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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

And 3 to establish or abolish uji


*The

prefix mi (honourable) was and is still used for purposes of courtesy.

**In ancient Japan, officials and their offices were often designated alike. Thus, miyake signified a public estate or the store for keeping the produce, just as tsukasa was applied alike to an overseer and to his place of transacting business.

As far back as 3 B.C., according to Japanese chronology, we read of the establishment of a miyake, and doubtless that was not the first. Thenceforth there are numerous examples of a similar measure. Confiscated lands also formed a not unimportant part of the Court's estates. Comparatively trifling offences were sometimes thus expiated. Thus, in A.D. 350, Aganoko, suzerain of the Saegi, being convicted of purloining jewels from the person of a princess whom he had been ordered to execute, escaped capital punishment only by surrendering all his lands; and, in A.D. 534, a provincial ruler who, being in mortal terror, had intruded into the ladies' apartments in the palace, had to present his landed property for the use of the Empress. These facts show incidentally that the land of the country, though governed by the sovereign, was not owned by him. Lands in a conquered country were naturally regarded as State property, but sufficient allusion has already been made to that custom.

THE SPHERE OF THE SOVEREIGN'S RULE

It is related in the

Records that, in prehistoric days, the last of the chieftains sent by Amaterasu to wrest Japan from its then holders addressed the leaders of the latter in these terms, "The central land of reed plains owned (ushi-haku) by you is the country to be governed (shirasu) by my son." Japanese historiographers attach importance to the different words here used. Ushi-haku signifies "to hold in intimate lordship"--as one wears a garment--whereas shirasu means "to exercise public rights as head of a State." A Japanese Emperor occupied both positions towards mi-nashiro (q.v.), toward naturalized or conquered folks, towards mi-agata, miyake, and confiscated estates, but his functions with regard to the people and the land in general were limited to governing (shirasu).

If the ancient prerogatives of the sovereign be tabulated, they stand thus:

(1) to conduct the worship of the national deities as general head of all the uji;

(2) to declare war against foreign countries and to make peace with them, as representative of the uji, and (3) to establish or abolish uji, to nominate uji no Kami, and to adjudicate disputes between them. The first of these prerogatives remains unaltered to the present day. The second was partly delegated in medieval times to the military class, but has now been restored to the Throne. As for the third, its exercise is to-day limited to the office of the hereditary nobility, the Constitution having replaced the Crown in other respects.

Two thousand years have seen no change in the Emperor's function of officiating as the high priest of the nation. It was the sovereign who made offerings to the deities of heaven and earth at the great religious festivals. It was the sovereign who prayed for the aid of the gods when the country was confronted by any emergency or when the people suffered from pestilence. In short, though the powers of the Emperor over the land and the people were limited by the intervention of the uji, the whole nation was directly subservient to the Throne in matters relating to religion. From the earliest eras, too, war might not be declared without an Imperial rescript, and to the Emperor was reserved the duty of giving audience to foreign envoys and receiving tribute. By foreign countries, China and Korea were generally understood, but the Kumaso, the Yemishi, and the Sushen were also included in the category of aliens. It would seem that the obligation of serving the country in arms was universal, for in the reign of Sujin, when an oversea expedition was contemplated, the people were numbered according to their ages, and the routine of service was laid down. Contributions, too, had to be made, as is proved by the fact that a command of the same sovereign required the various districts to manufacture arms and store them in the shrines.


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