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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The Bakufu collected dues on foreign commerce



One source of revenue for the Bakufu was its domains in various places; another was the buke-yaku, or military-house dues. These were at first two per cent, of the land-tax of the house concerned, but afterwards they increased to five per cent. Thus an estate paying one hundred koku in the form of land-tax, had to pay a further five koku as buke-yaku, the latter proceeds being sent to Kyoto for the use of the shogun's household. Another important levy was the tansen, which, as its name implies, was a land-rate levied at so much per tan (one-quarter of an acre), the proceeds being devoted to special purposes, as, for example, to defray the cost of grand ceremonials or of new edifices. The records show one payment of tansen which works out at fifty mon per tan. Another document indicates that the monthly expenses of the Man-dokoro were some sixty kwanmon and that they were defrayed by levying taxes upon pawnbrokers and sake-dealers in Kyoto and in Omi province. The latter tax (shuko-zei) is shown to have been, on one occasion, two kwan eight hundred mon per house. The Bakufu collected dues on foreign commerce, also, and miscellaneous imposts of an irregular character made no small addition to its income.


Temples and shrines derived part of their income from port-dues and barrier-tolls. Thus, the Hachiman temple of Iwashimizu received

tolls from all traffic passing the Yamazaki barrier; Kofuku-ji levied duties on vessels entering Hyogo port, and Engaku-ji of Kamakura collected tolls at the Hakone barrier (sekisho). Such taxes proving very prolific and easy to levy, the number of barriers increased rapidly, to the no small obstruction of trade and travel. Further, the priests were constantly enriched with donations of land and money, in addition to the rents and taxes obtained from their own domains, and thus it resulted that several of the great monasteries possessed much wealth. To that fact is to be attributed the numerous establishments of soldier-priests maintained at Enryaku-ji, on Hiei-zan, and at Kofuku-ji, in Nara. To that also is to be ascribed in part the signal development of literature among the friars, and the influence wielded by the Shinto officials of Kitano and the betto of Hachiman.


A special tax levied by the jito was the hyakusho-yaku, or farmers' dues. These were one per cent, of the land-tax originally, but the rate was subsequently doubled. Other heavy imposts were frequently and arbitrarily enacted, and there can be no doubt that financial disorder contributed materially to bringing about the terrible calamities of the Battle era (Sengoku Jidai), as the period of eleven decades ending in 1600 is called. For, if the fiscal system was thus defective during the comparatively prosperous age of the Ashikaga, it fell into measureless confusion at a later date. It has been stated above that the area under rice cultivation at the middle of the fifteenth century was about one million did; at the close of that century the figure was found to have decreased by more than fifty thousands of cho. From such a result, opposed as it is to all records of normal development, the unhappy plight of the agricultural classes may be inferred.


Minting operations also were discontinued under the Ashikaga. Cotton cloth and rice served as principal media of exchange. Fortunately, commerce with China in the days of the Ming rulers, and Yoshimasa's undignified though practical requests, brought a large supply of Yunglo (Japanese, Eiraku) copper cash, which, with other Chinese coins of the Tang and Sung dynasties, served the Japanese as media. This fortuitous element was conspicuous in all the domain of finance, especially after the Onin War, when the territorial magnates fixed the taxes at their own convenience and without any thought of uniformity. One of the only sincere and statesmanlike efforts of reform was made, in 1491, by Hojo Soun. He reduced the rate then ruling, namely, equal parts to the tax-collector and to the taxpayer, and made it forty per cent, to the former and sixty to the latter, and he ordained that any jito collecting so much as a mon in excess of the official figure, should be severely punished. How the people fared elsewhere it is not possible to say accurately, but the records show that extraordinary imposts were levied frequently, and that the tansen was exacted again and again, as also were taxes on trades. As for the Imperial household, such was its condition that it barely subsisted on presents made by certain military magnates, so complete was the decentralization of the empire in this period.

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