Yagyu no Tokusei Hibun (The Inscription of Tokusei at Yagyu) (柳生の徳政碑文)

Yagyu no Tokusei Hibun is an inscription on the stone monument found at Yagyu Town, Nara City, Nara Prefecture. This is considered to be a relic associated with the peasants' uprising of the Shocho era which occurred in the middle of the Muromachi period.


In the former Yagyu Village, Soekami County, there is a precipice which faces the Yagyu road and is separated from Hotoku-ji Temple by the river, and to its surface clings a huge rock of granite on which a Jizo Bosatsu-ryuzo (standing statue of the Guardian Deity of travelers and children) commonly called 'Hoso Jizo' (Smallpox Jizo) is carved. On the lower right part of that rock, an inscription of 27 characters is written. It is believed that one of the local ordinary people inscribed it in commemoration of the Tokuseirei (order to return the land sold and cancel the debts) which they gained through the peasants' uprising of the Shocho era in 1428.

The inscription is written for four and a half lines in incised characters, that says "Shochogannen yori/sakiha kanhe shikan/kauni oime aru/hekarasu," and if you go through the text normally, it reads, 'Shochogannen yori sakiha, kanbe 4 kagoni oime arubekarazu.'
It is interpreted as the sentence which explained the specific content of the Tokuseirei, that says, 'All the debts which have been run up by the peasants in Kanbe four villages before the first year of Shocho (1428) should be expired.'

By the way, 'Kanbe four villages' refers to four manors in medieval Japan, namely Oyagyu no sho, Shoyagyu no sho, Sakahara no sho and Oji no sho villages, and this is proved by the fact that the inscription on the bell by Takuan Soho handed down to Hotokuzen-ji Temple includes the expression 'Kanbe four villages.'


The rock itself is 3 meters in height, 3.5 meters in front width, and 2.5 meters in side depth. The carving face of the inscription is on the lower right part of that huge rock, and is approximately 33 centimeters in height and 21 centimeters in width.
The Jizo Bosatsu-zo (statue of Jizo Bosatsu) which deserves to be called the main body of the monument rock has a legend that it was curved to pray for protection from smallpox, and so it has been known as 'Hoso Jizo.'
The Jizo has an inscription that says it was completed in 'December, 1319,' and therefore, it has turned out that the Tokusei Hibun itself was inscribed 109 years later than the Jizo was carved.

The inscription was designated as cultural property by Nara Prefecture in March, 1953, and in the next year 1954, it was published in a history textbook for the third grade of a senior high school. And later in 1983, it was designated as a national historic site.

The inscription has been so worn down away by wind and snow for many years that it is in a condition that to distinguish the characters except 'cho' (長) with the naked eye is impossible. It was originally exposed in the open air, but in 1998 the surroundings of it were improved by elaboration of Nara City and it came to be protected with a roof and a wooden fence.

By the way, its replica is exhibited in the Exhibition Room No. 2 (the Medieval Period) of National Museum of Japanese History.


It was Teiichi SUGITA, a local history researcher, that put his hand first to the historical study on Yagyu no Tokusei Hibun. Sugita, who started the study in 1914, located a passage that said, 'A note about an occurrence in Kasuga four villages in 1428 was found on the surface of the Jizo rock,' in "Yagyu-ke Zakkiroku" (Miscellanea of the Yagyu family) written by Shirobe MATSUDA of the Yagyu clan in the Kyoho era, and later in 1924, he advanced an opinion that it was a relic of the peasants' uprising of the Shocho era.

And Sugita asked Yosuke WATANABE of Historiographical Institute at Tokyo Imperial University to appraise the inscription, and as a result it is confirmed that the inscription was historical material of an uprising of Tokusei. Corresponding to it, on January 15, 1925, the Yamato edition of Osaka Asahi Shinbun (newspaper) carried an article titled 'Monument of tyranny in the Ashikaga period rarely discovered,' and introduced the inscription to the public for the first time.

What is more, in August, 1964, Keiji NAGAHARA came to the spot to research the inscription, and he adopted it as 'Yagyu no Tokusei Hibun' in his book "Nihon no Rekishi, Vol. 10, Gekokujo no Jidai" (the history of Japan, Vol. 10, the era of retainers supplanting their lords) published by Chuo Koronsha in November of the next year, 1965, and therefore, it has become widely known.

The Value as a Historical Material

We have few historical materials to understand what tokusei the people really gained as a result of the peasants' uprising of the Shocho era. For example, although it is confirmed that in Kyoto the bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) issued a prohibition against tokusei, no historical material is left to confirm that tokuseirei itself was issued. But in Nara, because not only the written materials associated with Kofuku-ji Temple but also 'Yagyu no Tokusei Hibun' has been left, it has become possible to infer about the concrete content of tokuseirei. And what is better, the value as a historical material can be recognized in that it is not a historical material left from the position of the lords' side but is a historical material left from the position of the peasants' side.

Keiji NAGAHARA has expressed his opinion that the written material 'Kinsei Tokuseirei Jojo' (prohibition tokuseirei articles) which was handed down to Kofuku-ji Temple is a document that laid down the rules to enforce tokusei. Since this written material coincided with the inscription in the year when they were made, Nagahara concluded that in Yamato Kofuku-ji Temple issued tokuseirei, with the result that 'Yagyu no Tokusei Hibun' was inscribed.


Fukutaro NAGASHIMA of Kwansei Gakuin University has presented a question about the appraisal of the time the inscription was made, on the ground that the word 'oime' was suspected to have come into use after the Tensho era in the end of the 16th century.

Besides, there is also a question why 'shikago' (four villages) was written as 'shikankau,' but about this question, Takashi KAMEI of Hitotsubashi University has expressed the view that 'n' was a light nasal sound which preceded 'ga' sound in those days.

[Original Japanese]