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Kozuke Sanpi - UNESCO World Memory APR, 2024


There are only 18 ancient stone monuments in Japan, but three of them (Tago Monument, Yamanoue Monument, and Kanaizawa Monument) are located in a small area of Takasaki City and were registered with UNESCO's Memory of the World Register seven years ago (2017). There are many ancient tombs from the 4th to 7th centuries in the vicinity, making it one of the important areas for exploring the ancient history of northern Kanto. Although they are grouped together as three monuments, each has a different purpose. Tago Monument is a memorial to the establishment of a county in the early Nara period, and the other two monuments were made by powerful clans in the late 7th century and early 8th century, respectively, to pray for the prosperity of their families and to mourn their ancestors.



This is an interesting resource for understanding how the transition from the Kofun period to the Ritsuryo system was carried out, especially how local influential people and existing governance systems were incorporated into local organizations under a centralized system. Throughout the country, powerful clans were generally incorporated into the ruling system of the Yamato Imperial Court as kuni no miyatsuko during the process of "kuni yuzuri" (the transfer of the country), and then under the Ritsuryo system, their status as local officials was guaranteed as gunji. This was an area where the powerful clan Kamitsukeno

clan lived, and they appear frequently in the Nihon Shoki when they invaded Silla with Empress Jingu, during the civil war in Musashi Province, and during the conquest of the Emishi. I have read a book that says that the population of Kanto in Japan during the Yayoi period was twice that of Kansai, and it is an interesting topic to see how the Kanto region has been involved in the changes in Japanese history over the past 2,000 years. By the way, Kamatari Nakatomi, the founder of the Fujiwara clan, is said to have come from Kashima, and the two top deities enshrined at Kasuga Taisha are the gods of Kashima and Katori. There are still many unknowns over the long 400 years between the mysterious 4th century in Japanese history and the Asuka and Nara periods when the monuments were erected, but I am excited to see that new discoveries and interpretations will emerge in the future, thanks to the combination of documentary sources such as the Nihon Shoki and scientific analysis of the ancient tombs and their remains. It takes just over two hours from my home to Takasaki via the Ken-o Expressway and the Kan-etsu Expressway, making it a convenient area for a day trip to see all that there is to see.


The Tago Monument was erected in 711, shortly after the relocation of Heijo-kyo, and records the establishment of Tago County. The appointment of the county governor is justified by the authority of the Dajokan, but throughout the Asuka and Nara periods, the country and county were reviewed at a national level, and I imagine that the discrepancy between the centralized system in principle and the actual local control system was forced to be reviewed each time. The main job of the government office is to collect taxes and safely make them transported to Kyoto, but the poll tax (family registration and tax-working tax) system is similar to the failure of the Soviet Union, in that the economy as a whole does not grow and people flee to other places if the system is made strict, so it does not last long. In Japanese history, we learned about stopgap measures such as the law on permanent private property ownership and the tax exemption right, but as the gap in private property became larger, the right to collect taxes was gradually privatized, and it was inevitable that the rise of samurai who protected them would occur.


The Taira no Masakado Rebellion occurred in the first half of the 10th century, so the Ritsuryo system only functioned for about 200 years. What's interesting about Japan is that although the kokugaryo(official land) gradually disappeared with the expansion of manors and the subsequent samurai government, the authority of government positions remained for a long time and became a valuable source of revenue for the Imperial Court. Yoritomo was furious that Yoshitsune had been appointed without his permission, but for the samurai government, application for appointment was basically the sole prerogative of the shogunate, and the Edo shogunate established samurai official ranks to ensure that the positions of the noble class were not reduced by the appointment of daimyo. Incidentally, both Nobunaga Oda and Yoshinaka Kira were Kozuke no Suke, but in the 9th century, the three provinces of Kozuke, Kazusa, and Hitachi became princely provinces (provinces where princes were appointed as governors), and the vice minister "suke" became the de facto kokushi. Therefore, it was fraudulent for a vassal to call himself Kozuke no Kami or Kazusa no Kami.


The Yamanoue Monument is located on top of a small hill and is placed next to the ancient tomb. It was built in the late 7th century by a monk named Chori from Hokoji Temple, and contains records of his family including his parents. It is recorded that his ancestor was the administrator of Sano Miyake, that is, he ruled over land directly controlled by the Emperor, and a 6th century keyhole-shaped tomb, which signifies submission to the Yamato Imperial Court, is identified as the tomb of his ancestor.



Hokoji Temple is the site of the abandoned Sanno Temple in Maebashi City, and is thought to have been the family temple of the aforementioned Kamitsukeno clan, which continued to exist until the mid-11th century.








The Kanaizawa Monument is slightly older, dating back to the early Nara period, but like the Yamanoue Monument, it prays for the prosperity of the family and praises the ancestors, and seems to have been the class of Miyake administrators. As the old order (Miyake, Kuni no Miyatsuko) was replaced by a new system, it also seems to have been meant to express dissatisfaction with the fact that the families involved in Miyake governance were not able to become their own families or Gunji. Ironically, the monument was dug up from a field during the Edo period and used by farmers for washing clothes, but it is good that it was preserved while the characters were still legible. The three monuments are not only historical spokespeople, but also valuable as examples of calligraphy, using the clerical script of the time and old scripts that are no longer used in mainland China. Japan has a lot of volcanic acid soil, so artifacts dissolve quickly and are valuable, so if you have a stone that was used as a washboard, check to see if there are any characters carved into it.

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