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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

And in the Tsugaru district of the modern Mutsu province



Annals of historical repute are confined to the above account. There is, however, one unexplained feature, which reveals itself to even a casual reader. In their early opposition to Yamato aggression, the Yemishi--or Ainu, or Yezo, by whatever name they be called--displayed no fighting qualities that could be called formidable. Yet now, in the eighth century, they suddenly show themselves men of such prowess that the task of subduing them taxes the resources of the Yamato to the fullest. Some annalists are disposed to seek an explanation of this discrepancy in climatic and topographical difficulties. Kosami, in his despatch referring to the Koromo-gawa campaign, explains that 12,440 men had to be constantly employed in transporting provisions and that the quantity carried by them in twenty-four days did not exceed eleven days' rations for the troops. The hardship of campaigning in a country where means of communication were so defective is easily conjectured, and it has also to be noted that during only a brief period in summer did the climate of Mutsu permit taking the field. But these conditions existed equally in the eras of Yamato-dake and Hirafu. Whatever obstacles they presented in the eighth century must have been equally potent in the second and in the seventh.

Two explanations are offered. They are more or less conjectural. One is that the Yemishi of Mutsu were led by chieftains of

Yamato origin, men who had migrated to the northeast in search of fortune or impelled by disaffection. It seems scarcely credible, however, that a fact so special would have eluded historical reference, whereas only one passing allusion is made to it and that, too, in a book not fully credible. The other explanation is that the Yemishi were in league with hordes of Tatars who had crossed from the mainland of Asia, or travelled south by the islands of Saghalien and Yezo. The main evidence in support of this theory is furnished by the names of the insurgent leaders Akuro-o, Akagashira, and Akahige. Ideographists point out that the character aku is frequently pronounced o, and with that reading the name "Akuro-o" becomes "Oro-o," which was the term used for "Russian." As for "Akagashira" and "Akahige," they frankly signify "red head" and "red beard," common Japanese names for foreigners. In a shrine at Suzuka-yama in Ise, to which point the insurgents pushed southward before Tamuramaro took the field, there used to be preserved a box, obviously of foreign construction, said to have been left there by the "Eastern Barbarians;" and in the Tsugaru district of the modern Mutsu province, relics exist of an extensive fortress presenting features not Japanese, which is conjectured to have been the basis of the Tatar invaders. But all these inferences rest on little more than hypothesis.


What is certain, however, is that a collateral result of these disturbances was to discredit the great Court nobles--the Otomo, the Tachibana, the Ki, and the Fujiwara--as leaders of armies, and to lay the foundation of the military houses (buke) which were destined to become feudal rulers of Japan in after ages. Ki no Hirozumi, Ki no Kosami, Otomo Yakamochi, Fujiwara Umakai, and Fujiwara Tsugunawa having all failed, the Court was compelled to have recourse to the representatives of a Chinese immigrant family, the Saka-no-ye. By those who trace the ringer of fate in earthly happenings, it has been called a dispensation that, at this particular juncture, a descendant of Achi no Omi should have been a warrior with a height of six feet nine inches,* eyes of a falcon, a beard like plaited gold-wire, a frown that terrified wild animals, and a smile that attracted children. For such is the traditional description of Tamuramaro. Another incidental issue of the situation was that conspicuous credit for fighting qualities attached to the troops specially organized in the Bando (Kwanto) provinces with the sons and younger brothers of local officials. These became the nucleus of a military class which ultimately monopolized the profession of arms.

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