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(POWER and CLASS IN JAPAN, 500 to 1333 -- continued)

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POWER and CLASS IN JAPAN, 500 to 1336 (3 of 7)

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Japan in the Ninth Century

Emperor Kammu, who reigned from 781 to 806, cut his ties with Buddhism and restored the system of government laws called the Ritsu Ryo. Buddhism was now forbidden to interfere in secular government matters, but its religious functions were encouraged. Kammu ended military conscription of peasants, and he left court appointed aristocrats as leaders of his army.

His army responded to raids by Ainu against Japanese incursions and it warred against the Ainu north of Sendai. The war lasted from 780 to 803. The aristocrat leader of the army, Sakanoue Tamuramaro, became the hero of that war, and he became the first who wore the title of Shogun.

Garrisons were established in Mutsu province to keep the Ainu in their place, and for the next 150 years Japan had no more wars, the emperor's army seeing little action.

A succession crisis erupted in 806, when Kammu died. Bloody fights erupted between rival cliques as to who should rule as emperor. That same year, the fighting ended and Kammu's eldest son, Heizei, became emperor. He was apparently influenced by Confucianism and announced that good government depended on literature and that progress depended on learning.

Heizei ruled only three years, and the emperors who followed Heizei were more interested in the study of Buddhism and Buddhism's inner peace than they were in ruling. Rather than create anything that could be called good government, they began a tradition of ruling as figureheads confined to the duties of religious ritual and various innocuous works.

Government was run by the Nakatomi family, which continued to benefit from its ties with the Yamato family, and the Nakatomi changed their name to Fujiwara.

Occasionally the head of the imperial family would try to reassert his family's power. The Emperor Uda (r 887-97), who was not born to a Fujiwara mother, tried, but the Fujiwara remained dominant. The head of the Fujiwara family ruled as a regent or as a prime minister, and the Fujiwaras continued to monopolize daily government routines and religious rituals.

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