Emishi

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Emishi
Origin
Word/nameJapanese
Region of originJapan

The Emishi (蝦夷) (also called Ebisu and Ezo), meaning the "Shrimp barbarians", constituted an ancient ethnic group of people who lived in parts of Honshū, especially in the Tōhoku region, referred to as michi no oku (道の奥, roughly "deepest part of the road") in contemporary sources.

The first mention of the Emishi in literature that is corroborated with outside sources dates to the fifth century AD,[citation needed] in which they are referred to as mojin in Chinese records, which translates to "hairy people". However exaggerated names for people classified as "barbarians" was common. Some Emishi tribes resisted the rule of various Japanese Emperors during the Asuka, Nara and early Heian periods (7th–10th centuries AD).

The origin of the Emishi is disputed. They are often thought to have descended from some tribes of the Jōmon people. Some historians believe that they were related to the Ainu people, but others disagree with this theory and see them as a completely distinct ethnicity.[1] Recent evidence suggests that the Emishi consisted of several distinct tribes (which included Ainu, non-Yamato Japanese, and admixed people), they united and resisted the expansion of the Yamato Empire. It is suggested that the majority of Emishi spoke a divergent Japonic language, similar to the historical Izumo dialect.[2]

History[edit]

The Emishi were represented by different tribes, some of whom became allies of the Japanese (referred to as "fushu" and "ifu") and others of whom remained hostile (referred to as "iteki").[3] The Emishi in northeastern Honshū relied on horses in warfare, developing a unique style of warfare in which horse archery and hit-and-run tactics proved very effective against the slower contemporary Japanese imperial army that mostly relied on heavy infantry. The livelihood of the Emishi was based on hunting and gathering as well as on the cultivation of grains such as millet and barley. Recently, it has been thought that they practiced rice cultivation in areas where rice could be easily grown.

The first major attempts to subjugate the Emish in the 8th century were largely unsuccessful. The imperial armies, which were modeled after the mainland Chinese armies, proved unsuccessful when faced with the guerrilla tactics employed by the Emishi.[4]

Following the adoption and development of horseback archery and the guerilla tactics used by the Emishi by the imperial forces, the army soon saw success against the Emishi, leading to their eventual defeat. The success of the gradual change in battle tactics came at the very end of the 8th century in the 790s under the command of the general Sakanoue no Tamuramaro.[5] The adoption of horseback archery and horseback combat later led to the development of the samurai. Following their defeat, the Emishi either submitted themselves to imperial authorities as fushu or ifu, or migrated further north, some to Hokkaidō. By the mid-9th century, most of the land held by the Emishi in Honshū was conquered, and the Emishi became part of wider Japanese society. However, they continued to be influential in local politics, as subjugated, though powerful, Emishi families created semi-autonomous feudal domains in the north. In the two centuries following the conquest, a few of these domains became regional states that came into conflict with the central government.

The Emishi are described in the Nihon Shoki, which presents a view of the Emishi stemming more from a need to justify the Yamato policy of conquest than from accuracy to the Emishi people:

Amongst these Eastern savages the Yemishi are the most powerful; their men and women live together promiscuously; there is no distinction of father and child. In winter, they dwell in holes; in summer, they live in nests. Their clothing consists of furs, and they drink blood. Brothers are suspicious of one another. In ascending mountains, they are like flying birds; in going through the grass, they are like fleet quadrupeds. When they receive a favour, they forget it, but if an injury is done them they never fail to revenge it. Therefore, they keep arrows in their top-knots and carry swords within their clothing. Sometimes, they draw together their fellows and make inroads on the frontier. At other times, they take the opportunity of the harvest to plunder the people. If attacked, they conceal themselves in the herbage; if pursued, they flee into the mountains. Therefore, ever since antiquity, they have not been steeped in the kingly civilizing influences.[6]

Etymology[edit]

