Karita-rozeki (刈田狼藉)

Karita-rozeki or Katta-rozeki (刈田狼藉) means to harvest rice crops illegally in order to claim chigyo (tenure) to land# in medieval Japan.
Also, karita-rozeki can be written in the following Chinese characters: (苅田狼藉)


Under the shoen koryo sei (social structure of the manorial public territory system) in medieval Japan, it was common for two or more parties to have joint ownership to a piece of land.
Farmers, myoshu (owner of rice fields), shokan (an officer governing shoen or manor), jito (manager and lord of manor), ryoke (a lord of a manor) and head family had their ownership to harvests generated from a certain piece of land or to a certain piece of land itself and these various ownerships were multilayered (this is called "shiki no taikei (定訳不明, framework of tasks or authorities in specific functions of administration.)"
Each entitled party had to prove the existence of their ownership by himself using kenkei (deed of title to one's property such as a land) or an andojo (a letter of certification of one's land). Given there were so many weak claims, naturally many territorial disputes arose. The early Kamakura period saw the appearance of the illegal reaping of crops to establish a claim to the ownership of the land. This was called "karita" or "karihata" (reaping of crops) at that time.

Kamakura period

Initially, karita or karihata related disputes were handled as shomu-sata (civil trials dealing with land-related issues), but the number of karita and karihata acts increased with the times, and around the late thirteenth century, such karita or karihata related disputes began to be called 'rozeki' with the implication of illegal acts, that is, karita-rozeki, and the handling of such disputes was separated from ordinary shomu-sata. In 1310, such disputes were for the first time dealt with as kendan-sata (criminal cases) by the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), and were under the control of Samurai-dokoro (the Board of Retainers) and Rokuhara Tandai (an administrative and judicial agency in Rokuhara, Kyoto) Kendangata (criminal justice). In the event of the occurrence of a dispute, shugo (provincial constable) of the state had to settle the dispute at the site under the direction of Samurai-dokoro or Rokuhara Tandai and report the results to Samurai-dokoro, etc.

However, karita-rozeki was not immediately classified as a crime. When the ownership claimed by a person who committed the karita was found to be correct and acceptable in court proceedings, his karita act did not constitute karita-rozeki and the person was not convicted. Before the karita act became subject to kendan-sata, it looks to have been recognized as one of self-defense remedial practices which were widely accepted in society at that time.

Muromachi period

In 1346, soon after the Muromachi period began, the Muromachi bakufu, aiming to stabilize the governing of the state by shugo, granted them the power of kendan and shisetsu jungyo (the authority to implement the bakufu's judgments on property ownership disputes). While shugo in the Kamakura period were involved in the kendan (trials) of karita-rozeki under the supervision of Samurai-dokoro, shugo in the Muromachi period actually exercised their own authority when hearing karita-rozeki cases.

Karita-rozeki disputes were just territory-related disputes occurring among warriors or shokan in a state; after shugo acquired the karita-rozeki related kendan power, they were able to have significant influence on warriors and shokan of the state, and afterward, shugo in the Muromachi period worked hard to vassalize warriors and shokan of the state. The acquisition of the karita-rozeki kendan power and shisetsu jungyo power provided an important opportunity for shugo in the Muromachi period to become shugo daimyo (Japanese territorial lord as provincial constable) and implement shugo-ryogoku system (the system in which a shugo dominates a manor) in the state.

The Sengoku period (period of warring states)

There were karita acts even in the Sengoku period (Japan). While shugo in the Muromachi period were in a position to hold kendan for karita-rozeki, daimyo (Japanese territorial lords) in the Sengoku period, in order to secure provisions for their armies, carried out many karita and karihata on enemy rice fields and other territories. Karita (illegal harvesting) also deprived enemies of crops.

Once the multilayered relation of the rights to land were dissolved as a result of Taiko-kenchi (the land survey by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI), both the act and concept of karita-rozeki gradually disappeared.

[Original Japanese]