduring a costly but ultimately advantageous stalemate with Tokugawa Ieyasu at the Battle of Komaki and Nagakute in 1584, Hideyoshi managed to settle the question of succession for once and all, to take complete control of Kyoto, and to become the undisputed ruler of the former Oda domains. Daimyo of Shikoku Chōsokabe clan surrendered to Hideyoshi in July, 1585. Daimyo of Kyushu Shimazu clan also surrendered two years later. He was adopted by the Fujiwara family, given the surname Toyotomi, and granted superlative title Kanpaku in representing civil and military control of all Japan. By the following year, he had secured alliances with three of the nine major daimyo coalitions and carried the war of unification to Shikoku and Kyūshū. In 1590, at the head of an army of 200,000, Hideyoshi defeated the Hōjō clan, his last formidable rival in eastern Honshū. The remaining daimyo soon capitulated, and the military reunification of Japan was complete.

Japan under Hideyoshi

Land survey

With all of Japan now under Hideyoshi's control, a new structure for national government was configured. The country was unified under a single leader, but the day-to-day governance of the people remained decentralized. The basis of power was distribution of territory as measured by rice production in units of koku. In 1598, a national survey was instituted and assessed the national rice production at 18.5 million koku, 2 million of which was controlled directly by Hideyoshi himself. In contrast, Tokugawa Ieyasu, whom Hideyoshi had transferred to the Kanto region, held 2.5 million koku.

The surveys, carried out by Hideyoshi both before and after he took the title Taiko, have come to be known as the "Taikō surveys" (Taikō kenchi).

Control measures

A number of other administrative innovations were instituted to encourage commerce and stabilize society. In order to facilitate transportation, toll booths and other checkpoints along roads were largely eliminated as were unnecessary military strongholds. Measures that effectively froze class distinctions were instituted, including the requirement that different classes live separately in different areas of a town and a prohibition on the carrying or the owning of weapons by farmers. Hideyoshi ordered the collection of weapons in a great "sword hunt" (katanagari).


Hideyoshi sought to secure his position by rearranging the holdings of the daimyo to his advantage. In particular, he reassigned the Tokugawa family to the Kanto region, far from the capital, and surrounded their new territory with more trusted vassals. He also adopted a hostage system in which the wives and heirs of daimyo resided at his castle town in Osaka.

He also attempted to provide for an orderly succession by taking the title Taikō, or "retired Kanpaku," in 1591 and turned the regency over to his nephew and adopted son Toyotomi Hidetsugu. Only later did he attempt to formalize the balance of power by establishing administrative bodies. These included the Council of Five Elders, who were sworn to keep peace and support the Toyotomi, the five-member Board of House Administrators, who handled routine policy and administrative matters, and the three-member Board of Mediators, who were charged with keeping peace between the first two boards.

Korean campaigns

Hideyoshi's last major ambition was to conquer the Ming Dynasty of China. In April 1592, after having been refused safe passage through Korea he sent an army of 200,000 to invade and pass through Korea by force. During the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592-1598), the Japanese occupied Seoul by May of 1592, and within three months of invading reached Pyongyang together with large numbers of Korean collaborators who at first viewed them as liberators from the corrupt aristocracy. King Seonjo of Joseon fled, and the two princes were captured by Kato Kiyomasa.

The Japanese army was defeated in the many region of the Korean peninsula by the Righteous army and Korean admiral Yi Sun-sin succeeded in attacks on the Japanese supply ships and defeating the Japanese navy at sea, and proceeded to cut off the Japanese supply line. The Japanese, cut off from their supplies and couldn't make any progress on land.

King Seonjo of Joseon dispatched an emissary to the Ming court, asking urgently for military assistance. The Chinese emperor sent admiral Chen Lin and commander Li Rusong to aid the Koreans. Li Rusong banished the Japanese from the northern part of the Korean peninsula. The Japanese were forced to retreat as far as the southern part of the Korean peninsula by January 1593. Japan and China started peace talks.

