Kanji Terms and Interpretation


Japanese kanjiterms are shown separately as I did not want to burden the English speaking audience with frequent kanji characters on the page that most would find cumbersome.   However, it is important to list the frequently encountered words because these are used to interpret the history. For example, in the use of the same kanji characters for Emishi and Ezo, why were the same characters used if this referred to two different groups?  More telling, pre-7th century use ofѐl for Emishi, which is literally the combination of the character for hair and person, meaning hairy person, is descriptive of an Ainoid individual. 


None of the ancient writers identified a separate group or groups making up the Emishi, however, did identify separate groups such as the Ashihase and Matsukatsu (thought to be the state of Bokkai) when they were indeed identifiably separate groups. They were observant enough to recognize separate groups of people and would certainly have done so had the Emishi been composed of a Tungusic or Amur people.  The only named people who were of either Tungusic or Amur origins living anywhere in what is now present day Japan were the Ashihase, and they were described as being in conflict with the Emishi.  They are now identified with the Okhotsk culture, and are seen by present-day archeologists as separate and distinct from the Emishi.  They are also distinguished from the Satsumon cultural area, most closely identified with Ainu ancestors.  The writers of the Nihon-shoki already had a separate term for the non-Ainoid peoples of the Amur river in the Ashihase.  Why didn’t they call these people they encountered in the Tohoku by that existing name if these people were somehow related or of the same group?   


The kanji I-teki is perhaps the most revealing because it was used to describe the Emishi of either Hokkaido or the Tsugaru (not clear as to the exact location since both area’s inhabitants are described similarly) during the ninth century when the reading Ezo had not yet come into use.  The Akita Emishifushu fought alongside the Japanese based there against the Emishi I-teki who invaded Akita from the Japan Sea.  If the Emishi of Hokkaido or Tsugaru are not the same group as the later Ezo of Hokkaido then there is some exceedingly difficult and convoluted explanations that need to take place since historically that population is identified with the later Ezo. Furthermore, the “I” in I-teki is not the same as that found in Den-I and San-I, but rather is the first kanji compound for Emishi.  In the description of these invaders it is made very clear that they are related to the Emishi living in Akita with the difference being their hostility toward the Japanese.                       


ڈ Emishi, Ezo, Ebisu

ѐl Emishi, Ebisu: pre-7th century reading; modern reading, mojin “hairy person”.

  I (as in “is”), Ebisu: Barbarian.

؎  Fushu

Ε  Ifu

lT Ashihase (alternate reading Mishihase): a group of people living in Hokkaido during the 7th century. @@



c Den-I

R San-I

ڂĂI-teki: used to describe the Emishi of Hokkaido and Tsugaru peninsula, hostile to the Japanese.                                                          

Õ Kofun

Ìy Tsugaru: northernmost peninsula of Honshu, just south of Hokkaido.

n蓇 Watarito: literally, “island across” meaning southern Hokkaido.

ڈ΂ Ezo ga shima: old name for present day Hokkaido.



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Kenjiro 2007.3.15