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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

There were great uji and small uji



In addition to the above three-class distribution, the whole Yamato nation was divided into uji, or families. An uji founded by one of the Tenson took precedence of all others, the next in rank being one with an Imperial prince for ancestor, and after the latter came the families of the Tenjin and Chigi. All that could not thus trace their genealogy were attached to the various uji in a subordinate capacity. It is not to be supposed that one of these families consisted simply of a husband and wife, children, and servants. There were great uji and small uji, the former comprising many of the latter, and the small uji including several households. In fact, the small uji (ko-uji) may be described as a congeries of from fifty to ninety blood relations.

In the uji the principle of primogeniture was paramount. A successor to the headship of an uji must be the eldest son of an eldest son. Thus qualified, he became the master of the household, ruled the whole family, and controlled its entire property. The chief of an ordinary uji (uji no Kami) governed all the households constituting it, and the chief of a great uji (o-uji no Kami) controlled all the small uji of which it was composed. In addition to the members of a family, each uji, small and great alike, had a number of dependants (kakibe or tomobe). In colloquial language, an o-uji was the original family; a ko-uji, a branch family. For example, if the Abe

family be considered, Abe-uji is a great uji (o-uji), while such names as Abe no Shii, Abe no Osada, Abe no Mutsu, etc., designate small uji (ko-uji). If a great uji was threatened with extinction through lack of heir, the proper Kami of a small uji succeeded to the vacant place. As for the kakibe or tomobe, they were spoken of as "so and so of such and such an uji:" they had no uji of their own.

All complications of minor importance were dealt with by the Kami* of the uji in which they occurred, consultation being held with the Kami of the appropriate o-uji in great cases. Reference was not made to the Imperial Court except in serious matters. On the other hand, commands from the sovereign were conveyed through the head of an o-uji, so that the chain of responsibility was well defined. An interesting feature of this ancient organization was that nearly every uji had a fixed occupation which was hereditary, the name of the occupation being prefixed to that of the uji. Thus, the uji of gem-polishers was designated Tamatsukuri-uji, and that of boat builders, Fune-uji.

*An uji no Kami was called uji no choja in later ages.

There were also uji whose members, from generation to generation, acted as governors of provinces (kuni no miyatsuko) or headmen of districts (agata-nushi). In these cases the name of the region was prefixed to the uji; as Munakata-uji, Izumo-uji, etc. Finally, there were uji that carried designations given by the sovereign in recognition of meritorious deeds. These designations took the form of titles. Thus the captor of a crane, at sight of which a dumb prince recovered his speech, was called Totori no Miyatsuko (the bird-catching governor), and Nomi-no-Sukune, who devised the substitution of clay figures (haniwa) for human sacrifices at Imperial obsequies, was designated as Hashi no Omi (the Pottery Grandee).

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