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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

It converged on the castle of Taga


is no record as to the exact dimensions of Japan's standing army in the ninth century, but if we observe that troops were raised in the eight littoral provinces only--six in the south and two in the north--and in the island of Sado, and that the total number in the six southern provinces was only nine thousand, it would seem reasonable to conclude that the aggregate did not exceed thirty thousand. There were also the kondei (or kenji), but these, since they served solely as guards or for special purposes, can scarcely be counted a part of the standing army. The inference is that whatever the Yamato race may have been when it set out upon its original career of conquest, or when, in later eras, it sent great armies to the Asiatic continent, the close of the fifth cycle after the coming of Buddhism found the country reduced to a condition of comparative military weakness. As to that, however, clearer judgment may be formed in the context of the campaign--to be now spoken of--conducted by the Yamato against the Yemishi tribes throughout a great part of the eighth century and the early years of the ninth.


It has been shown that the close of the third decade of the eighth century saw the capital established at Nara amid conditions of great refinement, and saw the Court and the aristocracy absorbed in religious observances, while the provincial governments were, in many cases, corrupt and inefficient.

In the year 724, Nara received news of an event which illustrated the danger of such a state of affairs. The Yemishi of the east had risen in arms and killed Koyamaro, warden of Mutsu. At that time the term "Mutsu" represented a much wider area than the modern region of the same name: it comprised the five provinces now distinguished as Iwaki, Iwashiro, Rikuzen, Rikuchu, and Mutsu--in other words, the whole of the northeastern and northern littoral of the main island. Similarly, the provinces now called Ugo and Uzen, which form the northwestern littoral, were comprised in the single term "Dewa." Nature has separated these two regions, Mutsu and Dewa, by a formidable chain of mountains, constituting the backbone of northern Japan. Within Dewa, Mutsu, and the island of Yezo, the aboriginal Yemishi had been held since Yamato-dake's signal campaign in the second century A.D., and though not so effectually quelled as to preclude all danger of insurrection, their potentialities caused little uneasiness to the Central Government.

But there was no paltering with the situation which arose in 724. Recourse was immediately had to the Fujiwara, whose position at the Imperial Court was paramount, and Umakai, grandson of the renowned Kamatari, set out at the head of thirty thousand men, levied from the eight Bands provinces, by which term Sagami, Musashi, Awa, Kazusa, Shimosa, Hitachi, Kotsuke, and Shimotsuke were designated. The expanded system of conscription established under the Daiho code was then in force, and thus a large body of troops could easily be assembled. Umakai's army did not experience any serious resistance. But neither did it achieve anything signal. Marching by two routes, it converged on the castle of Taga, a fortress just constructed by Ono Azumahito, the lord warden of the Eastern Marches. The plan pursued by the Yamato commanders was to build castles and barriers along the course of rivers giving access to the interior, as well as along the coast line. Taga Castle was the first of such works, and, by the year 767, the programme had been carried in Mutsu as far as the upper reaches of the Kitakami River,* and in Dewa as far as Akita.

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