あ:politics

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.

03/15/2019

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.
 
Castles_for_emishi_conquering_in__2
 
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.
 
Kiyomizu_temple_3
 
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.

09/02/2018

About moving the capital in the late 8th century

The Konin Emperor, who ascended the throne in 770, tried to improve the Imperial government system, by simplifying the procedures for administration and finance, and by decreasing the burden on common people.
 
In 781, the Kanmu Emperor ascended the throne, his father was the Konin Emperor.
 
The Kanmu Emperor took over the Konin Emperor's political reformation and also tried to decrease the power of Buddhist monks, because they often interfered with politics.
 
In order to promote the reformation and concentrate power to the Emperor, he moved the capital to Nagaoka in Yamashiro, suburb of today’s Kyoto, in 784.
 
However, the Kanmu Emperor's right-hand man, Tanetsugu Fujiwara, who was a leader of establishing the capital in Nagaoka, was assassinated in 785.
 
Prince Sawara, who was a younger brother of the Kanmu Emperor, was forced to take responsibility for the assassination.
 
The prince was stripped of his claim to the throne and expelled from the Imperial Court. He committed suicide on the way to Awaji-island where he was banished.
 
In addition, old families such as Otomo and Saeki were also forced to take responsibility for the assassination.
 
People believe that the prince and these old families were victims of a political conspiracy by the Fujiwara family, because the assassination occurred when the Fujiwara family was trying to reinforce their power.
 
After the incident, many bad things happened, for example, the Kanmu Emperor's mother passed-away , the Kanmu Emperor's son got a disease and an epidemic of disease broke out.
 
People said that those tragedies were caused by the angry ghost of Prince Sawara. Due to the social instability, the construction of the capital in Nagaoka was very slow.
 
In 794, the Kanmu Emperor moved the capital to Kyoto.

07/29/2018

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.

07/28/2018

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.

07/04/2018

About Japan's history books created in the 8th century

In the 8th century, the system of centralized government was established under the Ritsuryo-code, which  contained criminal laws and the regulations about governmental organization.
 
And then, the national government created several books about Japan's history to show the process of Japan's development.
 
One of the books, Kojiki, was created by the order of the Tenmu Emperor in 712. The Tenmu Emperor made Hieda-no-Are, an expert of memory,  remember stories from the oral tradition of the Yamato Imperial Court. And then Hieda told the stories to a scholar O-no-Yasumaro and Yasumaro wrote down them by Chinese characters. Kojiki contains stories from the origin of Japan to the early 7th century.
 
A second book, Nihonshoki was completed in 720. This book was compiled by a prince of the Tenmu Emperor, Toneri-Shinno. It contains historical stories from the origin of Japan to the late 7th century, but the book focused more on the consolidation of political power and the rights of succession to the throne. The book was organized in chronological order, written in classical Chinese style because it imitated to the style of Chinese history books

06/19/2018

About a powerful monk interfered in politics in the 8th century

After the Komyo retired-Empress passed away, Oshikatsu Emi was isolated and his political influence was decreased in the Court.
 
The Koken-abdicated Emperor loved a monk who took care of the abdicated Emperor when she was sick. Unfortunately, the monk had political ambitions and used the Koken-abdicated Emperor for his own purpose, encouraging her to defy the Junnin Emperor.
 
Since Oshikatsu Emi was afraid of losing his authority, he raised a rebellion against the Koken-abdicated Emperor in 764, but he was destroyed by the forces of the abdicated Emperor.
 
After that, the Junnin Emperor was forced to retire and was sent to Awaji-island. The Koken-abdicated Emperor came back to the throne of the Emperor and became the Syotoku Emperor during her second reign.
 
Since the monk, Dokyo, received strong support from the Syotoku Emperor, he became the Grand Minister and then rose to the top of the Buddhist hierarchy.
 
In 769, a conspiracy related to Dokyo occurred. A priest of Usa Hachiman Shinto shrine reported to the Syotoku Emperor that the Usa Hachiman god said Dokyo should ascend to the throne. Usa Hachimangu was one of the most important Shinto shrines in those days. To confirm the god's message, the Syotoku Emperor sent a servant to the Shrine. The servant, Kiyomaru Wake listened to the god's message himself and reported to the Emperor that the god was opposed to Dokyo's ascending the throne. Therefore, the conspiracy failed.
 