During the peace talks period that ensued between 1593 and 1597, Hideyoshi, seeing Japan as an equal of Ming China, demanded a division of Korea, free-trade status, and a Chinese princess as consort for the emperor. The Joseon and Chinese leaders saw no reason to concede to such demands, nor to treat the invaders as equals within the Ming trading system. Japan's requests were thus denied and peace efforts reached an impasse.

A second invasion began in 1597, but it too resulted in failure as Japanese forces met with better organized Korean defenses and increasing Chinese involvement in the conflict. Upon the death of Hideyoshi in 1598, Japanese forces withdrew from Korea. By this time, most of the remaining Japanese commanders were more concerned about internal battles and for the control of the shogunate.

Sekigahara and the end of the Toyotomi rule

Hideyoshi had on his deathbed appointed a group of the most powerful lords in Japan — Tokugawa, Maeda, Ukita, Uesugi, Mōri — to govern as the Council of Five Elders until his infant son, Hideyori, came of age. An uneasy peace lasted until the death of Maeda Toshiie in 1599. Thereafter, Ishida Mitsunari accused Ieyasu of disloyalty to the Toyotomi name, precipitating a crisis that led to the Battle of Sekigahara. Generally regarded as the last major conflict of the Azuchi–Momoyama period and sengoku-jidai, Ieyasu's victory at Sekigahara marked the end of the Toyotomi reign. Three years later, Ieyasu received the title Seii Taishogun, and established the Edo bakufu, which lasted until the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

Social and cultural developments during the Momoyama period

The Momoyama period was a period of interest in the outside world, which also saw the development of large urban centers and the rise of the merchant class. The ornate castle architecture and interiors adorned with painted screens embellished with gold leaf were a reflection of a daimyo's power but also exhibited a new aesthetic sense that marked a clear departure from the somber monotones favored during the Muromachi period. A specific genre that emerged at this time was called the Namban style—exotic depictions of European priests, traders, and other "southern barbarians."

The art of the tea ceremony also flourished at this time, and both Nobunaga and Hideyoshi lavished time and money on this pastime, collecting tea bowls, caddies, and other implements, sponsoring lavish social events, and patronizing acclaimed masters such as Sen no Rikyū.

Hideyoshi had occupied Nagasaki in 1587, and thereafter sought to take control of international trade and to regulate the trade associations that had contact with the outside world through this port. Although China rebuffed his efforts to secure trade concessions, Hideyoshi commercial missions successfully called to present-day Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand in Red seal ships. He was also suspicious of Christianity in Japan, which he saw as potentially subversive and some missionaries were crucified by his regime.

Chapter 16 - The Edo Period

Tokugawa Ieyasu

The Edo period (江戸時代 Edo jidai), or Tokugawa period (徳川時代 Tokugawa jidai), is a division of Japanese history which was ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family, running from 1603 to 1868. The political entity of this period was the Tokugawa shogunate. The Tokugawa shogunate was officially established in Edo on 24 March 1603 by the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. The Tokugawa shogunate was overthrown by the Meiji Restoration on 3 May 1868, the fall of Edo and the restoration of Tenno's rule at the reign of fifteenth and last shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu.

Rule of shogun and daimyo

An evolution took place in the centuries from the time of the Kamakura shogunate, which co-existed in equilibrium with the Tenno's court, to the Tokugawa, when the bushi became the unchallenged rulers in what historian Edwin O. Reischauer called a "centralized feudal" form of government. Instrumental in the rise of the new bakufu was Tokugawa Ieyasu, the main beneficiary of the achievements of Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Already powerful, Ieyasu profited by his transfer to the rich Kantō area. He maintained 2.5 million koku of land, new headquarters at Edo, a strategically situated castle town (the future Tokyo), and also had an additional two million koku of land and thirty-eight vassals under his control. After Hideyoshi's death, Ieyasu moved quickly to seize control from the Toyotomi family.

