JAPAN'S GENERAL HISTORY
INTRODUCTION TO THE HISTORY OF CHINA
THE MAKING AND SHAPING OF THE NATION.IS PEOPLE, RULERS, AND INSTITUTIONS. ORGANISATION OF THE EMPIRE & WARS OF GREAT FAMILIES. RISE OF THE SAMURAI AND THE SHOGUNATE. THE GOLDEN AGE OF OLD JAPAN. THE EVE OF THE GREAT CHANGE
THE MAKING AND SHAPING OF THE NATION
ITS PEOPLE, RULERS, AND INSTITUTIONS
OUR information concerning the earliest inhabitants of Japan is alike scanty and unreliable. At different spots in Yezo and the Kurile Islands excavations are found from three to six feet deep, with a length or diameter of fifteen to twenty feet; these he in groups, numbering as many as one thousand, and are attributed by the Ainos to a people called Koro-pok-guru, meaning "people having excavations", or "cave-dwellers", or to the Ko-bito (dwarfs), who are said to have inhabited the island before the Ainos and to have been exterminated by them. These holes were probably covered with a roofing of branches on which earth was laid. Excavations in their neighbourhood have brought to light potsherds and stone arrows, a fact which is the more remarkable, as the Aino seem never to have learnt the art of making pottery, which they do not even now possess. On the other hand, a few centuries ago they made use of stone arrowheads; these were later replaced by points of bamboo, which are both more easily made and better suited to hold the poison which they employ in hunting.
Nothing is known as to the origin of the Koro-pok-guru or of the Ainos; apparently both peoples immigrated from the north at an early period; the Ainos at any rate advanced as far as the northern half of Hondo, and perhaps even farther south. Some authorities consider the Ainos a Mongolian, others a Polynesian, people. Dr. E. Baelz places them among the Caucasian races, and believes them to have been related to the Mujiks, the peasants of Great Russia; the resemblance, at any rate in advanced years, is certainly remarkable. In this case we must consider the Ainos as members of a greater continental race, which migrated to Japan in prehistoric times and was gradually driven further northward by later arrivals, ultimately crossing into Yezo by the Tsugaru Strait. There are probably twenty thousand of them in Yezo, the southern part of Sakhalin, and in the Kurile Islands. Where their race has maintained its purity, their civilization is scarcely higher than it was at the time when they first came in contact with the Japanese.
The origin of the Japanese is also wrapped in mystery. The attempt to solve the problem from the anthropological side, and to consider the modern Japanese as a mixed people consisting of Ainos, Korean, Chinese, and Malayo-Chinese elements may be said to have been successful, in so far as all these races have undoubtedly contributed to the formation of the nationality now inhabiting Japan; but no proof has been brought forward to show to which of these races the main body of those immigrants belonged, who probably made their way into Japan long before the seventh century B.C.
Ethnological comparisons promise better results. The practice of soothsaying by means of the shoulder-blade of a slaughtered animal, and that of sending horses and servants to accompany a dead prince, who were not killed and buried with him, but were partly buried in an upright posture round the grave mound to serve as a living fence—these seem to have been Japanese customs from a very early antiquity. For purposes of soothsaying they used the shoulder-blades of the stag; the sheep, which is usually employed for this purpose in Northern Asia, is not found in Japan.
Concerning their burial customs, the chronicle known as the Nihongi speaks as follows : “The brother of the Emperor Suinin [29 B.C.- 70 A.D.] died and was buried at Musa. All those who had been in his personal service were gathered together and were buried alive in an upright position around his barrow. They did not die for many days, but wept and bewailed day and night. At length they died and became putrid. Dogs and crows came together and ate them up”. The emperor, who had listened to the lamentations, ordered the abolition of this custom; and it is said that from the year 3 A.D. clay figures instead of human beings were buried in or about the barrows. Pieces of these figures are constantly found at the present day. However, this ordinance was frequently disregarded. Thus the Chinese annals of the Wei dynasty stated that, on the death of the Empress Regent Himeko (Jingo Kogo, according to the Japanese lists), in the year 247 A.D., a large mound was piled above her grave, and more than a thousand of her male and female servants followed her in death.
It is indeed difficult to eradicate customs which have become part and parcel of the national life, as is the case when the unwilling sacrifice has become voluntary in the course of centuries and is considered an honourable duty. In the year 646 A.D. the Mikado issued an order for the cessation of all these customs—namely, suicide or the murder of others for the purpose of sharing the fate of the deceased, the killing of his horses, the burying of treasure for the benefit of the dead, the cutting short the hair, stabbing in the thigh, or loud wailing on the part of mourners; yet almost a thousand years later we find Iyeyasu obliged to forbid the Samurai to kill or mutilate themselves upon their master's grave. Both of these customs, divination by shoulder-bones and the slaughter of servants at their master's grave, are undoubtedly of North Asiatic or Tartar origin. They also existed in China. Confucius mentions the second of these customs as belonging to antiquity, as also the substitution of wooden figures for human sacrifices; and the last known example occurs in the time of the present Manchu dynasty after Kanghsi's ascent of the throne (1662). They are to be retraced to the influence of Tartar dynasties. Moreover, the obscene character, of a part of the Shinto mythology and the popular phallic worship, which was practised without concealment in Japan so recently as 1860, and existed in 1907, less openly, are evidences in favour of a Tartar-Shamanist origin. Finally, it is important to observe that the earliest events of importance in Shinto mythology are laid not in Kyushu, which would be evidence in favour of an immigration from the west or south, but in Izumo, Yamato, and Setsu, thus pointing to a migration from the north. According to Chinese annalists, Korea was conquered and civilised by a member of their Shan dynasty, Kit-sze, on the fall of that dynasty, 1122 B.C.; therefore the migration from Korea to Japan must have taken place before that date, as the immigrants in question had certainly never come in contact with Chinese civilisation. It is, however, quite possible that this migration may have started from one of the Manchurian states (for example Funu) lying to the north of Korea. According to Chinese sources of information the inhabitants of these districts seem to have had many ideas and customs corresponding to those of Old Japan. In that case, old Engelbert Kampfer was correct when he wrote in 1712 : "Strangers from Datz, or Tartary, have long lain concealed in Japan under a name of doubtful meaning, and, scattered about the provinces, lived the wild life of fish-eaters."
It is hardly within our scope to detail, and it would be unprofitable to summarise, the extravagances of the Japanese accounts of the cosmogony, the evolution of the world out of chaos, the union of one of the sons of the gods with the daughter of the first man and woman, the immigration, so to speak, of gods and the rule of demigods on the earth.
Myth may be regarded as beginning to merge in historical fact with the rule of the last lord of divine birth, Kami-Yamato-Iwaré-Biko, the youngest son of the last terrestrial spirit and the daughter of the dragon-god Riyo-siu, whom Japanese expositors regard as a ruler of the Loo-choo Islands. In the year 667 B.C., at the age of forty-five, he advances with his three brothers to conquer the whole kingdom of Japan. He first subdues Tsukushi (the modern Chikuzen and Chikugo), then Kibi (that is, the provinces of Bizen, Bitchu, and Bingo) in Kyushu, and also Aki in Hondo. After three years of preparation for a further campaign he sails along the coast with his fleet to Naniwa (Osaka), where he lands. However, at Kusagesaka in Yamato and at Kumano, in the province of Kii, he is beaten, and is obliged to retire to his fleet. He loses the greater part of his ships in a storm; the remainder are saved only by the devotion of two of his brothers, who cast themselves into the sea to appease the anger of the gods. With fresh troops he returns to Yamato, and in the year 660 B.C. subdues the independent petty chiefs, partly by treachery, his supremacy being established by the surrender of the tokens of empire—the sword, mirror, and insignia, which had hitherto been in different hands. He builds his residence, half palace and half temple (that is, house for ancestors) on the mountain Uji in Yamato, and hands over the government of the kingdom to four Ministers, one of whom becomes the ancestor of the famous family of the Fujiwara. The first "heavenly king" of Japan is known by the name of Jimmu, Spirit of War, which was given him after his death; so run the Japanese narratives.
If there be any substratum of reality in these traditions, it probably consists in the fact that the main settlement of the immigrants was situated in the provinces of Izumi, Yamato and Setsu, which were united at a later period with Yamashiro and Kawachi, and formed the Gokinai (the five original provinces), which was the central part of the kingdom. From this centre the advance to the conquest of the western and southern districts was made. Jimmu's expedition was probably undertaken to enforce the recognition of actual or putative rights which had existed at an earlier period; he is said to have married the daughter of the ruler of Izumi. The struggles appear to have been fought out between members of the same clan. Whether the Takeru, who are mentioned later as inhabiting Kyushu, are to be identified with the Kumaso, whether they were members of the immigrant hosts, whether and how far they were commingled with the Malay-Chinese or Korean nationalities, are problems insoluble at the moment.
According to Japanese sources of information the first Korean immigration is said to have taken place in 59 A.D.; however, embassies from Korea seem to have arrived in the country as early as 33 B.C. In the north-east the Ainos were the only enemies with whom the immigrants had to contend, although their opponents in that direction are mentioned under different names.
Japan's Oldest History
The great obstacle to the proper comprehension and narration of early Japanese history is the fact that native historical records are entirely wanting until the eighth century A.D. Until the sixth century A.D. the Japanese possessed no syste of writing of any kind, and from that period until the invention of the Katakana syllabic script in the ninth century they used nothing but the Chinese characters.
The oldest piece of historical writing extant, the Kojiki, the "book of old traditions," was completed in the years 711 and 712; two older works, apparently time between the years 620 and 681, have been lost. The Kojiki contains the history of the creation, of the gods and heroes, and of the Mikados, up to the year 628 A.D.; it was printed for the first time between 1624 and 1642. The next work in point of age, the Nihongi, "Chronicles of Japan," belongs to the year 720 A.D., and treats of the same subject-matter as the Kojiki, except that it carries the annals of the emperors to 699.
For this reason, apart from the fact that Chinese, Korean, Buddhist, and Confucian influences are very strongly marked, these books can only be used with the utmost caution. The lists of rulers given by them often fail to correspond with those contained in Chinese works upon the subject—for example, that of Matuanlin. Moreover, they obviously bear the stamp of improbability. For instance, they relate that Jimmu reached the age of 127 years, and that among his first sixteen successors, the last of whom died 399 A.D., thirteen lived more than 100 years; one of them, Suinin, the Solon of Japanese history, lived 141 years, and ruled for 99 of them! Moreover, the long line of tne Mikados—the late Mikado, Mutsuhito, was the one hundred and twenty-third—does not continue in direct succession according to our ideas, but as even Japanese accounts admit, is broken by seven empresses and many adopted children.
Where contemporary Chinese and Korean accounts exist side by side— and this is constantly the case in the histories of the individual dynasties and states of these countries—the Japanese versions usually appear wholly untrustworthy. For instance, as regards the Empress Jingo Kogo (201-269) and her reported successful conquest in 202 of Shiraki in Korea, the account given by the writer of the Nihongi is adorned with impossible extravagances.
Apart from all the evidence against any historical foundation to the narrative (such as the mention of names which can be proved not to have existed at that period), the Chinese and Korean annalists mention Japanese attacks against Silla only in the years 209, 233 and 249. The first was a wholly unimportant event, while in the two latter the Japanese were defeated with heavy losses in ships and troops. The annals of the Chinese Wei dynasty of the year 247 mention the death of the Queen Himeko—that is, Jingo Kogo—and relate that, after the outbreak of a civil war in which 100,000 persons were killed, a girl of thirteen years of age succeeded to the throne. This is a far more probable account than the story that Jingo Kogo reigned 68 years after her consort's death.
