The constituted a group of people who lived in northeastern Honshū
is the largest island of Japan. The nation's main island, it is south of Hokkaido across the Tsugaru Strait, north of Shikoku across the Inland Sea, and northeast of Kyushu across the Kanmon Strait...

 in the Tōhoku region
Tohoku region
The is a geographical area of Japan. The region occupies the northeastern portion of Honshu, the largest island of Japan. The region consists of six prefectures : Akita, Aomori, Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi and Yamagata....

. They are referred to as in contemporary sources. Some Emishi tribes resisted the rule of the Japanese Emperor
Emperor of Japan
The Emperor of Japan is, according to the 1947 Constitution of Japan, "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." He is a ceremonial figurehead under a form of constitutional monarchy and is head of the Japanese Imperial Family with functions as head of state. He is also the highest...

s during the late Nara
Nara period
The of the history of Japan covers the years from AD 710 to 794. Empress Gemmei established the capital of Heijō-kyō . Except for 5 years , when the capital was briefly moved again, it remained the capital of Japanese civilization until Emperor Kammu established a new capital, Nagaoka-kyō, in 784...

 and early Heian period
Heian period
The is the last division of classical Japanese history, running from 794 to 1185. The period is named after the capital city of Heian-kyō, or modern Kyōto. It is the period in Japanese history when Buddhism, Taoism and other Chinese influences were at their height...

s (7th–10th centuries CE). More recently, scholars believe that they were natives of northern Honshū
is the largest island of Japan. The nation's main island, it is south of Hokkaido across the Tsugaru Strait, north of Shikoku across the Inland Sea, and northeast of Kyushu across the Kanmon Strait...

 and were descendants of those who developed the Jōmon culture. They are thought to have been related to the Ainu
Ainu people
The , also called Aynu, Aino , and in historical texts Ezo , are indigenous people or groups in Japan and Russia. Historically they spoke the Ainu language and related varieties and lived in Hokkaidō, the Kuril Islands, and much of Sakhalin...

. The separate ethnic status of the Emishi is not in doubt; this understanding is based upon a language that is separate from Japanese and that scholars have been unable to reconstruct.


The Emishi were represented by different tribes, some of whom became allies of the Japanese (fushu, ifu) and others of whom remained hostile (iteki). The Emishi in northeastern Honshū relied on their horses in warfare. They developed a unique style of warfare where horse archery and hit-and-run tactics proved very effective against the slower contemporary Japanese imperial army that mostly relied on heavy infantry. Their livelihood was based on hunting and gathering as well as on the cultivation of grains such as millet and barley. Recently, it has been thought that they practiced rice cultivation in areas where rice could be easily grown. The first major attempts to subjugate the Emishi in the 8th century were largely unsuccessful. The imperial armies, which were modeled after the mainland Chinese armies, were no match for the guerrilla
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 tactics of the Emishi.

It was the development of horse archery and the adoption of Emishi tactics by the early Japanese warriors that led to the Emishi defeat. The success of the gradual change in battle tactics came at the very end of the 8th century in the 790s under the command of the general Sakanoue no Tamuramaro
Sakanoue no Tamuramaro
was a general and shogun of the early Heian Period of Japan. He was the son of Sakanoue no Karitamaro.-Military career:Serving Emperor Kammu, he was appointed shogun and given the task of conquering the Emishi , a people native to the north of Honshū, which he subjugated...

. They either submitted themselves to imperial authority as fushu and ifu or migrated further north, some to Hokkaidō
, formerly known as Ezo, Yezo, Yeso, or Yesso, is Japan's second largest island; it is also the largest and northernmost of Japan's 47 prefectural-level subdivisions. The Tsugaru Strait separates Hokkaido from Honshu, although the two islands are connected by the underwater railway Seikan Tunnel...

. By the mid-9th century, most of their land in Honshū was conquered, and they ceased to be independent. However, they continued to be influential in local politics as subjugated, though powerful, Emishi families created semi-autonomous feudal domains in the north. In the two centuries following the conquest, a few of these domains became regional states that came into conflict with the central government. The following is a brief chronology of the main events in the relations between the Emishi and the Japanese.