Ieyasu's victory over the western daimyo at the Battle of Sekigahara (October 21, 1600, or in the Japanese calendar on the 15th day of the ninth month of the fifth year of the Keichō era) gave him virtual control of all Japan. He rapidly abolished numerous enemy daimyo houses, reduced others, such as that of the Toyotomi, and redistributed the spoils of war to his family and allies. Ieyasu still failed to achieve complete control of the western daimyo, but his assumption of the title of shogun helped consolidate the alliance system. After further strengthening his power base, Ieyasu installed his son Hidetada (1579–1632) as shogun and himself as retired shogun in 1605. The Toyotomi were still a significant threat, and Ieyasu devoted the next decade to their eradication. In 1615, the Toyotomi stronghold at Osaka was destroyed by the Tokugawa army.

The Tokugawa (or Edo) period brought 250 years of stability to Japan. The political system evolved into what historians call bakuhan, a combination of the terms bakufu and han (domains) to describe the government and society of the period. In the bakuhan, the shogun had national authority and the daimyo had regional authority. This represented a new unity in the feudal structure, which featured an increasingly large bureaucracy to administer the mixture of centralized and decentralized authorities. The Tokugawa became more powerful during their first century of rule: land redistribution gave them nearly seven million koku, control of the most important cities, and a land assessment system reaping great revenues. The feudal hierarchy was completed by the various classes of daimyo. Closest to the Tokugawa house were the shinpan, or "related houses". They were twenty-three daimyo on the borders of Tokugawa lands, daimyo all directly related to Ieyasu. The shinpan held mostly honorary titles and advisory posts in the bakufu. The second class of the hierarchy were the fudai, or "house daimyo", rewarded with lands close to the Tokugawa holdings for their faithful service. By the eighteenth century, 145 fudai controlled such smaller han, the greatest assessed at 250,000 koku. Members of the fudai class staffed most of the major bakufu offices. Ninety-seven han formed the third group, the tozama (outside vassals), former opponents or new allies. The tozama were located mostly on the peripheries of the archipelago and collectively controlled nearly ten million koku of productive land. Because the tozama were least trusted of the daimyo, they were the most cautiously managed and generously treated, although they were excluded from central government positions.

The Tokugawa not only consolidated their control over a reunified Japan, they also had unprecedented power over the emperor, the court, all daimyo and the religious orders. The emperor was held up as the ultimate source of political sanction for the shogun, who ostensibly was the vassal of the imperial family. The Tokugawa helped the imperial family recapture its old glory by rebuilding its palaces and granting it new lands. To ensure a close tie between the imperial clan and the Tokugawa family, Ieyasu's granddaughter was made an imperial consort in 1619. A code of laws was established to regulate the daimyo houses. The code encompassed private conduct, marriage, dress, types of weapons and numbers of troops allowed; required feudal lords to reside in Edo every other year (the sankin kōtai system); prohibited the construction of ocean-going ships; proscribed Christianity; restricted castles to one per domain (han) and stipulated that bakufu regulations were the national law. Although the daimyo were not taxed per se, they were regularly levied for contributions for military and logistical support and for such public works projects as castles, roads, bridges and palaces. The various regulations and levies not only strengthened the Tokugawa but also depleted the wealth of the daimyo, thus weakening their threat to the central administration. The han, once military-centered domains, became mere local administrative units. The daimyo did have full administrative control over their territory and their complex systems of retainers, bureaucrats and commoners. Loyalty was exacted from religious foundations, already greatly weakened by Nobunaga and Hideyoshi, through a variety of control mechanisms.

The Beginning of the Sakoku

Like Hideyoshi, Ieyasu encouraged foreign trade but also was suspicious of outsiders. He wanted to make Edo a major port, but once he learned that the Europeans favored ports in Kyūshū and that China had rejected his plans for official trade, he moved to control existing trade and allowed only certain ports to handle specific kinds of commodities. The beginning of the Edo period coincides with the last decades of the Nanban trade period during which intense interaction with European powers, on the economic and religious plane, took place. It is at the beginning of the Edo period that Japan built her first ocean-going Western-style warships, such as the San Juan Bautista, a 500-ton galleon-type ship that transported a Japanese embassy headed by Hasekura Tsunenaga to the Americas and then to Europe. Also during that period, the bakufu commissioned around 350 Red Seal Ships, three-masted and armed trade ships, for intra-Asian commerce. Japanese adventurers, such as Yamada Nagamasa, used those ships throughout Asia.

