This site is dedicated to bringing together research from both sides of the Pacific about the Emishi people. The focus is on interpreting the research, and to remember the Emishi as a vital and important group whose people, though long gone, have changed the Japanese population, and whose influence on its history has been central. I was born in
in the northeastern part of Sendai Honshu where the Emishi had lived. My imagination was captured as a young man in 1984 when my mother and I took a train from out to Taga to view the remains of the castle there. As I walked around the site where the castle once stood there was a heavy summer rainstorm as I imagined the Emishi attacking the Japanese garrison stationed there many centuries ago. The Emishi were defending their land against the Japanese. SendaiI was struck by the mirror reverse image to the , because the people who were conquered by the Japanese, and whose culture was almost extinguished, the Emishi and Ezo of Honshu were people who resembled Caucasians. This was reverse of the American experience where descendants of an Asian group of Paleolithic hunters, the Native Americans, were systematically exploited and destroyed by Caucasian settlers from United States Europe. As we shall see in the following pages this is a superficial resemblance, yet, even 19th century Europeans were startled to find people who looked so different from the surrounding East Asian population in the far northern corner of . Japan 's population is not homogeneous now and was less so in the past. JapanOn March 11, 2011a magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred off the coast of the Tohoku, and the subsequent tsunami triggered by the earthquake was one of the most devastating natural disasters to hit in some time. This is the same area where many Emishi had lived in the distant past. Ironically, the only comparable event to this was another earthquake and tsunami that occurred almost in the exact same location in AD 869, some one-thousand, one-hundred and forty years ago. The earthquake known as the Jougan Earthquake (occurring during Emperor Jougan's reign) was followed by a tsunami that swept through the same areas as in 2011. Japan , and the town that had developed around it during and after the Tohoku Wars was affected then as it was in 2011 with much loss of life. Taga Castle
In the battle near the town of Subuse (in present day Iwate prefecture) fought in AD 789 the main force of eight-hundred Emishi attacked the Imperial Army of two-thousand soldiers that were making their way up the east side of the Kitakami river. They were pursuing another Emishi group who had earlier attacked them in the front and lead them into this trap. The main force proceeded to attack the Imperial army from the rear and east sides pinning them against the river. The earlier group of Emishi were reinforced and joined the main force in the attack from the front. The Imperial Army was effectively surrounded. Panic turned into a rout as the imperial forces threw down their weapons and took off their armor to try and escape across the Kitakami river. Most of the deaths were from drowning. The Emishi army was made up of bands of horseman who used bows to attack the enemy from a distance, and then used warabite-tou swords in close hand to hand combat (the banner pictured is conjectural based on continental Asian types) . 1
This website started out on the excellent site by Suzuta Yukinori, Conquest of Emishi . Suzuta Yukinori's site is indispensable for the detailed description of the military campaign the ancient Japanese state waged against the Emishi. Unfortunately, Yukinori's original site is no longer available, so I have created a mirror of his site here (updated 2013.1.19).
My primary aim is to seek to place the Emishi people in the broader framework of early Japanese history. The interest in early
has been hightened by recent discoveries that a related people to the Emishi (and the Jomon) most likely made their way across the Japan Bering Sealand bridge during the height of the Ice Age creating controversies even on this side of the Pacific in the form of Kennewick Man (updated 2013.1.19).
2. Jomon Culture and the Emishi
The connection between the Latest Jomon and Epi-Jomon cultures and the Emishi is an extremely important link that connects the historical period to the culture that came before (revised 2007.12.1).
The Kofun culture in the Tohoku is examined along with the Emishi people. Both agriculture and the development of centralized states took place in the Tohoku before the Yamato conquest of the Emishi (revised 2012.4.19).
The clash between Yamato and the Northern cultures of
Northeast Asiatook place in (revised 2013.3.16). Japan
B. Regional Jomon
5. The Treatment of Natives in the Nihon Shoki: the case of western Japan
Before the Tohoku Emishi were conquered there were the Jomon peoples of western
who were known collectively as Tsuchigumo. They were not just mistreated but were destroyed by the Japanese. If we can accept the accuracy of the records their treatment starkly differs from how the Emishi were treated (revised 2009.1.1). Japan
6. The early Yamato state and the eastern Emishi
The Japanese expansion into the Kanto and eastern
encountered numerous native tribes of Emishi who were gradually integrated as subjects of the Yamato empire. This process occured in parallel with the expansion of Kofun culture into the region (2009.10.24). Japan
7. Evidence of Epi-Jomon Migration and Lifestyle
Evidence is mounting that the Epi-Jomon culture in
and the Tohoku may point directly to the Emishi people (2007.11.30). Hokkaido
Possible linkage between the ancient Jomon of Japan and the Australian Aborigines (edited 2009.9.13).
