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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.

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.

07/23/2018

Educational institutions in the 8th century

In the 8th century, educational institutions were established for educating officers.
 
Daigaku was established in the capital and Kokugaku were established in regions.
 
Students of Daigaku were children of nobles and children of the Court officers who worked as clerks.
 
On the other hand, many students of Kokugaku were children of Gunji, officers of local governments.
 
Graduates from Daigaku needed to pass exams to become officers of the Court.
 
Students of Daigaku learned scriptures of Confucianism such as the Analects of Confucius and the Book of Filial Piety.
 
This subject was called Myogyo-do. In addition, students learned laws and it was called Myobo-do.
 
They also learned how to pronounce scriptures of Confucianism in Chinese, calligraphy and mathematics.

07/17/2018

Regional geography books, Fudoki in the 8th century

In 713, regional geographies called Fudoki were created in each regions by order of the Genmei Emperor.
 
Fudoki contained information about regional products , origins of the names of mountains, rivers, fields and ancient legends.
 
Fudoki of five regions, Hitachi, Izumo, Harima, Bungo, Hizen still exist.
 
Izumo's Fudoki is almost complete.

06/28/2018

About Rich farmers and poor farmers in the 8th century

In the 8th century, the disparity between rich farmers and poor farmers became significant. 
 
Some of poor farmers relinquished rice fields allocated by the government and left the places where they were registered.
 
Some others of them escaped from construction sites in Kyoto during their duties. After that some of them became wanderers or servants of local lords.
 
On the other hand, some of rich farmers moved to other places to expand their farming without the government permission.
 
Some others of them became monks or servants of nobles without permission, because they tried to avoid heavy tax burden on farmers.
 
At the end of the 8th century, many farmers defaulted in paying their taxes which they had to pay in special products of their districts such as silk, cloth.
 
The government's forces which consisted of many farmers got weakened.
 
These seriously influenced on the finance and the military power of the government.

06/21/2018

About heavy burden on farmers in the 8th century

Farmers cultivated not only rice-fields which were allocated by the government but also rice-fields owned by the government, temples or nobles.
 
Basically, farmers were lent these rice-fields for 1 year and paid 20% of the crops to the owners as the rental-fee.
 
In addition, farmers had to serve in the army and be engaged in government assigned work for about 60 days a year without pay.
 
Moreover, adult males also had to submit special products of the district such as silk, fabrics or thread to the Court and they had to deliver these products to the capital themselves.
 
In addition, they were often suffering due to famine because of bad weather or insect plagues.
 
Therefore, farmers' lives were very severe, though local governments created policies to encourage agriculture.

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

04/22/2018

About the Fujiwara family’s political power in the 8th century

In the 8th century, a wealthy family, Fujiwara, obtained strong political power. In particular, Fuhito Fujiwara was the most prominent politician in those days. He was a son of Kamatari Fujiwara, who was a supreme adviser of the Tenji Emperor.

Fuhito made his daughter, Miyako, marry the Monmu Emperor in 697. And then their son, Prince Obito married Fuhito's other daughter, Komyoshi, in 716. Prince Obito became the Shomu Emperor in 724. By these political marriages, the Fujiwara family built a close relationship with the Imperial family and became very influential in politics.

In 720, Fuhito Fujiwara died.

When the Shomu Emperor came to the throne in 724, he was 23 years old. Since the Emperor was young, Nagaya-o held the real political power in the Court. Nagaya-o was a cousin-uncle of the Shomu Emperor and a grandson of the Tenmu Emperor. Nagaya-o was not only a member of the royal family but also a good politician. Therefore Nagaya-o was the toughest obstacle for the Fujiwara family, who wanted to have a preponderant influence on the Court.

Fuhito Fujiwara's four sons wanted their sister Komyoshi, a wife of the Shomu Emperor, to be elevated to Empress, but Nagaya-o strongly opposed it because only a member of the royal family could become empress in those days.

In 727, a prince was born between the Shomu Emperor and Komyoshi, his name was Motoi-o. He became the crown prince soon, because the Fujiwara family intensely promoted it. However, the prince died before he became 1 year old. It was a hard blow for the Fujiwara family, but they used the incident to ruin Nagaya-o. In 729, the Fujiwara family circulated a rumor that Nagaya-o killed the prince by curse. As a result, Nagaya-o was forced to commit suicide.

By having eliminated their opponent, the Fujiwara family could elevate Komyoshi to Empress in 729.

In 737, however, the four Fujiwara sons died of smallpox and the family's political influence temporarily declined. People rumored that Nagaya-o had become a vengeful ghost and killed them all.

Instead of the Fujiwara family, one of the members of royalty, Moroe Tachibana held the real political power and Kibi-no-makibi and Genbo, who used to be envoys to Tang China, obtained strong influence in the Court.

01/11/2018

About economy in the 8th century

The Court prompted expansion farmland by ordering the creation of iron farming tools and improving the irrigation system.
 
In addition, mining gold and copper was started. Moreover, the technology of sericulture, raising silkwarms, and weaving luxury cloth was spread by the government experts.
 
These were useful for increasing productivity and government's tax revenue.
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