Mokkan (Confiscation) (没官)

Mokkan (also read as Bokkan) is one of supplementary punishments in the ritsuryo system (a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo code), and it refers to the confiscation of corpus or property by the authority.


In Japan, Mokkan is known to have been existed since the time before the ritsuryo system was established. Not only it was recorded in Chinese history books such as "Gishiwajinden" (literally, an 'Account of the Wa' in "The History of the Wei Dynasty") and "Zuisho; Suishu" (the Book of the Sui Dynasty), it was already established as a common law as it was referred to in Shasho (decree of amnesty) which was used during the time of the Emperor Temmu ("Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan), the Article of Mizuno-e, the eighth month of the fifth year of the Emperor Temmu).

As examples of confiscation of corpus, the father and children as well as the retainers of a rebel and traitor were confiscated (those over the age of 80 and seriously ill or disabled were exempted), and they became kannuhi (government-owned slave) under Kannushi (an office belonged to the Imperial Household Ministry under the Ritsuryo system, which administered kubunden (the farm land given to each farmer) and Meiseki (cards that showed official ranks, names and ages)) (Zokutoritsu or criminal punishments on serious crimes such as rebellion, murder, burglary and human trafficking). Also, in the case of pregnancy as results of consensual sexual intercourses between the retainers, slaves, masters and their relative within the 5 degree of relationship, the resulting child was also confiscated (in the case of rape, however, this rule was not applied, as it was regarded as benign case). From a legal point of view, it was regarded as a less serious punishment than an execution by decapitation, but it was regarded as a more serious punishment than a banishment.

As examples of confiscation of properties, the properties of traitors, possessions, stolen goods, bribes, illegally obtained goods such as goods brought in by contraband trades (what fall under the category of illegally obtained goods here, however, is fewer than that of aganaimono (stolen goods) defined in the modern Penal Codes), and prohibited objects (goods which were banned among the general public) were confiscated, and baizo (the penalty which was given to a thief to recompense by paying back twofold of what he/she stole) was given. These goods were confiscated by Aganaimono no tsukasa (office which deals with stolen goods), and weapons were kept in Hyogoryo (Bureau of Military Storehouses), valuable goods were kept in Okura-sho (Bureau of the Treasury), books were kept in Zushoryo (Bureau of Books and Drawings), and some were used to maintain the prison houses and as daily necessities for prisoners at the Gyobusho (Bureau of Criminal Punishments) which oversaw Aganaimono no tsukasa.

After the late Heian period when the Ritsuryo Code was in decline, properties and possessions were confiscated from the influential elites as punishments for not only rebellions, but also for other serious crimes. Particularly, there were cases in which the large-scale manors confiscated from manor lords brought a large sum of revenue to the court. To give an example, the massive territories of FUJIWARA no Tadazane and FUJIWARA no Yorinaga who were recognized as rebels during the Hogen Disturbance were confiscated. Later the large parts of territories which were originally belonged to Sekkan-ke (the line of regents and advisers) and Tadasane were returned on the condition that they were inherited by FUJIWARA no Tadamichi. The manors which belonged to Yorinaga were transferred, together with the territories of TAIRA no Tadamasa and TAIRA no Masahiro who were killed during the Disturbance, to the property of the retired emperor, and later the income from these territories supported the finance of the cloister government of the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa. Although as a general rule, Mokkan was carried out upon receiving the emperor's special permission, Heike Mokkanryo (Land rights confiscated by Kamakura bakufu from the Taira family) during the time when the Emperor Antoku was kidnapped by the Taira family in Jisho War was carried out upon receiving the permission from the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa. Around this period, on the other hand, Mokkan was carried out by the manor lords according to honjo-ho (the law for the proprietors of manor) alongside with the executions and banishments of the serious criminals such as murderers. During Jisho War, the influential anti-Heishi (anti-Taira clan) group such as MINAMOTO no Yoritomo declared to confiscate the Taira territories which they occupied, and distributed them to their own gokenin (immediate vassals), which was later permitted by the Imperial Court as a part of the subjugation of the Taira family. When later Yoritomo established the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) and the right to judge criminal cases was taken on by the bakufu, Mokkan was widely carried out using the authority as bakufu, gokenin were appointed as jito (manager and lord of manor) of the confiscated territories. The right to control territories on the part of the Imperial Court was practically diminished to none after the Muromachi period, and only the bakufu had authority to confiscate. Then only the terms such as 'bosshu' (confiscations) and 'kessho' (confiscation of one's estate for punishment) were in use.

Mokkanden (confiscated fields) and Mokkanryo (confiscated territories)

Mokkanden refers to fields which were confiscated by the authority as punishment. Later when the confiscations of territories such as manors were started, and the term Mokkanryo was employed.

According to "Engishiki" (an ancient book for codes and procedures on national rites and prayers), Mokkanden was managed as Yujishiden (fields with which the part of harvest was paid as tax), but they were also often used as special prizes as well as donations to temples.

It is known that the confiscation of rice fields were carried out during the revolt of TACHIBANA no Naramaro (the map of donated fields in Ishiawa Village, Tonami County, Ecchu Province), and "Shoku Nihongi" (Chronicle of Japan Continued) also records the fact that Mokkanden was donated to Shitenno-ji Temple in 767. The rice fields, which belonged to the late OTOMO no Yakamochi and were confiscated as a result of the assassination of FUJIWARA no Tanetsugu, were given to Daigaku-ryo (Bureau of Education under the ritsuryo system) and were turned into kangakuden (fields provided in order to cover expenses and provision of students). However, they were returned forcibly as a result of appeal of Iemochi's innocence by Yoshio TOMONO who was of the head of the Tomono clan (the Otomo clan). Yet during the Otenmon Incident the property owned by Yoshio was confiscated and used as the fiscal resource for improving roads for Heiankyo (the ancient capital in current Kyoto) (according to "Sandaijitsuroku"). Yoshio's confiscated property included fields such as newly cultivated rice fields and farmlands, mountains and forests, 庄家稲, beaches for drying salt and stoves for making salt. But as the former kangakuden which was included in Yoshio's confiscated property was given to Kokusoin (Imperial Granary), a conflict between Daigakuryo and Kokusoin occurred, and this became the motivation for establishing Gakumonryo (the scholarship for Monjosho who study at Daigaku-ryo in the Heian period).

During the late Heian period, territories such as manors were confiscated as punishment for not only rebellions and treacheries but also other serious crimes, the term 'Mokkanryo' was started to be used. Mokkanryo was given not only to the Imperial Court and its institutions, but also to those who contributed to search and kill criminals as rewards. During the Hogen Disturbance, 40 locations of Mokkanryo which belonged to FUJIWARA no Yorinaga and TAIRA no Tadamasa became Goinryo (lands attached to the palace of a retired emperor), and during the Genpei War, 500 locations of Mokkanryo which belonged to the Taira clan were given to MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka at first and then after the downfall of Yoshinaka, they were given to MINAMOTO no Yoritomo. After the Jokyu War, 5,000 locations of Mokkanryo which belonged to nobility and samurai who served the retired Emperor Gotoba were given to gokenin who particiated in the war, and they were dispatched as jito (or Shinpo-Jito (new estate steward for territories confiscated from the Imperial Court)).

What really was regarded as Mokkanryo, however, varied from honke shiki (the right which belonged to the head family), geshi (lower ranking officer) to kumon (a local shoen official below the gesu in rank), as it depended on the actual post and responsibility (the post within the manor as well as various rights that came with the responsibility) held by the original owner of the confiscated land.

[Original Japanese]