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.

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