Historical Study by the Historical Documents
The historical study of Hiraizumi culture
was taken up in the early modern period when
we developed rational thought about human
history. The study has been pursued in the
modern period with the European historical
method. We divide the process of the historical
study of Hiraziumi into five stages.
One of the oldest historical reports on Hiraizumi culture was Ou kanseki monro shi (The historical and archaeological study of the Tohoku District) written by Sakuma Dogan, who served in Sendai han (provincial government) as a Confucian scholar at the beginning of the 18th century. Thirty years had passed since Basho visited Hiraizmi. Sakuma made an extensive study of Hiraizumi on the basis of Azuma Kagami (The official history of the Kamakura shogunate).
During the mid and the late 18th century, Aihara Tomonao, a medical doctor of Sendai han wrote three reports on the history of Hiraizumi, Heisen jikki (The History of Hiraizumi), Hiraizumi kyuseki shi (Old Historical Remains in Hiraizumi) and Hiraizumi zakki (Essay on Hiraizumi). In the same period, Sendai han edited the two historical geographies. Aihara critically considered the description of the Azuma kagami and quoted war tales like the Heike monogatari (The Tale of the Heike), Genpei josui ki (Rise and Fall of the Minamoto and the Taira Clans) and Gikei ki (The Tale of Minamoto no Yoshitsune). He criticized the popular history books written on Hiraizumi, which were written in the 18th century. Hiraizumi shi (Geography of Hiraizumi) written by Takahira Mafuji after the Meiji Restoration also followed Aihara's work.
These works, which interpreted the basic historical materials of the medieval age represented by Azuma kagami and used other supplementary materials, form the foundation of the study on Hiraizumi today.
'Ou enkaku shiron' (Study on the History of the Tohoku District) published in 1916 was very important because it discussed the significance of Hiraizumi culture in Japanese history for the first time. In this book, Tsuji Zen'nosuke discussed Heian bukkyo shijo ni okeru chusonji no ichi (The Importance of Chusonji Temple in the History of Buddhism of the Heian period) and Omori Kingoro discussed Fujiwara sandai no jiseki to minamoto no yoritomo no oshu seibatu (the Oshu Fujiwara's Achievement and the Conquest by Minamoto no Yoritomo). Hara Katsuro, Kita Teikichi and Okabe Sei'ichi also investigated the subject.
In the first stage, historical documents which dealt with Hiraizumi were used. But in the second stage, other historical materials were used; diaries of aristocracy such as Gyokuyo (the diary of Kujo Kanezane), Chuyuki (the diary of Fujiwara no Munetada), Choshuki (the diary of Minamoto no Morotoki) and Taiki (the diary of Fujiwara no Yorinaga), the fables such as Kojidan (Tals of the old events) and Konjaku monogatari (Tales of Times Now Past), a historical book like Hyakuren sho (Chronological History of the Heian Period). As a result, the history of Hiraizumi was described from the viewpoint of the Imperial Court and warrior society.
The historical view in these studies discussed the 'colonial history' of the Tohoku District. The beauty of Hiraizumi culture was regarded as the result. In those days, the race of emishi (native people that inhabited ancient Tohoku District) was discussed, which influenced the genealogy of the Oshu Fujiwara family. It was considered that the Oshu Fujiwara family had not been the descendants of Fujiwara no Hidesato but that they named themselves Fujiwara later. In the beginning of the 20th century, the division of the 'Medieval Age' in Japanese history was established and the method of the study of history made remarkable progress.
The investigation of Chusonji Temple was carried out soon after World War 2 and its report of research "Chusonji to Fujiwara yon dai (Chusonji Temple and Four Generations of the Oshu Fujiwara Family)" was published in 1950. This investigation influenced the succeeding research because of its application of the natural scientific method. The History of Hiraizumi was explained by the ancient Tohoku history made by the emishi. Takahashi Tomio, Itabashi Gen and Takahashi Takashi, specialists on the history of ancient Tohoku, did a study of Hiraizumi.
"Oshu Fujiwara shi yon dai (Four Generations of the Oshu Fujiwara Family)" written by Takahashi Tomio in 1958 was not only representative of this stage, but has also influenced the study of Hiraizumi. He insisted that the Oshu Fujiwara family evaded the ritsuryo system and dominated the Tohoku District independently, based on the economic strength of gold dust and horses etc, and set up the government in Hiraizumi. Itabashi introduced a great variety of cultural properties and appreciated ed the cultural accumulation of the Fujiwara family in Hiraizumi.
