Comments to "Who Were the Emishi?"
Orig. 2001/04/29

A friend of mine has recommended that I take a look at a web site,"Who Were the Emishi?" Having read, I thought it would be good to provide a second view about the matter.

Here are my comments/remarks on the right hand side column. The left hand side column is a copy from the third party site above mentioned.

"Who Were the Emishi?"My Comments/Remarks
Japan's first history books were written in the early 8th century in the form of the short Kojiki and the much larger Nihon Shoki. The contents in the books regarding the earliest ages are disputable. They become more or less reliable after the late 7th century AD. Perhaps, a median position is not to deny those old books totally nor to accept in its entirety. Dates given in Nihon Shoki are doubted at least until, say, "the late 7th century." However, articles bearing any older dates should NOT be considered totally a fiction, but they were from memories of the events, orally transmitted over generations. There would be lots of distortion, intentional or otherwise, and lots of natural wear and tear as the old tales had been subjected to oral relays, until they were recorded in writing.
Japanese territory today is composed of four main islands; however, 7th century Japan lacked the whole of Hokkaido and the northern half of the Tohoku ('East-North') region of Honshu. Emishi lived in the Tohoku and Hokkaido areas. Ashihase lived in Hokkaido. In the 17th century the Japanese lived in all of Honshu and the southern edge of Hokkaido. The Ezo lived in Hokkaido and Chishima(Kuril), Karahuto(Sakhalin): they are known today as the Ainu. Readers are cautioned that while these statements are correct, they are two snap shots in the 7th century and the 17th century. A question should be asked as to what was like in much earlier days, as well as, whether or not a continuity of the peoples called Emishi and Ainu is present.
The question regarding 'who were the Emishi?' breaks down into: were they the direct ancestors of the Ainu? Or were they the same as the Japanese?

Scholars have argued both ways. This is an interesting subject, but I do not intend to bother readers by going into too much detail. Here, we only recognize that there were three races at that time: Japanese, Emishi and Ashihase. Literature supports Emishi were Japanese. Consistently the contemporary government regarded them as subjects of Japan. On the contrary, the Ashihase were thought of as a foreign people. The Emishi thought about themselves as a different group from the Ashihase.

It is controversial whether or not the Ashihase was a Hokkaido resident. Perhaps, a history record of Japan's navy pacifying Ashihase people is interpreted in such a way that the navy would not have gone as far as Vladi Vostok, therefore, it must have been in Hokkaido.

"Ashihase" is also called "Mishihase" in Japan. A dictionary says that Ashihase may be more accurate, but that Mishihase is more generally used. Either is a Japanese word associated with Chinese characters, . This is read Sushen in modern Chinese (for search engine key word purposes), or Shuku-Shin in Japanized pronunciation of the Chinese sound.

Archeology gives us a different understanding: from the 5th to the 7th centuries AD, the northern half of Tohoku and the western part of Hokkaido formed one cultural area, and many Ainu place names are left in the Tohoku. It is certain that the Ainu people lived in northern Honshu in the past. We have come to believe that the cultural area of the Emishi coincides with the areas that used to be under Ainu control. This view would be a typical one. People, looking at the snap shot in the 7th century, tend to construe that the enemy, be it Ainu or Emishi, was invading the Honshu island southward from the north. This is unfounded.

Archeological findings from Jomon ruins (typically from 10,000 BC to 300 BC) are rather uniformly scattered all over Japan archipelago from Hokkaido to Okinawa. While the main land was influenced by immigrants during the 3rd century BC and the 3rd century AD to have constructed a new culture, lately named Yayoi culture, the Jomon culture continued in Hokkaido, which is called continued-Jomon. The continuation of Jomon was then transformed into Satsumon culture, the name being based on Satsumon potteries. One of researchers, Mineo KAIHO proposes that the Satsumon culture was pre-Ainu. Because there is a continuity from Jomon to Continued Jomon, and from Continued Jomon to Satsumon, Ainu is clearly a descendent of Jomon in his mind. Ainu did not, all of sudden, pop up from the ground or flew down from the heaven in the 12-14 century. They should be descendant of a people residing in the archipelago, whatever name was given to the people.