The record of Emperor Jimmu
Emperor Jimmu
was the first Emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession. He is also known as Kamuyamato Iwarebiko and personally as Wakamikenu no Mikoto or Sano no Mikoto....

 in the Nihon Shoki
Nihon Shoki
The , sometimes translated as The Chronicles of Japan, is the second oldest book of classical Japanese history. It is more elaborate and detailed than the Kojiki, the oldest, and has proven to be an important tool for historians and archaeologists as it includes the most complete extant historical...

mentions the "Emishi" (愛瀰詩) with ateji
In modern Japanese, primarily refers to kanji used phonetically to represent native or borrowed words, without regard to the meaning of the underlying characters. This is analogous to man'yōgana in pre-modern Japanese...

—who his armed forces defeated before he was enthroned as the Emperor of Japan
Emperor of Japan
The Emperor of Japan is, according to the 1947 Constitution of Japan, "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." He is a ceremonial figurehead under a form of constitutional monarchy and is head of the Japanese Imperial Family with functions as head of state. He is also the highest...

. According to Nihon Shoki, Takenouchi no Sukune
Takenouchi no Sukune
Takenouchi no Sukune was a legendary Japanese hero-statesman, and is a Shinto kami.- Life :Takenouchi no Sukune was supposedly the son of Princess Kagehime, and is said to be grandson to Imperial Prince Hikofutódhimakoto no Mikoto...

 in the era of Emperor Keikō
Emperor Keiko
; also known as Ootarashihikooshirowake no Sumeramikoto, was the 12th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.No firm dates can be assigned to this emperor's life or reign, but he is conventionally considered to have reigned from 71–130.-Legendary narrative:Keikō is...

 proposed that they should subjugate Emishi (蝦夷) of Hitakami no Kuni (日高見国) in eastern Japan. The first mention of Emishi from a source outside Japan was in the Chinese book of Song
Book of Song
The Book of Song , also called "The History of the Song," is a historical text of the Liu Song Dynasty of the Southern Dynasties of China. It covers history from 420 to 479, and is one of the Twenty-Four Histories, a traditional collection of historical records. It was authored by Shen Yue from...

 in 478 which referred to them as "hairy people" (毛人). The book refers to "the 55 kingdoms (国) of the hairy people (毛人) of the East. . . ." as a report by King Bu—one of the Five kings of Wa
Five kings of Wa
The five kings of Wa are kings of ancient Japan who sent envoys to China during the 5th century to strengthen the legitimacy of their claims to power by gaining the recognition of the Chinese emperor. Details about them are unknown...

. Most likely by the 7th century CE, the Japanese used this kanji to describe these people, but changed the reading from "kebito" or "mojin" to "Emishi". Furthermore, during the same century, the kanji character was also changed to 蝦夷, which is composed of the kanji for "shrimp" and for "barbarian". This is thought to refer to the long whiskers of a shrimp; however, this is not certain. The barbarian aspect clearly described an outsider, living beyond the border of the emerging empire of Japan, which saw itself as a civilizing influence; thus, empire was able to justify its conquest. This kanji was first seen in the T'ang sources that describe the meeting with the two Emishi that the Japanese envoy brought with him to China (see below). The kanji character may have been adopted from China, but the reading "Ebisu" and "Emishi" were Japanese in origin, and most likely came from either the Japanese "yumishi" which means bowman (their main weapon), or "emushi" which is sword in the Ainu tongue. Other origins—such as the word, "enchiu", for man in the Ainu tongue—have been proposed. however, the way it sounds is almost phonetically identical to emushi so it may most likely have had an Ainoid origin. "Ainoid" distinguishes the people who are related to, or who are ancestors of, the Ainu, who first emerge as "Ezo" in Hokkaido in the Kamakura period, and then become known as Ainu in the modern period.

Battles with Yamato army

The Nihon Shokis entry for Emperor Yūryaku
Emperor Yuryaku
was the 21st emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.Yūryaku is remembered as a patron of sericulture.No firm dates can be assigned to this emperor's life or reign, but he is conventionally considered to have reigned from 456–479....

, also known as Ohatsuse no Wakatakeru, records an uprising, after the Emperor's death, of Emishi troops who had been levied to support an expedition to Korea
Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

. Emperor Yūryaku is suspected to be King Bu, but the date and the existence of Yūryaku are uncertain, and the Korean reference may be anachronistic. However, the compilers clearly felt that the reference to Emishi troops was credible in this context.

In 658, Abe no Hirafu
Abe no Hirafu
was a governor of Koshi Province. He fought against the aboriginal inhabitants of Japan . This was in 658...

