The Court at Its Zenith
IN 794 THE COURT MOVED to the newly constructed city of Heian or Kyoto, about twenty-eight miles north of Nara. The decision to leave Nara was apparently made for several reasons. Many people at court had become alarmed over the degree of official favor accorded to Buddhism and the manifold opportunities presented to Buddhist priests to interfere in the business of state. Their fears were particularly aroused when an empress ( Shōmu's daughter) became romantically involved with a faith-healing priest named Dōkyō. Before the loss of his patroness, who died in 770, Dōkyō rose to the highest ecclesiastical and miniserial positions in the land and even sought, through the pronouncement of an oracle, to ascend the throne itself. Dōkyō thus achieved notoriety in Japanese history as a commoner who blatantly challenged the imperial family's sacrosanct claim to reign exclusively over Japan. The Dōkyō affair appears to have convinced the court of two things: that Nara, with its many Buddhist establishments and its ubiquitous priesthood, was no longer satisfactory for the conduct of secular affairs; and that henceforth the line of succession to the throne should be confined solely to male members of the imperial family.
Another reason for the move to Kyoto was that Nara, situated in the mountainous southern region of the central provinces, had become too cramped as a location for the court. Kyoto provided much freer access, both by land and water, to the rest of the country. In particular, the court could more readily undertake from Kyoto the expansion and consolidation of its control over the eastern and northern provinces, a region that had until this time been occupied chiefly by recalcitrant tribesmen known as Emishi.
The Emishi, referred to in early accounts as "hairy people," have often been identified with the Ainu, a race of Caucasians who live in Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan's major islands, and number today only a few thousand. It was long believed that the Ainu occupied All of Japan during the Neolithic Jōmon age -- that they were the "Jōmon people" -- and, driven steadily eastward and northward by the advance of civilization in Yayoi times, suffered a fate similar to that of
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Publication information: Book title: Japanese Culture. Edition: 3rd. Contributors: H. Paul Varley - Author. Publisher: University of Hawaii Press. Place of publication: Honolulu. Publication year: 1984. Page number: 45.
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