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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The Nigi Yemishi quiet or docile


Chinese sovereign was much struck by the unwonted appearance of these people. He asked several questions, which are recorded verbatim in the Chronicles; and the envoys informed him that there were three tribes of Yemishi; namely, the Tsugaru* Yemishi, who were the most distant; next, the Ara Yemishi (rough or only partially subdued), and lastly, the Nigi Yemishi (quiet or docile); that they sustained life by eating, not cereals, but flesh, and that they dispensed with houses, preferring to live under trees and in the recesses of mountains. The Chinese Emperor finally remarked, "When we look at the unusual bodily appearance of these Yemishi, it is strange in the extreme."

*The Story of Korea, by Longford.

Evidently whatever the original provenance of the Yemishi, they had never been among the numerous peoples who observed the custom of paying visits of ceremony to the Chinese capital. They were apparently not included in the family of Far Eastern nations. From the second half of the seventh century they are constantly found carrying tribute to the Japanese Court and receiving presents or being entertained in return. But these evidences of docility and friendship were not indicative of the universal mood. The Yemishi located in the northeastern section of the main island continued to give trouble up to the beginning of the ninth century, and throughout this region as well as along the west coast from the thirty-eighth

parallel of latitude northward the Japanese were obliged to build six castles and ten barrier posts between A.D. 647 and 800.

These facts, however, have no concern with the immediate purpose of this historical reference further than to show that from the earliest times the Yamato immigrants found no opponents in the northern half of the island except the Yemishi and the Sushen. One more episode, however, is germane. In the time (682) of the Emperor Temmu, the Yemishi of Koshi, who had by that time become quite docile, asked for and received seven thousand families of captives to found a district. A Japanese writing alleges that these captives were subjects of the Crown who had been seized and enslaved by the savages. But that is inconsistent with all probabilities. The Yamato might sentence these people to serfdom among men of their own race, but they never would have condemned Japanese to such a position among the Yemishi. Evidently these "captives" were prisoners taken by the Yamato from the Koreans, the Sushen, or some other hostile nation.


There has been some dispute about the appellation "Kumaso." One high authority thinks that Kuma and So were the names of two tribes inhabiting the extreme south of Japan; that is to say, the provinces now called Hyuga, Osumi, and Satsuma. Others regard the term as denoting one tribe only. The question is not very material. Among all the theories formed about the Kumaso, the most plausible is that they belonged to the Sow race of Borneo and that they found their way to Japan on the breast of the "Black Tide." Many similarities of custom have been traced between the two peoples. Both resorted freely to ornamental tattooing; both used shields decorated with hair; both were skilled in making articles of bamboo, especially hats; both were fond of dancing with accompaniment of singing and hand-clapping; and both dressed their hair alike. Japanese annals use the word "Kumaso" for the first time in connexion with the annexation of Tsukushi (Kyushu) by the Izanagi expedition, when one of the four faces of the island is called the "land of Kumaso." Plainly if this nomenclature may be taken as evidence, the Kumaso must have arrived in Japan at a date prior to the advent of the immigrants represented by Izanagi and Izanami; and it would further follow that they did not penetrate far into the interior, but remained in the vicinity of the place of landing, which may be supposed to have been some point on the southern coast of Kyushu. Nor does there appear to have been any collision between the two tides of immigrants, for the first appearance of the Kumaso in a truculent role was in A.D. 81 when they are said to have rebelled.

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