's naval expedition of 180 ships reaches Aguta (present day Akita
Akita Prefecture
is a prefecture of Japan located in the Tōhoku Region of northern Honshu, the main island of Japan. The capital is the city of Akita.- History :The area of Akita has been created from the ancient provinces of Dewa and Mutsu....

) and Watarishima (Hokkaidō). Alliance with Aguta Emishi, Tsugaru Emishi and Watarishima Emishi is formed by Abe who then storms a settlement of Mishihase
The , also read as Ashihase and Shukushin, were a people of ancient Japan, believed to have lived along the northern portion of the coast of the Sea of Japan...

 (Su-shen in the Aston translation of the Nihongi) a people of unknown origin, who are defeated. This is one of the earliest reliable records of the Emishi people extant. At this early age it is almost certain that the Emishi encountered here are ancestors of the Ainu since the territories covered by the expedition are in areas where these people are thought to have lived. The Mishihase may have been another ethnic group who competed with the ancestors of the Ainu for Hokkaidō. The expedition happens to be the furthest northern penetration of the Japanese Imperial army until the 16th century, and that later settlement was from a local Japanese warlord who was independent of any central control.

In 709, the fort of Ideha was created close to present day Akita. This was a bold move since the intervening territory between Akita and the northwestern countries of Japan was not under government control. The Emishi of Akita in alliance with Michinoku attacked Japanese settlements in response. Saeki no Iwayu was appointed Sei Echigo Emishi shōgun. He used 100 ships from the Japan sea side countries along with soldiers recruited from the eastern countries and successfully defeated the Echigo (present day Akita) Emishi.

In 724, Taga Fort
Site of Tagajō
was a fort in Tōhoku established during the campaigns against the Emishi in the eighth century. It served as the administrative centre of Mutsu Province. Bashō tells of his visit to the site in Oku no Hosomichi...

 was built by Oono no Omi Azumahito
Ono no Azumabito
This article is about a member of the Ono samurai clan; for the samurai of the Ōno clan, see Ōno no Azumabito. was a samurai and Court official of Japan's Nara period....

 near present day Sendai and became the largest administrative fort in the northeast region of Michinoku. As Chinju shogun he steadily built forts across the Sendai plain and into the interior mountains in what is now Yamagata prefecture. Guerilla warfare was practiced by the horse riding Emishi who kept up pressure on these forts, but Emishi allies ifu and fushu were also recruited and promoted by the Japanese to fight against their kinsmen.

In 758, after a long period of stalemate, the Japanese army under Fujiwara no Asakari penetrated into what is now northern Miyagi prefecture, and established Momonofu Castle on the Kitakami River
Kitakami River
The is the fourth largest river in Japan and the largest in the Tōhoku region. It is 249 kilometers long and drains an area of 10,150 square kilometers. It flows through mostly rural areas of Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures. The river is unusual in that it has two mouths, one flowing south into...

. The fort was built despite constant attacks by the Emishi of Isawa (present-day southern Iwate prefecture).

Thirty-Eight Years' War

AD 774 marked the beginning of the Thirty-Eight Years' War with the defection of a high ranking Emishi officer of the Japanese army based in Taga Castle, Korehari no kimi Azamaro. The Emishi counterattacked along a broad front starting with Momonohu Castle, destroying the garrison there before going on to destroy a number of forts along a defensive line from east to west established painstakingly over the past generation. Even Taga Castle was not spared. Large Japanese forces were recruited, numbering in the thousands, the largest forces perhaps ten to twenty thousand strong fighting against an Emishi force that numbered at most around three thousand warriors, and at any one place around a thousand. In 776 a huge army of over 20,000 men was sent to attack the Shiwa Emishi, but failed to destroy the enemy who then successfully counterattacked their cumbersome foes in the Ōu Mountains
Ou Mountains
The are a mountain range in the Tōhoku region of Honshū, Japan. The range is the longest range in Japan and stretch south from the Natsudomari Peninsula of Aomori Prefecture to the Nasu volcanoes at the northern boundary of the Kantō region. Though long, the range is only about wide...

. In 780 the Emishi attacked the Sendai plain successfully torching Japanese villages there. The Japanese were in a near panic as they tried to tax and recruit more soldiers from the Bandō
Kanto region
The is a geographical area of Honshu, the largest island of Japan. The region includes the Greater Tokyo Area and encompasses seven prefectures: Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Saitama, Tokyo, Chiba, and Kanagawa. Within its boundaries, slightly more than 40 percent of the land area is the Kantō Plain....