The record of Emperor Jimmu in the Nihon Shoki mentions the "Emishi" (愛瀰詩 in ateji) (literally the "Shrimp people" or simply "barbarian" or "foreigner") whom his armed forces defeated before he was enthroned as the Emperor of Japan.[7] According to Nihon Shoki, Takenouchi no Sukune in the era of Emperor Keikō proposed that they should subjugate the Emishi (蝦夷) of Hitakami no Kuni (日高見国) in eastern Japan.[1][7] The first mention of the Emishi from a source outside Japan was in the Chinese Book of Song in 478, which referred to them as "hairy people" (毛人). The book refers to "the 55 kingdoms () of the hairy people (毛人) of the East" as a report by King Bu — one of the Five kings of Wa.

Most likely by the 7th century AD, the Japanese used this kanji to describe these people, but changed the reading from kebito or mōjin to emishi. Furthermore, during the same century, the kanji character was changed to 蝦夷, composed of the kanji for "shrimp" and for "barbarian". This is thought to refer to the long whiskers of a shrimp; however, this is not certain. The barbarian aspect clearly described an outsider, living beyond the border of the emerging empire of Japan, which saw itself as a civilizing influence; thus, the empire was able to justify its conquest. This kanji was first seen in the T'ang sources that describe the meeting with the two Emishi that the Japanese envoy brought with him to China. The kanji character may have been adopted from China, but the reading "Ebisu" and "Emishi" were Japanese in origin and most likely came from the Old Japanese "yumishi", meaning "bowman" (their main weapon), however some suggest that it came from "emushi", meaning "sword" in the Ainu language.[8]

Battles with Yamato army[edit]

The Nihon Shoki's entry for Emperor Yūryaku, also known as Ohatsuse no Wakatakeru, records an uprising, after the Emperor's death, of Emishi troops who had been levied to support an expedition to Korea. Emperor Yūryaku is suspected to be King Bu, but the date and the existence of Yūryaku are uncertain, and the Korean reference may be anachronistic. However, the compilers clearly felt that the reference to Emishi troops was credible in this context.

In 658, Abe no Hirafu's naval expedition of 180 ships reached Aguta (present day Akita Prefecture) and Watarishima (Hokkaidō). An alliance with Aguta Emishi, Tsugaru Emishi and Watarishima Emishi was formed by Abe who then stormed and defeated a settlement of the Mishihase (Su-shen in the Aston translation of the Nihongi), a people of unknown origin. This is one of the earliest reliable records of the Emishi people extant. The Mishihase may have been another ethnic group who competed with the ancestors of the Ainu for Hokkaidō. The expedition happens to be the furthest northern penetration of the Japanese Imperial army until the 16th century, and that later settlement was from a local Japanese warlord who was independent of any central control.[9][10]

In 709, the fort of Ideha was created close to present day Akita. This was a bold move since the intervening territory between Akita and the northwestern countries of Japan was not under government control. The Emishi of Akita, in alliance with Michinoku, attacked Japanese settlements in response. Saeki no Iwayu was appointed Sei Echigo Emishi shōgun. He used 100 ships from the Japan sea side countries along with soldiers recruited from the eastern countries and defeated the Echigo (present day Akita) Emishi.[11]

In 724, Taga Fort was built by Ōno no Omi Azumahito near present-day Sendai and became the largest administrative fort in the northeast region of Michinoku. As Chinju shōgun, he steadily built forts across the Sendai plain and into the interior mountains in what is now Yamagata Prefecture. Guerilla warfare was practiced by the horse riding Emishi who kept up pressure on these forts, but Emishi allies ifu and fushu were also recruited and promoted by the Japanese to fight against their kinsmen.

In 758, after a long period of stalemate, the Japanese army under Fujiwara no Asakari penetrated into what is now northern Miyagi Prefecure, and established Momonofu Castle on the Kitakami River. The fort was built despite constant attacks by the Emishi of Isawa (present-day southern Iwate prefecture).