The "Christian problem" was, in effect, a problem of controlling both the Christian daimyo in Kyūshū and their trade with the Europeans. By 1612, the shogun's retainers and residents of Tokugawa lands had been ordered to forswear Christianity. More restrictions came in 1616 (the restriction of foreign trade to Nagasaki and Hirado, an island northwest of Kyūshū), 1622 (the execution of 120 missionaries and converts), 1624 (the expulsion of the Spanish), and 1629 (the execution of thousands of Christians). Finally, the Closed Country Edict of 1635 prohibited any Japanese from traveling outside Japan or, if someone left, from ever returning. In 1636 the Dutch were restricted to Dejima, a small artificial island—and thus, not true Japanese soil—in Nagasaki's harbor.

The shogunate perceived Catholic Christianity to be an extremely destabilizing factor, leading to the persecution of Catholicism. The Shimabara Rebellion of 1637–38, in which discontented Catholic Christian samurai and peasants rebelled against the bakufu—and Edo called in Dutch ships to bombard the rebel stronghold—marked the end of the Christian movement, although some Catholic Christians survived by going underground, the so-called Kakure Kirishitan. Soon thereafter, the Portuguese were permanently expelled, members of the Portuguese diplomatic mission were executed, all subjects were ordered to register at a Buddhist or Shinto temple, and the Dutch and Chinese were restricted, respectively, to Dejima and to a special quarter in Nagasaki. Besides small trade of some outer daimyo with Korea and the Ryukyu Islands, to the southwest of Japan's main islands, by 1641, foreign contacts were limited by the policy of sakoku to Nagasaki.

By 1650, Christianity was almost completely eradicated, and external political, economic and religious influence on Japan became quite limited. Only China, the Dutch East India Company, and for a short period, the English, enjoyed the right to visit Japan during this period, for commercial purposes only, and they were restricted to the Dejima port in Nagasaki. Other Europeans who landed on Japanese shores were put to death without trial. This state of the country being closed is known as the Sakoku(鎖国).


After a long period of inner conflict, the first goal of the newly established Tokugawa government was to pacify the country. It created a balance of power that remained (fairly) stable for the next 250 years, influenced by Confucian principles of social order. Most samurai lost their direct possession of the land: all land ownership was concentrated in the hands of the about 300 daimyo. The samurai had a choice: Give up their sword and become peasants, or move to the city of their feudal lord and become a paid retainer. Only a few land samurai remained in the border provinces of the north, or as direct vassals of the shogun, the 5,000 so-called hatamoto. The daimyo were put under tight control of the shogunate. Their families had to reside in Edo; the daimyo themselves had to reside in Edo for one year and in their province (han) for the next. This system was called sankin kōtai. During the Tokugawa period, the social order, based on inherited position rather than personal merits, was rigid and highly formalized. At the top were the Emperor and Court nobles (kuge), together with the Shogun and daimyo. Below them the population was divided into four classes in a system known as mibunsei (身分制): the samurai on top (about 5% of the population) and the peasants (more than 80% of the population) on the second level. Below the peasants were the craftsmen, and even below them, on the fourth level, were the merchants. Only the peasants lived in the rural areas. Samurai, craftsmen and merchants lived in the cities that were built around the daimyo's castles, each restricted to their own quarter. Outside the four classes were the so-called eta and hinin, those whose professions broke the taboos of Buddhism. Eta were butchers, tanners and undertakers. Hinin served as town guards, street cleaners and executioners. Other outsiders included the beggars, entertainers, and prostitutes. The word eta literally translates to "filthy" and hinin to "non-humans", a thorough reflection of the attitude held by other classes that the eta and hinin were not even people. Hinin were only allowed inside a special quarter of the city. The actors usually travelled in groups from one village to another, performing in each city then moving to the next. Sometimes eta villages were not even printed on official maps. The individual had no legal rights in Tokugawa Japan. The family was the smallest legal entity, and the maintenance of family status and privileges was of great importance at all levels of society. For example, the Edo period penal laws prescribed "non-free labor" or slavery for the immediate family of executed criminals in Article 17 of the Gotōke reijō (Tokugawa House Laws), but the practice never became common. The 1711 Gotōke reijō was compiled from over 600 statutes promulgated between 1597 and 1696.

