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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

We find Yemishi doing homage to the Emperor Kotoku


orderly condition remained uninterrupted until A.D. 367, when the Yemishi in Kazusa made one of the very few successful revolts on record. They killed Tamichi, a Japanese general sent against them, and they drove back his forces, who do not appear to have taken very effective measures of retaliation. In 482 we find the Yemishi rendering homage to the Emperor Kenso, a ceremony which was repeated on the accession of the Emperor Kimmei (540).

But, though meek in the presence of peril, the Yemishi appear to have been of a brawling temperament. Thus, in 561, several thousands of them showed hostility on the frontier, yet no sooner were their chiefs threatened with death than they submitted. At that time all the provinces in the northeast and northwest--then included in Mutsu and Dewa--were in Yemishi possession. They rebelled again in 637, and at first gained a signal success, driving the Japanese general, Katana, into a fortress where he was deserted by his troops. His wife saved the situation. She upbraided her husband as he was scaling the palisades to escape by night, fortified him with wine, girded his sword on herself, and caused her female attendants--of whom there were "several tens"--to twang bowstrings. Katana, taking heart of grace, advanced single handed; the Yemishi, thinking that his troops had rallied, gave way, and the Japanese soldiers, returning to their duty, killed or captured all the insurgents.


other instance of equally determined resistance is recorded on the part of the Yemishi. In 642, several thousands made submission in Koshi. Four years later (646), we find Yemishi doing homage to the Emperor Kotoku. Yet in 645 it was deemed necessary to establish a barrier settlement against them in Echigo; and whereas, in 655, when the Empress Saimei ascended the throne, her Court at Naniwa entertained ninety-nine of the northern Yemishi and forty-five of the eastern, conferring cups of honour on fifteen, while at the same time another numerous body came to render homage and offer gifts, barely three years had elapsed when, in 655, a Japanese squadron of 180 vessels, under the command of Hirafu, omi of Abe, was engaged attacking the Yemishi at Akita on the northwest coast of the main island.

All this shows plainly that many districts were still peopled by Yemishi and that their docility varied in different localities. In the Akita campaign the usual surrender was rehearsed. The Yemishi declared that their bows and arrows were for hunting, not for fighting, and the affair ended in a great feast given by Hirafu, the sequel being that two hundred Yemishi proceeded to Court, carrying presents, and were appointed to various offices in the localities represented, receiving also gifts of arms, armour, drums, and flags.*

*It is related that these flags had tops shaped like cuttlefish.

An interesting episode is recorded of this visit. One of the Yemishi, having been appointed to a high post, was instructed to investigate the Yemishi population and the captive population. Who were these captives? They seem to have been Sushen, for at the feast given by Hirafu his Yemishi guests came accompanied by thirty-five captives, and it is incredible that Japanese prisoners would have been thus humiliated in the sight of their armed countrymen. There will be occasion to recur to this point presently. Here we have to note that in spite of frequent contact, friendly or hostile, and in spite of so many years of intercourse, the Yemishi seem to have been still regarded by the Japanese as objects of curiosity. For, in the year 654, envoys from Yamato to the Tang Emperor of China took with them a Yemishi man and woman to show to his Majesty.

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