Thirty-Eight Years' War[edit]

The monument for commending Aterui and More at Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto

773 AD marked the beginning of the Thirty-Eight Years' War (三十八年戦争) with the defection of Korehari no Azamaro, a high-ranking Emishi officer of the Japanese army based in Taga Castle. The Emishi counterattacked along a broad front starting with Momonohu Castle, destroying the garrison there before going on to destroy a number of forts along a defensive line from east to west established painstakingly over the past generation. Even Taga Castle was not spared. Large Japanese forces were recruited, numbering in the thousands, the largest forces perhaps ten to twenty thousand strong fighting against an Emishi force that numbered at most around three thousand warriors, and at any one place around a thousand. In 776 a huge army of over 20,000 men was sent to attack the Shiwa Emishi, but failed to destroy the enemy who then successfully counterattacked their cumbersome foes in the Ōu Mountains. In 780 the Emishi attacked the Sendai plain, torching Japanese villages there. The Japanese were in a near panic as they tried to tax and recruit more soldiers from the Bandō.[12]

In the 789 AD Battle of Koromo River (also known as Battle of Sufuse) the Japanese army under Ki no Kosami Seito shōgun was defeated by the Isawa Emishi under their general Aterui. A four thousand-strong army was attacked as they tried to cross the Kitakami River by a force of a thousand Emishi. The imperial army suffered its most stunning defeat, losing a thousand men, many of whom drowned.

In 794, many key Shiwa Emishi including Isawa no kimi Anushiko of what is now northern Miyagi became allies of the Japanese. This was a stunning reversal to the aspirations of those Emishi who still fought against the Japanese. The Shiwa Emishi were a very powerful group and were able to attack smaller Emishi groups successfully as their leaders were promoted into imperial rank. This had the effect of isolating one of the most powerful and independent Emishi, the Isawa confederation. The newly appointed shōgun general, Sakanoue no Tamuramaro, then attacked the Isawa Emishi, relentlessly using soldiers trained in horse archery. The result was a desultory campaign that eventually led to Aterui's surrender in 802. The war was mostly over and many Emishi groups submitted themselves to the imperial government. However, skirmishes still took place and it was not until 811 that the so-called Thirty-Eight Years' War was over.[13] North of the Kitakami River, the Emishi were still independent, but the large scale threat that they posed ceased with the defeat of the Isawa Emishi in 802.

Abe clan, Kiyowara clan and the Northern Fujiwara[edit]

After their conquest, some Emishi leaders became part of the regional framework of government in the Tōhoku culminating with the Northern Fujiwara regime. This regime and others such as the Abe and Kiyowara were created by local Japanese gōzoku and became regional semi-independent states based on the Emishi and Japanese people. However, even before these emerged, the Emishi people progressively lost their distinct culture and ethnicity as they became minorities.

The Northern Fujiwara were thought to have been Emishi, but there is some doubt as to their lineage, and most likely were descended from local Japanese families who resided in the Tōhoku (unrelated to the Fujiwara of Kyoto). Both the Abe and Kiyowara families were almost certainly of Japanese descent, both of whom represented gōzoku, powerful families who had moved into the provinces of Mutsu and Dewa perhaps during the ninth century though when they emigrated is not known for certain. They were likely Japanese frontier families who developed regional ties with the descendants of the Emishi fushu, and may have been seen as fushu themselves since they had lived in the region for several generations. Importantly, the Abe held the post of Superintendent of the indigenous. This post proves that the Emishi population was seen as different from other Japanese though it's unclear what the responsibilities of the post were.

Soon after World War II, mummies of the Northern Fujiwara family in Hiraizumi (the capital city of the Northern Fujiwara), who were thought to have been related to the Ainu, were studied by scientists. However, the researchers concluded that the rulers of Hiraizumi were not related to the ethnic Ainu but more similar to contemporary Japanese of Honshū.[14] This was seen as evidence that the Emishi were not related to the Ainu. This had the effect of popularizing the idea that the Emishi were like other contemporary ethnic Japanese who lived in northeastern Japan, outside of Yamato rule. However, the reason the study of the Northern Fujiwara was done was the assumption that they were Emishi, which they were not. They were descendants of the northern Fujiwara branch from Tsunekiyo and the Abe clan.[15] They took liberties with giving themselves Emishi titles because they had become rulers of the previous Emishi held lands of the Tohoku.