Economic Development

The Edo period bequeathed a vital commercial sector in burgeoning urban centers, a relatively well-educated elite, a sophisticated government bureaucracy, productive agriculture, a closely unified nation with highly developed financial and marketing systems, and a national infrastructure of roads. Economic development during the Tokugawa period included urbanization, increased shipping of commodities, a significant expansion of domestic and, initially, foreign commerce, and a diffusion of trade and handicraft industries. The construction trades flourished, along with banking facilities and merchant associations. Increasingly, han authorities oversaw the rising agricultural production and the spread of rural handicrafts.

By the mid-eighteenth century, Edo had a population of more than one million, and Osaka and Kyoto each had more than 400,000 inhabitants. Many other castle towns grew as well. Japan had almost zero population growth between the 1720s and 1820s, often attributed to lower birth rates in response to widespread famine, but some historians have presented different theories, such as a high rate of infanticide artificially controlling population. Osaka and Kyoto became busy trading and handicraft production centers, while Edo was the center for the supply of food and essential urban consumer goods. Rice was the base of the economy, as the daimyo collected the taxes from the peasants in the form of rice. Taxes were high, about 40% of the harvest. The rice was sold at the fudasashi market in Edo. To raise money, the daimyo used forward contracts to sell rice that was not even harvested yet. These contracts were similar to modern futures trading. It was during the Edo period that Japan developed an advanced forest management policy. Increased demand for timber resources for construction, shipbuilding and fuel had led to widespread deforestation, which resulted in forest fires, floods and soil erosion. In response the shogun, beginning around 1666, instituted a policy to reduce logging and increase the planting of trees. The policy mandated that only the shogun and daimyo could authorize the use of wood. By the 18th century, Japan had developed detailed scientific knowledge about silviculture and plantation forestry.

Artistic and intellectual development

During the period, Japan progressively studied Western sciences and techniques (called rangaku, literally "Dutch studies") through the information and books received through the Dutch traders in Dejima. The main areas that were studied included geography, medicine, natural sciences, astronomy, art, languages, physical sciences such as the study of electrical phenomena, and mechanical sciences as exemplified by the development of Japanese clockwatches, or wadokei, inspired by Western techniques. The flourishing of Neo-Confucianism was the major intellectual development of the Tokugawa period. Confucian studies had long been kept active in Japan by Buddhist clerics, but during the Tokugawa period, Confucianism emerged from Buddhist religious control. This system of thought increased attention to a secular view of man and society. The ethical humanism, rationalism, and historical perspective of neo-Confucian doctrine appealed to the official class. By the mid-seventeenth century, neo-Confucianism was Japan's dominant legal philosophy and contributed directly to the development of the kokugaku (national learning) school of thought.

