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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

And o muraji great muraji in the case of an o uji


The sovereign's competence to adjudicate questions relating to the uji is illustrated by a notable incident referred to the year A.D. 415, during the reign of Inkyo. Centuries had then passed since the inauguration of the uji, and families originally small with clearly defined genealogies had multiplied to the dimensions of large clans, so that much confusion of lineage existed, and there was a wide-spread disposition to assert claims to spurious rank. It was therefore commanded by the Emperor that, on a fixed day, all the uji no Kami should assemble, and having performed the rite of purification, should submit to the ordeal of boiling water (kuga-dachi). Numerous cauldrons were erected for the purpose, and it was solemnly proclaimed that only the guilty would be scalded by the test. At the last moment, those whose claims were willingly false absconded, and the genealogies were finally rectified.

Instances of uji created by the sovereign to reward merit, or abolished to punish offences, are numerously recorded. Thus, when (A.D. 413) the future consort of the Emperor Inkyo was walking in the garden with her mother, a provincial ruler (miyatsuko), riding by, peremptorily called to her for a branch of orchid. She asked what he needed the orchid for and he answered, "To beat away mosquitoes when I travel mountain roads." "Oh, honourable sir, I shall not forget," said the lady. When she became Empress, she caused the nobleman to be sought for, and had him deprived of his rank in lieu of execution. There is also an instance of the killing of all the members of an uji to expiate the offence of the uji no Kami. This happened in A.D. 463, when Yuryaku sat on the throne. It was reported to the Court that Sakitsuya, Kami of the Shimotsumichi-uji, indulged in pastimes deliberately contrived to insult the occupant of the throne. Thus he would match a little girl to combat against a grown woman, calling the girl the Emperor and killing her if she won; or would set a little cock with clipped wings and plucked feathers to represent the sovereign in a fight with a big, lusty cock, which he likened to himself, and if the small bird won, he would slaughter it with his own sword. The Emperor sent a company of soldiers, and Sakitsuya with all the seventy members of his uji were put to death.


The administrative organization in ancient Japan was simply a combination of the uji. It was purely Japanese. Not until the seventh century of the Christian era were any foreign elements introduced. From ministers and generals of the highest class down to petty functionaries, all offices were discharged by uji no Kami, and as the latter had the general name of kabane root of the uji the system was similarly termed. In effect, the kabane was an order of nobility. Offices were hereditary and equal. The first distribution of posts took place when five chiefs, attached to the person of the Tenson at the time of his descent upon Japan, were ordered to discharge at his Court the same duties as those which had devolved on them in the country of their origin. The uji they formed were those of the Shimbetsu,* the official title of the Kami being muraji (group chief) in the case of an ordinary uji, and o-muraji (great muraji) in the case of an o-uji, as already stated. These were the men who rendered most assistance originally in the organization of the State, but as they were merely adherents of the Tenson, the latter's direct descendants counted themselves superior and sought always to assert that superiority.

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