Influenced by these and similar discrepancies between the Chinese and Korean historians on the one hand and the Japanese upon the other, W. G. Aston has declared his conviction that the Japanese narratives are unworthy of credence, not only up to 400 and 500 A.D., but also during the sixth century of our era. He considers that the first demonstrably historical event in Japanese chronology occurs in the year 461 A.D. Japanese history properly so called does not begin before 500 A.D., and the introduction of Chinese civilisation into Japan took place 120 years later than the date given by the Japanese to that event—in 397 A.D., instead of 277 A.D.
Modern Japanese criticism has also declared against the credibility of the Nihongi. In 1889, Tachibana Riohei collected a large number of instances showing the unreliable character of the work. According to the Nihongi, Yamato Daké, the national hero of the Japanese, died in the forty-third year of the Emperor Keiko—that is, 114 A.D.—but his son Tsinai, according to the same authority, was born in the nineteenth year of the reign of Seimu (150)—that is, thirty-six years after his father's death. Prince Oho-usu-no-mikoto was the twin-brother of Yamato Daké; the latter was aged sixteen when he took the held against the Kumaso in 98 A.D., so that the brothers must have been born in 83 A.D. But the Nihongi informs us that Prince Oho ill-treated a nobleman's daughter in the year 75—that is, eight years before his birth. A large number of similar discrepancies have been collected.
Consequently, to reconstruct Japanese history from the foundation of the empire (660 B.C.) to the introduction of Buddhism, we are forced to restrict ourselves to such information as can be checked and corrected by accounts other than Japanese. These latter are, at best, nothing but a patchwork of incredible traditions arbitrarily put together, apparently with the object of providing some support for the claims which the ruling dynasty advanced at a later period. Hence there can be no possible doubt that the three original settlements of the immigrants, Yamato, Izumi, and Tsu-kushi (Northern Kyushu), existed independently of one another long after the time of Jimmu. In the annals of the Han dynasty of China (25-220 A.D.) mention is made of Japanese embassies which could only have been sent out by petty princes. The Chinese records compiled by Matuanlin in the thirteenth century show how low was the stage of Japanese development at the time when these accounts were written.
The annals of the later Han, referring to Japan, say that there was a mountainous island to the south-east of Korea, divided into more than a hundred districts. After the conquest of Korea by Wuti (140-86 B.C.) thirty-two of these tribes, who called their hereditary rulers kings, are said to have entered into communication by messenger with the authorities of the Han. The ruler of "Great Wo" (Japan) resided in Yamato, and the customs of the people were similar to those of the Chinese province of Chekiang (600 miles away), which lay opposite to Wo. The soil was suitable for the cultivation of com, hemp, and mulberry trees. The people understood the art of weaving. The country produced white pearls and green nephrite. In the mountains there was cinnabar. The climate was mild, and vegetables could be cultivated both in winter and summer. They had no oxen, horses, tigers, leopards, or magpies. Their soldiers carried spears and shields, bows and arrows of wood, the points in many cases being made of bone. The men tattooed their faces and bodies with designs. Difference of rank was denoted by the size and position of these designs.
The clothes of the men were fastened crossways by knots, and consisted of one piece of material. The women bound up their hair in a knot, and their dress resembled Chinese clothes of the thickness of one piece; these they drew over their heads. They used red and purple colours to besmear their bodies as the Chinese used rice-powder. They had forts and houses protected with palisading. The father and mother, and the elder and younger brothers of a family, lived apart, but when they came together no difference was made between the sexes. They took up their food in their hands, but laid it upon plates of bamboo and wooden dishes. They all went barefoot. Reverence was paid by crouching low. They were very fond of strong drink. They were a long-lived race, and people a hundred years old were constantly met with. The women were more numerous than the men. All men of high rank had four or five wives, others two or three. The wives were faithful and not jealous. Theft was unknown and litigation extremely rare.
The wives and children of criminals were confiscated, and for grave offences the criminal's family were destroyed. Mourning lasted only ten days; during that period the members of the family wept and lamented, while their friends came, sang, danced, and made music. They practised soothsaying by burning bones over the fire, and thereby predetermining good or evil fortune. They appointed one man who was known as the public mourner; he was not allowed to comb his hair, to wash, to eat meat, or to approach any woman. If they, the survivors, were prosperous, they made him valuable presents; but if misfortune came upon them, they blamed the "mourner" for having broken his vows, and all joined in killing him, a custom the existence of which is confirmed by Japanese sources.
A Queen who was a Sorceress
Further on we are told that between 147 and 190, Wo was in a state of great confusion, and civil wars continued for many years, during which period there was no ruler. Then a woman, Pimihu (Himeko), appeared. She was old and unmarried, and had devoted herself to the arts of magic, so that she was able to deceive the people. The people agreed to recognise her as queen. She had 1,000 male servants; but few saw her face, except one man, who brought her meals and maintained communication with her. She lived in a palace of airy rooms, which was surrounded by a palisade and protected by a guard of soldiers.
From the third century A.D. we have constant references to embassies from Japan to China bringing presents (tribute) and seeking grants of titles and seals. Many of such mentions may have been inspired by Chinese vanity alone; none the less, it is quite possible that the halfbarbarian Japanese of that age may have been flattered by the conferment of such outward distinctions, although their descendants naturally deny the dependency of their country upon China. Traces of a certain degree of dependency are to be found until the period of the great Mongol invasion of 1370-1380.
From the last century B.C. closer and more constant connections subsisted between Japan and the states in the south of the Korean peninsula. It is not easy to distinguish the character or results of the various embassies, incursions, and larger expeditions undertaken by the State or by individuals; at any rate, many of the hostile descents of the Japanese upon the Korean seaboard of which we hear were made as often for piratical purposes as to support one or other of the political parties in Korea.
The Japanese State was too loosely organised at that period to have provided the impulse to each one of these different movements. E. H. Parker, who has made a special study of the relations of China and Japan with Korea, says on this point: "The Chinese twice overran Korea, once in the third century B.C. and once in the seventh century A.D. In both cases their personal government was of short duration, and their viceroyalty never extended over the northern half, and for some time not even beyond the mountain range which divides the northern half into eastern and western portions. The Japanese never set foot in that part of Korea which was actually under Chinese influence, except during a few months in the time of Hideyoshi at the end of the sixteenth century. They never really subdued any part of Korea. It is, however, possible that scattered remnants of the Japanese race may have existed in the extreme south of the peninsula during the first century A.D. There is no doubt that Japanese influence was strong in the south-western parts until the second Chinese invasion. At a later time they were mere pirates, until Hideyoshi conceived the idea of attacking China by way of Korea. On the other hand, the Japanese from the earliest to the latest periods seemed to have possessed a settlement in the extreme south of Wars with Korea, or at Fusan". Japanese records mention many battles with the Kumaso in Kyushu, who were either invaded and attacked in their own country, or themselves invaded and overran the western provinces of the main island. The first battles against these eastern neighbours are those mentioned as having occurred under the Emperor Keiko (71-130 A.D.). His son Yamato Daké, the warrior prince, carried the tame of the Japanese arms, though certainly only for a time, into the mountain district of Nikko, north of the modern capital, Tokio. In other respects, the records are confined to accounts of the gradual and very slow development of the interior, which is naturally ascribed to the enterprise of emperors. Sujin, the tenth emperor (97-30 B.C.), is saig to have constructed the first aqueduct for the irrigation of rice fields. His successor, Suinin (29 B.C.-70 A.D.), continued the work, and extended it by making canals; he is also said to have encouraged the national god worship. He seems also to have been the first to introduce a system of taxation, a reform of which the chief object was to provide funds for religious worship. Under the twelfth Mikado, Seimu (131-190), an expedition against the Aino of the East took place, and under the fifteenth, the Empress Jingo Kogo (201-269), occurred the fabulous voyage to Korea. Her son Ojin, of whom she is said to have been pregnant at the time, and who for that reason has since been worshipped as the god of war (Hachiman) succeeded her (270-310), and is reported to have paid special attention to trade and manufactures, teachers of which he brought over from Korea. His successors imitated his example, and thus we reach the epoch of the introduction, through Korea, of Chinese civilisation into Japan, although many of the statements upon this subject must be considerably post-dated.
During the whole of this period the immigrants seem to have been in no very close relations with the Emperor. Fukuda Tokuzo connects these "Yamato" even during their earliest period by the fusion of three subordinate tribes—the "descendants of heaven" (Tenson), the "heavenly deities" (Tenjin), and the earthly deities (Chiji) standing in different degrees of relationship to the sun-goddess. But here he is probably describing the results of later developments; such distinctions do not usually become manifest until the necessity is apparent for sharper lines of demarcation between the upper and lower grades of society, and this can hardly have been imperative at the stage of development reached by the immigrants about 660 B.C.
The development of the priesthood must also have been a very slow process even according to the Japanese reports. The more pronounced ancestor-worship with which were connected the more definite distinctions of social rank may be ascribed to later (Confucian) influences.
This much is certain, that the race which had the upper hand in Central Japan— the power of the "Yamato" scarcely reached beyond this region—was composed of a large number of tribes (Uji), each of which had originated in a single family. Both in Japan and China we find the same course of development which was followed in Greece, Rome, Germany, and among the North American Indians. Such tribal unions increase to a remarkable degree the stability and permanence of the body politic in which they pass the first stages of their constitutional development. In Japan each tribe with its chief formed a self-contained whole, the Emperor's tribe, under his personal leadership, being the most numerous and powerful. The worship of their common ancestor was the bond of union within each individual tribe, and the worship of the sun-goddess formed the tie between the Imperial and the other tribes. The creation of fresh tribes, especially of prisoners of war, slaves, and servants or craftsmen attached to the Imperial Court, seems to have been a privilege of the Emperor, who was thus able to increase the strength of his household troops.
It seems that originally within the tribe, while it was yet small, the products of hunting, fishing, and agriculture were held in common, and that ultimately there was community of all acquisitions. The tribe could also enter into external relations without losing its corporate character, appearing in some respects as a legal personality. Certain offices belonged to the tribe, and were hereditary in it: the man followed the woman into her tribe, to which also the children belonged. The power of the head of the tribe over the members was very considerable, but, on the other hand, the relations of individual Uji to the Imperial tribe seem to have been very loose. They consisted chiefly in the recognition of the Emperor as high-priest for the worship of the common ancestral goddess, as warlord, as the representative of the common interests abroad, and as chief judge to decide disputes between the different tribes. The Emperor had no right over their land or property.
ORGANISATION OF THE EMPIRE & WARS OF GREAT FAMILIES
RISE OF THE SAMURAI AND THE SHOGUNATE
IF the Japanese annals are to be believed, Jimmu, immediately after the foundation of the empire, handed over the government to four Ministers, one of whom was an ancestor of the family of Fujiwara. In this piece of information we may probably recognise nothing more than a desire, formulated by this powerful family some fifteen hundred years later, to justify their actual predominance by reference to an antiquity as remote as possible.
In reality, the true state of affairs for a long period must have been that the supreme chieftains of the victorious tribe found themselves obliged to defend and to extend their tottering supremacy as best they could. As the emperors attempted to strengthen the forces under their control, so also did the chieftains of other tribes (Uji). Conflicts can be shown to have been waged in the course of centuries between the emperor and unruly Uji chiefs, which were generally decided by the interference of other chiefs in favour of one or other of the contending parties, and not always in favour of the rightful superior. Such struggles constantly broke out over questions concerning the succession to the throne, for it was not until the reign of Kwammu (782-806) that the right of primogeniture was asserted, and it was some time before it advanced from the theoretical to the practical stage.
These continual contests for power and supremacy involved the downfall of the old tribal system. The ultimate causes of the change are to be found in the increase of the population and consequently of the members of the individual tribes, and also in the increased necessity for labour to provide sustenance for individuals, resulting in the abandonment of fishing and hunting for agriculture. The rise of the family and of the individual within the tribe gradually made itself felt as a danger both to the upper and to the lower strata of society : to the upper, because the Uji system, in the event of a rapid increase in the members of the tribe, placed these numbers at the immediate disposal of a vassal anxious to create disturbance; to the lower, because the tribe was no longer able to provide for the welfare of its members.
