Shōdai Satodate: Diffusion and adoption of the register ( koseki)system in Japan


In ancient East Asia a system of registers, or koseki, was adopted to control the population. Owing to it, calculation of taxes and the number of soldiers to be recruited from a given area became possible. It firmly established state control over the population. Japan adopted and adapted various systems from China and Korea in ancient times, such as the ritsuryō code, and the koseki register was one such element brought in originally from China. There are koseki records from 702 extant, from the provinces of Mino (presentday Gifu), Chikuzen (presentday northwestern Fukuoka Prefecture), Buzen (presentday eastern Fuluoka Prefecture), and Bungo (presentday Ōita Prefecture). Among the four, the koseki of Chikuzen, Buzen, and Bungo are grouped together as the Saikaidō koseki. Although the Mino provincial koseki and the Saikaidō koseki were compiled in the same year, the layouts are different. Layouts of the Saikaidō koseki are the same as that of Tang China’s family registers, a format that was widely adopted throughout East Asia. The layout of the Mino koseki, however, is distinctive: in fact, it has two different layouts. One is a layout found on inscribed wooden and bamboo tablets from China and Korea. The other is a layout unique to the Mino provincial koseki. It resembles the layout of registers on wooden tablets discovered in Fukuoka Prefecture. The timing is noteworthy: right after the implementation of the Taihō ritsuryō code in 702, the Mino provincial koseki took its unique layout. I argue that the adoption of the different layout by Mino elites was militaristic in nature, and closely related to their special relationship with the monarch Temmu, which resulted in a layout of their provincial register quite distinct from other East Asian states.



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