Nanakuchi No Seki (Seven Entrance Checkpoints) (七口の関)

"Nanakuchi no seki" refers to the checkpoints which were set on the seven roads leading to Kyoto from outlying regions (Kyoto nanakuchi, Kyoto's seven entrances) during medieval times. It is also known by the name Kyoto nanakuchi no seki (Kyoto's seven entrance checkpoints).

It is thought that Kyoto nanakuchi were originally set as entrances to the roads connecting Kyoto and seven circuits, and are said to be the Oohara entrance (the Ohara Entrance, the Yase entrance: the Hokuriku road), the Kurama entrance (the Izumo road entrance), the Awata entrance (the Higashi-sanjo entrance: the Tokai road), the Fushimi entrance (the Uji entrance, the Kohata entrance: the Nankai road), the Toba entrance (the Saikai road), the Tanba entrance (the Nishi-shichijo entrance, the Shichijo entrance: the Sanin road) and the Nagasaka entrance (the Tanba road); however, this theory came about after the Edo Period and when such checkpoints had been abolished, so there are doubts surrounding whether these are historical facts. Other than the checkpoints above, some documents and historical materials name the Kita-shirakawa entrance (the Imamichi michishita: the Higashiyama road), the Higashi-dera entrance (the Sanyo road), the Hossho-ji entrance (the Nankai road) and the Nishi-sanjo road (the Saga road) as one of the Nanakuchi. Therefore, studies to extrapolate the Nanakuchi no seki in the medieval times was conducted, but it is certain that more than seven checkpoints existed in reality, and even existing records have different points corresponding to the Nanakuchi, which lead to an opinion that it makes no sense to identify the seven checkpoints.

After the Kamakura Period, due to the decline of the Imperial Court's finance, expansion of shoen (manor in medieval Japan) and progress in transportation, checkpoints were set up to take certain tolls to help in the repair of the Imperial Palace, temples and shrines. Especially in the Period of Northern and Southern Courts, as financial difficulties became more serious, the Imperial Court commanded each government office to set up Dairi-ritsubunseki (Imperial pro rata checkpoints, also called Dairi-ritsubunsho) in order to ensure their income. The actual operation was entrusted to nobles that worked as administrators of inherited government offices, and further undertaken by locally assigned magistrates. A local magistrate of a checkpoint collected pro rata goods or a certain amount of money as passenger tax (sekisen, checkpoint charge) from goods coming to Kyoto, and people and cargoes passing up and down, except delivery of land taxes, political operations and ceremonies by the Imperial Court.

People in Kyoto and its neighboring regions including Yamashiro Province, who suffered from the expensive tolls, often created uprsisings and demanded the abolishment of the checkpoints, sometimes demolishing the checkpoints by force. On the other hand, the Imperial Court and nobles repeated political measures to have the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) reject the people's demands. Therefore, the establishment and abolishment of the checkpoints occurred repetedly, which only served to show the reduction in the political authority held by the Muromachi bakufu. Furthermore, the bakufu itself set up a checkpoint in 1459 for the purpose of funding the reconstruction of Ise Jingu Shrine, and then in 1478, again set up checkpoints for the purpose of funding the reconstruction of the Imperial Palace. This setup turned out to fund the income for Tomiko HINO, the lawful wife of Seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdued the barbarians") Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA, and as a result, people vented their frustrations in the form of an uprising in Yamashiro Province which lasted for two years from that very year.

The checkpoints were still in use after the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States), but were all abolished under the Toyotomi administration.

[Original Japanese]