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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Neither Heijo nor Saga shrank from duty in any form


family was struck off the roll of princes and given the uji of Ariwara Asomi.


It is memorable in the history of the ninth century that three brothers occupied the throne in succession, Heijo, Saga, and Junna. Heijo's abdication was certainly due in part to weak health, but his subsequent career proves that this reason was not imperative. Saga, after a most useful reign of thirteen years, stepped down frankly in favour of his younger brother. There is no valid reason to endorse the view of some historians that these acts of self-effacement were inspired by an indolent distaste for the cares of kingship. Neither Heijo nor Saga shrank from duty in any form. During his brief tenure of power the former unflinchingly effected reforms of the most distasteful kind, as the dismissal of superfluous officials and the curtailing of expenses; and the latter's reign was distinguished by much useful legislation and organization. Heijo's abdication seems to have been due to genuine solicitude for the good of the State, and Saga's to a sense of reluctance to be outdone in magnanimity. Reciprocity of moral obligation (giri) has been a canon of Japanese conduct in all ages.


One of the earliest acts of Saga's reign was to establish the office of Court councillor (sangi) definitely and

to determine the number of these officials at eight. The post of sangi had been instituted more than a century previously, but its occupants had neither fixed function, rank, nor number: they merely gave fortuitous advice about political affairs. Another office, dating from the same time (810), was that of kurando (called also kurodo). This seems to have been mainly a product of the political situation. At the palace of the retired Emperor in Nara--the Inchu, as it was called--the ambitious Fujiwara Nakanari and the Imperial consort, Kusu, were arrogating a large share of administrative and judicial business, and were flagrantly abusing their usurped authority. Saga did not know whom to trust. He feared that the council of State (Dajo-kwan) might include some traitors to his cause, and he therefore instituted a special office to be the depository of all secret documents, to adjudicate suits at law, to promulgate Imperial rescripts and decrees, to act as a kind of palace cabinet, and to have charge of all supplies for the Court. Ultimately this last function became the most important of the kurando's duties.


It has already been explained that the Daiho legislators, at the beginning of the eighth century, having enacted a code (ryo) and a penal law (ritsu), supplemented these with a body of official rules (kyaku) and operative regulations (shiki). The necessity of revising these rules and regulations was appreciated by the Emperor Kwammu, but he did not live to witness the completion of the work, which he had entrusted to the sa-daijin, Fujiwara Uchimaro, and others. The task was therefore re-approached by a committee of which the dainagon, Fujiwara Fuyutsugu, was president, under orders from the Emperor Saga. Ten volumes of the rules and forty of the regulations were issued in 819, the former being a collection of all rescripts and decrees issued since the first year of Daiho (701), and the latter a synopsis of instructions given by various high officials and proved by practice since the same date. Here, then, was a sufficiently precise and comprehensive body of administrative guides. But men competent to utilize them were not readily forthcoming. The provincial governors and even the metropolitan officials, chosen from among men whose qualifications were generally limited to literary ability or aristocratic influence, showed themselves incapable of dealing with the lawless conditions existing in their districts.

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