In the AD 789 Battle of Koromo River (also known as Battle of Sufuse) the Japanese army under Ki no Kosami Seito shogun was defeated by the Isawa Emishi under their general Aterui
was the most prominent chief of the Isawa band of Emishi in northern Japan. The Emishi were an indigenous peoples of North Japan, who were considered hairy barbarians by their Japanese conquerors....

. A four thousand strong army was attacked as they tried to cross the Kitakami River by a force of a thousand Emishi. The imperial army suffered its most stunning defeat, losing a thousand men, many of whom drowned.

In 794, many key Shiwa Emishi including Isawa no kimi Anushiko of what is now northern Miyagi prefecture become allies of the Japanese. This was a stunning reversal to the aspirations of those Emishi who still fought against the Japanese. The Shiwa Emishi were a very powerful group and were able to attack smaller Emishi groups successfully as their leaders were promoted into imperial rank. This had the effect of isolating one of the most powerful and independent Emishi, the Isawa confederation. The newly appointed shogun
A was one of the hereditary military dictators of Japan from 1192 to 1867. In this period, the shoguns, or their shikken regents , were the de facto rulers of Japan though they were nominally appointed by the emperor...

 general Sakanoue no Tamuramaro then attacked the Isawa Emishi relentlessly using soldiers trained in horse archery. The result was a desultory campaign that eventually led to Aterui's surrender in 802. The war was mostly over and many Emishi groups submitted themselves to the imperial government. However, skirmishes still took place and it was not until 811 that the so-called Thirty-Eight Years' War was over. North of the Kitakami River the Emishi were still independent, but the large scale threat that they posed ceased with the defeat of the Isawa Emishi in 802.

Abe clan, Kiyohara clan and Northern Fujiwara

After their conquest, some Emishi leaders became part of the regional framework of government in the Tōhoku culminating with the Northern Fujiwara
Northern Fujiwara
The Northern Fujiwara were a Japanese noble family that ruled the Tōhoku region of Japan from the 12th to the 13th centuries as if it were their own realm. They succeeded the semi-independent Emishi families of the 11th century who were gradually brought down by the Minamoto clan loyal to the...

 regime. This regime and others such as the Abe
Abe clan
The was one of the oldest of the major Japanese clans ; and the clan retained its prominence during the Sengoku period and the Edo period. The clan's origin is said to be one of the original clans of the Yamato people; they truly gained prominence during the Heian period , and experienced a...

 and Kiyohara were created by local Japanese gōzoku
is a Japanese term used to refer to powerful and wealthy families. In historical context, it usually refers to local samurai clans with significant local land holdings. Some were almost locally independent, and held strong ties to important commoners such as wealthy merchants...

and became regional semi-independent states based on the Emishi and Japanese people. However, even before these emerged, the Emishi people progressively lost their distinct culture and ethnicity as they became minorities.

The Northern Fujiwara were thought to have been Emishi, but there is some doubt as to the lineage of them, and if they were descended from local Japanese families who resided in the Tōhoku (unrelated to the Fujiwara of Kyoto) then the study would confirm this. Both the Abe and Kiyohara families were almost certainly of Japanese descent, both of whom represented gōzoku, powerful families who had moved into the provinces of Mutsu and Dewa perhaps during the ninth century though when they emigrated is not known for certain. They were likely a Japanese frontier family who developed regional ties with the descendants of the Emishi fushu, and may have been seen as fushu themselves since they had lived in the region for several generations.

Soon after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, mummies of the Northern Fujiwara family in Hiraizumi (the capital city of the Northern Fujiwara), and hence were thought to have been related to the Ainu were studied by scientists. However, the researchers concluded that the rulers of Hiraizumi were like other Japanese of the time, and certainly not related to the ethnic Ainu. This was seen as evidence that the Emishi were not related to the Ainu. This had the effect of popularizing the idea that the Emishi were like other contemporary ethnic Japanese who lived in northeast Japan, outside of Yamato rule.

Minamoto no Yoritomo
Minamoto no Yoritomo
was the founder and the first shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate of Japan. He ruled from 1192 until 1199.-Early life and exile :Yoritomo was the third son of Minamoto no Yoshitomo, heir of the Minamoto clan, and his official wife, a daughter of Fujiwara no Suenori, who was a member of the...

, a descendant of Emperor Seiwa
Emperor Seiwa
was the 56th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.Seiwa's reign spanned the years from 858 through 876.-Traditional narrative:...

