Thursday, September 30, 2010

Imperial Era (710-1185)

Todaiji Temple Nara

The Nara and Heian Periods can easily be combined into one era.  Regardless of the capital being in Nara or Kyoto, the period is marked by the strong Fujiwara dynasty controlling the Imperial Court except for a brief three year period.
In Hyuga the period saw the rise of great Buddhist temples, the spread of farming villages, conscription for military service leading to the rise of the Samurai, minting of coinage under Imperial authority, and the rise of regional divisions within the provinces for better political administration.
As Buddhism became the dominant faith in Japan, Hyuga also began constructing temples.  Remains of the large temples can be found in Saito, Sadowara, Nobeoka, Takachiho, Nichinan, and the largest remains in Miyakonojo.  Outlying farm communities also had smaller temples.  During this time only Imperial administrators appointed to the area, the samurai, and Buddhist clergy were literate.
Remains of the literary works of the time have been found in ruins in the major cities of the time where the political officers held their offices.  A copy of the “Tale of Ginji” was found in Miyakonojo, for example.  In surprisingly good condition, it was found in a buried stone chest along with documents.  Among the items was a map that shows the regional divisions of Hyuga at the time.
As the Imperial administrators and samurai kept peace in the area, farming villages were able to expand and smaller villages began to spring up in new places.  Due to Hyuga’s warm climate year round, rice production was able to set the Hyuga officials and farmers as some of the richest in Japan.  Although coins were minted during this time, the currency in Hyuga was agricultural goods and items produced by artisans and crafts people.
It was not uncommon for barter to be maintained, for example, a farmer would pay in rice for a blacksmith to produce a tool.  Even the Imperial officials in Hyuga would pay for services in silk, old kimono, or sometimes even small tracts of land.
By Imperial order all males from 15 to 25 were required to serve in conscription for military service.  After receiving training in present day Kumamoto, they were sent to Nara or Kyoto to fortify the Imperial forces, or back to Hyuga to serve in one of the divisions at a garrison there.  Unlike the mountain castles of the Feudal Era, these garrisons were located at the entrance to a city where an Imperial official was assigned.  Inside the city were bureaucratic offices, shops, bars, tea houses, and the homes of the officials, samurai, and other rich citizens.
Samurai rose from the ranks of the conscripted soldiers.  Samurai were the “professionals”.  Intense training in archery, sword, cavalry, and mental exercises separated them from the average soldier.  In time this became an inherited position due to the fact these were the elite and experienced soldiers who chose to stay for life in conscription.
Due to the danger of shipping minted coins across Japan, mints were set up in the provinces.  Kyushu had two, one in present day Fukuoka and another in Hyuga, in what is present day Saito.  Coins varied in weight by gold or silver and pieces could be cut for smaller denomination.
As the population grew it was needed to expand regional divisions within provinces.  By 1025 Hyuga was divided into the magistrates of Nobeoka, Takachiho, Takanabe, Sadowara, Saito, Ikime, Sarukawa, Nichinan, Kobayashi, Ebino, Kushima, and Miyakonojo.  Each magistrate had a regional lord appointed by the Imperial Court in Kyoto, a delegation of advisors, tax officials, military command, samurai attachment, and scribes.
By the late 11th century in Hyuga, as in the rest of Japan, the power of the magistrate lords grew as they increased in land ownership and wealth.  By this time the regional lordship was handed down from father to son, or uncle to nephew.  Some like the Takahashi in Nobeoka had more regional power and personal wealth than the Emperor.  In time the wealthy regional lords would combine power and connection through family arranged marriages that would threaten the power of the Imperial Court in Kyoto.  Their samurai who served for life became much more loyal to their lords than to the emperor and the court.
By 1180 the Fujiwara and Minamoto clans joined forces with other nobles to wrest power from the Imperial Court and unite Japan under a shogunate.  This would usher in the Feudal Era in Japan and Hyuga.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Yamato Era (300 - 710)