The Chinese constitution offered a solution of these difficulties, on which the Emperor or his councillors gladly seized. In the great neighbour empire the monarch's person was unapproachable to the mass of the population. He ruled by means of his officials, of whom he saw none but the highest. Everything in the country, men as well as land, was his property, and wholly subject to his will, as exercised through Ministers in the capital and viceroys in the provinces.
The constitution of the Japanese Empire now underwent a change in accordance with these principles. The Mikado was nominally at the head of the Government: in practice, though not as a matter of right, he was confined to the precincts of his palace, and as time went on became more and more a stranger to his subjects. Ultimately he became, what he remained until 1868, a mythical personality, for the possession of whom disputants would fight, because this alone could give to their measures the stamp of legality; but a personality who could only give expression to his will when his servants provided the means to this end, with a view to their own advantage and aggrandisement. The executive power lay in the hands of the central administration, which had been remodelled after the Chinese pattern. This body was controlled by anyone who had sufficient strength or cunning to make himself master of the situation. From the heads of tribes a court nobility, the Kugé, was created, from which were selected the high officials of the central administration and the viceroys of the provinces and departments.
The tribes, as such, lost the political and economic importance which they had hitherto possessed, and their property was no longer held in common. Their place was taken by the family, the Ko, in which the individual member had greater freedom of action. On the other hand, again after the Chinese model, freedom was limited and the solidarity of family life increased by the introduction of a new system of police, to which the history of early England supplies a striking parallel. The Ko were organised in groups of five, and each group became answerable in common for its members : this regulation seems to have been further strengthened by the creation of similar unions of ten families, or twenty, and so on. Only a few of the greatest tribes, such as the Fujiwara, the Taira, and the Minamoto, retained that influence which the Uji had formerly exercised, and this in spite of the fact that the unity of the members on which the strength of the Uji had rested was now a thing of the past. We may, however, conclude that these families, and especially the Fujiwara, were the chief agents in the introduction of this change, which exercised so great an influence upon the whole of Japanese internal development that the battles of the next eight hundred years were, almost without exception, fought out between and within such tribes.
Such a change was naturally slow of completion. Initiated and supported by Chinese and Buddhist influences, which began to make themselves felt in the sixth century, a necessary condition of its accomplishment was the downfall of the existing system, the reduction of the Emperor's position, which that system strengthened, and, above all things, energy and decision. As early as 603 A.D. the Empress Suiko created twelve new grades of nobility; in 647 these were reorganised in thirty subdivisions by the Emperor Kotoku. In this institution we may trace the origin of the Kugé, the Court nobility. In 603, eight Ministers of the Imperial palace were created, to deal with administration and education, ceremonies, finance, and the census, military affairs, the judicature, the exchequer, and the domestic economy of the palace.
The Chief Officials of the Realm
At this time the "Counsellor of the Gods of Heaven and Earth" (Jingi Kwan), who had previously been a supreme authority, was deprived of his dignity by the progress of Buddhist influence. In 786 the Daijo Kwan was created, a board of the chief officials of the realm, consisting of four Ministers (the princes and the chief of the Kugé); these were the great Minister of the Great Government (Daijo Daijin), the Sadaijin and the Great Ministers of the Left and Right (Udaijin), and the Privy Councillor (Naidaijin). The entire government was in the hands of these officials. Finally, in the year 889 the hereditary dignity of the Kwambaku or Regent was created.
Other changes exerted a deeper influence upon the social organism. Under the Emperor Kotoku (645-654), a succession of regulations called the Taikwa laws (this being the name of the year-period in which they were issued), withdrew from the Uji the offices which had hitherto been connected with them, and arranged that these offices should henceforward be held only by men of proved capacity. The members of the Uji now became vassals of the Empire, and the land was divided into provinces (kuni) and districts (kori), the inhabitants of which were now responsible to the Emperor for the payment of taxes in kind and the performance of labour services. In the year 689 was promulgated the "Taiho "—that is, the existing body of legislation reduced to writing.
The most important point of this code was the introduction of a system that had existed in China from immemorial antiquity, the division of the arable land, all of which henceforward belonged to the emperor, into temporary family holdings (on leases of six or twelve years). The size of these was proportioned to that of the families that held them, and rent was paid in the form of produce and of labour services. Forest, moorland, etc., remained common property. If the peasant brought fresh land under cultivation, he had the right of usufruct for a considerable period free of taxation, and this right he could even sell to others with the consent of the authorities.
At a later period this system of land tenure became the basis for the formation of the feudal state; at that time the territorial lords claimed to stand in the position of the emperor toward the tenants, raised the taxation upon arable land from three to fifty per cent., appropriated the common land, and respected only those articles of the code which happened to correspond with their own convenience. Under this system the possessions of the temples and monasteries increased with unusual rapidity; in addition to the land which they gained by making clearings for cultivation, they acquired, notwithstanding repeated prohibitions, rich presents and legacies, which enabled the priests during the wars of the coming century to play a part by no means in consonance with their vows of poverty.
In the year 669 Nakatomi no-Kamatari received from the Emperor Ten-ji, who favoured his desires, the family name of "Fujiwara", indicating his place of birth. His family was of divine origin; their ancestor was Amano-koyane no-Mikoto. One of their forefathers had accompanied Jimmu on his campaign, and had received from him the daughter of a subjugated prince in marriage another member had taken the family name of Nakatomi under the Mikado Kimmei (540-571). Thus the Fujiwara were the oldest and most distinguished clan in the country after the Mikado's family. Of one hundred and fifty-five families composing the Court nobility (Kugé), the first ninety-five traced their descent from Kamatari, and it was from the first five of these, the Go-sekké, that the Mikado was obliged to choose his consort. From 888 to 1868 the office of Regent and also that of Daijo Daijin was hereditary in this family.
Its influence was further increased by constant intermarriage with the house of the Mikados, the daughters of which almost invariably married into the same family. However, this position of almost complete supremacy which the family had succeeded in acquiring was destined to bring about the loss of its political power. In the hands of the Fujiwara the Mikados were mere puppets, generally children, and often in their tenderest years. The provincial governors remained peacefully in Kioto, and sent substitutes to occupy their posts. If a Shogun were appointed to deal with a revolt of the Aino or of some governor, he left others to do the work, and remained at Court to lead the life of pleasure for which he found there all possible provision. Japanese literature centred round the Court of the Mikado, and in this epoch attained its zenith; but the period was also one of extreme luxury and unbridled immorality.
The real power passed by degrees into the hands of those who did the work of the Government. While the effeminacy of the Court nobility increased, a stronger caste rose into prominence, the Buké, who may be defined as a military nobility. The chief representatives of this caste were the two families of the Taira and the Minamoto. The former traced their descent from Takamochi, the great-grandson of the Emperor Kwammu (782-806), while the latter family were descended from Tsunemoto, a grandson of the Emperor Seiwa (859-880); both were originally members of the Court nobility, five families of which, as late as the year 1868, retraced their origin to the Taira and seventeen to the Minamoto.
The first serious danger with which the Fujiwara were confronted arose from a struggle for precedence against the kugé family of the Sugawara, who were no less ancient than themselves. The conflict was fought out amid the intrigues of Court life, and ended with the overthrow of Michizané, the representative of the Sugawara family, who was defeated in the reign of Daigo (898-930) and sent into exile. More dangerous was the revolt of one of the Taira, who set himself up as emperor in the Kwanto under the Mikado Shuzaku (931-946), and was supported by some members of the Fujiwara; the movement, however, was suppressed after a bloody conflict. The influence of the Fujiwara in Kioto remained unimpaired until the beginning of the twelfth century. The Taira were active in the south and west, the Minamoto in the north and east, where they won a great military reputation, and gathered bands of bold and predatory warriors around them. Both parties were fully occupied with wars against the Aino in the north, and against the Koreans, who had invaded Kyushu in the south.
Meanwhile, both the Taira and the Minamoto began to acquire influence in the capital. A favourite of the Emperor Toba, by name Taira no-Tadamori, had a son by one of his master's concubines (or by a servant of the palace whom he married later) in 1118, whom he named Kiyomori. In the disputes concerning the succession which broke out upon the death of the Emperor Konoye in the year 1155, the two chief claimants for the throne were Shutoku, a former Mikado, who had abdicated in 1141, and now claimed the imperial title for his son, and Go-Shirakawa, one of the sons of the Emperor Toba, who had abdicated in 1123. Almost all the Minamoto supported the first of these claimants, while the cause of the other was espoused by the Taira.
The latter succeeded in obtaining the election of Go-Shirakawa; Kiyomori, who had inherited all the dignities and offices of his father, offered to support him. In the battles between the two parties, Yoshitomo, a member of the Minamoto, also fought on the side of the Taira. The Minamoto were defeated at the battle of Taiken Gate; their leader, Yorinaga, committed suicide, while Tametomo, a renowned archer, was captured and banished. Kiyomori was rewarded with the position of Daijo Daijin. He now ruled as the Fujiwara had done before him. The Minamoto became the special objects of his hatred, and he persecuted them with such ferocity that in 1159 Minamoto no-Yoshitomo, who had previously been on his side, declared against him. He, however, was quickly overpowered, and murdered while in flight.
This victory gave Kiyomori absolute predominance. His father-in-law, the Mikado Go-Shirakawa, who had abdicated in 1158, was carried off and sent into exile, and the war of extermination against the Minamoto continued. Yoritomo, the fourth son of Yoshitomo, escaped the fate of his brother owing to the pleading of the sons of Kiyomori, and was sent into exile. Three of his half-brothers, including the famous Yoshitsune, who was then an infant at the breast, were spared for a like reason. Their mother, the fair and clever Tokiwa, a peasant woman by birth, who had been the concubine of Yoshitomo, saved them after they had been cut off from flight by offering herself to the victor as his concubine. Yoritomo, who had married the daughter of Hojo Tokimasa, the man to whose custody he had been committed, raised the standard of revolt against the Taira. His first attempt ended in disaster; but he escaped to the Kwanto, soon collected a force, and fortified himself in Kamakura, where the Taira did not venture to attack him. Shortly afterwards (1181) Kiyomori died; his last words to his family were that the observance of the usual burial customs was to be omitted in his case, and that the only monument to be set up before his grave was the head of Minamoto no-Yoritomo.
His son Munemori possessed neither the capacity nor the bloodthirsty energy of his father. He wasted valuable time in deliberation while his enemies in the north, who were joined by the remnant of the Minamoto, grew more powerful every day; their cause was also espoused by many of the Fujiwara, by the priests of Hieizan, and by the exiled Go-Shirakawa. The first conflict took place in the mountains of the Nakasendo, between n army of the Taira and Minamoto no-Yoshinaka, whose father had also been a victim of Kiyomori. The Taira were utterly beaten in 1182 and Munemori fled from Kioto with the young Mikado Antoku. There the old Go-Shirakawa greeted the conqueror upon his entry. Antoku was declared to be deposed, and Go-Toba was elected Emperor in his place. He appointed Yoshinaka to the post of Shogun, so that this personage now became leader of the opposition to the family of his cousin Yoritomo. Minamoto no-Yoritomo sent his younger brothers, Yoshitsune and Noriyori, against him; they defeated him in 1184 at Lake Biwa, and Yoshinaka committed suicide. Yoshitsune availed himself of this advantage to resume the pursuit of Munemori.
After a series of combats, all of which went against the Taira, a decisive naval battle was fought in 1185 at Dan-no-ura, near Shimonoseki. The Taira made a most valiant resistance, but were utterly routed. The widow of Kiyomori drowned herself with the Mikado Antoku, who was then five years old. Most of the Taira who did not fall in the battle committed suicide or were killed in the pursuit. A few found refuge in the remotest parts of Kyushu, where it is said that their descendants may to this day be recognised. The utter ruin with which the Taira had once threatened the Minamoto was now dealt out to them by the enemy they had formerly conquered.