Ethnic relations[edit]

Emishi–Ainu theory[edit]

Many theories abound as to the precise ethnic relations of the Emishi to other ethnic groups within Japan; one theory suggests that the Emishi are related to the Ainu people. This theory is considered controversial, as many Emishi tribes were known as excellent horse archers and warriors; although the Ainu are also known as archers, they did not use horses and their war-style was clearly different. They also differed in cultural terms. [1][16] Despite the cultural differences the Jomon is considered the ancestors of both Emishi and Ainu in historical progression, and the names for Emishi and Ezo are the same kanji character; it is already known that the name Ezo used in the early medieval period for the people of the Tsugaru peninsula and Hokkaido were ancestral to the Ainu directly so this is a logical progression according to this theory.

Recent studies suggest that Ainu-speaking hunters and fishermen migrated down from Hokkaido into parts of Honshu, and that they interacted or joined the Emishi confederation occasionally against the expanding Yamato.[17] The Matagi are suggested to be the descendants of these Ainu-speakers from Hokkaido which also contributed several toponyms and loanwords, related to geography and certain forest and water animals which they hunted, to the local Japonic-speaking people.[18][19] Studies of the skeletal features of the Jōmon culture populations has shown unexpected heterogeneity among the native population, suggesting multiple origin and diverse ethnic groups. A 2014 anthropologic and genetic study concluded: "In this respect, the biological identity of the Jōmon period population is heterogeneous, and it may be indicative of diverse peoples who possibly belonged to a common culture, known as the Jomon".[20]

Emishi-Izumo/Zuzu theories[edit]

There are several historians and linguists which propose that the Emishi spoke a divergent Japonic language, most likely the ancient "Zūzū dialect" (the ancestor of Tōhoku dialect) and are a different ethnic group from the Ainu and early Yamato. They were likely ethnic Japanese, which resisted against the Yamato dynasty and allied themselves with other local tribes.[21] Especially the similarity of the modern Tōhoku dialect and the ancient Izumo dialect, supports that some of the Izumo people, who did not obey Yamato royalty after the delegation of governance, escaped to the Tōhoku region and became the Emishi.[22][23]

Recent studies, such as Boer et al. 2020 concluded that the Emishi predominantly spoke a Japonic language, closely related to the Izumo dialect. Additionally, the evidence of rice cultivation by the Emishi and the use of horses, strengthen the link between ancient Izumo Japanese and the Emishi. According to the theory, the Emishi are the Izumo Japanese which got pushed away from the Yamato Japanese, which did not accept any concurrence to the imperial rule.[24]

In popular culture[edit]