Advanced studies and growing applications of neo-Confucianism contributed to the transition of the social and political order from feudal norms to class- and large-group-oriented practices. The rule of the people or Confucian man was gradually replaced by the rule of law. New laws were developed, and new administrative devices were instituted. A new theory of government and a new vision of society emerged as a means of justifying more comprehensive governance by the bakufu. Each person had a distinct place in society and was expected to work to fulfill his or her mission in life. The people were to be ruled with benevolence by those whose assigned duty it was to rule. Government was all-powerful but responsible and humane. Although the class system was influenced by neo-Confucianism, it was not identical to it. Whereas soldiers and clergy were at the bottom of the hierarchy in the Chinese model, in Japan, some members of these classes constituted the ruling elite. Members of the samurai class adhered to bushi traditions with a renewed interest in Japanese history and in cultivation of the ways of Confucian scholar-administrators, resulting in the development of the concept of bushido (the way of the warrior). Another special way of life—chōnindō—also emerged. Chōnindō (the way of the townspeople) was a distinct culture that arose in cities such as Osaka, Kyoto, and Edo. It encouraged aspiration to bushido qualities—diligence, honesty, honor, loyalty, and frugality—while blending Shinto, neo-Confucian, and Buddhist beliefs. Study of mathematics, astronomy, cartography, engineering, and medicine were also encouraged. Emphasis was placed on quality of workmanship, especially in the arts. For the first time, urban populations had the means and leisure time to support a new mass culture. Their search for enjoyment became known as ukiyo (the floating world), an ideal world of fashion, popular entertainment, and the discovery of aesthetic qualities in objects and actions of everyday life, including sex (shunga). This increasing interest in pursuing recreational activities helped to develop an array of new industries, many of which could be found in an area known as Yoshiwara. The region was better known for being the center of Edo’s developing sense of elegance and refinement. This place of pleasure and luxury became a destination for the elite and wealthy merchants who wished to flaunt their fortune. Their economy relied primarily on the patronage of such individuals in order to sustain itself. For many of those who inhabited and worked in this region maintaining the illusion of grandeur was the only way of supporting their business.

Yoshiwara was home to mostly women who, due to unfortunate circumstances, found themselves working in this secluded environment. Combining factors such as rent, value of their employment contract, cost of clothing, make-up, gift giving and other expenses, this ensured that many would spend their entire lives working to pay off their debts . These females were expected to perform dances, sing, play an instrument, gossip or provide companionship in order that their guests would come again. As a result, the region developed its own culture which, in turn, determined what would be popular in the rest of the country. This was particularly true for fashion because a woman’s identity was determined by her clothing, specifically it clarified what her profession and status was within that field. The quality of her attire ensured that she stood out from the rest of her competition. It was her only means of establishing a reputation and helped to market her talents. However, Yoshiwara also possessed a seedier side. Much of the business conducted here incorporated the use of prostitution as a means to deal with the women’s cost of living. As a result, since its establishment was first authorised by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1589, this area became the country’s government sanctioned red-light district. This designation lasted for approximately 250 years. Professional female entertainers (geisha), music, popular stories, Kabuki and bunraku (puppet theater), poetry, a rich literature, and art, exemplified by beautiful woodblock prints (known as ukiyo-e), were all part of this flowering of culture. Literature also flourished with the talented examples of the playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653–1724) and the poet, essayist, and travel writer Matsuo Bashō (1644–94).

Ukiyo-e prints began to be produced in the late 17th century, but in 1764 Harunobu produced the first polychrome print. Print designers of the next generation, including Torii Kiyonaga and Utamaro, created elegant and sometimes insightful depictions of courtesans. In the 19th century, the dominant figure was Hiroshige, a creator of romantic and somewhat sentimental landscape prints. The odd angles and shapes through which Hiroshige often viewed landscape and the work of Kiyonaga and Utamaro, with its emphasis on flat planes and strong linear outlines, later had a profound impact on such Western artists as Edgar Degas and Vincent van Gogh. Buddhism and Shinto were both still important in Tokugawa Japan. Buddhism, combined with neo-Confucianism, provided standards of social behavior. Although not as powerful politically as it had been in the past, Buddhism was espoused by the upper classes. Proscriptions against Christianity benefited Buddhism in 1640 when the bakufu ordered everyone to register at a temple. The rigid separation of Tokugawa society into han, villages, wards, and households helped reaffirm local Shinto attachments. Shinto provided spiritual support to the political order and was an important tie between the individual and the community. Shinto also helped preserve a sense of national identity. Shinto eventually assumed an intellectual form as shaped by neo-Confucian rationalism and materialism. The kokugaku movement emerged from the interactions of these two belief systems. Kokugaku contributed to the emperor-centered nationalism of modern Japan and the revival of Shinto as a national creed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Kojiki, Nihon Shoki, and Man'yōshū were all studied anew in the search for the Japanese spirit. Some purists in the kokugaku movement, such as Motoori Norinaga, even criticized the Confucian and Buddhist influences—in effect, foreign influences—for contaminating Japan's ancient ways. Japan was the land of the kami and, as such, had a special destiny.

