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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

A term of respect applied to the descendants of the Kami


being," a term of respect applied to the descendants of the Kami.


No mention is made of such a thing as currency in prehistoric Japan. Commerce appears to have been conducted by barter only. In order to procure funds for administrative and religious purposes, officers in command of forces were despatched to various regions, and the inhabitants were required to contribute certain quantities of local produce. Steps were also taken to cultivate useful plants and cereals and to promote manufactures. The Kogo-shui states that a certain mikoto inaugurated the fashioning of gems in Izumo, and that his descendants continued the work from generation to generation, sending annual tribute of articles to the Court every year. Another mikoto was sent to plant paper-mulberry and hemp in the province of Awa (awa signifies "hemp"), and a similar record is found in the same book with regard to the provinces of Kazusa and Shimosa, which were then comprised in a region named Fusa-kuni. Other places owed their names to similar causes.

It is plain that, whatever may have been the case at the outset, this assignment of whole regions to the control of officials whose responsibility was limited to the collection of taxes for the uses of the Court, could not but tend to create a provincial nobility and thus lay the foundations of a feudal system. The mythological accounts

of meetings of the Kami for purposes of consultation suggest a kind of commonwealth, and recall "the village assemblies of primitive times in many parts of the world, where the cleverness of one and the general willingness to follow his suggestions fill the place of the more definite organization of later times."* But though that may be true of the Yamato race in the region of its origin, the conditions found by it in Japan were not consistent with such a system, for Chinese history shows that at about the beginning of the Christian era the Island Empire was in a very uncentralized state and that the sway of the Yamato was still far from receiving general recognition. A great Japanese scholar** has contended that the centralization which prevailed in later ages was wholly an imitation of Chinese bureaucracy, and that organized feudalism was the original form of government in Japan. The annals appear to support that view to a limited extent, but the subject will presently be discussed at greater length.

*B. H. Chamberlain.

**Hirata Atsutane.


In the use of clothing and the specialization of garments the early Japanese had reached a high level. We read in the ancient legends of upper garments, skirts, trousers, anklets, and head-ornaments of stones considered precious.* The principal material of wearing apparel was cloth woven from threads of hemp and mulberry bark. According to the annals, the arts of spinning, weaving, and dyeing were known and practised from the earliest age. The Sun goddess herself is depicted as seated in the hall of the sacred loom, reeling silk from cocoons held in her mouth, and at the ceremony of enticing her from her retirement, the weaving of blue-and-white stuffs constituted an important adjunct. Terms are used (akarurtae and teru-tae) which show that colour and lustre were esteemed as much as quality. Ara-tae and nigi-tae were the names used to designate coarse and fine cloth respectively; striped stuff was called shidori, and the name of a princess, Taku-hata-chiji, goes to show that corrugated cloth was woven from the bark of the taku. Silken fabrics were manufactured, but the device of boiling the cocoons had not yet been invented. They were held in the mouth for spinning purposes, and the threads thus obtained being coarse and uneven, the loom could not produce good results. Silk stuffs therefore did not find much favour: they were employed chiefly for making cushions, cloth woven from cotton, hemp, or mulberry bark being preferred for raiment. Pure white was the favourite colour; red, blue, and black being placed in a lower rank in that order. It has been conjectured that furs and skins were worn, but there is no explicit mention of anything of the kind. It would seem that their use was limited to making rugs and covering utensils.** Sewing is not explicitly referred to, but the needle is; and in spite of an assertion to the contrary made by the Chinese author of the Shan-hai-ching (written in the fourth century A.D.) there is no valid reason to doubt that the process of sewing was familiar.

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