The wide spread Jomon culture suggests that Jomon people/culture/language were also wide spread in Japan archipelago (by default). Then, immigrants (perhaps of several races with several languages) entered into the archipelago, likely starting at the northern Kyushu, pushing out Jomon people north-eastward. As the invasion proceeded, generation after generation, snap shots present that Ainu language was practiced in Hokkaido and northern Tohoku, then later only in Hokkaido (and Chishima and Karahuto, if to mention.)

The latter argument seems have a solid base, but questions remain. What were the differences between the Emishi and the Ashihase? What happened to the Hokkaido Emishi? And, how did the Emishi culture differentiate itself from the Jomon people? Because Jomon culture was rather uniformly found in the archipelago, because there is no such a ruin as an Ashihase culture found and because no one has found a solid connection between Ainu language and a Tungusk language, it appears to be safe to consider that Mishihase (or Ashihase as the writer of the article refers to) was a foreigner, a Tungusk based on the east coast of Siberia, say, around Vladi Vostok. Admitted, however, that there may have been some trader-immigrants in Hokkaido. They, if any, were not as powerful to leave traces in ruins or in language.
The answer lies in not thinking about racial lines too rigidly. This age was a time of nation-building, so we shouldn't even think of the Japanese as a concrete ethnic group. Clan or tribe, cultural and ethnic affiliation did not determine whether they were Japanese: the connection between culture and blood came only after political unity. While it (the left hand side statement) is agreeable, there would have been a group of people who speak one same language. The group can be regarded as a tribe. A Tungusk tribe might be present in Hokkaido. I would not argue that. But, there were overwhelming, comparatively, number of tribes that spoke Ainu. So long that nothing remarkable has been found as a trace of Tungusk language in Ainu language, the Tungusk influence can be said minimal. Minimal - one word may be borrowed. Ainu has a word, saman, meaning a shaman, which may be a borrowed word from Tungusk.
The Emishi were a different group of people from either Japanese or Ainu. They cannot be seen as either one or the other, because they thought of themselves as different.  Though Emishi had cultural and racial resemblances with the later Ainu, it does not mean that they were Ainu. The Emishi cultural area was probably smaller than the later Ainu area if we limit their influence to the Tohoku region. It is conjecture, however, if an Emishi were transported to the modern world and saw the Ainu people of Hokkaido he would probably answer that they were not Emishi. Historically, they certainly rejected affiliation with the Japanese. When there was a people called Emishi, there was no Ainu. When a people is called Ainu, there is no Emishi. It is safer to consider that Ainu is a later tribal name of Emishi. If "cultural and racial resemblances" are present, Emishi and Ainu should be considered a same group by a "default".

Concerning the statement, "The Emishi cultural area was probably smaller than the later Ainu area", I'd draw your attention to a paragraph in Nihon Shoki which mentions "Emishi" as an enemy to Jinmu Emperor (the first emperor of Japan). While the information is scarce, Emishi was present in today's Nara prefecture, if not around 660 BC, but perhaps around the turn of BC/AD, i.e., 2000 years ago. (More in below.)

The historical reality unfolds below. The contemporary Japanese government may have regarded some of the Emishi as "Japanese" who had rejected the Yamato state, and tried to forcibly incorporate them as subjects. Many Emishi did not accept Yamato rule. They fought long and hard, but lost out in the end.  However, after a few centuries, the descendants of the Emishi gained de facto autonomy, though at that time most had become assimilated into Japanese culture. First several statements are agreed, however, I am not aware of any "autonomy", however de facto it may be.
This page has briefly introduced the Emishi from a cultural and ethnic perspective. A good comparison that goes beyond the scope of this discussion is between the American colonies and their eventual conquest of the Native Americans of the eastern seaboard, particularly the Iroquois. One thing should be mentioned, which appears to be dropped from the article on the left. A word "Emishi" appears in Nihon Shoki as a tribe name. In the section of Jinmu Emperor's chronicle, there is a story about his wars with presiding people. After one of the battles, a poem was read, which goes like "It says, Emishi, (one was thought to be) equivalent to 100 men, did not even fight." Nihon Shoki, compiled in 720, claims this event occurred in/around 660BC; yet, none believes it now. Rather, it would have been somewhere around the turn of BC/AD in the western calendar.

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