Haniwa at the Saitobaru Museum

The “Book of Man (Hotsuma Tsutae)”, Chapter 38 relates the Yamato defeat of the Kumaso about 300 AD:
Prince Kousu and his entourage arrived in Tsukushi (ancient name of Kyushu) in the 12th month. There, they secretly spied on the movements of the Kumaso and studied the shape of the land.
One day, the Kumaso brave Toriishikaya (son of Sekaya) assembled his clan for a great feast by a river. When Kousu heard of this, he dressed himself in a young woman's garments, inside which he concealed a dagger. Then he went to mingle with a group of girls as they took a rest, and waited for his moment.
Soon Toriishikaya caught sight of the noble-looking girl dressed in her fine garments. He approached her and, taking her by the hand, led her into the inner room. He sat her on fancy matting, and amused himself with her as he drank.
The night wore on, and Toriishikaya let down his guard in his drunken state. Kousu now saw his moment. Taking the dagger out from inside his garment, he thrust it through his enemy's chest. It happened so quickly that Toriishikaya was powerless to resist. He could but raise a hand to stay Kousu's movement, saying:
"Hold your dagger, I beg you! I have something to say!" Kousu stayed his hand and let him speak. "Pray tell me who you are!", said Toriishikaya. "I am Kousu, son of the sovereign Woshirowake", replied the Prince.
"I am the strongest in this land. None may surpass me, and all obey me. There has been no man as valiant as you. For this, will you allow me to give you a name?" The Prince agreed. "From this day forth, may you be called Yamatotake, the Brave of Yamato." So saying, he breathed his last. Yamatotake then sent Otohiko and his men, who slew the remaining warriors and so completed the victory.
On the return voyage across the sea from Tsukushi, the Prince first landed at Kibi on the Anato Straits. There, he disposed of some violent brigands, before slaying a whole clan of miscreants in Kashiha, Namiha (today's Osaka).
On his return to the capital, he made this report to his father, "Guided by my sovereign's spirit, I was able to vanquish the Kumaso with my own might of arms. Since they are now all slain, there will surely be peace and wealth in the western lands henceforth. But in Anato of Kibi and the Kashiha Crossing of Namiha, there were still pirates who plundered the coastal lands and prevented people from crossing safely. Since these troublesome brigands were the root of these calamities, I easily overcame them, and have thus ensured the safety of sea and land."
Woshirowake was very glad to hear this. For the report by his son, who had returned to the capital after defeating the Kumaso, and had grown in stature by doing so, reminded him of his own past adventures in Tsukushi, where nothing could cause him any fear.
And he bestowed lavish gifts upon Kousu, now renamed Yamatotake, in recognition of his feat in pacifying the land.

From this time on Hyuga would never be the same.  The Yamato invasion insured that Japanese language, culture, and civilization would be the dominant influence from 300 AD to the present.  Quiet agrarian lifestyle would now include training for combat, building large burial mounds (kofun) for chiefs decorated with statues (haniwa), and paying taxes.  This would later lead to periods of loyalty for the Emperor vacillating to periods of loyalty for Shogun and samurai.
This period in Hyuga is known for the introduction of steel weapons and armor.  The Yamato had succeeded in building an empire from Honshu to Kyushu.  This empire was protected by the requirement for all men to be trained and ready in defense of the area.
The Yamato introduced a bureaucratic system that set regional boundaries.  Kyushu, then known as Tsukushi, was divided into the provinces Buzen, Hizen, Hyuga, Higo, Bungo, Osumi, and Satsuma.  Yamato officials were responsible for primarily assuring taxes were collected and a proper force of men was raised to assure protection.
The main settlements in Hyuga were Takachiho, Nobeoka, Saito (including present day Sadowara, Miyazaki City, and Ikime), Aoshima, Nichinan, Ebino, Miyakonojo, and Toi.  Kofun (burial mounds) are found in all these sites and none other.
A strict class system was in place.  At the top were bureaucrats, local leaders close to the bureaucrats, artisans and teachers, merchants, warriors, farmers and trades people, and at the bottom slaves and beggars.  No class could intermarry and rarely did one move up in class, although it was quite easy to move down.  Any digression of Yamato law and ethics caused one to lose all class title and be handed over to the mercy of the bureaucrats who also acted as judges.  Quite often they saw it as more expedient, and easy, to impose death rather than go through the trouble of stripping title and rank.
Agriculture was basically rice production throughout the Yamato Empire.  It was more labor intensive, but produced more abundance than other crops.  Wheat was still grown in Hyuga, but was a local staple.  Only rice was accepted as currency and as payment for taxes.  A barter economy also existed where merchants, artisans, and trades people exchanged goods and labor for other services and products.  Teachers more often than not were supported for the performance of their duty by all in the community.
Eventually this system created a clan system that saw bureaucrats emerging as the chiefs of areas.  Large tombs called kofun were erected for their burial.  Personal items were placed in the kofun along, later, with weapons and armor made of iron.  Terra cotta figures of animals and warriors called haniwa also decorated the burial chamber.  Common people were buried in mass graves around the kofun of the chiefs.
The Yamato Empire eventually stretched into present day Korea.  Great quantities of iron ore was sent to Japan and more advanced weaponry was introduced.  Introduced also was Chinese writing and Buddhism.  This alliance eventually broke down and great waves of Korean immigrants fled to Japan, most finding their way to Tsukushi.
The Yamato responded by sending court members to China to study Chinese government.  By the early 7th century a Chinese style constitution was adopted.  A very strict Confucian system emerged that put the Emperor at the top of society, followed by all government workers and military, teachers (including religious priests and monks), merchants and trades people, farmers, peasants, and at the bottom slaves.
Hyuga found itself in the midst of a power struggle between local nobility and the Yamato Court, as did the rest of Japan.  On one hand was loyalty to the local community and on the other loyalty to the Emperor.  This identity crisis led the Yamato to tighten control and set a permanent capital in Nara.  By 710 a firm Imperial system was in place and Nara was its capital.  From 710 to 1179 the Emperor was the undisputed authority in Japan, and Hyuga as well.

