Miketsukuni (御食国)

Miketsukuni indicated the supply provinces making offerings, namely the province that was assumed to supply food (secondary diet component except for grain), mainly marine products, to the Imperial family and Imperial court, from ancient Japan to the Heian period. Soyocho (a tax system, corvee) under the Ritsuryo system (a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo code) was imposed on each province, but it was considered that the offering had to be paid in addition to the tax. As it was seen many times in the poems of home admiration written in "Manyoshu" (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves), it seemed that Wakasa Province, Shima Province, and Awaji Province to be the appropriate Miketsukuni from the statement of the supply provinces making offerings in the "Engishiki" (an ancient book for codes and procedures on national rites and prayers) and the statement on mokkan (a narrow strip of wood on which an official message is written) that was discovered from the former site of Heijo-kyo (the ancient capital of Japan in current Nara).


Marine products such as; salt, abalone, and seaweed were used as shinsen (food and alcohol offering to the gods) at a Shinto ritual. It was imaginable enough that dominating the areas that had abundant marine products had important political implications for the local authority.

The supply of offerings appeared as historical materials in section 4 of mikotonori (an Imperial edict) in the Taika Reform in Nihonshoki (Chronicles of Japan), and it said 'Usually, by-products of the cho (tributes) such as salt and offerings, need to be followed according to local capacity.'
In fact, many mokkan were discovered from excavation research of the Fujiwara-kyo (the Fujiwara Palace; the ancient capital of Fujiwara) and Heijo-kyo, and the statements on those mokkan indicated the commodities were mostly paid to the capital as a tax.

With the statement of the commodities described on those mokkan, province, and county to supply, category of taxes, more specifically, so (a rice tax), yo (tax in kind), and cho, could be read.
On some mokkan, different kanji characters for offerings, '贄' (nie), '御贄' (Minie), and '大贄' (Onie), were found, not 'So,' 'Yo,' and 'Cho.'

Also, it was called niebito who were obligated to pay offerings, but it was indecisive whether the cho was exempted indiscriminately or not by paying offerings. However, from the original meaning of shinsen, a voluntarily supply of local marine products to the gods, it became a ritual to display the dominance of the land where offerings were caught by supplying it to a chief (an emperor) and having the chief eat it. In addition, it revealed that offering changed to coercive stripping like taxes under the Ritsuryo system.

There were no statements on supply of offerings under Taiho and Yoryo Codes. However, contents of supply offerings by Miketsukuni were stated in detail in "the Engishiki."

According to "the Engishiki," in the articles of Naizenshi (office that manages dining for Imperial family and the Imperial court) of the Department of the Imperial Household, there were items of 'Shokoku Koshin Onie' (supply of offerings from various provinces) and 'Shokoku Koshin Mikuriya Onie' (supply of offering to the kitchen from various provinces). In these items, it was defined for each province to supply the assigned food directly to Naizenshi every month (shunryo), on New Year's day, on seasonal festivals such as Ninamesai (the Harvest Festival) (setsuryo), and once a year (nenryo).

Situation in Wakasa Province

According to the "Engishiki," Wakasa Province was obligated to supply 'small fish' every ten days, 'sapid marine products' for every seasonal festival, and additionally 'raw salmon, seaweed, mozuku (alga-like seaweed), and wasabi' once a year as offerings.

As previously indicated, many mokkan were discovered from the former sites of Fujiwara-kyo and Heijo-kyo. Yarn and fabric such as silk and hemp were commonly paid as cho. However, the outstanding characteristic seen on mokkan was that Wakasa Province paid salt as cho.

In Wakasa Province, salt manufacturing facilities that seemed to be used after the eighth century have been found in the Funaoka site and the Okozu site (formerly Oi County). These salt manufacturing facilities were large scale, but it was considered that authority, at the time, gathered manpower by using coercion to manufacture salt rather than for residents' daily use.

