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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The sole hope of their redress lay in Michizane

As for the soldiers of the guards, instead of taking their monthly term of duty at the palace, they are scattered over the country, and being strong and audacious, they treat the people violently and the provincial governors with contumacy, sometimes even forming leagues to rob the latter and escaping to the capital when they are hard pressed. (These guardsmen had arms and horses of their own and called themselves bushi, a term destined to have wide vogue in Japan.) It is interesting to note that they make their historical debut thus unfavourably introduced. Miyoshi Kiyotsura says that instead of being "metropolitan tigers" to guard the palace, they were "rural wolves" to despoil the provinces.


This celebrated document consisted of twelve articles and contained five thousand ideographs, so that nothing was wanting in the matter of voluminousness. The writer did not confine himself to enumerating abuses: he also suggested remedies. Thus he urged that no man, having become an equerry (toneri) of the six corps of guards, should be allowed to return to his province during his term of service; that the spurious priests should be all unfrocked and punished; that the office of kebiishi should be restricted to men having legal knowledge; that the upper classes should set an example of economy in costumes and observances; that the ranks of the Buddhist priesthood should be purged of open violators of the laws of their creed, and so forth. Historians have justly eulogized the courage of a memorialist who thus openly attacked wide-spread and powerful abuses. But they have also noted that the document shows some reservations. For generations the Fujiwara family had virtually usurped the governing power; had dethroned Emperors and chosen Empresses; had consulted their own will alone in the administrations of justice and in the appointment and removal of officials. Yet of these things Miyoshi Kiyotsura says nothing whatever. The sole hope of their redress lay in Michizane; but instead of supporting that ill-starred statesman, Miyoshi had contributed to his downfall. Could a reformer with such a record be regarded as altogether sincere?


The Emperor Daigo, who ruled thirty-two years--from 898 to 930--is brought very close to us by the statement of a contemporary historian that he was "wise, intelligent, and kind-hearted," and that he always wore a smiling face, his own explanation of the latter habit being that he found it much easier to converse with men familiarly than solemnly. A celebrated incident of his career is that one winter's night he took off his wadded silk garment to evince sympathy with the poor who possessed no such protection against the cold. Partly because of his debonair manner and charitable impulses he is popularly remembered as "the wise Emperor of the Engi era." But close readers of the annals do not fully endorse that tribute. They note that Daigo's treatment of his father, Uda, on the celebrated occasion of the latter's visit to the palace to intercede for Michizane, was markedly unfilial; that his Majesty believed and acted upon slanders which touched the honour of his father no less than that of his well-proved servant, and that he made no resolute effort to correct the abuses of his time, even when they had been clearly pointed out by Miyoshi Kiyotsura. The usurpations of the Fujiwara; the prostitution of Buddhism to evil ends; the growth of luxurious and dissipated habits, and the subordination of practical ability to pedantic scholarship--these four malignant growths upon the national life found no healing treatment at Daigo's hands.

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