Kofun Number 5 at Ikime Burial Mounds

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hyuga Ancient Era (2500 BC to 300 AD)

Kumaso Pit Dwelling Replica in Saito

The first verifiable signs of civilization in Hyuga were in about 2500 BC.  Middens (the archaeological term for ancient trash dumps) reveal that stone tools were used, flint arrows were chipped out, and the diet of the people consisted of mostly gathered vegetables, fruit, nuts, and what could be hunted.
Clothing made of fur was worn.  Cave paintings that exist in the Nambu Heiyabu (Saito), Hokubu Heiyabu (Nobeoka), Nambu Yamazoi (Miyakonojo), and Hokubu Yamazoi (Takachiho) areas show that the people also fished in rivers and used spears to catch fish standing on the rock formations along the coastal areas.  Due to no basket weaving or signs of pottery the people were nomadic and moved frequently.
The plentiful caves in the area of Hyuga provided the bulk of shelter.  About 300 BC a change is noticed quite abruptly.  Pottery began to flourish.  The pottery is very similar to the pottery found at the same time in southern China.  Evidence of agriculture, use and making of metal tools (copper and tin), cattle rearing, and use of horses and ox plows begins to be seen at this time.

(In light of new evidence and research please see The Kumaso Jan. 3, 2011)
It is believed this is the emergence of the Kumaso in the region after migrating from present day Kagoshima and Kumamoto Prefectures.  The same evidence of the pottery and shift to agrarian lifestyle pose evidence for this belief.  Paintings and carvings also show that tattooing and cord weaving also came to be introduced at the time.  These are serious shifts in lifestyle and culture.
Further evidence is from written Chinese records of the time, “The people of the area have much hair, the men wear furs and skins over woven cloth, and the women wear their hair up with a long wooden pin holding it in place.  They are talented in tooth pulling and child carrying in woven baskets attached to the mother’s back by leather straps.  Most of the men wear tattoos and the women wear single seam dresses with holes for the head and arms. They are much like our people in Sheng.”
Pit dwellings and stilted huts were used for shelter and protection.  Stone ovens were used and the middens and use of pottery show that the people tended stay where they settled for centuries.  Pottery was not used by nomadic people due to its fragility and time consuming production process.
Use of ovens is important.  Unlike the Jomon and Yamato, the Kumaso baked breads.  This is evidenced in the middens where wheat chaff has been found.  Also, rice requires no plow where wheat does.  Use of metal hooks, nets, and boats for fishing emerge about 100 BC.  It is speculated that the Kumaso were more Sinic than Jomon.
This would only make sense as DNA testing has shown that the Ainu of Hokkaido were closely related to the Jomon people of Honshu (Japan’s main island).  Yet, the Kumaso are DNA related to the Sinic mainland.  Tattooing and tooth pulling were not known in Japan at the time.  The pottery of the Kumaso also lacks the cord patterns and stick decorating that Jomon pottery had; at least until the Yamato invasions that changed everything in Kumaso culture.
By 250 AD the area would begin seeing the first signs of invasion by the Yamato of Honshu (Japan’s main island).  In just 50 years the Kumaso would be defeated by either extermination or by forced integration of small villages where the chief surrendered.  Men would be turned into slaves and sent to Yamato land owners in Honshu, and the women given to Yamato settlers in Hyuga.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Why Myths From Hyuga