The term "Emishi" is used for the village tribe of the main character Ashitaka in the Hayao Miyazaki animated film Princess Mononoke. The village was a last pocket of Emishi surviving into the Muromachi period (16th century).[25]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Aston, W.G., trans. Nihongi: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to AD 697. Tokyo: Charles E.Tuttle Co., 1972 (reprint of two volume 1924 edition), VII 18. Takahashi, Tomio. "Hitakami." In Egami, Namio ed. Ainu to Kodai Nippon. Tokyo: Shogakukan, 1982.
  2. ^ Boer, Elisabeth de; Yang, Melinda A.; Kawagoe, Aileen; Barnes, Gina L. (2020/ed). "Japan considered from the hypothesis of farmer/language spread". Evolutionary Human Sciences. 2. doi:10.1017/ehs.2020.7. ISSN 2513-843X. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ Takahashi, pp. 110–113.
  4. ^ Farris, William Wayne, Heavenly Warriors (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992), p. 117.
  5. ^ Farris, pp. 94–95, 108–113.
  6. ^ Nihongi: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to A.D. 697, Volume 1.
  7. ^ a b 朝廷軍の侵略に抵抗 (in Japanese). Iwate Nippo. September 24, 2004. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved March 1, 2011.
  8. ^ Takahashi, Takashi, 蝦夷 (Emishi) (Tokyo: Chuo koron, 1986), pp.22–27. Good discussion on the possible origins of the name.
  9. ^ Aston, W. G. trans. Nihongi (Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle), pp. 252, 260, 264.
  10. ^ Nakanishi, Susumu, エミシとは何か (Emishi to wa nanika), (Tokyo:Kadokawa shoten,1993), pp. 134–140. Modern analysis of the expedition.
  11. ^ Farris, p.86. Farris's account does not have all the details, but is a readily available source for the war's chronology in English.
  12. ^ Farris, pp. 90–96.
  13. ^ Takahashi, pp. 168–196. Very detailed analysis of the end of the war and the effects on the former Emishi territory.
  14. ^ Farris, p.83.
  15. ^ E.Papinot, Historical and Geographical Dictionary of Japan (Tokyo:Tuttle,1972) p.101.
  16. ^ Hubbard, Ben (2016-12-15). Samurai Warriors. Cavendish Square Publishing, LLC. ISBN 9781502624598.
  17. ^ Tjeerd de Graaf "Documentation and Revitalisation of two Endangered Languages in Eastern Asia: Nivkh and Ainu" 18 March 2015
  18. ^ Tjeerd de Graaf "Documentation and Revitalisation of two Endangered Languages in Eastern Asia: Nivkh and Ainu" 18 March 2015
  19. ^ Boer, Elisabeth de; Yang, Melinda A.; Kawagoe, Aileen; Barnes, Gina L. (2020/ed). "Japan considered from the hypothesis of farmer/language spread". Evolutionary Human Sciences. 2. doi:10.1017/ehs.2020.7. ISSN 2513-843X. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  20. ^ Schmidt, Seguchi (2014). "Jōmon culture and the peopling of the Japanese archipelago" (PDF). These results suggest a level of inter-regional heterogeneity not expected among Jomon groups. This observation is further substantiated by the studies of Kanzawa-Kiriyama et al. (2013) and Adachi et al. (2013). Kanzawa-Kiriyama et al. (2013) analysed craniometrics and extracted aDNA from museum samples that came from the Sanganji shell mound site in Fukushima Prefecture dated to the Final Jomon Period. They tested for regional differences and found the Tokoku Jomon (northern Honshu) were more similar to Hokkaido Jomon than to geographically adjacent Kanto Jomon (central Honshu).
    Adachi et al. (2013) described the craniometrics and aDNA sequence from a Jomon individual from Nagano (Yugora cave site) dated to the middle of the initial Jomon Period (7920–7795 cal BP). This individual carried ancestry, which is widely distributed among modern East Asians (Nohira et al. 2010; Umetsu et al. 2005) and resembled modern Northeast Asian comparison samples rather than geographical close Urawa Jomon sample.
  21. ^ 小泉保(1998)『縄文語の発見』青土社 (in Japanese)
  22. ^ 高橋克彦(2013)『東北・蝦夷の魂』現代書館 (in Japanese)
  23. ^ 『古代に真実を求めて 第七集(古田史学論集)』2004年、古田史学の会(編集) (in Japanese)
  24. ^ Boer, Elisabeth de; Yang, Melinda A.; Kawagoe, Aileen; Barnes, Gina L. (2020/ed). "Japan considered from the hypothesis of farmer/language spread". Evolutionary Human Sciences. 2. doi:10.1017/ehs.2020.7. ISSN 2513-843X. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  25. ^ Japanese Mythology in Film: A Semiotic Approach to Reading Japanese Film and Anime

External links[edit]