In certain respects the wars of the Taira and Minamoto are analogous to the Wars of the Roses in England; the comparison can be extended to the colours worn by the Japanese parties, the standards of the Minamoto being white and those of the Taira red. The events of these wars form the subject of the most famous Japanese novels, which are to this day the delight of young and old.
The following four centuries of Japanese history are filled with indiscriminate fighting. Law and order are non-existent, treachery and murder are of daily occurrence, and our contempt for the faithlessness of the nobles to the Mikado, the Shogun, and the Regent is increased by the numerous instances of the fidelity displayed by the lower orders towards their masters. Each individual is concerned only with his own advantage and the easiest means of obtaining it. The one inspiring feature of the period is the stoical courage with which the conquered, who as conquerors were merciless, met their death—they fell upon their own swords, after the manner of the ancient Romans.
At the outset of the rule of the Fujiwara in the eighth century the necessity became apparent, probably owing to the growing effeminacy of certain classes of the population, for the creation of a special military class (the Samurai). At an earlier period every man was a soldier, and marched when he received his summons; now this militia was replaced by a class of professional soldiers. Instances occur at an early period of the existence of bodyguards of which the military forces of the greater lords may have been composed; these, however, are purely exceptional cases. As in Anglo-Saxon England and in Europe at large during the ninth and tenth centuries of our era, the necessities of the time obliged the free peasants and often the petty nobles of Japan to place themselves under the protection of a more powerful lord, and to give up their freedom in return for the security which he could offer them.
An additional piece of evidence for this fact is the argument invariably adduced by the Japanese themselves during the debates on the proposal to capitalise the incomes of the Samurai (1870-1880), that this order of nobility, or rather gentry, had originated from the peasant class in the eighth century and ought to revert to that condition. The peasant serfs, like those who voluntarily sought the protection of a lord, owed military service to this lord, and not to the Emperor; eventually, in view of the unbroken continuance of war, both parties, lord and peasant, found it to their advantage to draw a more definite line of demarcation between the productive and the military classes.
Similar circumstances no doubt gave rise to the great fiefs. In the times when might was right, the regent, the field-marshal, or whoever was in power for the moment, either seized the property of a defeated enemy for himself or divided it among his adherents. At a later period, when an increased number had been able to carve a kingdom for themselves out of the property which theoretically belonged to the Emperor, when the country was divided among great and small lords, actual possession formed nine-tenths of the law, and often the whole of it; whether the possessor of land had been duly and formally invested with it was a matter of total indifference. What the sword had won, the sword alone could keep. So when social conditions became more stereotyped at the beginning of the seventeenth century, the whole of the country was in possession of greater or smaller lords, who held their lands in theory from the Mikado either directly, or mediately through the Shogun. The theory became practice when, upon the restoration of the Mikado's power, the landed property and all the inhabitants of the empire were claimed as Imperial possessions by the Government.
From the victory of the Minamoto over the Taira until the restoration of the Mikado in 1868, a period of almost seven centuries, two facts are of primary importance for the internal development of Japan. First, that whereas Kioto had hitherto been the social and political centre of the country, this centre of gravity was now transferred to the northeast, first to Kamakura, a foundation of Yoritomo, and afterward to Yedo, founded by Iyeyasu. The second fact is of no less importance : during the greater portion of this period the actual power was not exercised by the bearers of the different titles of office, the Mikado, Shogun, and Regent, who were generally children, and sometimes babes in arms; the strings of government were pulled by relations and other personages behind the scenes. Extremely rare are the cases in which the bearer of the title plays anything but a passive part, and that, too, at a time when there was certainly no lack of vigorous and energetic men in Japan.
The victory of Dan-no-ura was followed by an outbreak of serious dissensions within the Minamoto family, evoked by the jealousy of Yoritomo at the military success of his half-brother, Yoshitsune; shortly afterward the latter was murdered by order of Yoritomo. The personality of this most attractive of all the Minamoto has become the nucleus of a cycle of legends; the most probable story says that he committed hara-kiri, after killing his wife and children, and that his head was brought to Kamakura, to be shown to his brother as evidence of the execution of his orders.
The Title of Shogun
Yoritomo himself was invested in 1192 with the title of Sei-i Tai Shogun, "the great general subduing the barbarians". He died in 1199. Upon his hereditary estates in the eastern provinces he instituted a properly organised system of government, the "Baku-fu," indicating the "curtain screen" which surrounded the tent of the field-marshal. This system corresponded in some respects with the military administration of the field-marshal; the incompetent provincial governors were replaced by capable subordinates of his own. Under him Kamakura became a large and beautiful town, of which only a pair of stately Shogun temples now remain, together with the colossal statue of Buddha and the simple sepulchre monument of its founder.
After the death of Yoritomo his father-in-law, Hojo Tokimasa, together with his widow, Masago, acted as the guardians of Yori-iye, who was then eighteen years of age; after a rule of four years he was deposed in 1203, sent into exile, and murdered a year later. He was succeeded by Sanetomo, a brother eleven years of age, who was murdered in 1219 by his nephew Kokio, the son of Yori-iye. The main branch of the family of Yoritomo thus became extinct, and power remained in the hands of the Hojo family. They did not themselves assume the title of Shogun, but contented themselves with that of Shiken (regents) of Kamakura, preferring to appoint children of the Fujiwara family, or of the Imperial house, to the position of Shogun, and ruling under their names. Of the eight Shoguns included in the period 1220-1338 six were between three and sixteen years of age at the time of their appointment; all were deposed, and two are known to have been murdered. In the family of the Regents things were no better; eight rulers succeeded one another in the years 1205-1326, and three or four in the short space between 1326 and 1333. The family then became extinct.
The assumption of the power by the Hojos caused much dissaticfaction in Kioto. The three ex-Mikados, Go-Toba and his sons Tuschi and Juntoku, together with the son of the latter, Chukyo, who had been ruling from 1222, offered resistance but were overpowered; the three exMikados were sent into exile and there thrown into prison, while the reigning emperor was deposed. The first of the Hojo Regents, or their councillors, were men of high capacity. Yoshitoki (12051224) and Yasutoki (1225-1242) did their utmost to maintain peace throughout the country, but were forced to struggle against the parties in Kioto and the Buddhist priests, especially in Yamato, who stirred up the population against them. Tsune-toki ruled for only three years (1243-1246), and abdicated in favour of his younger brother Tokiyori (1246-1256). He, too, gave proof of much energy and made special efforts to improve the administration of justice.
The greatest services to Japan during that period were, however, those of Toki- mune (1257-1284). After his conquest of China, Kublai Khan sent a letter by the Koreans to the Mikado Go-Uda (12751287), demanding the recognition oi his supremacy and the payment of tribute from Japan. Tokimune scornfully rejected the demand. The Mongol ruler of China continued his diplomatic efforts, but with no greater success. The Mongols then took possession of the islands of Tsushima and Ikishima, making Korea their base of operations, and attempted, in 1275, to establish themselves in Kyushu, but were driven back. In the year 1279, Chinese ambassadors again arrived at Nagasaki with demands for the submission of the country, but were beheaded by the orders of the Kamakura government.
Finally, in 1281, a powerful Mongol fleet appeared off the coasts of Kyushu. The Japanese annals are full of stories concerning individual deeds of valour performed in the repulse and destruction of this armada. The truth appears to be that the fleet of between 3,000 and 4,000 sail, carrying 100,000 warriors (some accounts say 300,000), including 10,000 Koreans, was almost entirely destroyed by a typhoon, and the Japanese then made an end, without loss to themselves, of such of the crews and troops as had been saved.
This success, and the absolute power which they exercised in the empire, tempted the Hojos to disregard the most ordinary dictates of prudence and common sense.
Hitherto they had ruled with an iron hand, had deposed and appointed Mikados and Shoguns at their pleasure; but their measures had been actuated by desire for the national welfare. Now, however, they and their officials began a course of appalling oppression of the lower classes, in order to provide themselves with the means for luxury and dissipation. Dissatisfaction and irritation increased, until at last, in 1330, the Mikado, Go-Daigo, the fifth who had ruled since 1287 and himself a nominee of the Hojos, raised the standard of revolt. One of his sons, Mori yoshi, had previously attempted, in 1327 to shake off the yoke which lay heavily upon the Imperial house and the country, but his plot had been discovered and he was sent into a monastery. His father was equally unfortunate; he was conquered, deposed, and sent into exile. Kusunoki Masashige, who had revolted in Kawaji, was also defeated, but escaped capture. The country now appeared to be bound more firmly than ever in its chains; but salvation was to come from the family of the Minamoto. Two grandsons of Mina-moto Yori-iye, the great-grandfather of Yorimoto (known in Japanese history as Hachiman taro—that is "eldest son of the war god"), had founded two families—the Nitta and Ashikaga, who now revolted against the Hojo. Nitta Yoshisada, who had formerly been in the service of the Regents, allied himself with Moriyoshi (now called Otono Miya) in 1333, collected h s adherents and those of his family, and made a forced march upon Kamakura, before which he appeared on the fourteenth day of his revolt. Takatoki, who had himself resigned the regency in 1326, was then conducting the government for the last of the child regents. He was completely taken by surprise. The castle of Kamakura was captured after a short resistance. Takatoki and a large number of his adherents committed suicide, while the remainder were slain by the conquerors or by peasants who joined in the revolt. At the same time Ashikaga Takauji, in alliance with Kusunoki, had broken the power of the Hojos in Kioto. There also all the adherents of the Hojo were slaughtered wherever they could be caught. Even at the present day in Japan the memory of the Hojos is regarded with abhorrence.
Upon the success of his friends the exMikado Go-Daigo returned from exile and again ascended the throne in 1334. He appointed his son Moriyoshi as Shogun of Kamakura, and rewarded Ashikaga Takauji with Hitachi, Musashi, and Shimosa; Kusunoki Masashige was rewarded with Setsu and Kawaji: while Nitta Yoshisada received Kozuke anti Arima, many others receiving smaller possessions.
Peace and unity were not, however, to endure for long. Go-Daigo in Kioto and Moriyoshi in Kamakura led a life of debauchery that shocked even the carelessness of that age. A former Buddhist priest, under the pretext of seeking for adherents of the Hojos, overran the Kwanto, robbing and murdering at the head of a mob of ruffians, until he was crucified by the orders of Takauji. Moriyoshi availed himself of the opportunity to make clamorous complaints to his father, until at last a younger brother ot Takauji,Todoyoshi, revolted and proclaimed a new Shogun. At first the two brothers fought upon different sides, but ultimately they joined forces, marched together upon Kamakura, and expelled Moriyoshi. Takauji now proclaimed himself Shogun. Go-Daigo summoned his adherents, including Nitta Yoshisada, for war against the pretender. Nitta, however, after obtaining some initial success, was defeated at the pass of Hakone. Takauji now marched upon Kioto, and Go-Daigo fled, bearing the insignia of empire to the fortified temple of Miidera, near Mount Hie, but was ultimately driven out.
Meanwhile, his adherents had collected and in their turn expelled Takauji from Kioto and Miidera, but were ultimately defeated with crushing loss at Minatogawa, near Hiogo. Kusunoki Masashige, the commander of the Imperial troops, fell in the battle. Go-Daigo fled to Miidera once more, and in 1337 Takauji appointed a younger son of Go-Fushimi (1299-1301) as Mikado under the name of Komiyo Tenno. Ultimately the conflicting parties came to an agreement upon the terms that the position of Mikado should be occupied for alternating periods of ten years by the descendants of Go-Daigo and those of Go-Fushimi. Go-Daigo temporarily restored the insignia of empire, and Komiyo was crowned. Takauji became Grand Shogun and resided in Kioto, while his son Yoshimori remained in Kamakura as Shogun. Under the latter a Shiken at Kioto dealt with the affairs of the western provinces, while a governor (Kwanrei) ruled over the eastern provinces from Kamakura. However, the peace between the two parties was not destined to be permanent. In the same year (1337) Go-Daigo declared himself the only legal Mikado, and proclaimed his opponent illegitimate, collecting round him his adherents, the chief of which were Kusunoki Masayuki, the son of Masashige, and Nitta Yoshisada.
