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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Was severely dealt with by Konin



At Nara, in Yamato province, near the temple of Todai-ji, a store house built of wood and called the Shoso-in was constructed in the Nara epoch, and it still stands housing a remarkable collection of furniture and ornaments from the Imperial palace. There is some question whether this collection is truly typical of the period, or even of the palace of the period; but the presence of many utensils from China, some from India (often with traces of Greek influence), and a few from Persia certainly shows the degree of cosmopolitan culture and elegance there was in the palace at Nara. At the present day, strangers may visit the collection only by special permission and only on two days each year; and the museum has always had a mingled imperial and sacred character. When the power of the shogunate was at its height, the Shoso-in was never opened except by orders of the Emperor. Among the contents of this museum are: polished mirrors with repousse backs, kept in cases lined with brocaded silk; bronze vases; bronze censers; hicense-boxes made of Paulownia wood or of Chinese ware; two-edged swords, which were tied to the girdle, instead of being thrust through it; narrow leather belts with silver or jade decoration; bamboo flutes; lacquer writing-cases, etc.




the Emperor Konin belongs the credit of correcting some flagrant abuses in provincial administration. There was an inconvenient outcome of the religious mania which pervaded the upper classes during the reigns of Shomu and Koken. To meet the expense of building temples and casting images, men of substance in the provinces were urged to make contributions of money, cereals, or land, and in return for this liberality they were granted official posts. It resulted that no less than thirty-one supernumerary provincial governors were borne on the roll at one time, and since all these regarded office as a means of recouping the cost of nomination, taxpayers and persons liable to the corvee fared ill. In 774, Koken issued an edict that provincial governors who had held office for five years or upwards should be dismissed at once, those of shorter terms being allowed to complete five years and then removed.

Another evil, inaugurated during the reign of Shomu, when faith in the potency of supernatural influences obsessed men's minds, was severely dealt with by Konin. Office-seekers resorted to the device of contriving conflagrations of official property, rewarding the incendiaries with the plunder, and circulating rumours that these calamities were visitations of heaven to punish the malpractices of the provincial governors in whose jurisdictions they occurred. It is on record that, in several cases, these stories led to the dismissal of governors and their replacement by their traducers. Konin decreed that such crimes should be punished by the death of all concerned. These reforms, supplemented by the removal of many superfluous officials, earned for Konin such popularity that for the first time in Japan's history, the sovereign's birthday became a festival*, thereafter celebrated through all ages.

*Called Tenchosetsu.


It has been shown that compulsory military service was introduced in 689, during the reign of the Empress Jito, one-fourth of all the able-bodied men in each province being required to serve a fixed time with the colours. It has also been noted that under the Daiho legislation the number was increased to one-third. This meant that no distinction existed between soldier and peasant. The plan worked ill. No sufficient provision of officers being made, the troops remained without training, and it frequently happened that, instead of military exercises, they were required to labour for the enrichment of a provincial governor.

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