Chapter 17 - The Meiji Restoration

The Meiji Restoration (明治維新 Meiji Ishin) is the collective name for the events that restored imperial rule to Japan in 1868. The Restoration led to enormous changes in Japan's political and social structure, and spanned both the late Edo period (often called Late Tokugawa shogunate) and the beginning of the Meiji Era, as the country was opened to the rest of the world.

The 16-year old Meiji Emperor, moving from Kyoto to Tokyo, after the fall of Edo.

Alliances and allegiances

The formation in 1866 of the Satsuma-Chōshū Alliance between Saigō Takamori, the leader of the Satsuma domain, and Kido Takayoshi, the leader of the Chōshū domain, built the foundation of the Meiji restoration. These two leaders supported the Emperor Kōmei (Emperor Meiji's father) and were brought together by Sakamoto Ryoma for the purpose of challenging the ruling Tokugawa Shogunate (bakufu) and restoring the emperor to power. On February 3, 1867, Emperor Meiji ascended the throne after Emperor Kōmei's death on January 30, 1867. This period also saw Japan change from being a feudal society to having a capitalist economy and left the Japanese with a lingering Western influence.


During the last years of the bakufu, or bakumatsu, the bakufu took strong measures to try to reassert its dominance, although its involvement with modernization and foreign powers was to make it a target of anti-Western sentiment throughout the country.

The army and the navy were modernized. A naval training school was established in Nagasaki in 1855. Naval students were sent to study in Western naval schools for several years, starting a tradition of foreign-educated future leaders, such as Admiral Enomoto. French naval engineers were hired to build naval arsenals, such as Yokosuka and Nagasaki. By the end of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1867, the Japanese navy of the shogun already possessed eight Western-style steam warships around the flagship Kaiyō Maru, which were used against pro-imperial forces during the Boshin war under the command of Admiral Enomoto. A French military mission was established to help modernize the armies of the bakufu.

Revering the emperor as a symbol of unity, extremists wrought violence and death against the Bakufu and Han authorities and foreigners. Foreign naval retaliation in the Anglo-Satsuma War led to still another concessionary commercial treaty in 1865, but Yoshitomi was unable to enforce the Western treaties. A bakufu army was defeated when it was sent to crush dissent in the Satsuma and Chōshū Domains in 1866. Finally, in 1867, Emperor Kōmei died and was succeeded by his minor son Emperor Meiji.

Tokugawa Yoshinobu reluctantly became head of the Tokugawa house and shogun. He tried to reorganize the government under the emperor while preserving the shogun's leadership role. Fearing the growing power of the Satsuma and Chōshū daimyo, other daimyo called for returning the shogun's political power to the emperor and a council of daimyo chaired by the former Tokugawa shogun. Yoshinobu accepted the plan in late 1867 and resigned, announcing an "imperial restoration". The Satsuma, Chōshū, and other han leaders and radical courtiers, however, rebelled, seized the imperial palace, and announced their own restoration on January 3, 1868.

Shortly thereafter in January 1868, the Boshin War (War of the Year of the Dragon) started with the Battle of Toba-Fushimi in which Chōshū and Satsuma's forces defeated the ex-shogun's army. This forced (or allowed) Emperor Meiji to strip Yoshinobu of all power, setting the stage for official restoration. On January 3, 1868, the Emperor made a formal declaration of the restoration of his power: "The Emperor of Japan announces to the sovereigns of all foreign countries and to their subjects that permission has been granted to the Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu to return the governing power in accordance with his own request. We shall henceforward exercise supreme authority in all the internal and external affairs of the country. Consequently the title of Emperor must be substituted for that of Taikun, in which the treaties have been made. Officers are being appointed by us to the conduct of foreign affairs. It is desirable that the representatives of the treaty powers recognize this announcement."

