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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

A monument still stands on the site of the old Taga Castle


*A monument still stands on the site of the old Taga Castle. It was put up in A.D. 762, and it records that the castle stood fifty miles from the island of Yezo.

History has nothing further to tell about the Yemishi until the year 774, when they again took up arms, captured one (Mono) of the Japanese forts and drove out its garrison. Again the eight Bando provinces were ordered to send levies, and at the head of the army thus raised a Japanese general penetrated far into Mutsu and destroyed the Yemishi's chief stronghold. This success was followed by an aggressive policy on the part of the lord-warden, Ki no Hirozumi. He extended the chain of forts to Kabe in Dewa, and to Isawa in Mutsu. This was in 780. But there ensued a strong movement of reprisal on the part of the Yemishi. Led by Iharu no Atamaro, they overwhelmed Hirozumi's army, killed the lord-warden himself, and pushed on to Taga Castle, which they burned, destroying vast stores of arms and provisions. It was precisely at this time that the State council, as related above, memorialized the Throne, denouncing the incompetency of the provincial conscripts and complaining that the provincial authorities, instead of training the soldiers, used them for forced labour. The overthrow of the army in Mutsu and the destruction of Taga Castle justified this memorial.

The Court appointed Fujiwara Tsugunawa to take command of a punitive expedition, and once again Bando levies converged on the site of the dismantled castle of Taga. But beyond that point no advance was essayed, in spite of bitter reproaches from Nara. "In summer," wrote the Emperor (Konin), "you plead that the grass is too dry; in winter you allege that bran is too scant. You discourse adroitly but you get no nearer to the foe." Konin's death followed shortly afterwards, but his successor, Kwammu, zealously undertook the pursuit of the campaign. Notice was sent (783) to the provincial authorities directing them to make preparations and to instruct the people that an armed expedition was inevitable. News had just been received of fresh outrages in Dewa. The Yemishi had completely dispersed and despoiled the inhabitants of two districts, so that it was found necessary to allot lands to them elsewhere and to erect houses for their shelter.

The Emperor said in his decree that the barbarian tribes, when pursued, fled like birds; when unmolested, gathered like ants; that the conscripts from the Bando provinces were reported to be weak and unfit for campaigning, and that those skilled in archery and physically robust stood aloof from military service, forgetting that they all owed a common duty to their country and their sovereign. Therefore, his Majesty directed that the sons and younger brothers of all local officials or provincial magnates should be examined with a view to the selection of those suited for military service, who should be enrolled and drilled, to the number of not less than five hundred and not more than two thousand per province according to its size. Thus, the eight Bando provinces must have furnished a force of from four to sixteen thousand men, all belonging to the aristocratic class. These formed the nucleus of the army. They were supplemented by 52,800 men, infantry and cavalry, collected from the provinces along the Eastern Sea (Tokai) and the Eastern Mountains (Tosan). so that the total force must have aggregated sixty thousand. The command in chief was conferred on Ki no Kosami, thirteenth in descent from the renowned Takenouchi-no-Sukune, who had been second in command of the Fujiwara Tsugunawa expedition nine years previously. A sword was conferred on him by the Emperor, and he received authority to act on his own discretion without seeking instructions from the Throne.


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