About the conquest of the Emishi by the Imperial Court from the 7th century to the early 9th century

Since the 7th century, the Imperial Court had been trying to conquer the Emishi, who lived in northern Japan and had not assimilated to the Court’s rule.
Therefore, official defense-sites called Josaku were constructed along the Mogami river and along the Japan sea coasts in north-east Japan. Some Josaku were actual castles and others were smaller structures. These facilities had governmental buildings for administrative offices and warehouses.
Many farmers in Kanto region were moved to areas around Josaku for the development. On the other hand, captured Emishi were forced to move to the areas west of Kanto-region.
In 780, an Emishi lord Azamaro Koremori who had previously submitted to the Konin Emperor raised an army against the Court, because Emishi were being severely discriminated against.
Azamaro burnt down Taga-castle which was an important military base in today's Miyagi prefecture. After this battle, many wars broke out between the Court and Emishi.
In 789, the Court dispatched a large army commanded by a high ranking-general, Kino-Kosami, to conquer Emishi living in the Izawa region, which is located around the middle basin of the Kitakami river.
Nevertheless, the Imperial army suffered a crashing defeat by Emishi's resistance which was led by an Emishi great lord, Aterui.
In 802, the Court dispatched troops commanded by Shogun Tamuramaro Sakanoue. He built Izawa castle in the region where Aterui was headquartered.
Aterui had many soldiers but he surrendered to Sakanoue without fighting. Although the reason why Aterui surrendered is not exactly known, it is said that Sakanoue was a great strategist who could persuade Aterui to surrender peacefully.
Sakanoe also respected Aterui as an outstanding leader, and therefore, petitioned the Court to spare the Aterui's life. But the petition was refused and Aterui was executed.
Thereafter, Sakanoue used Izawa castle as the main military base to conquer northern Japan.
In 803, Sakanoue built Shiwa-castle in the upper basin of the Kitakami river, consequently, rule of the Court was extended to today's Akita prefecture.
As a matter of fact, two big projects by the Court, conquering Emishi and building the capital in Kyoto became heavy burden on people and the Court's finance.
Therefore, the Kanmu Emperor broke off these two projects in 805.
※Some details about Sakanoue
Shogun Tamuramaro Sakanoue was the founder of Kiyomizudera-temple in Kyoto.
This temple is a very popular sightseeing spot and registered as a World Heritage site.
This temple was originally built in 780.
According to a book written about the origin of this temple, a monk, Kenshin, had a dream in 778.
In the dream, an old man told Kenshin that he should go to northern Kyoto and find clean water.
Following the message in the dream, Kenshin visited northern Kyoto and found a waterfall at Otowa mountain where Kenshin met the man he had seen in his dream.
This man said he lived on the mountain and trained as a Buddhist monk.
He asked Kenshin to create a wooden Kannon statue and protect this holy waterfall, and then, the old man disappeared.
Kenshin believed the man was the embodiment of Kannon.
Thus, Kenshin created a wooden Kannon statue and protected the waterfall.
Two years later, in 780, Tamuramaro Sakanoue visited the area to hunt deer.
He met Kenshin at the waterfall. Kenshin admonished Sakanoue against hunting in this holy area and told him about the Kannon's virtue, Kannon is believed to save and protect people.
Since Sakanoue deeply impressed with Kenshin's preaching, Sakanoue built a temple on Otowa mountain and enshrined the Kannon statue there.
He named the temple Kiyomizudera, which means a temple of clean water.
Kiyomizudera-temple was burnt by fires many times.
Today's Kannon statue in this temple is believed to have been created in the 13th century.
This statue is enshrined in a closed room in the main building of the temple, so visitors cannot see it, but they can see a replica placed in front of the closed room.
In Kiyomizudera-temple, visitors can also see that waterfall which Kenshin found. This waterfall is called Otowa-no-taki, and it is believed that the water has special power.


the politicalization of Buddhism in the 8th century

The Syomu Emperor pushed forward big projects such as building Kokubunji-temples in regions across Japan and building the great Buddha statue in Nara.
On the other hand, under the policy of Buddhism protection, the cost of building temples and the decrease of tax revenue caused by the increasing number of monks, who were tax exempt, became a heavy burden on the national finances.
In the process of Buddhism taking root in Japan, Buddhism became known as a way to gain material benefits. In addition, Buddhism assimilated the indigenous religion of ancestor worship.
Therefore, Buddhist statues and transcribed scriptures were made for healing the souls of ancestors.
In addition, a thought to merge Shinto with Buddhism was born.
Meanwhile, monks who didn’t like the politicalization of Buddhism left the big temples and started Buddhist training in the mountains.
They became the bases of a new Buddhism in the 9th century.


Buddhism in Japan in the 8th century

In the 8th century, Buddhism prospered in Japan because of the great support from the Imperial Court.
In those days, many natural disasters occurred , such as big earthquakes, famine and plagues.
In addition, there were many problems and conflicts in the Court.
Therefore, the successive Emperors tried to sustain Japanese social order by prompting Buddhism.
At great temples in Nara such as Kofukuji-temple, Gangoji-temple, Yakushiji-temple, monks studied Buddhist doctrine from India and China.
Since Buddhism was still considered more academic than religious, the monks created six divisions called Nanto-Rokusyu.
In one of the six divisions, a monk named Roben studied under monks who came from Shill and Tang China, and then he greatly contributed to build Todaiji-temple.
In another divisions, a monk called Gien educated many great monks, such as Gyoki.
Gyoki was a very unique monk. He was not only a missionary, but also organized donations to construct socially necessary infrastructure, such as bridges, irrigation systems and building rescue facilities for poor people.
Therefore, he was very popular among common people.
Unfortunately, in those days, monks had to work only for the government, not for common people.
Accordingly, Gyoki was often arrested by officers.
Later, however, when Gyoki's popularity became overwhelming, the government changed its tack and used Gyoki to encourage common people to work for free building a great Buddha statue in Nara.


About the Asuka Culture

The Asuka culture was created by powerful local lords such as the Soga-clan and the Emperor's relatives in the early seventh century. The culture was strongly influenced by Buddhism and foreign cultures.
Horyuji-temple in Nara prefecture is one of the most important cultural assets in the period. The temple was established in 607 by the Suiko Emperor and Shotoku-taishi. It is said that the temple is the oldest wooden building in the world. Horyuji-temple is registered as a World Heritage.
The columns in the temple's main hall and the main gate have a bowed shape rather than a straight column. This style is called entasis. It is thought that the architecture was indirectly influenced by ancient Greece culture such as the Parthenon.
↓columns at the main gate
There are many important cultural assets in Horyuji-temple. One of them is Syaka-sanzon-zo. It is a set of statues of the Buddha, which was created by Kuratsukurinotori, who is considered the first serious sculptor of Buddhist statues in Japan. 
Syaka-sanzon-zo   This photo is from Wikipedia
Another important asset is Kudara-kannon. This statue used to be called Kokuzobosatsu, which means a bosatsu of happiness and wealth. 'Bosatsu' means those who are engaged in ascetic training in pursuit of enlightenment in Buddhism.
Kudara-kannnon  This photo is from Wikipedia
↓Tamamushi-zushi is a miniature shrine covered with wings of jewel beetles. This photo is from wikipedia
These are all national treasures of Japan.
※The Asuka period ranged from the later 6th century to the mid 7th century.
The Asuka period coincides with the later Kofun period.
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