, finally defeated the Northern Fujiwara in 1189 and established the Kamakura shogunate
Kamakura shogunate
The Kamakura shogunate was a military dictatorship in Japan headed by the shoguns from 1185 to 1333. It was based in Kamakura. The Kamakura period draws its name from the capital of the shogunate...

 in 1192.

Relationship to the Jōmon and Ainu

Recent scholarship has created a much more complicated portrait of this people. By and large, they are seen as indigenous
Indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples are ethnic groups that are defined as indigenous according to one of the various definitions of the term, there is no universally accepted definition but most of which carry connotations of being the "original inhabitants" of a territory....

 to Japan and not simply as ancestors to the Ainu, but descendants of the Jōmon. Even though historically they emerge as serious challengers to the nascent Japanese state they had inherited a rich and separate tradition that went back several millennia before the Japanese speakers came to the islands of Japan.

In the study of Jōmon skeletal remains dating from thousands of years ago, a direct connection with the modern Ainu was confirmed, showing a definite linkage between the two groups. This linkage however, shows that the Jōmon people were very different from modern Japanese and other modern East Asians. The physical appearance of a number of the Ainu who were first encountered by the Europeans in the 19th Century were similar to Caucasians, and thus caused quite a stir among contemporary academics, and has spurred debate about their origins. It is thus surmised that the Jōmon also were physically unlike other East Asians. This said, physical anthropologists have found that diachronically, and geographically, the skeletal structure of the Jōmon population changed over time from southwest to northeast, paralleling the actual migration of Japanese speakers historically, so that more Jōmon traits are preserved in the north.

Studies have also shown that skeletal remains from larger settlements in the Tōhoku corresponding to where burial mounds (kofun) were built have traits that are halfway between Ainu and present day Japanese, so the idea that the Emishi were made up solely of Ainoid ancestors is untrue. The Emishi were a mix of both Ainoid and types of people scholars have called "Kofun
Kofun are megalithic tombs or tumuli in Japan, constructed between the early 3rd century and early 7th century. They gave their name to the Kofun period . Many of the Kofun have a distinctive keyhole-shaped mound , unique to ancient Japan...

people" who were not a separate race or ethnic group, but were a mixture of both native Jōmon and the more recent groups identified with the Yayoi culture. This dovetails nicely with the "transformation" theory that native Jōmon peoples changed gradually with the infusion of Yayoi immigrants into the Tōhoku rather than the "replacement" theory which posits that one population (Jōmon) was replaced by another (Yayoi).

The Emishi were composed of two main populations, the Jōmon Ainoid who were the majority and a smaller group the Kofun united by a common Ainoid language distinct from Japanese. These two populations were not distinguished by contemporaries, but rather by present-day physical anthropologists. Historically, they were seen as one group by contemporaries, mainly those who were descendants of the natives (the Jōmon) called Emishi and Ebisu who also had in their population those of mixed ethnicity, most likely descendants of early Japanese colonists. In addition, the contemporary Japanese for their part looked upon the Emishi as foreigners and barbarians whose lands they desired to conquer and incorporate into the Japanese state.

Though it is not known how much the Emishi population changed as Japanese settlers and frontiersmen began to live in their territories even before the conquest, the existence of Emishi Kofun types attests to some form of ethnic mixing. The Japanese established trading relations with the Emishi where their horses were imported and iron tools and weapons exported to their territories. To complicate matters, some ethnic Japanese allied themselves with the Emishi in their wars against the Yamato court. The latter were known in the Nihon Shoki as "Japanese captives" of the Emishi.

The people who migrated to the northern tip of Honshū and Hokkaidō region retained their identity and their separate ethnicity, and their descendants eventually formed the Satsumon culture
Satsumon culture
The is a post-Jomon partially agricultural archeological culture of northern Honshu and southern Hokkaido that has been identified as the Emishi, as a Japanese-Emishi mixed culture, as the incipient modern Ainu, or with all three synonymously. It may have arisen as a merger of the Yayoi–Kofun and...

 in Hokkaidō. Historically, they became a distinctly different population from those who were conquered and integrated into the Japanese state. The Emishi except them became more like other ethnic Japanese while the Hokkaidō Emishi, known by contemporaries as Watarishima Emishi, or 'Emishi who crossed to the island', eventually became known as the Ezo
is a Japanese name which historically referred to the lands to the north of Japan. It was used in various senses, sometimes meaning the northern Japanese island of Hokkaidō, and sometimes meaning lands and waters further north in the Sea of Okhotsk, like Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands...