The study of this stage depended on three compilations of documents related to the Oshu Fujiwara family and Hiraizumi in the late 1950' s. Takahashi Tomio edited "Ezo shiryo (The Historical Records of Ezo)" (1957) and "Oshu Fujiwara shiryo (The Historical Records of the Oshu Fujiwara Family)" (1959) which contains 1,136 documents. The Iwate Board of Education published "Oshu Hiraizumi monjo (The Documents of Hiraizumi)" (1958) edited by Mori Kahei and Itabashi Gen. These works are indispensable to the study of Hiraizumi. Thus, the foundation of the Hiraizumi study was formed. However, there was still little possibility of finding unknown archives.
The Fourth Stage
Historians who specialized in the medieval history of Japan positively expressed their opinions about Hiraizumi in 1970's as the division of the ancient and medieval periods of Japanese history gradually went back to the older times. The famous article "Chusei kokka no toi seibai ken ni tsuite (Consideration on the Judge Right to Ezo in the Medieval Japan)" (1976) was written by Endo Iwao. Endo presented a new interpretation of the Hiraizumi government by rereading "Rakkei Kuyo Ganmon, (memorial statement for the opening ceremony of Chusonji)" and insisted that the judge right to Ezo in the Kamakura shognate had already been established at the end of the 11th century; the Oshu Fujiwara family was given the role by the central government. "Chusei no Reimei (Dawn of the Midieval Period)" in" Chusei ou no sekai (The Medieval History of the Tohoku District)" was written by Oishi Naomasa in 1978 and had the same viewpoint as Endo's work. Oishi evaluated Hirazumi in the medieval history of Tohoku, examining the jito (the lord of manor), gun (county), shoen (manor) and ho (the private land of the local governor).
In this stage, the Oshu Fujiwara family was thought to have been subordinate to the central government. For example, the Hiraizumi government received military and police power from the local Mutsu government, manors of the Fujiwara family didn't expand to the whole Tohoku District, but were confined to the area around Hiraizumi, And Hiraizumi was described in the northern history involving Hokkaido and more northern area in contrast to the Jo family in Dewa.
The Fifth Stage
The archaeological excavation started at the Yanaginogosho site in 1988. Excavations were conducted in small area of Chusonji and Motsuji before, but the excavation of Yanaginogosho had a great influence on historians. How the medieval city of Hiraizumi was formed, how the new literal materials unearthed were deciphered and interpreted---these are important issues in the fifth stage. We've also noticed that the study during this stage has been advanced with the protection of Yanaginogosho site from the construction of the Hiraizumi bye-pass.
Saito Toshio argues the city planning of Hiraizumi, on the assumption that Yanaginogosho site was the place where the Hiraizumi government office stood, as recorded in the Azuma kagami (Saito 1992). Itabashi Gen had already considered this issue in the third stage (1961), but inevitably, the issue was not discussed thoroughly. Saito emphasizes the commercial character of Hiraizumi city and enlarges the city area along the Koromogawa River. Gomi Fumihiko (1993) argues the resemblance of the city structure between Kyoto and Hiraizumi from the viewpoint of local deities. Kan'no Seikan considers the characteristics of the Muryokoin Temple and evaluates it in the Hiraizumi city plan from the standpoint of religious history. Re-Interpretations are being applied to the well-known archives again, based on the results of excavation; for example, some historians insist that the canal surrounding the site characterizes the fortress of Hiraizumi city.
New literal materials excavated from the site are useful for considering the relationship between the Fujiwara family and its vassals. "Hitobito ni kinu wo tamau no nikki (The daily memorandum of giving the silk to the people)" consisting of 100 letters on the board is one of the most important materials found, and this enables us to discuss the warrior society in Hiraizumi.
Irumada Nobuo (1998) said that the traditional historical studies only put an emphasis on the genealogy and the power structure of the Fujiwara family, but they don't pay attention to the government office and the vassal's houses. This opinion represents that of the historians of the fifth stage. However, macroscopic study of Hiraizumi is not discussed positively except in the archaeological argument on trading and cultural exchanges based on the abundant ceramics. It seems that the structural study of Hiraizumi city aims at the connection of the excavated structures to the names of the archives.
We need to look back on the history of Hiraizumi study to clarify the point at issue, waiting for new literal materials from excavation and we have to reinterpret well-known documents. The cooperation between historical study and archaeology will be more important, and this interdisciplinary research will give us a new viewpoint.
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