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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The prime purpose of the legislators was achieved


initiative was also liberally encouraged. An Imperial rescript promised that any farmer harvesting three thousand koku (fifteen thousand bushels) of cereals from land reclaimed by himself should receive the sixth class order of merit (kun roku-to), while a crop of over a thousand koku and less than three thousand would carry lifelong exemption from forced labour. The Daika principle that the land was wholly the property of the Crown had thus to yield partially to the urgency of the situation, and during the third decade of the eighth century it was enacted that, if a man reclaimed land by utilizing aqueducts and reservoirs already in existence, the land should belong to him for his lifetime, while if the reservoirs and aqueducts were of his own construction, the right of property should be valid for three generations.* From the operation of this law the provincial governors were excepted; the usufruct of lands reclaimed by them was limited to the term of their tenure of office, though, as related already, legislation in their case varied greatly from time to time.

*This system was called Sansei-isshin no ho. It is, perhaps, advisable to note that the Daika system of dividing the land for sustenance purposes applied only to land already under cultivation.

For a certain period the system of "three generations, or one life" worked smoothly enough; but subsequently it was found that as the limit of time approached,

farmers neglected to till the land and suffered it to lie waste. Therefore, in the year 743, the Government enacted that all reclaimed land should be counted the perpetual property of the reclaimer, with one proviso, namely, that three years of neglect to cultivate should involve confiscation. The recognition of private ownership was not unlimited. An area of five hundred cho (1250 acres) was fixed as the superior limit, applicable only to the case of a "First Class" prince, the quantities being thereafter on a sliding scale down to ten cho (twenty-five acres). Any excess resulting from previous accretions was to revert to the State. Evidently the effective operation of such a system predicated accurate surveys and strict supervision. Neither of these conditions existed in Japan at that remote period. The prime purpose of the legislators was achieved, since the people devoted themselves assiduously to land reclamation; but by free recourse to their power of commanding labour, the great families acquired estates largely in excess of the legal limit. A feature of the Nara epoch was the endowment of the Buddhist temples with land by men of all classes, and the sho-en, or temple domain, thus came into existence.


Information on the subject of stock farming is scanty and indirect, but in the year 713 we find a rescript ordering the provincials of Yamashiro to provide and maintain fifty milch-cows, and in 734, permission was given that all the districts in the Tokai-do, the Tosan-do, and the Sanin-do might trade freely in cattle and horses. Seven years later (741), when Shomu occupied the throne, and when Buddhism spread its protecting mantle over all forms of life, an edict appeared condemning anyone who killed a horse or an ox to be flogged with a hundred strokes and to be fined heavily. Only one other reference to stock farming appears in the annals of the Nara epoch: the abolition of the two pastures at Osumi and Himeshima in the province of Settsu was decreed in 771, but no reason is recorded.


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