, and later in the modern period the Ainu.

Envoys to the Tang court

The evidence that the Emishi were also related to the Ainu comes from historical documents. One of the best sources of information comes from both inside and outside Japan, from contemporary Tang Dynasty
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

 and Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 histories as these describe dealings with Japan, and from the Shoku Nihongi
Shoku Nihongi
The is an imperially commissioned Japanese history text. Completed in 797, it is the second of the Six National Histories, coming directly after the Nihon Shoki and followed by Nihon Kōki. Fujiwara no Tsugutada and Sugano no Mamichi served as the primary editors...

. For example, there is a record of the arrival of the Japanese foreign minister in AD 659 where conversation is recorded with the Tang Emperor. In this conversation we have perhaps the most accurate picture of the Emishi recorded for that time period. This episode is repeated in the Shoku Nihongi in the following manner.

Two Emishi, a man and woman, from contemporary Tōhoku accompanied the minister Sakaibe no Muraji to Tang China. The emperor was delighted with the two Emishi because of their "strange" physical appearance. This was an emperor who was most likely the illustrious Emperor Tang Taizong
Emperor Taizong of Tang
Emperor Taizong of Tang , personal name Lǐ Shìmín , was the second emperor of the Tang Dynasty of China, ruling from 626 to 649...

 who was familiar with many ethnic groups throughout his Empire, from Uyghurs
Uyghur people
The Uyghur are a Turkic ethnic group living in Eastern and Central Asia. Today, Uyghurs live primarily in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the People's Republic of China...

 and Turks
Turkic peoples
The Turkic peoples are peoples residing in northern, central and western Asia, southern Siberia and northwestern China and parts of eastern Europe. They speak languages belonging to the Turkic language family. They share, to varying degrees, certain cultural traits and historical backgrounds...

 to Middle Eastern traders. However, he probably did not have any contact with Europeans. The Japanese envoy for his part describes the contemporary relationship with the various Emishi: those who had allied themselves with the Yamato court (known as niki-emishi, i.e. 'gentle Emishi'), those who remained as enemies staunchly opposed to Yamato (known as ara-emishi, i.e. 'rough Emishi' or 'wild Emishi'), and the distant Tsugaru Emishi (located in present-day northern Aomori
Aomori Prefecture
is a prefecture of Japan located in the Tōhoku Region. The capital is the city of Aomori.- History :Until the Meiji Restoration, the area of Aomori prefecture was known as Mutsu Province....

 and in southern Hokkaidō). All Chinese documents from the T'ang and Sung refer to them as having a separate state north of Japan and call them (Mandarin máo rén, Sino-Japanese mōjin), literally 'hairy people'. This is also corroborated in the Shoku Nihongi, in which they are described consistently as having long beard
A beard is the collection of hair that grows on the chin, cheeks and neck of human beings. Usually, only pubescent or adult males are able to grow beards. However, women with hirsutism may develop a beard...

s and as kebito, or 'hairy people', characteristics that have been used to describe the Ainu in the modern period. These same kanji characters were read as 'emishi' before the Nara period.

Popular culture

  • The term Emishi is used for the village tribe of the main character Ashitaka in the Hayao Miyazaki
    Hayao Miyazaki
    is a Japanese manga artist and prominent film director and animator of many popular anime feature films. Through a career that has spanned nearly fifty years, Miyazaki has attained international acclaim as a maker of animated feature films and, along with Isao Takahata, co-founded Studio Ghibli,...

     animated film Princess Mononoke
    Princess Mononoke
    is a 1997 epic Japanese animated historical fantasy feature film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli. is not a name, but a general term in the Japanese language for a spirit or monster...

    . The village was a last pocket of Emishi surviving into the Muromachi period
    Muromachi period
    The is a division of Japanese history running from approximately 1336 to 1573. The period marks the governance of the Muromachi or Ashikaga shogunate, which was officially established in 1338 by the first Muromachi shogun, Ashikaga Takauji, two years after the brief Kemmu restoration of imperial...

     (16th century).
  • The Emishi's creation myth was used as the basis of the core mythology in Final Fantasy
    Final Fantasy
    is a media franchise created by Hironobu Sakaguchi, and is developed and owned by Square Enix . The franchise centers on a series of fantasy and science-fantasy role-playing video games , but includes motion pictures, anime, printed media, and other merchandise...

    's Fabula Nova Crystallis series.

External links

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