When one is reading the myths it is easy to ask, “Why would the Yamato choose these myths?”
The reason is three fold.  One, the myths were already well disseminated throughout the Yamato Empire.  The names Amaterasu and others dominated the emerging Shinto legends.
Two, when Prince Toneri in the eighth century had the legends put into written form in the “Kojiki” and “Nihon Shoki” to impress the Chinese; they both demonstrated Japan, or the Land of Wa, had a viable culture and emerging civilization.
Finally, the Chinese were already familiar with Kyushu and Hyuga.  They lie closer to China than the main island Honshu does.  It stands to reason that many in the Han Court were already familiar with the myths.
The Yamato, like all conquering people, saw a culture of legend that they were lacking.  The Yamato were more concerned with centralizing power and conquering the other tribes of Japan.  Kyushu being so far away and the descriptions the Yamato warriors brought back fueled an idea of an exotic land where gods and goddesses roamed and Japan’s first Emperor would have surely been proud to claim the land as his own birth-right and seat of power.
Much as was done in our Western tradition when the Israelites conquered and incorporated into their myths those of the vanquished.  Much as Rome took the Grecian Pantheon and made it Roman.  The Yamato simply took the pantheon of Kumaso, Hayato, and other tribal gods and made the gods their own.
As Tolstoy noted, “History is written by the victor.  The vanquished concede all, including their culture.”

