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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

That was cherished by the Bakufu councillors


also the Kwanto Goseibai Shikimoku.

The actual work of compilation was done by Hokkyo Enzen (a renowned bonze), but the idea originated with Hojo Yasutoki and Miyoshi Yasutsura, and every provision was carefully scanned and debated by the Bakufu's State council (Hyojoshu). There was no intention of suppressing the Daiho code. The latter was to remain operative in all regions to which the sway of the Kyoto Court extended direct. But in proportion as the influence of the Bakufu grew, the Joei laws received new adherents and finally became universally effective. A great modern authority, Dr. Ariga, has opined that the motive of the Bakufu legislation was not solely right for right's sake. He thinks that political expediency figured in the business, the Kamakura rulers being shrewd enough to foresee that a reputation for administering justice would prove a potent factor in extending their influence. If so, the scheme was admirably worked out, for every member of the council had to sign a pledge, inserted at the end of the Shikimoku, invoking* the vengeance of heaven on his head if he departed from the laws or violated their spirit in rendering judgment. Nothing, indeed, stands more signally to the credit of the Bakufu rulers from the days of Yoritomo and his wife, Masa, downwards, than their constant endeavour to do justice between man and man.

*"This oath indicates, among other things, the deep sense of the importance

of unanimity, of a united front, of the individual sharing fully in the collective responsibility, that was cherished by the Bakufu councillors. This was, indeed, one of the chief secrets of the wonderful stability and efficiency of the machine." (Murdoch.)


The Joei Shikimoku is not a voluminous document: it contains only fifty-one brief articles, which the poet Basho compares to the luminosity of the full moon. It has been excellently translated and annotated by Mr. Consul-General J. C. Hall in the "Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan" (Vol. XXXIV, Part I), and Mr. J. Murdoch, in his admirable History of Japan, summarizes its provisions lucidly. We learn that slavery still existed in the thirteenth century in Japan; but the farmer was guarded against cruel processes of tax-collecting and enjoyed freedom of domicile when his dues were paid. Fiefs might not be sold, but a peasant might dispose of his holding. "Village headmen, while held to a strict discharge of their duties and severely punished for various malpractices, were safeguarded against all aggression or undue interference on the part of the jito. The law of property was almost entirely synonymous with that of fiefs. These, if originally conferred for public services rendered by the grantee, could not be sold. On the death of the holder it was not necessarily the eldest son--even though legitimate--that succeeded. The only provision affecting the father's complete liberty of bequest or gift to his widow--or concubine, in one article--or children, was that a thoroughly deserving eldest son, whether of wife or concubine, could claim one-fifth of the estate.

"Not only could women be dowered with, or inherit, fiefs, and transmit a legal title to them to their own children, but a childless woman was even fully empowered to adopt an heir. Yoritomo had been the first to sanction this broadminded and liberal principle. In Kamakura, an adulterer was stripped of half of his fief if he held one; and if he had none, he was banished. For an adulteress the punishment was no severer, except that if she possessed a fief, the whole of it was confiscated. A good many sections of the code deal with legal procedure and the conduct and duty of magistrates, the great objects being to make the administration of justice simple, prompt, and pure, while repressing everything in the shape of pettifogging or factious litigation.

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