The present article analyzes a fragmentary treatise on constitutional reform written by legal scholar Ogushi Toyoo just after Japan's defeat in the Asia-Pacific War, now contained in the Ogushi Document Collection preserved in the National Diet Library Modern Japanese Political History Materials Room, in order to revise the conventional characterization of Ogushi by historians of Japan's postwar Constitution as a figure who was obsessed with the continuation of a national polity and a constitution based on sovereignty resting in the person of the emperor.
Ogushi understood the imperial rescript announcing the end of the war as an exercise of emergency powers and urged democratization be promoted by obeisance to the rescript and autonomous performance of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration. In particular, what most concerned Ogushi was that the form that governance would take in Japan would be decided by the Japanese people, in conformance with the rejoinder issued by US Secretary of State James Byrnes to Japan's first reply to the Potsdam Declaration. Ogushi was of the opinion that this was a national polity issue and thus should require a national referendum to decide whether or not the prewar “tenno” system would prevail, after which constitutional reform would be carried out. As to the characteristic features of such reform, Ogushi offered the three following proposals.
First the constitution would begin with a preamble consisting of a national declaration and a constitutional edict, in which sovereignty would rest in the person of the emperor, the authority of the emperor as sovereign would be based on the existence of a nation-state, while at the same time declaring that the exercise of sovereignty would be carried out by a government responsible to the people, thus clearly defining the nature of the national polity. It was clearly stated in the text that the emperor would exercise sovereignty based on the will of the people and that the emperor's role would be limited to powers and sanctions of a formal nature.
Secondly, the constitutional edict would recognize that only the people have the right to propose changes to the constitution and insure the juridical legitimacy of constitutional reform procedures.
Finally, we find articles pertaining to national plebiscites and local autonomy not seen in other proposals of the time, clearly stating equality, education, employment and suffrage all to be civil rights under the law.
Although Ogushi's constitutional reform proposals did in fact leave sovereignty resting in the person of the emperor, that sovereignty was allowed only as state authority granted by a consensus of its citizens, and the emperor's actual role was limited to formal matters of state. Therefore, in its actual content, the Ogushi proposals were for all intents and purposes almost identical to the idea of the emperor as the symbol of national sovereignty under the present national Constitution. Moreover, in its complete subordination of politics to the will of the people and its relegation of the final judgment of important affairs of state to public referendum, Ogushi's ideas tend to advocate a kind of republicanism, in common with the ideas held by the advocates of socialism and communism.
In the recent discourse regarding the Japanese medieval village, there has been a tendency to reexamine the conventional view that by the latter part of that age, the custom of village community responsibility for assuming the tax burden (mura-uke 村請) had already become generally entrenched in rural society, resulting in the conclusion that the actual customs of the assumption of the tax burden on the local level (jige-uke 地下請) or by groups of yeomen peasants (hyakusho-uke 百姓請) did not fully constitute the mura-uke system of the late premodern era, thus necessitating that the actual involvement of the village community in the calculation and payment of taxes be better understood. In that spirit, the present article takes up the case of the well-documented Toji temple Kamikuse Estate in Yamashiro Province to examine the involvement of the estate's village elders in land tax (nengu 年貢) calculation and payment and the place of such involvement within the context of the temple's control over the estate.
To begin with, the author traces the stages in the process by which the custom of jige-uke was established, focussing on the post of deputy estate manager (satanin 沙汰人). It was during the challenge to estate control during the Oei Era (1394-1428), in the midst of dereliction of duty on the part of the temple-appointed estate manager (kumon 公文) and an anti-temple protest alliance (ikki 一揆) formed by the estate's wealthier peasants (shoke 荘家), that the village elders assumed the duties of the kumon, thus constituting an important moment in the establishment of the “sata-nin” position. According to the author, this transition of village elders into satanin should be interpreted as an indication of the estate proprietor's official recognition of their involvement, if only partial, in the calculation and payment of the land tax.
Next, the author discusses the role of “satanin” within the estate proprietary system, both in the above-mentioned crisis and during normal times; namely, as both a check against the temple-appointed manager (and his deputies) and as playing a supplementary role in the performance of his duties. Moreover, satanin would temporarily assume the duties of the kumon when he was incapable of performing them at such times as re-appointment, thus clearly demonstrating involvement by the village community, or rather its leaders, in the calculation and payment of taxes.
Finally, the author turns to structural changes that began to develop during the early 16th century. It was in 1501 that half of Kamikuse Estate was turned over to warrior class proprietors, thus preventing Toji temple from appointing kumon or their deputies to control and manage the estate. For this reason, although Toji was able to retain a fixed portion of the land tax, unlike conditions in the 15th century, a new system of control was introduced in which village community leaders, beginning with the former elders-cum- “satanin”, were officially made fully responsible for calculating and paying the land tax.