There were many causes to the Meiji Restoration. The Japanese knew that they were behind the rest of the world when American Commodore Matthew C. Perry came to Japan to try and issue a treaty that would open up Japanese ports to trade. Perry came to Japan in large warships that far outdated any Japanese ship at the time. The leaders of the Meiji Restoration, as this revolution came to be known, acted in the name of restoring imperial rule. The word "Meiji" means "enlightened rule" and the goal was to combine "western advancements" with the traditional, "eastern" values. The main leaders of this were: Ito Hirobumi, Matsukata Masayoshi, Kido Takayoshi, Itagaki Taisuke, Yamagata Aritomo, Mori Arinori, Okubo Toshimichi, and Yamaguchi Naoyoshi. However, political power simply moved from the Tokugawa Shogun to an oligarchy consisting of these leaders, mostly from the Satsuma Province (Okubo Toshimichi and Saigō Takamori), and the Chōshū province (Ito Hirobumi, Yamagata Aritomo, and Kido Takayoshi). This reflected their belief in the more traditional practice of imperial rule, whereby the emperor performs his high priestly duties and his ministers govern the nation in his name.

Chapter 18 - The Meiji Period

Emperor Meiji

The Meiji period, also known as the Meiji era (明治時代 Meiji Jidai), is a Japanese era which extended from 1868 until 1912. This period represents the first half of the Empire of Japan. This era saw the industrialisation of Japan, and it's swift rise to the world stage. It saw a change in the culture of Japan, which adopted more western ideas. The Meiji era is the first era of Japanese history to see the rule of an emperor, since the Kenmu Restoration.


A major proponent of representative government was Itagaki Taisuke (1837–1919), a powerful Tosa leader who had resigned from the Council of State over the Korean affair in 1873. Itagaki sought peaceful rather than rebellious means to gain a voice in government. He established the Liberal Party to start a movement aimed at establishing a constitutional monarchy and a legislative assembly. Such movements were called The Freedom and People's Rights Movement. Itagaki and others wrote the Tosa Memorial in 1874 criticizing the unbridled power of the oligarchy and calling for the immediate establishment of representative government.

Between 1871 and 1873, a series of land and tax laws were enacted as the basis for modern fiscal policy. Private ownership was legalized, deeds were issued, and lands were assessed at fair market value with taxes paid in cash rather than in kind as in pre-Meiji days and at slightly lower rates.

Dissatisfied with the pace of reform after having rejoined the Council of State in 1875, Itagaki organized his followers and other democratic proponents into the nationwide Aikokusha (Society of Patriots) to push for representative government in 1878. In 1881, in an action for which he is best known, Itagaki helped found the Jiyuto (Liberal Party), which favored French political doctrines. In 1882 Okuma Shigenobu established the Rikken Kaishintō (Constitutional Progressive Party), which called for a British-style constitutional democracy. In response, government bureaucrats, local government officials, and other conservatives established the Rikken Teiseitō (Imperial Rule Party), a pro-government party, in 1882. Numerous political demonstrations followed, some of them violent, resulting in further government restrictions. The restrictions hindered the political parties and led to divisions within and among them. The Jiyuto, which had opposed the Kaishinto, was disbanded in 1884, and Okuma resigned as Kaishinto president. Government leaders, long preoccupied with violent threats to stability and the serious leadership split over the Korean affair, generally agreed that constitutional government should someday be established. The Chōshū leader Kido Takayoshi had favored a constitutional form of government since before 1874, and several proposals for constitutional guarantees had been drafted. The oligarchy, however, while acknowledging the realities of political pressure, was determined to keep control. Thus, modest steps were taken.

The Osaka Conference in 1875 resulted in the reorganization of government with an independent judiciary and an appointed Chamber of Elders (Genrōin) tasked with reviewing proposals for a legislature. The emperor declared that "constitutional government shall be established in gradual stages" as he ordered the Council of Elders to draft a constitution.

Three years later, the Conference of Prefectural Governors established elected prefectural assemblies. Although limited in their authority, these assemblies represented a move in the direction of repr