Fushu (barbarians) (俘囚)

The Fushu were Emishi who lived in the provinces of Mutsu and Dewa and came under the control of the Imperial Court. Of the types of Fushu, people whose servile position was low were called Ifu. There are two origins of Ifu: people who became Ifu along with the territorial expansion of Japan, and people who were taken captive and then emigrated to the Japanese territory.

The word Fushu was also used for people who were treated as prisoners of war, mainly before and during the war.

Emigrated Fushu

the Fushu who were sent to the Japanese territory were a group of Emishi men and women who had yielded to the power of Yamato (Japan) during the wars that occurred intermittently between Yamato and Emishi between the seventh century and ninth century and thus were forced to emigrate to the Japanese territory. The areas to which they emigrated spanned all of Japan, even as far as Kyushu. The Imperial Court made kokushi (provincial governors) take care of the Fushu exclusively other than their regular tasks, so those kokushi supervised, trained, protected and nurtured the Fushu. The Fushu who had been forced to emigrate to the Japanese territory were issued with food as a Fushu allowance by kokushi and given remission from payment of Yo (tax in kind) and Cho (another type of tax) until they could earn a living by themselves. However, those Fushu never started earning a living by themselves in their permanent places to stay and continued to receive the Fushu allowance.

The Fushu had a lifestyle that was very different from that of the public peasants in general, and their lives were mainly centered on hunting and training in the art of warfare. To erase the differences between the Fushu and the public peasants, in 812 the Imperial Court issued an order to the kokushi to select competent persons from the Fushu as full-time Ifucho (leaders of Ifu) who would exercise their punitive authority for crimes in Fushu society. In the ninth century the emigrant Fushu were positioned as a major military force for the maintenance of security in the nation (known as the kokuga forces system). Fushu's hunting and military arts were centered on horseback riding and Kisha (shooting an arrow while riding a horse), and thus many samurai who came to the forefront at the time were heavily influenced by the Fushu's skills in battle. For example, Fushu's warabite-to (curved swords) were developed into a kind of sword, Kenukigata Tachi (Tachi with a shape of tweezer), that would be used by samurai. In this way, the Fushu's skills in battle were handed down to samurai, who at that time were in the early developmental stage.

However, uprisings by the Fushu gradually emerged, as seen in 'Arakashi no Ran (rebellion)' arose in Izumo Province in 813, the 'Shimousa-Fushu no Ran (rebellion)' arose in 875 and the 'Kamiusa-Fushu no Ran (rebellion)' in 883. It is thought that these rebellions occurred as outcries for improvement of how to treat the Fushu, but the Imperial Court, which did not know how to handle the situation, announced its policy of sending emigrated Fushu back to Ou (Mutsu Province and Dewa Province) in 897. In this way, most of the Fushu who had been dispersed throughout Japan were sent back to Ou.

Ou Fushu

It is thought that the Fushu who stayed in the Mutsu and Dewa provinces were given remission from payment of So (a type of tax), unlike people of the same region who took the side of the Imperial Court. They received food and cloth from Kokuga in the Mutsu and Dewa provinces, and they swore obedience to Kokuga and contributed their local specialties to them. Although Fushu was a position created by the Imperial Court who intended to set frontiersmen at the lower rank, they gradually gained power based on their tax-free condition and through the trading system, as mentioned earlier. This led to the power of the Abe clan (Oshu), who were promoted as chiefs of Fushu, the Dewa-Kiyohara clan, who were promoted to be masters of Fushu, and the Oshu-Fujiwara clan, who were promoted to be superior heads of Fushu.

However, it is thought that the Fushu had cultural wealth nearly equal to that of other Japanese people in the era of the Oshu-Fujiwara clan. After the destruction of the Oshu-Fujiwara clan, Kamakura bakufu took over the Mutsu and Dewa provinces by sending samurai into the Kanto region. From this period, the position of the Fushu was no longer perceived as special and thus no longer recorded in history.

Incidentally, Mineo KAIHO (1943 -) insists that the Ando clan, the Gozoku (local ruling family) in the Tsugaru region in the Medieval period, were ranked at a position equal to a chief of the Fushu.

[Original Japanese]