Henceforward until the end of the century two Mikados ruled in Japan, one in the south and another in the north, the former of whom was considered as the legitimate ruler, while the latter possessed the real power. Meanwhile, the supporters of the southern Mikado were destroyed one after the other, and in 1392 a convention was arranged providing the same conditions as the agreement of 1337. Go-Kameyama Tenno, the second of the southern emperors, who had been nominal ruler since 1366, resigned, and surrendered the insignia of the empire to his opponent in the north.
Takauji died in 1358, at the age of fifty-three. He was succeeded by his son Yoshimori, who abdicated in 1367; his grandson Yoshimitsu, who also abdicated, in 1393, lived till 1409, and exerted a highly beneficial influence upon the Government. Under him the empire enjoyed for a short space the peace of which it was greatly in need. Soon, however, dissension broke out again among the different familieswho had gained power and prestige in the wars of the last century. The Hosokawa, Takeda, Uyesugi, Tokugawa, Ota, and Odawara in the north and centre of the country, the Mori in the west, the Satsuma, Hizen, and Bungo, in Kyushu, were continually at war with one another and with their neighbours. The Ashikaga were powerless to restore peace and order until the last of them, Yoshiaki, was deposed in 1573 by Ota Nobunaga.
The country was in a terrible condition; on every side were to be seen devastated fields and the ruins of formerly flourishing towns and villages. Kioto itself was a heap of ruins; all who could leave the capital had fled long since to take refuge in the camp of one of the great territorial lords. The prestige of the Mikado had sunk so low that in 1500 the body of Go-Tsuchi stood for forty days at the gates of the palace because the money for the funeral expenses was not forthcoming. The peasant class had been almost entirely exterminated; every peasant who had strength had become a soldier or had joined one of the piratical hordes which raided the coasts of China, Korea, and Japan. The condition of the country may be compared with that of Germany during the Thirty Years War, and even as the German princes of that time begged support from foreign countries, France, Spain, and Sweden, so the Shogun Yoshimochi at the beginning of the fifteenth century requested the Emperor Yung lo of the Chinese Ming dynasty to grant him the title of "King of Japan", and obtained his request in return for the yearly payment of a thousand ounces of gold.
The fall of the Ashikaga family was brought about by the action of its own adherent, Ota Nobunaga. This youth was descended from a grandson of Taira no-Kiyomori, who had been secretly left in charge of the magistrate of the village of Tsuda by his mother when in flight before the soldiers of the Minamoto; shortly afterwards the magistrate handed him over to a Shinto priest from Ota, living in Echizen, who adopted him as his son. The boy grew up, entered the profession of his foster-father; and founded a family from which, in 1533, nearly 400 years later, Nobu- naga was born.
The immediate ancestors of the latter had taken an active share in the disturbances of the period; his father, Ota Nobuhidé, who died in 1549, bequeathed to him possessions of considerable importance. The son entered the service of the Ashi- kaga, and succeeded in adding to his hereditary property until he found himself in possession of six provinces and the capital of the country. Among his retainers were included Kinoshita Hideyoshi and To-kugawa Iyeyasu (a Minamoto), two men who were to play a great part in the history of Japan. In 1573, Nobunaga quarrelled with the Ashikaga, marched against them, and defeated the Shogun Yoshi-aki, whom he captured and deposed.
This event ended the dynasty of the Ashikaga Shoguns. As Nobunaga was not himself descended from the Minamoto, he could not be Shogun, and therefore governed under the title of Nai-daijin. His struggles against the Buddhist monks and the preference which he showed for the Christians are dealt with in the chapter on the religions of Japan. His rule lasted but a short period (1574-1582), too short to enable him to restore peace to his country. The battles against the powerful princes in the west of Hondo and in Kyushu continued uninterruptedly, and while Hideyoshi was leading the greater portion of the troops of his master against Mori in the west, Nobunaga fell a victim to treachery. He had insulted Akechi Mitsuhide, one of his generals; this leader, who had been dispatched with the remainder of the troops upon another expedition, suddenly halted under the gates of Kioto, incited his soldiers to revolt, entered the city with them, and surrounded the temple of Honnoji, in which Nobunaga had established himself. Surprised by the appearance of so many soldiers, Nobunaga opened a window in order to inform himself of the state of affairs. An arrow struck him in the arm, and, seeing that his cause was lost, he closed his career by hara-kiri, committing suicide after commanding the women of his company to flee, and setting the temple on fire. The traitor assumed the title of Shogun, but twelve days later he was defeated by Hideyoshi, who had hurried to the spot. The general was utterly routed, and slain while in flight.
THE GOLDEN AGE OF OLD JAPAN
HIDEYOSHI was the son of a peasant, and was born in 1536 at Nakamura, in Owari. At an early age he enlisted in the service of Nobunaga, under the name of Kinoshita Tokichiro. Here he quickly gave proof of bravery and military skill, and eventually became the most capable and trustworthy general of Nobunaga. At the time of the attack upon the latter he was opposing the troops of Mori in company with Nobunaga's son, Nobutaka; with him he quickly came to an agreement, and was thus enabled to turn his steps to Kioto with the success we have already described. Of the three sons of his former master, one was already dead, leaving behind him a son, who nominally continued his grandfather's rule from 1582 to 1586 under the name of Samboshi. The second son was now with Iyeyasu, who was pledged to prevent any outbreak on his part. The third son, Nobutaka, entered into alliance with a brother-in-law of his father, by name Shibata, who was in possession of Echizen, but was unable to make headway against Hideyoshi. He was defeated, and his ally was also overpowered in Echizen by the pursuing enemy.
The narrative of the death of Shibata is one of the most impressive incidents among the many moving events of Japanese history. Besieged in his castle at Fukui, with no hope of relief, Shibata resolved to die. He invited all his friends and adherents to a feast, at the conclusion of which he informed his wife, the sister of Nobunaga, of his determination, and gave her permission to leave the castle and save her life. The brave woman, however, declined to avail herself of the opportunity, and demanded to be allowed to share her husband's fate. Shibata and his comrades then slew their wives and children—who thanked them that they had thus been privileged to die with them—and then committed hara-kiri. All were buried in the ruins of the castle, which they had previously set on fire.
Hideyoshi succeeded in restoring peace and order to the country, though at the price of a severe struggle. Iyeyasu was ruling in the Kwanto, the eight provinces of the East, with which he had been invested by Hideyoshi, and is said to have built himself a capital at Yedo on the advice of Hideyoshi. Possibly the political recollections and sympathies of the latter made it, in his opinion, far more desirable to have the powerful Minamoto, who had been subdued only at the cost of a long struggle, resident in Odawara, the headquarters of the Shoguns subsequent to the destruction of Kamakura. Between Iyeyasu and Hideyoshi there existed a general understanding, which was, however, modified by their mutual suspicion. The former, for instance, declined to go to Kioto to have an audience of the Mikado until Hideyoshi, who was staying in the city, had handed over his mother as a hostage.
The most important prince in the west, Mori of Nagato (or Choshu), had also made submission to Hideyoshi; and the most powerful prince in Kyushu, Shimazu of Satsuma, who had made himself almost absolute master of the island after struggles with Riuzogi of Hizen and Otomo of Bungo, was utterly defeated after a campaign of many vicissitudes, in which Hideyoshi himself was ultimately obliged to assume the command (1386-1587). Why Hideyoshi did not entirely destroy this most powerful and restless of his opponents is a doubtful point. He allowed the son of the conquered man, who was forced to abdicate and to accompany the victor to Kioto as a hostage, to remain in possession of his father's territory, alleging as a reason for this clemency that he did not wish to exterminate their ancient family.
This, however, seems an extremely unlikely motive in the case of so practical a politician as Hideyoshi. It is more probable that he hoped by the exercise of kindness to gain the gratitude of the Prince of Satsuma and of his father, and then to use them as a counterpoise to the other princes of the south and west.
As soon as peace was restored throughout the empire, Hideyoshi proceeded to attempt the great ambition of his life, which he is said to have entertained from early youth—the conquest of Korea and China. In 1582 he had demanded of the King of Korea the tribute which had formerly been paid to Japan. At a later period he had required that Korea should form his first line of defence in his war against China, where the Ming dynasty was in power. Upon the rejection of these demands, he sent an army of nearly two hundred thousand men against Korea in the spring of 1592. His first successes were as rapid as they were sweeping. Eighteen days after his landing at Fusan, Seoul, the capital, fell into the hands of the Japanese. The army speedily advanced to the Ta-tong river and overpowered the town of Ping-yang, situated on the northern bank of that stream.
At this point, however, his advance was checked partly by the difficulty of obtaining supplies, but chiefly owing to the fact that the Japanese fleet which was to cover his further advance had been defeated by the Koreans. Shortly afterward the Chinese forces appeared which the Koreans had begged might be sent to their help. The plans of the Chinese were also favoured by the jealousy existing among the Japanese generals, one of whom, the Christian Konishi Yukinaga, was at the head of a column formed entirely of Christians; while the other, Kato Kiyomasa, was a Buddhist and hostile to the Christians. Almost a year after the capture of Seoul, the Japanese were obliged to evacuate the town, which was not reentered by a Japanese force for another 300 years (1894).
Military operations and negotiations between Kioto and Peking occupied the period ending with the year 1596. Upon the failure of the negotiations, Hideyoshi sent additional reinforcements to Korea in the year 1597, while the Chinese also sent out another army, which advanced far beyond Seoul. Fortune at first favoured the Japanese. In October they had again advanced nearly to the walls of Seoul; but a second victory of the united Chino-Korean fleet and a threatening advance of the Chinese again obliged them to retreat, in the course of which operation they utterly devastated the country through which they passed. The Chinese pursued their retreating enemy to Ulsan, where the beaten Japanese army took refuge. The Chinese made vain attempts to capture the fortress until February 13th, 1598, when a Japanese division relieved their besieged compatriots. With that event the great war ended. A few unimportant skirmishes followed, but Hideyoshi, who died on September 8th, 1598, recalled the expedition upon his deathbed. The only outward token of success was the Mimizuka (the mound of ears), a monument erected near Kioto, under which the noses and ears of 185,738 slaughtered Koreans and of 29,014 Chinese are said to have been buried.
Whether Hideyoshi was actuated solely by the motives by which he declared himself induced to attack Korea, or whether he was also attracted by the possibility of providing occupation for the disorderly elements in the country, and weakening the military power of the Christians, is a question which must remain undecided. During his reign numerous prohibitions were issued against Christian teachers and proselytes, but at the same time he continued the policy of Nobumaga against the Buddhist monks and destroyed their monastery of Kumano among others.
He is certainly one of the best known figures in Japanese history. Even at the present day he is an object of general reverence to all classes of the population, and no doubt his Korean expedition largely contributed to increase his reputation. But his government was a period of prosperity for the country in other respects. Acting in the name of the Emperor, he gave full support to law and justice, and in many branches of the administration he not only established order, but effected great improvements by new laws and regulations. We may presume that the attempt of his successor Iyeyasu to reduce the country definitely to peace and order would have proved fruitless without his preliminary labours. It is customary at the present day to heap reproaches upon the dynasty of the Minamoto Shoguns, but at the same time we must not forget that they gave the country more than 250 years of peace after centuries of war and consequent disruption.
