Joint Princeton Kyoto Website: The Tannowa Collection

April 16, 2020

Princeton formalized a cooperative agreement with Kyoto University, whereby they created a joint documentary website to disseminate in public digital images of the ancient documents owned by the Kyoto University Museum.  Over the course of the fall semester, students and auditors in Thomas Conlan’s EAS 525-HIS 520 “Sources in Ancient and Medieval Japanese History” translated fifty-three documents from the Tannowa collection, while Ben Johnson helped to create the following website.

The Tannowa documents have never before been available in their entirety in Japan or elsewhere. These reveal much about local governance in central Japan during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries

Clicking on the image of each document reveals its transcription and translation.

Here is an explanation of each of the five scrolls of documents in this collection. 

The first scroll contains many Kamakura era (1185-1333) records, and shows the residual power of the Kujō, who were proprietors of the Tannowa estate. The Kujō maintained influence over these lands through the fourteenth century.  One can also trace the rise of the Tannowa, who were  responsible for writing records for the estate. 

Scroll two contains ten documents, the majority of which were written by Kusunoki Masanori, the second son of the famous Kusunoki Masashige. Masanori was apparently left-handed.  For those of you who examine handwritten documents, please pay attention to this explanation as there are undoubtedly other examples of left-handed writers.  

The third scroll contains a remarkable compilation of documents, with records from Ashikaga Takauji and Tadayoshi and other figures. The Tannowa fought in the battles of 1333-36, when wars erupted between the Northern and Southern Courts (1336-92) as well as the tumultuous Kannō Disturbance of the 1350s. The last documents in this scroll describe battles of 1460, the Ōnin War (1467) and a final campaign from 1517 where the Tannowa fought under the command of Hosokawa Takakuni on the Inland Sea.   

The fourth scroll contains a number court documents that documented the promotions for the  Tannowa on behalf of the Southern Court. For those interested in medieval paper, this type of paper is  known as shukushi, and was made from recycled documents, which were dissolved in water. The ink from the previous records stained the paper gray.  Shukushi was only used by Imperial chamberlains (kurōdo). Nevertheless, as the Southern Court’s fortunes waned, it lacked access to create shukushi and merely stained the documents with ink.  Among the very latest documents issued by the Southern Court, even this was impossible, and they were not darkened with ink at all.  

Scroll five contains an oath whereby the warriors of Izumi vouch for Tannowa documents which had been destroyed in the conflicts of the 1370s.