C. Tohoku burial site population: Yoko-ana bogun
New information from the Yamoto yoko-ana burial site gives a snapshot of the population of one area of the
plain during the seventh through ninth centuries (2008.11.27). Sendai
10. Tohoku Kofun Population: sixth through eighth centuries AD
A new comprehensive study of skeletal remains from the Kofun society of the Tohoku during the centuries of Emishi resistance in the frontier areas (2012.4.24).
11. Yamoto Tunnel Burials revisited
An update on the Yamoto yoko-ana bogun. Is this the first confirmed evidence of the Emishi people? (2012.8.31).
D. Aspects of Emishi people and society
The tombs of the Emishi known as ezo ana kofun tells us some important information about Emishi society (revised 2012.9.27).
The central aspect of Emishi culture was the horse archer, and most scholars of
see this culture as both a challenge to the early Japanese state, and in influencing its transformation through the warrior culture. A major scholar of Tohoku history Takahashi Tomio looks at this culture and why it did not continue among the later Ainu (revised 2009.10.25). Japan
14. Emishi Fushu and Ifu
Here I will look at two differing perspectives regarding the Emishi allies, the fushu and ifu. This discussion is key in understanding the nature of the Emishi and the way they were seen by the Yamato court (revised 2013.1.19).
Latest findings suggest that much of eastern
was like northeast Japan in terms of its ethnic make-up in ancient times. This population was quite different from modern Japan (revised 2013.1.19). Japan
Connecting the Emishi to the Ainu has often been mired by downplaying the power and success of the latter (revised 2007.12.20).
It is important to talk about the Emishi ethnic and cultural affiliation unlike what some Japanese scholars would assert. Cultural differences identified whether one belonged to the Japanese or Emishi, or the Japanese or Ainu later in history. Sometimes these boundaries were crossed over with unexpected results (revised 2010.10.14).
Appendix A: Contemporary Illustrations of Emishi
Rare illustrations from some of the oldest sources (revised 2007.12.29).
Appendix B: Diagrams and Sources: Two perspectives on the Emishi
Appendix C: Kanji Terms and Interpretation
Appendix E: Evidence of Emishi Armor (2012.10.5)
Field Museum of Natural History: Ainu Origins：This site is possibly the best for understanding this time period, and has excellent maps that I will link to in my pages where relevant. In particular it outlines the emergence of the Satsumon culture in
, the northernmost island in Hokkaido , about the same time that wars between the Yamato Japanese and the Emishi people were occurring in the Tohoku or northeastern Japan , the main Honshu . of island Japan
Islands of the Spirit: One of the best informational sites put out by PBS's Nova program that links the Ainu with the Jomon.
First Americans from National Geographic: The newest evidence recently uncovered (from 2007) suggest that the first Americans may have had a genetic relationship with the Jomon.
The Ainu: Spirit of a Northern People: One of the best overall sites about the Ainu. The multimedia presentation is perhaps one of the best on the web, and the research that went into the site is second to none.
Iwate Prefecture:Pertinent information is on this page summarizing the archeology of the time period. I have not seen revisions here on this site, but the information here is still regarded as accurate.
Kennewick Man: An interview of James Chatters showing the possible links between the Jomon and Ancient America, particularly in regard to Kennewick Man.
References and footnotes:
1. Sasama Yoshihiko. Nihon no Bugu Kachiu jiten. (Tokyo: Tsukasa sei-han, 1981). Drawings of ancient armor by the author on this website are for the most part modeled on this work, though any discrepancies of interpretation (as these are applied to the Emishi) are of course my own. The Emishi are depicted with riding boots widespread among continental and
(and Heian) cavalry of this time period with wide legged trousers; however, it is not certain whether the Emishi wore boots. The other interpretation is that they may have worn common footwear made of woven straw which would have been easier to maintain (see above Emishi fushu and ifu). Nara
About the Author and disclaimer: I worked on a Phd. program at the University of Chicago in Medieval Japanese history which I left unfinished. I have an MA in Japanese history from Northwestern University. This site is to mainly introduce English speaking readers to the work of Japanese scholars who have done research on the Emishi , and make no claims to original research. However, any errors of interpretation or facts are entirely my responsibility. Please cite any web pages used for reference. Any comments or suggestions are welcome and should be sent to email@example.com.
Last revision: 2013.3.16. (The Moving Frontier: from Emishi to Ezo) Kenjiro Hakomori