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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

And all having the title of muraji by the o muraji


It has been shown that in the so-called "code" of Shotoku Taishi prominent attention was directed to the obligations of decorum. This principle received much elaboration in Temmu's reign. A law, comprising no less than ninety-two articles, was enacted for guidance in Court ceremonials, the demeanour and salutation of each grade of officials being explicitly set forth. It is worthy of note that a veto was imposed on the former custom of kneeling to make obeisance and advancing or retreating in the presence of a superior on the knees and hands; all salutations were ordered to be made standing. Further, the clear differentiation of official functions, which had been commenced under the sway of Tenchi, was completed in this reign.

But, though relying on military force in the last resort, Temmu did not neglect appeals to religion and devices to win popularity. On the one hand, we find him establishing a War-Office (Heisei-kan) and making it second in grade and importance to the Privy Council (Dajo-kwan) alone; on the other, he is seen endowing shrines, erecting temples, and organizing religious fetes on a sumptuous scale. If, again, all persons in official position were required to support armed men; if the provincials were ordered to practise military exercises, and if arms were distributed to the people in the home provinces (Kinai), at the same time taxes were freely remitted, and amnesties were readily granted. Further, if much attention was paid to archery, and if drastic measures were adopted to crush the partisans of the Omi Court who still occasionally raised the standard of revolt, the sovereign devoted not less care to the discharge of the administrative functions, and his legislation extended even to the realm of fishery, where stake-nets and other methods of an injurious nature were strictly interdicted. The eating of flesh was prohibited, but whether this veto was issued in deference to Buddhism or from motives of economy, there is no evidence to show.

One very noteworthy feature of Temmu's administration was that he never appointed to posts in the Government men who did not give promise of competence. All those who possessed a claim on his gratitude were nominated chamberlains (toneri), and having been thus brought under observation, were subsequently entrusted with official functions commensurate with their proved ability. The same plan was pursued in the case of females. With regard to the titles conferred by this sovereign in recognition of meritorious services, they were designed to replace the old-time kabane (or sei), in that whereas the kabane had always been hereditary, and was generally associated with an office, the new sei was obtained by special grant, and, though it thereafter became hereditary, it was never an indication of office bearing. Eight of these new titles were instituted by Temmu, namely, mahito, asomi, sukune, imiki, michi-no-shi, omi, muraji, and inagi, and their nearest English equivalents are, perhaps, duke, marquis, count, lord, viscount, baron, and baronet. It is unnecessary to give any etymological analysis of these terms; their order alone is important. But two points have to be noted. The first is that the title imiki was generally that chosen for bestowal on naturalized foreigners; the second, that a conspicuously low place in the list is given to the revered old titles, ami and muraji. This latter feature is significant. The new peerage was, in fact, designed not only to supplant, but also to discredit, the old.

Thus, in the first place, the system was abolished under which all uji having the title of omi were controlled by the o-omi, and all having the title of muraji by the o-muraji; and in the second, though the above eight sei were established, not every uji was necessarily granted a title. Only the most important received that distinction, and even these found themselves relegated to a comparatively low place on the list. All the rest, however, were permitted to use their old, but now depreciated kabane, and no change was made in the traditional custom of entrusting the management of each uji's affairs to its own Kami. But, in order to guard against the abuses of the hereditary right, an uji no Kami ceased in certain cases to succeed by birthright and became elective, the election requiring Imperial endorsement.


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