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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

And for the Emperor Shiraga Seinei



The tomobe (attendants)--called also mure (the herd) or kakibe (domestics)--constituted an important element of the people. They were, in fact, serfs. We find them first spoken of in an active role as being sent to the provinces to provide foodstuffs for the Imperial household, and in that capacity they went by the name of provincial Imibe. Perhaps the most intelligible description of them is that they constituted the peasant and artisan class, and that they were attached to the uji in subordinate positions for purposes of manual labour. By degrees, when various kinds of productive operations came to be engaged in as hereditary pursuits, the tomobe were grouped according to the specialty of the uji to which they wore attached, and we hear of Kanuchibe, or the corporation of blacksmiths; Yumibe, or the corporation of bow-makers; Oribe, or the corporation of weavers, and so on.

It is not to be supposed, however, that all the tomobe were thus organized as special classes. Such was the case only when the uji to which they belonged pursued some definite branch of productive work. Moreover, there were corporations instituted for purposes quite independent of industry; namely, to perpetuate the memory of an Imperial or princely personage who had died without issue or without attaining ancestral rank. Such tomobe were collectively known as nashiro (namesakes) or koshiro (child substitutes). For example, when

Prince Itoshi, son of the Emperor Suinin, died without leaving a son to perpetuate his name, the Itoshibe was established for that purpose; and when Prince Yamato-dake perished without ascending the throne, the Takebe was formed to preserve the memory of his achievements. A be thus organized on behalf of an Emperor had the title of toneri (chamberlain) suffixed. Thus, for the Emperor Ohatsuse (known in history as Yuryaku) the Hatsuse-be-no-toneri was formed; and for the Emperor Shiraga (Seinei), the Shiraga-be-no-toneri. There can be little doubt that underlying the creation of these nashiro was the aim of extending the Imperial estates, as well as the number of subjects over whom the control of the Throne could be exercised without the intervention of an uji no Kami. For it is to be observed that the sovereign himself was an o-uji no Kami, and all tomobe created for nashiro purposes or to discharge some other functions in connexion with the Court were attached to the Imperial uji.


Another kind of be consisted of aliens who had been naturalized in Japan or presented to the Japanese Throne by foreign potentates. These were formed into tamibe (corporations of people). They became directly dependent upon the Court, and they devoted themselves to manufacturing articles for the use of the Imperial household. These naturalized persons were distinguished, in many cases, by technical skill or literary attainments. Hence they received treatment different from that given to ordinary tomobe, some of them being allowed to assume the title and enjoy the privilege of uji, distinguished, however, as uji of the Bambetsu. Thus, the descendants of the seamstresses, E-hime and Oto-hime, and of the weavers, Kure-hatori and Ana-hatori, who were presented to the Yamato Court by an Emperor of the Wu dynasty in China, were allowed to organize themselves into Kinu-nui-uji (uji of Silk-robe makers); and that a Hata-uji (Weavers' uji) was similarly organized is proved by a passage in the records of the Emperor Ojin (A.D. 284) which relates that the members of the Hata-uji had become scattered about the country and were carrying on their manufacturing work in various jurisdictions. This fact having been related to the Throne, steps were taken to bring together all these weavers into the Hata-uji, and to make them settle at villages to which the name of Kachibe was given in commemoration of the weavers' ancestor, Kachi. The records show that during the first four centuries of the Christian era the people presented to the Yamato Court by the sovereigns of the Wu dynasty and of Korea must have been very numerous, for no less than 710 uji were formed by them in consideration of their skill in the arts and crafts.

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