By looking at the geographical features of Wakasa Province, the coast line was the ria coast and highly indented, and it was abundant in marine products because of the influence of Tsushima Current. On the other hand, the flat plains were narrow and limited, and the areas suitable for farm land were small. Also, Wakasa Province had Onyu and Mikata Counties in the eighth century, and only three provinces including Wakasa Province, Shima Province, and Awaji Province had one province and two counties within the Kinai region (the five capital provinces surrounding the ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto). As just described, it was assumed to be special places for the Imperial family and the Imperial court since it was approved as one province even though it had little farm land.

Situation in Shima Province

According to "Engishiki," Shima Province was obligated to supply 'raw abalone, turban shells, and boiled abalone' every ten days. It was also obligated to supply 'sapid marine products' for each seasonal festival.

The words; 'Shima Province, Shima County' was seen on mokkan discovered from the former site of Heijo-kyo, so it was assumed that Shima Province consisted of one province and one county at first. Subsequently in the "Engishiki," there were Toshi and Ago Counties. The farm land was small, and as kubunden (the farm land given to each farmer in the Ritsuryo system), the farm land in Owari Province and Ise Province were allocated to Shima Province. Like Wakasa Province in the previous description, establishment of these small provinces seemed to have political and religious circumstances with geographical conditions where small islands were scattered.

As will be described in the section on 'The relationship with the Kashiwade clan,' there is an opinion that a special relationship existed with the Takahashi clan who dominated Shima Province and Naizenshi. In addition, many names of Otomobe (private-owned people of the Otomo clan) were found on mokkan from Heijo-kyo as a clan who paid offerings to Shima Province.

Situation in Awaji Province

According to "the Engishiki," Awaji Province was obligated to supply 'small fish' as shunryo and setsuryo. As will later be described in the section on 'The relationship with the Azumi clan,' Awaji Province brought all male divers together, and that was where the Azumi clan dominated and competed for the position of Naizenshi, like the Takahashi clan did. Like in Wakasa and Shima Provinces, the particularity was seen since it was approved as one province regardless of the limited farm land availabe.

It took seven days to deliver offerings each way to and from the capital. It took more than the land route, so it was considered that delivery was made by ship to Heian-kyo (ancient Kyoto).

Relationship with the Kashiwade clan

The Kashiwade clan was the Tomonomiyatsuko clan who was responsible for supplying meals to the Imperial family and the Imperial court. Renamed as the Takahashi clan later. In "Takahashi uji bumi" where the place of the Kashiwade clan's origin was stated to be, it described that when Emperor Keiko visited the eastern province, Iwamutsukarinomikoto (known as the founder of the Kashiwade clan) in Awa Province, caught clams, cooked, and offered them to the Emperor, then he was offered to be Kashiwadenoomi (a leading figure who managed to supply food to the Emperor) to supply food to the Emperor's posterity.

"Takahashi uji bumi" itself was considered as an example of justice amongst the Takahashi clan, so it is difficult to accept everything as true. However, it was a widely-accepted theory that the Kashiwade clan (Takahashi clan) was assigned the zenshoku position in the Tomonomiyatsuko clan during the sixth century and had close connection with the east provinces.

"Takahashi uji bumi" described when Iwamutsukarinomikoto, the founder died, the pen name of 'Wakasakurabe' was given. There is one theory that the geographical name of Wakasa came from 'Wakasakurabe,' and it revealed the relationship with Wakasa Province. It is said that the name of Mt. Zenbu (膳部山) in Fukui Prefecture came from the name of the Kashiwade clan (膳氏) (both have the same kanji character, 膳, with different readings), and many large keyhole-shaped tomb mounds remain around Mt. Zenbu. For this reason, some supported the theory that the Kashiwade clan dominated Wakasa periphery from the fifth to the sixth century.