Sunday, September 26, 2010

In the Beginning

Like all cultures, Japan has a creation myth centered in the ancient land of Hyuga (日向), present day Miyazaki.
Ages ago all life was empty and there was a void. Then a seed of life sprang up.  This seed began to mix things around and around until the heavier part sank and the lighter part rose to the top of the heavens. A muddy sea that covered the entire earth was created. From this ocean grew a green shoot. It grew and grew until it reached the clouds and there it was tranformed into a god. Soon this god grew lonely and it began to create other gods. The last two gods it made, Izanagi and Izanami, were the most remarkable.
One day as they were walking along they looked down on the ocean and wondered what was beneath it. Izanagi thrust his staff into the waters and as he pulled it back up some clumps of mud fell back into the sea. They began to harden and grow until they became the islands of Japan.
The two descended to these islands and began to explore, each going in different directions. They created all kinds of plants. When they met again they decided to marry and have children to inhabit the land. The first child Izanami bore was a girl of radiant beauty. The gods decided she was too beautiful to live in Japan, so they put her up in the sky and she became the sun. Their second daughter, Tsuki-yami, became the moon and their third and unruly son, Sosano-wo, was sentenced to the sea, where he creates storms.
Later, their first child, Amaterasu, bore a son who became the emperor of Japan and all the emperors since then have claimed descent from him.
The many shinto shrines in Miyazaki all claim to be the bastions of this myth.  In Takachiho, the shrine boasts one of the most important legends.   Amaterasu, the Shinto sun goddess, became so outraged by her brother's cruel pranks that she hid herself in a cave, refusing to come out and depriving the world of her life-giving light.
All of the other gods and goddesses gathered to lure her out. They tried everything they could think of to no avail until one goddess performed an outrageously ribald dance that caused the other gods to roar with laughter. Amaterasu left the cave to see what all the fun was about, and in doing so she returned her light to the world.
Udo Shrine in Nichinan boasts the second important shrine.  Udo Shrine is dedicated to Yamasachihiko, the father of Emperor Jimmu, the mythical first emperor of Japan. This brightly painted shrine is set in a cave on the side of a cliff overlooking the ocean and so enjoys a spectacular view.
There are a few legends concerning Emperor Jimmu and this cave, although it is unclear whether he was born here or visited here as a baby. However, the one thing the stories have in common are the breast shaped rocks in the cave wall which are said to have nourished him.
Drinking the water that drips from these rocks is thought to be beneficial for pregnancy, childbirth, nursing and women hoping to have a child. The shrine is also thought to be fortunate for couples and newlyweds.
Outside the cave is a terrace overlooking the ocean. Among the rocks below is a target marked by rope into which people try to throw small ceramic undama, or lucky balls (available at the shrine for a small fee). Women throw with their right hand while men throw with their left, and landing an undama in the target brings good luck.
The third important shrine is Miyazaki Shrine.  Dedicated to Emperor Jimmu, the mythical first emperor of Japan, it is said to have been established over 2600 years ago.
The shrine's buildings, constructed of simple, unpainted cedar, sit in the center of a large, quiet forest. Festivals and other events such as yabusame (horseback archery competitions) are held during the year on the wide path under the trees.
In relation to Miyazaki Shrine is Heiwadai Park. 
Heiwadai Park, or Peace Tower Park, was built in 1940 to celebrate the 2600th anniversary of the ascension of Emperor Jimmu, the mythical first emperor of Japan, on what is believed to be the original site of his capital. Inside the park stands the Peace Tower, or Heiwadainoto, a tower constructed of stones sent from all around Asia and one of Miyazaki's most recognizable landmarks.
The Peace Tower was meant to symbolize a united world. On the front of the tower is the phrase "Hakko Ichiu", which is attributed to Emperor Jimmu and means "United under one roof".
The final shrine of importance is in Saito.  The myth of the all night Kagura dance in Shiromi goes thus: When Amatsuhiko-Hiko-Hononinigi-no-Mikoto (Hononinigi) descended from heaven onto the peak of Mt. Takachiho in a place called Himuka of Tsukushi, with him came many servants and gifts received from the sun god Amaterasu, among the gifts were a sickle, a sword and a mirror.
When he met Konohana-no-Sakuya-Bime (Tree-Blossom-Blooming-Princess), a beautiful princess he asked her father for her hand in marriage and her father agreed sending with her many gifts and her sister Ihanaga-Hime (Eternal-Rock-Princess), Ihanaga-Hime's father wanted to endow Hononinigi's children with long life like that of a rock.
However Hononinigi found Ihanaga-Hime so ugly he sent her back to her father and then proceeded to consummate his marriage with Konohana-no-Sakuya-Bime, which was the first marriage between a deity of earth with one of heaven. On returning home Ihanaga-Hime bemoaning her misfortune threw away a mirror reflecting her own image in its glass, the mirror fell in Shiromi. So the Shiromi shrine is dedicated to Ihanaga-Hime.
While this is mythical, it is important to bear in mind that myths are the beginning of written history for all cultures and civilizations.  Myths develop the ethics, government, and class structure that the society will develop.  The Yamato Dynasty used these myths to develop a system that ruled Japan for 700 years and beyond.  These myths were used also by shogunates and military governments to show Emperor and people alike were descended from the gods.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Land of Gods

Miyazaki Prefecture was once known as Hyuga (日向). It was in this land that prehistoric people hunted the abundance of deer and pheasant and the myths of Shinto developed.
The ancient Kumaso people fought the Yamato for their survival, and the clash of samurai blades between the Ito (伊東) and Shimazu (島津) changed the balance of power during the Sengoku Period.
The boundaries were changed during the Tokugawa Shogunate dividing Hyuga into four domains. Each with an ornate castle that demonstrated the daimyo's power and influence. Then during the Meiji Reformation all boundaries were changed several times until present day Miyazaki Prefecture was designated.
Today, Miyazaki boasts a variety of agriculture including beef, pork, chicken, eggs, mango, tobacco, rice, and corn. Miyazaki also is home to the largest solar energy research fascility and Boston Scientific and Showa Shell also have scientific research fascilities.
Miyazaki Medical University contains one of the top Oncology research hospitals not only in Kyushu, but Japan as well.
Miyazaki is still a top tourist destination for domestic and international travelers. The natural beauty and abundant agriculture show why generations of samurai battled for this land of gods.