After the Syotoku Emperor passed away, Dokyo lost his political power and the Konin-Emperor succeeded to the throne. In those days, many of the Tenmu Emperor's direct descendants succeeded the throne, but the Konin-Emperor was a grandson of the Tenji Emperor, who was an older brother of the Tenmu Emperor.
 
The Konin Emperor was strongly supported by Momokawa Fujiwara. The Emperor aimed for the reconstruction of national politics and finance.

06/12/2018

About Nakamaro Fujiwara ( Oshikatsu Emi)

A daughter of the Syomu-retired Emperor and the Komyo-retired Empress ascended the throne as the Koken Emperor.

 
Nakamaro Fujiwara became very influential in the Court, because his aunt, the Komyo-retired Empress, strongly supported him. Naramaro Tachibana, a son of Moroe-Tachibana, tried to take power from Nakamaro Fujiwara.
 
However, contrary to his expectation, Naramaro Tachibana was destroyed by Nakamaro Fujiwara.
 
After that Nakamaro Fujiwara forced the Koken Emperor to retire, so that he could elevate a grandson of Tenmu to the throne, the Junnin Emperor.
 
Nakamaro Fujiwara was given the name Oshikatsu Emi by the Junnin Emperor and gained exceptional economic privilege and great political power. And then he eventually became the Grand Minister.

05/05/2018

About Buddhism for national protection in the 8th century

To revive of the family's political power, one of the members of the Fujiwara family brewed a big revolt in 740 in Kyusyu, which is a western island of the Japanese archipelago.
 
The revolt was subdued by the governmental forces, but the incident caused political unrest in the Court.
 
In addition, people were suffering from great earthquakes , outbreaks of smallpox and famine. Therefore, the social situation was very unstable.
 
In spite of the confusion, in 740, the Syomu-Emperor moved the capital of Japan from Heijo-kyo to Kuni-kyo, in southern Kyoto-fu, and then the Emperor moved the capital again from Kuni-kyo to Naniwa-no-miya, in today's Osaka-city, in 744. After that, the Emperor moved the capital from Naniwa-nomiya to Shigaraki-no-miya, in southern Shiga-prefecture in 745. Finally the Emperor returned the capital to Heijyo-kyo in 745.
 
Even now, nobody knows the exact reason why the Emperor moved the capital-city so often in such a short term, but it is said that the Emperor tried to change the social situation by capital relocation.
 
During those moves, the social situation went going from bad to worse, so the Syomu -Emperor decided it would also help to stabilize the nation by adapting a foreign religion, Buddhism. It was an unusual choice for the Japanese Emperor, because traditionally the Imperial family's belief is Shinto.
 
However, the Syomu Emperor profoundly devoted himself to Buddhism, because he was strongly affected by the Fujiwara family's belief. His mother and his wife were from the Fujiwara family, who had a strong relationship with foreign countries and earnestly believed in Buddhism.
 
In 741, the Emperor issued the decree to build provincial temples, and then Kokubunji-temples and Kokubun-niji-temples, which were convents, were built in each province, called Kuni.
 
In 743, the Emperor issued another decree for the construction of the Great Buddha statue in Todaiji-temple. Todaiji-temple was placed as the head temple of Kokubunji-temples and Kokubun-niji-temples all over Japan.
 
The purpose of building temples all over Japan was to protect the nation by the efficacy of monks' prayers, not propagation of Buddhism.
 
As a matter of fact, Buddhist monks were strictly managed by the government and they were not allowed to engage in missionary work in those days.
 
In 752, the Koken-Emperor, a daughter of the Syomu-Emperor, held the grand ceremony to consecrate the Great Buddha statue. The ceremony was attended by Shomu-retired-Emperor, Komyo-retired-Empress, Chinese monks, Indian monks and ten-thousand Japanese monks.
 
Sep, 740 Hirotsugu Fujiwara’s revolt in Kyusyu.
 
Dec, 740 the capital-city was moved to Kuni-kyo.
 
Feb, 741 the decree to build provincial temples and convents.
 
Oct, 743 the decree to for the construction of the Great Buddha statue in Todaiji-temple.
 
Feb, 744 the capital-city was moved to Naniwa-no-miya.
 
Jan, 745 the capital-city was moved to Shigaraki-no-miya.
 
May, 745 the capital city was moved to Heijyo-kyo
 
May, 752 the grand ceremony to consecrate the Great Buddha statue
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