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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

They were called the Seiwa Genji


was then that the Fujiwara became a species of electoral college, not possessing, indeed, any recognized mandate from the nation, yet acting in the nation's behalf to secure worthy occupants for the throne. For a time this system worked satisfactorily, but ultimately it inosculated itself with the views it was designed to nullify, and the Fujiwara became flagrant abusers of the power handed down to them. Momokawa's immediate followers were worthy to wear his mantle. Tanetsugu, Korekimi, Tsugunawa--these are names that deserve to be printed in letters of gold on the pages of Japan's annals. They either prompted or presided over the reforms and retrenchments that marked Kwammu's reign, and personal ambition was never allowed to interfere with their duty to the State.


Contemporaneously with the rise of the Fujiwara to the highest places within reach of a subject, an important alteration took place in the status of Imperial princes. There was no relation of cause and effect between the two things, but in subsequent times events connected them intimately. According to the Daika legislation, not only sons of sovereigns but also their descendants to the fifth generation were classed as members of the Imperial family and inherited the title of "Prince" (0). Ranks (hon-i) were granted to them and they often participated in the management of State affairs. But no salaries were given to them; they had

to support themselves with the proceeds of sustenance fiefs. The Emperor Kwammu was the first to break away from this time-honoured usage. He reduced two of his own sons, born of a non-Imperial lady, from the Kwobetsu class to the Shimbetsu, conferring on them the uji names of Nagaoka and Yoshimine, and he followed the same course with several of the Imperial grandsons, giving them the name of Taira.

Thenceforth, whenever a sovereign's offspring was numerous, it became customary to group them with the subject class under a family name. A prince thus reduced received the sixth official rank (roku-i), and was appointed to a corresponding office in the capital or a province, promotion following according to his ability and on successfully passing the examination prescribed for Court officials. Nevertheless, to be divested of the title of "Prince" did not mean less of princely prestige. Such nobles were always primi inter pares. The principal uji thus created were Nagaoka, Yoshimine, Ariwara, Taira, and Minamoto.


Prince Katsurabara was the fifth son of the Emperor Kwammu. Intelligent, reserved, and a keen student, he is said to have understood the warnings of history as clearly as its incentives. He petitioned the Throne that the title of should be exchanged in his children's case for that of Taira no Asomi (Marquis of Taira). This request, though several times repeated, was not granted until the time (889) of his grandson, Takamochi, who became the first Taira no Asomi and governor of Kazusa province. He was the grandfather of Masakado and great-grandfather of Tadamori, names celebrated in Japanese history. For generations the Taira asomi were appointed generals of the Imperial guards conjointly with the Minamoto, to be presently spoken of. The name of Taira was conferred also on three other sons of Kwammu, the Princes Mamta, Kaya, and Nakano, so that there were four Tairahouses just as there were four Fujiwara.


The Emperor Saga (810) had fifty children. From the sixth son downwards they were grouped under the uji of Minamoto. All received appointments to important offices. This precedent was even more drastically followed in the days of the Emperor Seiwa (859-876). To all his Majesty's sons, except the Crown Prince, the uji of Minamoto was given. The best known among these early Minamoto was Tsunemoto, commonly called Prince Rokuson. He was a grandson of the Emperor Seiwa, celebrated for two very dissimilar attainments, which, nevertheless, were often combined in Japan--the art of composing couplets and the science of commanding troops. Appointed in the Shohyo era (931-937) to be governor of Musashi, the metropolitan province of modern Japan, his descendants constituted the principal among fourteen Minamoto houses. They were called the Seiwa Genji, and next in importance came the Saga Genji and the Murakami Genji.*

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