Hideyoshi appears in Japanese history under different names. We have already mentioned that under which he first entered the service of Nobunaga. While a general he was known by the name of Hashima, and afterwards the Mikado conferred upon him the name of Toyotomi. He is, however, best known as the Taiko-Sama, the title usually assumed by the Kwambaku, or chief counsellor of the Emperor, upon laying down his office. He could not hold the title of Shogun, as he did not belong to the Minamoto family, who for nearly 400 years had been the exclusive possessors of this dignity. However, at an advanced age he procured his adoption by one of the Kugé belonging to the Fujiwara family, and was thus able to take the position of Prime Minister (Kwambaku). Like other great men, he was known by a number of nicknames, such, for instance, as Momen Tokichi— that is, "Cotton-cloth Tokichi", as he was useful for every purpose, like cotton-cloth. After he had obtained the dignity of Kwambaku he was known as the Crowned Ape (Saru Kwanja), on account of his ugliness. Notwithstanding his high position and the great honour in which his name is held, his burial place in Kioto is unknown.
According to the Japanese custom, Hideyoshi resigned the post of Kwambaku in 1591 in favour of his son, but continued to exercise the actual power. He married his six-year-old son (or adopted nephew?) Hideyori, to a granddaughter of Iyeyasu, thinking thereby to secure the support of this most powerful of the Imperial Princes. He appointed five councillors of the empire as regents. However, the actual government was in the hands of the mother of Hideyori, the heir, a woman of extraordinary beauty and energy. The peace that had been established was not destined to endure for long.
End of the Long Peace
A is by no means certain who was the first to break it. The ambition of Iyeyasu, who, like other nobles, had been obliged to acknowledge the capacity of the father but despised Hideyori, the son, may have been the occasion of an open rupture. The outbreak of the war, which was in any case inevitable, may also have been precipitated by the regent's fear of the actual or supposed plans of Iyeyasu. The fact that the most powerful princes of the west and the south, especially Mori and Shimazu, were on the side of Hideyori, no doubt strongly contributed to induce Iyeyasu, the champion of the east, to take up arms.
After long preparations and petty conflicts in different places, in which Iyeyasu displayed both greater power and more patient forbearance, matters came to an open rupture in 1600. In a battle fought at Sekigahara, on Lake Biwa, not far from Kioto, Iyeyasu utterly defeated the allies, partly with the help of treachery, and followed up his advantage with unexampled energy. Osaka and Fushimi, which had been strongly fortified by the Taiko Sama, and formed the key to Kioto, fell, one after the other, together with the capital itself, into the hand of the conqueror. Many of the hostile leaders committed hara-kiri; others, who declined as Christians to commit suicide, were publicly executed; the remainder were forced to submit; while those who favoured Iyeyasu were bound more firmly to his cause by gifts of land and marriage alliances.
Notwithstanding this great success, Iyeyasu left Hideyori in possession of his position and dignities, and merely limited his income by imposing upon him the duty of erecting castle buildings and other expensive undertakings. The newly-discovered gold mines in Sado provided him with rich resources for the execution of his further plans. In 1603 Iyeyasu was appointed Shogun. However, he soon abdicated, and procured the appointment of his son Hidetada to this dignity in 1605, retaining the actual power in his own hands. Hidetada resided in Yedo, while Iyeyasu kept watch upon his opponents from Suruga, 100 miles south of Yedo. In 1614 a new conflict broke out, the result, no doubt, of the growing popularity of Hideyori. Iyeyasu and Hidetada attacked Osaka, the residence of Hideyori, apparently without success. After concluding the pacification they marched back towards Kwanto, but suddenly wheeling round, reappeared before Osaka, and took the town after a short struggle, being aided by treachery within the walls. During the storming of the fortress Hideyori disappeared; Iyeyasu himself, who had been wounded during the operations, died in the next year (1615). The lords of the east had now definitely conquered the west, and the advantage thus gained they were enabled to retain until the restoration of the Mikado Government in 1868.
The hundred years which saw the fall of the Ashikaga dynasty and the establishment of the Tokugawa—more precisely from 1543 to 1641—saw also the first period of contact between Japan and missionaries and traders from the West. Among missionaries Francis Xavier and the Jesuits took the lead; among traders the Portuguese. The Jesuits were followed by mendicant friars, whose methods were less diplomatic; the rapid advance of Christianity during the second half of the sixteenth century was checked before its close, in the time of Hideyoshi, on political grounds. The new creed appeared to be subversive of order, as, centuries before, it had appeared to the Roman Marcus Aurelius. Jesuits and mendicant friars fell under the same ban.
The trade initiated by the Portuguese, and after them by the Spaniards, was taken up in the early years of the seventeenth century by the Protestant English and Dutch, newly emancipated from the Spanish domination. Will Adams, who sailed with a Dutch expedition, was the first Englishman to reside in Japan (1600). On his arrival he found favour with Iyeyasu, for whom he built ships, and he remained attached to Japan till his death in 1620. The Japanese reaped their profit, but their vigorous rulers at this period were ill-pleased with the extensive slave trade for which all the foreigners, but primarily the Portuguese, were responsible; they found the dissensions between the European rivals unedifying, and the arrogance and piratical violence of the Portuguese in particular intolerable. The English were but in the background; the Dutch, as being Protestants, and at enmity with the Hispano-Portuguese power (the two kingdoms Were at this time united under one crown) were dissociated both from the offensive Portuguese and the suspected Catholic missionaries. The climax was reached in the reign of Iyeyasu's successor. Foreigners and missionaries were banished utterly from the country; only the Dutch were permitted to maintain a trading establishment at Nagasaki. In spite of the embassy of the Dutch East India Company in 1657, from whose record illustrations are here reproduced, even that favoured nation was kept resolutely at arm's length; for two hundred years the Japanese interior was jealously hidden from the anarchical influences of the West.
Feudalism in Japan is usually considered to have originated in 1192, when Yoritomo the imperial civil governors (Kokushu), who had been previously drawn from the Court nobility (Kugé); and replaced them by military governors belonging to the Buké class.
The actual beginnings of this organisation must belong to that period toward the close of the ninth century when the family holdings of the peasants (that is, the system of vassal tenure under taxation created by the Taikwa reforms of the seventh century) were replaced by the great estates, exempted from taxation, of the Shoyo and Denyo owners. The former of these systems originated in grants of land to those by whom it had been brought under cultivation, the latter in the arbitrary appropriation of Government lands by the governors and their subordinate officials. From the tenth to the twelfth century the Shoyos absorbed the larger proportion of all the landed property; the country became the lreehold property of the occupants, who were independent of the provincial governors and exempt from taxation.
These inhabitants were known, as territorial owners (Riyoshu) or owners of hereditary estates (Honjo); they usually lived in Kioto, or upon their ancestral property and handed over the administration of their estates to shoshi, or bailiffs. The territory Shogun at an audience given to traders. He remained twenty years. These officials and their subordinates, like the Kugé of Kioto, absorbed the peasant holdings, bought up the properties held by families in common, and possessed themselves of the common forests and meadows, which thus became private Denyo possessions. The right of administering justice was usually concurrent with possession; the consequence was that not only the income of the emperors—that is, of the Government—but also their judicial powers, were greatly restricted, and what they lost the landowners gained.
During the following centuries, which were occupied by continual civil War, this condition of affairs was naturally considerably extended. Towards the end of the sixteenth century the whole country was in the hands of great territorial lords who, whatever their position, had risen from the military order, and to whom, instead of to the emperor, the peasants were responsible for the payment of taxation and the performance of labour services. Where individuals of importance gained and exercised high powers, the smaller owners within the boundaries of their property, or within their sphere of influence, were dependent upon them.
Hence, at the outset of the seventeenth century two lines of feudal relation had been formed : there was the theoretical relation of the great owners to the helpless emperor, and the practical dependence of the smaller owners upon their powerful overlords. Of the latter character was the connection of the members of the Samurai (or knightly) class with their lords, though here, again, a further subdivision existed, according as a dependent was invested with the possession of land, or only received payment, usually made in rice; he performed service according to his rank, either alone or with a following of his adherents, either in the cavalry or as a foot-soldier. Cavalry service in Japan, as in all feudal states, was considered the more honourable, and carried with it the further distinction of permission to ride on horseback in times of peace.
Such was the general condition of affairs when Iyeyasu became powerful enough to establish the main features of his administration. In general he introduced but few reforms, and contented himself with accommodating the existing system to the necessities of his government, and with making numerous changes in the possessions held by the territorial lords; he transferred them from one province to another, according as he desired to reward or to punish them, a change which carried with it diminution or increase of revenue.
Officials in immediate connection with the Empire were alone excepted from this measure. Hideyoshi had already cleared the way for these changes by his division of the landowners into three classes: these were the Kokushu, the owners of a province at least; the Riyoshu (landed owners), in possession of land bringing in a yearly revenue of 100,000 koku or more of rice (a koku = nearly five bushels); and the Yoshu (the owners of castles whose property brought in an annual income of less than 100,000 koku).
Territorial owners were known as Daimiyos (great name), a title which, however, properly belonged only to the first two of these classes. The Kokushu became the military governors of Yoritomo; after the fall of the Hojo family (about 1333), the title of Kokushu, formerly appropriated to the civil governors, had been assumed by them, though their relation to the emperor had been in no way altered by the change. When for a short period the government returned to the hands of the emperor and the Kugé, the friendly treatment meted out to this class was of an illusory nature, possessing no practical value.
Iyeyasu added two classes, the Hatamoto (Under the Flag) and the Gokenin to the three already existing. The Hatamoto, who numbered apparently two thousand, possessed different positions and incomes, some being small landowners while others were paid yearly incomes in rice by the Shogun; of the former, seven were placed upon an equality with the Daimiyos, in so far as they were obliged to reside alternately in Yedo and upon their property, whereas all the others were forced to remain permanently in Yedo. The Gokenin, about five thousand in number, received a small salary, and were employed to fill low official posts under the Shogun. Next in order to these came the ordinary Samurai.
Very similar was the condition of the larger territorial owners, since they also had a number of vassals in direct dependence upon them. Generally speaking, the organisation of these private vassal-trains was as follows : In the first place, the Karo (elders), who often bore the title of Minister, were almost invariably in possession of land within the district of their lords, who could summon them with their contingents to war.In the case of certain territorial owners, Iyeyasu seems to have appointed elders, and to have sent them into their territory, apparently with the object of thus keeping watch upon the lords and bringing pressure to bear upon them in case of necessity. The Samurai were either in possession of land or received an income of rice, the former of the two positions being the more highly esteemed. They usually dwelt under the prince's roof, or in close proximity to his castle.
Many of these territorial owners, upon their transference to other districts, were unable to take with them a large proportion of their adherents, but they often found numerous Samurai on the spot who had lost their former lord or had been unable to depart with him. From these people (Goshi) a kind of yeomanry was formed, the eldest son of a family inheriting the name, rank, and property of his father, while the other children remained upon the level of the common folk. The Goshi was allowed to sell his name, his position, or his land, with the permission of the overlord. If he sold only a portion of the latter, he retained his name and his rank; he lost both upon the sale of his whole property. The Goshi were allowed to possess horses, and were often people of influence and position; the common peasants were their servants. Upon the restoration of the Mikado, in 1868, the Goshi alone retained their landed property, since it was assumed that they had not received it from the Tokugawa, but had been in occupation from the remotest times. Intermediate between the Samurai and the common peasants were the Kukaku, a kind of country gentry who received a yearly income of rice and wore two swords, were not allowed to ride, and lived on the borders of the capital or in the country.
The peasants paid their taxes to their overlord, the Karo, or the Samurai, to whom their land had been assigned, but he was not obliged to transmit such payments to the territorial owner. The peasants do not seem to have been absolutely in the condition of serfdom. In cases of gross idleness they could be removed from their property, which they could also sell under certain conditions; in time of war they served only as labourers or carriers. The unit of peasant society was the village, or mura, which usually consisted of fifty men (families), divided into ten groups of five members. Taxes were neither assessed upon nor paid by individuals; a fixed amount was debited against the village, and the inhabitants were collectively liable. Every peasant possessed his own house and arable land; but pastures and grazing lands were common property, while forest and moorland belonged in most cases to the overlord.