In addition, Hitotari TAKAHASHI, Kooyu TAKAHASHI, and Yasuo TAKAHASHI were assigned as kokushi (provincial governors) of Wakasa Province after the eighth century, and Naizenshi directly dominated the province after the establishment of the Ritsuryo system. However, with the level of critics of historical materials on Takahashi uji bumi, the description of Mt. Zenbu first appeared during the Edo period, so some say the relationship between the Kashiwade clan and Mt. Zenbu was low key.

On the other hand, the Takahashi clan maintained the heredity of kokushi in Shima Province for a long time from the Nara period to the Heian period with some exceptions. It was extremely exceptional for one clan to maintain the heredity of kokushi under the Ritsuryo system. Kokushi doubled as Naizenshi in Shima Province, and it indicated that Shima Province was 'Miketsukuni' obligated to supply offerings.

Relationship with the Azumi clan

阿曇氏 (the Azumi clan) could also be written as 安曇氏, maintained the heredity of the head position of Naizenshi with the Takahashi clan under the Ritsuryo system. Unlike the Kashiwade clan, the Azumi clan influenced on the western provinces such as; the Seto Inland Sea and Iki, and dominated male divers and amabe (people who served the Imperial court with their techniques of ocean navigation) in Awaji-shima Island and Shodo-shima Island.
On the other hand, it was also described in the Ojin ki that 'because male divers caused trouble, an ancestor of Azumi no muraji, OHAMA no Sukune, was sent to pacify them and became the head of male divers.'

Some say that the relationship between Wakasa Province, Shima Province, and the Kashiwade clan could be seen as the relationship between Awaji Province and the Azumi clan. Also, AZUMI no Ishinari of the Azumi clan served as the head of kokushi in Wakasa Province in 768. It indicated the power struggle with the Takahashi clan and the relationship with Dokyo (a priest of Hosso Sect of Buddhism in the Nara period).

Relationship with male divers and amabe

As previously stated, the Azumi clan was in the position to bring all the male divers together. It was considered that Kashiwade no Otomobe, a subordinate of Kashiwadenoomi, also dominated the male divers and amabe in Shima Province.

Description in the Manyoshu

Miketsukuni could be found in the poems of the Manyoshu. Each poem admired the land of Ise Province (anonymous), Shima Province (written by OTOMO no Yakamochi), and Awaji Province (written by YAMABE no Akahito). When the emperor admired the province and the land, it implied dominance of the appropriate areas. It was considered that by eating the supplied offerings, it indicated a ritual indication of the dominance of rivers, mountains, and oceans where offerings were produced.

The study of Miketsukuni

"Wakasa Province," "Shima Province," and "Awaji Province," the estimation of Miketsukuni from the descriptions in the Manyoshu, and the theory that Miketsukuni was special for Imperial family and Imperial court, were mostly due to a study by Hisashi KANO. There are the following three points from summarizing the presumptions.

Each province was approved as one province despite the limited farm land.

Marine products were abundant, and kinai where there the central government was located, was geographically close.

The Kashiwade clan (Takahashi clan) and Azumi clan had close relationships.

However, according to the mokkan and "the Engishiki" discovered from Heijo-kyo, the provinces obligated to pay offerings were sited in the inland areas such as Shinano Province and Shimotsuke Province, and those were relatively far from kinai. It is also noted that the further study is necessary concerning the harvests and crops, excluding marine products, in the countryside.

The current Miketsukuni
In the areas that were Miketsukuni once, the word 'Miketsukuni' is now used for promoting tourism as one of the brand names.
On October 6, 2006, the autonomous communities in the Kinki area, that had a history of 'Miketsukuni,' gathered and held their first meeting as a 'Miketsukuni Summit.'

Obama City (Fukui Prefecture)
Ise City (Mie Prefecture)
Toba City (Mie Prefecture)
Shima City (Mie Prefecture)
Minami Ise-cho Town (Mie Prefecture)
Sumoto City (Hyogo Prefecture)

[Original Japanese]