Kochi Komin sei (system of complete state ownership of land and citizens) (公地公民制)

"Kochi Komin sei" is a system believed to have been instituted in the process of development of the Ritsuryo system from the Asuka Period to the Nara period, and under the system of Kochi Komin sei, it was provided for that all land and citizens should belong to the public, in other words, to the emperor. AfterWorld War II, Kochi Komin sei was appreciated as the most important system that had constituted the basis of the ancient Ritsuryo system in Japan. Since the end of the 20th century, however, the existence of the system has been doubted.

Traditional view

In 646, Emperor Kotoku who was enthroned through Isshi Coup (the Murder in the Year of Isshi) that occurred in the previous year proclaimed an imperial edict called Kaishin no Mikotonori as his new administrative policy. The edict consisted of four main sections with those subsections. Article 1 provided that "all of Koshiro people groups ruled by the previous emperors, Miyake lands set up by the previous emperors, and Kakibe people groups and Tadokoro lands controlled by their owners titled Omi, Muraji, Tomo no miyatsuko, Kuni no miyatsuko and Mura no obito should be abolished."
(Original text: All of the Koshiro and Miyake established by the previout emperors and all of the Kakibe and Tadokoro owned by Omi, Muraji, Tomo no miyatsuko, Kuni no miyatsuko and Mura no obito shall be abolished.)

Before the Taika era, the emperors and Gozoku (local ruling family) privately owned and ruled lands and people respectively. The emperors and royal families owned Miyake as their privately-owned domains and Nashiro and Koshiro as their privately-ruled people while gozoku families owned Tadokoro as their privately-owned domains and Kakibe as their privately-ruled people. Article 1 in the Kaishin no Mikotonori edict, however, banned such private ownership and control of lands and people and declared the establishment of a system that the emperor (the public) should own and rule all the lands and pelple, in other words, the conversion of Shichi Shimin sei (private ownership) to Kochi Komin sei (public ownership).

According to the principle of Kochi Komin sei, the Imperial Court allotted kubunden (the farm land given to each farmer in the Ritsuryo system) to people and imposed on them an obligation to pay land taxes. This principle succeeded to the Taiho Code which enacted in 701 to constitute the basic principle of the Ritsuryo system. When Sanze-isshin Law and Konden Einen Shizai Law were enacted to permit people to privately own lands in the Nara Period, the Kochi Komin principle of the public ownership of the lands gradually became a dead letter. Furthermore, when the system of Shoen (manors) gathered stream by private owenership of the lands, Kochi Komin sei collapsed, resulting in the demise of the Ritsuryo system on the basis of Kochi Komin principle.

New view

The tendency to doubt the above view on Kochi Komin system is gradually increasing.

First, in Shichi Shimin sei believed to have been the ruling system employed before the Taika era, tadokoro is understood to be the base for agricultural management that supported the political status of gozoku families as miyake was the management base that supported the sovereignty of the emperor. Miyake and tadokoro which served as management bases of the emperors and gozoku families did not necessarily mean private domains owned by the emperors or gozoku families.

Moreover, although the Kaishin no Mikotonori edict was to ban gozoku families from ruling tadokoro and kakibe, several examples that the Imperial Court permitted ownership of tadokoro and kakibe even after the edict was announced have been found. That is, such examples evidences that the ban on private ownership of lands and people was not officially announced or that effects of the ban could not easily spread nationwide. This suggests that the Kochi Komin principle did not penetrate into the society at that time but that the principle was rather used as a banner in advocating the ideal.

Furthermore, kubunden that had been conventionally considered as publicly-owned lands were, in fact, regarded as privately-owned lands or rice fields at the time when the laws of the Ritsuryo system were enacted. The concept of "Kochi" (publicly-owned land) believed as the basis of Kochi Komin sei did not exist at that time and it was after the Konden Einen Shizai Law (enacted in 743) that kubunden was recognized as "Koden" (state-owned rice field). That is, when Sanze-isshin Law and Konden Einen Shizai Law were enacted in the Nara Period, these Laws were not regarded as leading to collapse of Kochi Komin sei and the Ritsuryo system. There is a high possibility that the notion of Kochi Komin sei did not exist at that time and therefore, institution of Sanze-isshin Law and Konden Einen Shizai Law were rather aimed at reinforcing the Ritsuryo system.

As discussed above, significant revision has been made on the traditional view that Kochi Komin sei formed the foundation of the Ritsuryo system.

[Original Japanese]