When Iyeyasu took up the government eighteen Kokushu were in existence. In due course these were increased by the two princes of Kii and Owari, thirty-two Riyoshu, and two hundred and twelve Yoshu. He introduced, however, another division of the territorial owners. There were seventy-five outside nobility (Tozama) appointed on an equality with the princes, apparently the earlier of the Crown officials. All others were entitled Fudai—for a long period a term of courtesy, or with the meaning, "vassals of the dynasty"; they were invested with their possessions by the Shogun, and were allowed, or probably obliged, to take up positions under Government. For this system of division Iyeyasu himself gave as a reason that the Fudai were the class of owners who had supported him before the capture of the castle of Osaka in 1603, while the Tozama had only submitted to him at a later period.
Of still greater importance was the distribution of the territorial owners, the Hatamoto and the officials, into councils, in which they deliberated apart when summoned by the Shogun.
These councils were summoned when any important questions arose. They arrived at their decisions in isolation by a majority of votes, and the question at issue was ultimately decided by the vote of the majority of the councils. Current business was transacted by committees composed of such members of individual councils as were present in Yedo. The relations of the Mikado and the Kugé to the empire were so arranged that while they retained all their titles and prerogatives, they lost every vestige of influence and power. The income of the Imperial Court and of the Kugé was reduced as much as possible, and they were almost entirely excluded from connection with the outer world. One hundred and thirty-seven Kugé with, amongst them, five titles of the second class, and 27 of the third class, had a yearly income of about 42,500 koku of rice (a koku equals five bushels), whereas 263 Buké, including the Shogun, though possessing only one title of the second and four of the third class, had a yearly income of 30,000,000 koku. The revenue of the Imperial Court was established in 1615 at 10,000 koku, and gradually increased to 120,000 koku by the year 1706. In 1632 the yearly incomes of all territorial lords amounted to 18,700,000 koku, while the income of the Shogun's house, derived from its immediate property, amounted to 11,000,000 koku.
Iyeyasu issued several proclamations, particularly the so-called "Eighteen Laws" and "One Hundred Laws", the first of which ideals particularly with the relations of the Shogun to the Imperial Court, and the latter with those of the Shogun to the territorial lords, the Samurai, and the people. These manifestoes explained that the larger incomes of the Buké class carried with them the obligation of greater services to the State, whereas the Kugé were allowed to expend their smaller revenues exclusively upon themselves. Beyond this the Buké were obliged to provide cavalry in proportion to one- half of their revenue, at the rate of five men to every 1,000 koku, so that a lord with a total income of 200,000 koku provided 500 cavalry in case of war.
To understand the Japanese constitution at this time is only possible when we take into account the theory on which Iyeyasu defended the virtual deposition of the Emperor and of the Kugé, and the transference of the power to the Shogun and Buké. It will be helpful to an understanding of Iyeyasu's time and policy to give extracts from his Laws.
"According to an old doctrine of the country of the gods [Japan], the gods are the genii of heaven, as the Emperors are of the earth. The genii of heaven and of the earth can be compared with the sun and the moon. And for the same reason that the sun and the moon fulfil their course, so must the Emperor keep his noble heart unharmed. For that reason, he lives in his palace as in heaven; indeed, corresponding to the nine heavens, the palace contains nine sets of rooms with 12 gates and 80 chambers; moreover, his insignia are the ten virtues, and he is lord of 10,000 chariots—[in China the Emperor marched out to war with 10,000 chariots]. Every day he is to pray to heaven that he be an example to the country in philanthropy, filial piety, intelligence, and economy; he shall also be assiduous in the practice of learning and the art of writing. By such means the lofty virtue of the Emperor is spread abroad, so that the faces of his subjects be not overspread with the colour of grief, and peace and happiness rule everywhere within the four wall" (Eighteen Laws: 1)
"As the office of overseer of the two Court schools in Kioto has been transferred to the Shogun, the three Shinno [Imperial Princes], the Shike [families in which the highest dignities were hereditary], the Kugé and the territorial lords, are collectively subordinate to him. By his orders he regulates all duties owed to the State, and in State questions he may act without the Emperor's assent. If the country between the Four Seas is not at peace, then the Shogun shall bear the blame." (From the Eighteen Laws : 2)
"In ancient times the Emperor was wont to make pilgrimages to different temples, and this in order that he might become acquainted with the sorrows of his people upon the way. Now, however, the emperor has reformed the Government, and entrusted it to the Buké. If these be unaware of the miseries of the people, the Shogun shall bear the blame. Therefore the ruling Emperor shall no longer leave his own palace, except when he betakes himself to visit in his palace the Emperor who has abdicated." (From the Eighteen Laws : 4)
"With Minamoto no-Yoritomo, who governed as Hao [literally the helper of the Emperor], the supremacy of Japan has passed into the hands of the Buké. As the Kugé carried on the government carelessly, and were unable to maintain order in the country, all that could be done was for the Emperor to order the Buké to take over the ancient government. But with inadequate revenues it is impossible to govern a country, to feed the people, and to perform the public services. Thus the Kugé would commit a great wrong should they seek to detract from the Buké. According to the old saying, 'All the country under heaven belongs to the Emperor', the Emperor has been ordered by heaven to feed and to educate the people; for this reason he orders officials and warriors to care for the peace and prosperity of the country. It would have been possible to entrust the Kugé with the performance of this office; as, however, this arrangement is displeasing to the people, the Emperor has given it to the Buké. If the land be not at rest, differences of rank between high and low disappear, and uproar is the consequence, therefore the Buké shall conscientiously perform the duties of their office." (From the Eighteen Laws: 15)
"If the five harvests do not come to maturity, then is the government of the Tenshi [the Son of Heaven, the Emperor] bad; but if many punishments must be inflicted throughout the realm, then ye are to know that the military powers of the Shogun are inadequate. In either case ye (my successors) shall make tried of yourselves to that end, and be not careless." (One Hundred Laws: 89)
Originally the position of the Shogun compared with that of the Kokushu Daimiyo was little more than that of "first among equals"; it was only by degrees that he assumed the dominant position. The Kokushu were originally exempt from the rule compelling the landed nobility to spend a year in Yedo and a year upon their properties alternately, their families be ng obliged to remain permanently in Yedo; but under the third Shogun the Kokushu were in this respect treated like the smaller princes. The only prerogative they possessed was, that as theoretical vassals of the Mikado they were Crown officials, and received their investiture at his hands.
However, they could only approach the Mikado through the Shogun, who superintended the confirmation of titles upon the territorial lords by the emperor. Any direct communication between the Imperial Court and the territorial lords was strictly forbidden. Even when travelling from their districts to Yedo or back, they were not allowed to pass through Kioto; if they desired to visit the Imperial capital or its suburbs, they were required to obtain a special permit from the Shogun, and even then they were not allowed to approach within a certain distance of the Emperor's palace. For a marriage between a member of a Buké family and one of a Kugé family, the express permission of the Shogun was equally necessary. To become a medium for the transmission of gossip upon political affairs to the Imperial Court was to commit a crime punishable with the utmost severity.
In other respects all possible measures were taken to keep the territorial lords in a state of dependence. Upon the redistribution of districts friends and former foes were so intermingled that the former could keep an eye upon the latter, and, apart from this, the property of the Shogun was scattered throughout the country in such a manner as to enable him to visit other districts without trouble. Strong garrisons were kept up in Kioto and Fushimi, as also in several districts of the province of Suruga; all the passes leading to the Kwanto were provided with guards, and the chief trading and commercial centres (such as Osaka, Sakai, Nagasaki, 18 in number) were in the power of the Shogun.
His officials now undertook those tours of inspection upon which the emissaries of the Mikado had previously been sent every five or seven years, and in cases where the high position of the territorial lords, such as the Kokushu, made this kind of supervision impossible, friends and presumable enemies were entrusted with the task of keeping guard upon one another. Thus, for instance, the defence of the island of Kyushu was entrusted to Satsuma and his opponents, Hizen, who relieved one another every year. Moreover, the whole country was covered with a network of officials and spies of the Baku-fu bureaucracy. Thus Iyeyasu and his successors made every possible effort to keep the territorial lords within bounds. The system eventually collapsed, not so much before foreign attacks, as because those classes whom its founder had specially designed to be its supporters first undermined and then overthrew it. The Shogunate fell because it was abandoned by those who should have had the greatest possible interest in ensuring its permanence.
If the regulation of the position of the Emperor, the Kugé, and the territorial lords had been difficult, a yet more arduous task confronted the founder of the Tokugawa dynasty of Shoguns when he came to grapple with the settlement of questions of family precedence and of the succession. Iyeyasu left five sons, the princes of Echizen, Kii, Owari, Mito, and the second son, Hidetada, whom he had appointed as his successor during his lifetime, and invested with the power. He arranged that the succession should follow the direct line of Hidetada's family, and that if no heir should be forthcoming one should be chosen from the house of Kii, or that of Owari. These houses, and that of Hidetada, were entitled Three August Families (Go-san-ké), as being the three most important houses. At a later period the title was also extended to include the houses of Kii, Owari, and Mito, though it did not in this case imply the possession of claims to the succession.
On the other hand, the prince of Mito obtained the right of demanding or proclaiming in certain cases the deposition of a Shogun who had not performed the duties of his office, while under other conditions the position of regent was reserved to the prince of Echizen. The prince of Mito was also the only territorial lord who possessed the right of direct communication with the emperor. Echizen the eldest son, and Mito, the youngest, were excluded from the succession; the first had been originally adopted by Hideyoshi, and had thus ceased to belong to his father's family according to Japanese ideas, while the latter had married the daughter of a former enemy. Iyeyasu himself is said to have characterised his son the lord of Mito as a very important, but extremely dangerous personality, and to have compared him to a sharp sword, which is only harmless so long as it remains in the sheath. Two hundred and fifty years later the foresight of the founder of this dynasty was to be confirmed : in any case, the house of Mito materially contributed to bring about the downfall of the Shogunate.
The question of the succession, already sufficiently difficult, became still further complicated by the fact that in 1715 the family of Hidetada became extinct in the direct line. The prince of Kii, who had been appointed Shogun, hastened to invest his second, third, and fourth sons with the titles of princes of Taiasu, Shimizu, and Hitotsubashi; he then arranged that these three families, to whom he gave the common title the Three Lords (Go-san-kio), should provide a successor in the event of his first son's descendants becoming extinct in the direct line. This regulation also proved ineffectual. A younger son of the house of Mito, Kei-ki, who had been adopted by a prince of Hitotsubashi, was appointed Shogun in 1866; the last of a long line, his loss of the supremacy in no way redounded to his honour.
Iyeyasu died at his castle of Sumpu, in Suruga, on March 8th, 1616, and, according to his wish, was buried a year later in Nikko, a mountainous district, richly wooded and adorned with every kind of natural beauty, about ninety miles north of Yedo, where Buddhist and Shinto temples, erected by the holy Shodo Shonin, had existed since the close of the eighth century. A representative of the Mikado and of the Shogun, together with a great number of the Kugé, the territorial lords, and their military comrades, were present at the burial of the deceased, upon whom the Mikado conferred a special title of honour to mark the occasion. The dead man was created "Noble of the First Class, of the First Rank, Great Light of the East, Great Incarnation of Buddha". After the death of the former abbot and the abdication of his successor, Go-Mizuno, the fifth son of the Mikado was appointed high-priest of Nikko, in the year 1634, under the title of Rinnoji-no-Miya. He and his successors, who were afterwards princes of the Imperial House, usually resided at Yedo, in the temple of Uyeno, and visited Nikko three times a year.
The last of these Imperial priests, Kita Shirakawa no-Miya, who was afterwards educated in Germany, was abducted by the northern party during the civil war of 1868, and set up by them as an opposition Mikado, but shortly afterward yielded to the attacks of the victorious southerners. Of the successors of Iyeyasu, one only, his grandson, Iyemitsu (1623 to 1651), was buried at Nikko. All the other Shoguns were buried at Yedo, either within the precincts of the temple of Uyeno or within that of Shiba. The temples of Nikko are certainly the largest, the richest, and most beautiful in Japan, and are distinguished by the artistic finish of the buildings and the decorations of their interior, as well as by the beauty of the surrounding landscape. The interest of the spot and of its buildings is further increased by the numerous dedicatory presents in and about it, brought from every part of Japan, and even from Holland.
