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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Were in the possession of the uji


insufficiency in the supplies furnished by the sovereign's own people was made good by levying on the tomo-no-miyatsuko. It will be seen that there was no annual tax regularly imposed on the people in general, though universal requisitions were occasionally made to meet the requirements of public works, festivals or military operations. Hence when it is said that the Emperor Nintoku remitted all taxes for the space of three years until the people's burdens were lightened, reference is made only to the be and tomobe belonging to the Throne itself. Doubtless this special feature of Yamato finance was due in part to the fact that all the land and all the people, except those appertaining to the Crown, were in the possession of the uji, without whose co-operation no general fiscal measure could be adopted. When recourse to the nation at large was necessitated to meet some exceptional purpose, orders had to be given, first, to the o-omi and o-muraji; next, by these to the Kami of the several o-uji; then, by the latter to the Kami of the various ko-uji, and, finally, by these last to every household.

The machinery was thorough, but to set it in motion required an effort which constituted an automatic obstacle to extortion. The lands and people of the uji were governed by the Emperor but were not directly controlled by him. On the other hand, to refuse a requisition made by the Throne was counted contumelious and liable to punishment. Thus when (A.D.

534) the Emperor Ankan desired to include a certain area of arable land in a miyake established for the purpose of commemorating the name of the Empress, and when Ajihari, suzerain (atae) of the region, sought to evade the requisition by misrepresenting the quality of the land, he was reprimanded and had to make atonement by surrendering a portion of his private property. There can be no doubt, however, that as the population increased and as uncultivated areas grew less frequent, the arbitrary establishment of koshiro or of nashiro became more and more irksome, and the pages of history indicate that from the time of Keitai (A.D. 507-531) this practice was gradually abandoned.


Although the use of the ideographic script became well known from the fifth century, everything goes to show that no written law existed at that time, or, indeed, for many years afterwards. Neither are there any traces of Korean or Chinese influence in this realm. Custom prescribed punishments, and the solemnity of a judicial trial found no better representative than the boiling-water ordeal. If a man took oath to the deities of his innocence and was prepared to thrust his arm into boiling mud or water, or to lay a red-hot axe on the palm of his hand, he was held to have complied with all the requirements. The familiar Occidental doctrine, "the King can do no wrong," received imperative recognition in Japan, and seems to have been extended to the Crown Prince also. There were no other exemptions. If a man committed a crime, punishment extended to every member of his family. On the other hand, offences might generally be expiated by presenting lands or other valuables to the Throne. As for the duty of executing sentences, it devolved on the mononobe, who may be described as the military corporation. Death or exile were common forms of punishment, but degradation was still more frequent. It often meant that a family, noble and opulent to-day, saw all its members handed over to-morrow to be the serfs or slaves of some uji in whose be they were enrolled to serve thenceforth, themselves and their children, through all generations in some menial position,--it might be as sepulchre-guards, it might be as scullions.

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