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07/31/2020

About the political reformation by the Kanmu Emperor from the late 8th century to the early 9th century.

The Kanmu Emperor ruled for 25 years. During that period, he established the Emperor's authority and tried to improve systems of the Court, especially the regional administrative systems. For example, the Emperor decreased the number of regional officers called Kokushi and Gunji. Kokushi were similar to today’s governors, but they were officers of the Court. Gunji were local lords who assisted Kokushi.

In addition, the Emperor created a new position to check Kokushi's work, called "Kageyushi". Kageyushi strictly watched over the audits which were conducted when new Kokushi took over the position. The audits were enforced to confirm that previous Kokushi had properly collected taxes and managed government properties.

Moreover, the Kanmu Emperor disbanded the government forces, except for the forces in north-eastern Japan and Kyusyu. In north-eastern Japan, the Court was trying to conquer the Emishi, and Kyusyu is close to other Asian countries, therefore forces were still needed in these two regions. On the other hand, other regions in Japan had no major wars, hence the Kanmu Emperor disbanded the forces in order to reduce the burden on farmers, because most soldiers were farmers.

In those days, farmers had to pay heavy taxes and male farmers had to be engaged in construction work for the government without payment, and had to join the military service as well. Therefore they were very exhausted.

After the forces were disbanded, the Court still needed security. Therefore, the Emperor established an organization called Kondei to be professional security guards for the Court. Kondei was composed of the  sons of Gunji and sons of wealthy farmers who applied for the job. They were talented and well trained.

During this reformation period, two other projects were also conducted, construction of the capital and conquest of Emishi. These two projects were a heavy burden not only on the finances of the Court but also farmers, so the reformation didn't produce good results. Although the Kanmu Emperor ended these two projects in 805, he passed away three months later. His reformation were taken over and conducted by his sons, the Heizei Emperor and the Saga Emperor.

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