Thursday 12/5/2013, 4:00-4:45 PM, Doheny Library 233
Military Issues under the Ritsuryō System, Military Campaigns to Northeastern Japan
IGARASHI Motoyoshi, Graduate Student in History, Meiji University
One of the military issues that the ritsuryô state of ancient Japan was faced with in the eighth and ninth centuries C.E. was preparation for military campaigns to northeastern Japan. The ritsuryō state referred to indigenous people residing in northern and north-eastern Japan who were not conquered by the central government as Emishi. The central government systematically attempted to expand its territory by gradually taking over land under Emishi control. In the process, the central government had to dispatch military campaigns numerous times; and hostile military tensions constantly existed in northeastern Japan.
The military strength of the ritsuryô state depended upon organized troops consisting of large numbers of soldiers and materials, including weapons. The Emishi people, however, were divided into numerous groups, and for this reason they were inferior in their capacity for continuing military engagement over a long time span. While the ritsuryô state found it difficult to cope with the considerable ability of the Emishi, the state finally achieved the goal by overwhelming them with enormous manpower and materials. At the same time the ritsuryō state was not enthusiastic about the development of new weapons and new tactics.
It is true that the military system of ancient Japan drastically transformed itself after the loss at the Hakusonkô battle in southern Korean peninsula in 663. In order to compete with Tang-dynasty China and the kingdom of Silla on the Korean peninsula, the ritsuryō military system became more systematic and structured. Nevertheless I have not found evidence of considerable progress in important aspects of the military system even when the ritsuryô state experienced numerous battles in northeastern Japan. In other words, military campaigns to northeastern Japan in the eighth and ninth centuries had a limited impact on the ritsuryô state.
Handout PDF (in Japanese)