Hidetada, the first successor of Iyeyasu, followed in his father's footsteps, and maintained the institutions introduced by him. Iyemitsu, the grandson of the founder of the dynasty, was undoubtedly the most important of the fourteen Shoguns who followed Iyeyasu. He laid a stronger hand upon the reins of government, obliged the great landowners to render a formal recognition of his undisputed supremacy, and made himself and his successors masters of Japan.
The visit which he paid to the Mikado in Kioto, in 1623, was the last paid by any Shogun until the year 1863. It was under his rule, in 1641, that the Dutch and the Chinese were sent to Nagasaki, and all other foreigners were expelled from the country, while emigration and foreign den to the Japanese, the weights and measures were reduced to a common standard, the delimitation of the provincial frontiers was begun and completed, maps and plans of the districts and castles belonging to the territorial lords were made, the genealogical trees of these latter were drawn up, and all names obliterated which might have aroused disagreeable political recollections or have given rise to inconvenient claims. Moreover, the two State councils, the upper and the lower chambers, werere organised. Finally, Iyemitsu made his capita of Yedo not only the most beautiful but also the most cleanly and the best fortified city in the kingdom. The castle, with its triple line of walls and moats, was then considered impregnable, and even today rouses the admiration of the visitor. Iyemitsu was also the first to employ the title of Great Lord (Taikun), as the expression of his absolute power in his intercourse with other countries, such as Korea.
Of his successors we need only mention Yoshimune (1716-1745), the last of the direct descendants of Iyeyasu. He gave much attention to the improvement of agriculture and manufactures, and repealed the prohibition of the introduction of European books, though this still held good of such as dealt with the Christian religion. Of his remaining successors it need only be said that they confined their actions, generally speaking, to the lines already laid down. However, their power of independent action was completely destroyed by the bureaucracy, which took into its hands more and more of the administration. Government departments degenerated in consequence, and the fall of the Shogunate was the ultimate result.
THE EVE OF THE GREAT CHANGE
In his work upon the social and economic development of Japan, Tokuzo Fukuda defines the rule of the Tokugawa as a period in which the Government was that of a policeman with unlimited powers. This statement, however, is true only of the second half of the government of the Shogunate, and of that only in so far as the administration was careful to maintain existing institutions and to throw obstacles in the way of all innovations, which the bureaucracy in Japan, as everywhere, considered as so many threats against the existence of the State. The heaviest oppression has never been more than a temporary obstacle to national development; and so in Japan under the Shogunate, development, far from coming to a standstill, followed a roundabout course, and society advanced by devious paths from the old order to the new. The most obvious confirmation of this fact is the part played by the towns, or, more correctly, by the mercantile class of community.
The vigorous rule of the first Shogun, and especially of the third, convinced the territorial lords that the dynasty of the Tokugawa was entirely capable of maintaining its supremacy, and that any attacks upon it would recoil upon the heads of their promoters. At the same time the measures of the Shogunate, especially those respecting the hereditary rights of the great families, inspired the conviction that the existence of the territorial nobility, so far from being endangered, was secured even more permanently than before. The great nobles were therefore able to concentrate their attention upon the peaceful development of their districts. The ordinary Samurai were in a far more evil case, especially in the matter of their yearly salary of rice. Their business was war, and any other occupation was forbidden to them. As, however, their salaries were usually inadequate for their support, the consequence was that in course of time a large proportion of the Samurai became deeply involved in debt. They were then obliged either to lay aside their swords, renounce their profession and enter some other, or, while retaining their swords, to leave the service of their overlord and to join the class of the Ronin, the masterless Samurai, who were the terror not only of the peaceful citizens, but also of the Government.
As regards the peasants, the position of those settled upon the land of the Shogun was, upon the whole, preferable to the lot of those within the districts of the territorial lords. While the former were treated with kindness and consideration, the latter were without defence against the extortions of the officials of their prince. The average holding of a peasant was small; the least quantity of land amounted to about two and a half acres, and was but seldom increased; consequently their agriculture was rather of the character of market gardening.
Fukuda asserts that the towns had developed from and around the castles of the territorial lords, for the reason that the formation of towns in Japan dates from the period of war after the twelfth century. The statement is correct only from one point of view. In a state which had already existed for a thousand years men and houses must have collected in large numbers at the most important points upon the several lines of communication.
Naturally the new territorial lords would choose such positions for the central points of their districts, and would settle and erect their fortified castles in them; not less naturally the inhabitants would gather more closely round the protecting castles, and possibly in the course of time two or three villages may thus have been united into one community. At any rate, the towns of early Japan never attained any power of self-government; they were not even considered as independent communities, and the period of their growth and prosperity begins, in almost every case, at the time following the rule of Iyeyasu. Centuries of civil war by no means favored the increase of merchants and handicraftsmen, and of these the population of the towns was chiefly composed. The system of caste which prevailed in Japan must also have hindered commercial development. The warrior caste was the first; with it, if not theoretically at any rate in practice, were joined the castes of scholars, physicians, artists, priests, and others; then came the farmers, then the handicraftsmen, and finally the merchants. Below these were the dishonorable castes— actors, jugglers, dancing women, etc., and the unclean castes— knackers, tanners, executioners, and so on.
After their rise the towns lay either on the demesne of the landed lords, upon whose whims and ideas their growth materially depended, or on the demesne of the Shogun, who had succeeded in getting possession of the most important trading centres—Yedo, Osaka, Kanagawa, Nagasaki, Sakai, Hakodate, and Nigata near Yokohama. Hence the Shogunate was obliged to confront the task of extending trade and procuring the recognition of the traders' importance. Even during the period of foreign influx the Shoguns had made every effort to secure to themselves the largest possible share of the profits derived from commercial intercourse with other lands, and this object they entirely attained when they removed the Dutch and the Chinese to Nagasaki. At the same time exports and imports were so regulated in amount that the balance of trade might be as much as possible in favour of Japan.
Foreign wares were sold at so high a price as to be within the reach of only the richest classes, while the exportation of anything that the country wanted, or seemed to want, was restricted or prohibited entirely. Thus in 1752 the exportation of gold, which had previously been subject to repeated restrictions, was entirely forbidden; in 1685 the exportation of silver, which had been employed to pay for the imports, was limited to 2,000 lb., an amount further reduced to 500 lb. in 1790; in 1685 exports of copper were limited to about one ton; from 1715 onward only Dutch ships were allowed to visit Japan in any one year, and from 1790 only one. Communication with the Chinese was limited in a similar manner.
On the other hand, every effort was made to provide facilities for internal trade, especially after the year 1694, when guilds (kumi) were created in Osaka and Yedo, at first ten in each town, a number afterwards increased to twenty during the years 1720 to 1730. These were free societies, occupied with mercantile and shipping business, and seem to have been chiefly active in promoting the sale of the manufactures produced on the demesnes of the territorial lords. Consequently an unusually severe blow was dealt at their existence in the middle of the eighteenth century, when the lords demanded and obtained the permission to sell their products at the great commercial centres by means of their own merchants.
Possibly it was this regulation which induced the Government in 1813 to place the guilds upon another footing. They now became close corporations of merchants and manufacturers; their number and the numbers of their members were defined by law. They were not allowed to elect new members, but upon the death of an individual could admit only his blood relations, and they held the monopoly of the sale of that particular article with which they were concerned. In 1841 this arrangement was abolished, after many complaints had been made of the manner in which prices had been forced up; but it was reintroduced in 1851, apparently because the Government thought they could not dispense with the general supervision exercised by the guilds.
In other respects, during the rule of the Tokugawa, conditions remained practically unaltered. Ancestor worship continued, as did the patriarchal system, and the responsibility of the patriarch for the actions of members of the family. The law of inheritance, which gave a disproportionately favored position to the eldest son, remained unaltered. The majority of posts in the service of the Shoguns and of the territorial lords continued to be hereditary. Custom demanded that a son should succeed to the profession or the handicraft of his father. It was extraordinarily difficult to pass from one class to another. All these restrictions must have constituted so many obstacles to the free development of the individual, and consequently to the progress of society.
Soon after the Shogunate had passed to the Tokugawa, a certain opposition began to arise within this family itself to the policy of usurpation by which the Mikado had been deprived of his rights. This movement remained for a long period exclusively literary, and its chief representatives and supporters were to be found among the princes of the house of Mito.
The early history of this house is a good example of the manner in which the fortunes of the landed nobility changed during the age preceding the definite pacification of the kingdom. The territory afterwards included in this principality was governed from the tenth century by scions of the Taira family. It was overcome in 1427 by Yedo Michifusa, who was the first to assume the name of Mito. In the year 1590 the Yedo family were driven out by the Satake. Yoshinobu, a member of the latter house, who had joined the side of Hideyori, was transferred to Akita by Iyeyasu in 1602. The fifth son of Iyeyasu was appointed Prince of Mito in his stead ; when he died, upon the journey to Mito, the tenth son took up the position. He was afterward transferred to Suruga in 1609, but became Prince of Kii about ten years later, and was then succeeded by the eleventh son, Yorifusa, who was born in 1603.
Yorifusa died in 1661, and was succeeded by his second son, Mitsukuni. He invited learned men to his Court, among them apparently a number of Chinese who had fled to Japan before the Manchus, and with their help he published, among other works, a "History of Great Japan" (Dai-nihon-shi), from Jimmu Tenno as far as the year 1393, in 240 volumes.
This is still considered as a work of capital importance for students of Japanese history. He also published the "Reigiruiten", concerning the ceremonies of the Imperial Court, in 510 volumes.
These works and a large collection of Chinese and Japanese books, to which the prince continued to make additions until his death (1700), largely contributed to direct the attention of scholars to early Japanese history; hence Mitsukuni is justly considered as the founder and promoter of the movement which is usually characterised as a revival of the pure Shinto teaching, and undoubtedly exerted a powerful influence in preparing the way for the restoration of the Mikados. The men who were chiefly influential in their work in this direction were Kada (d. 1736), Mabushi (d. 1769), and Motoori (d. 1801). The latter published the Kojikiden, being explanations of the Kojiki, a work attracting the greatest attention, not only among scholars, but also and particularly among the landed nobility. The "Great History" was continued by the princes of Mito, and printed in 1851 after a long period of circulation in manuscript. The successors of Mitsukuni, besides being patrons of literature, were also sound and economical administrators of their territory, so that the princes of Mito acquired a reputation as excellent rulers in contrast to the Shogun. In 1829 Nariakira, the brother of his predecessor, Narinaga, became prince; he was destined to play a leading part in the struggle against the Shogunate.
The increasing poverty of the Samurai, the growing degeneracy of the Shogun's Government, due to the rise of a bureaucracy, the rapid spread of foreign ideas and the concurrent diminution in the power of the Shogun, together with the more ardent desire of the territorial lords for partial or complete independence—these influences found expression in the formation of parties at the Imperial Court as well as at the Court of the Shogun.
The situation became even more strained as the repeated appearance of foreign vessels off the Japanese coasts—the first of these visitors being the Russian squadron off Yezo in 1792—increased the fears of a hostile attack.
When apprehensions of this nature drove the Government of the Shogun, in 1842, to request the landed nobility to take measures for coast defence, the only response This pictured was a general outcry occasioned by the shortness of money and the need for assistance.
The very lords whose ancestors owed their rise to power to the founder of the Tokugawa line deserted the Shogunate in its extremity. The institution had become effete; it had to go, and it went, "unwept, unhonored and unsung", in 1868. With it went the greater part of the system of government that had obtained for so many generations in the empire of Old Japan.