Zakko (Special Technicians) (雑戸)

Zakko refers to groups of technical experts mainly from handicraft industry, coming from shokugyobe (professional Be [groups of people who belonged to the Yamato Dynasty]) subordinated to specific government offices under the ritsuryo system (a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo code) of Japan before the Taika Reforms.

Zakko, with its starting point likely being toraijin (people from overseas who settled in early Japan and introduced Continental culture to the Japanese) engineers from the Korean Peninsula, were established by the reorganization of the bemin (members of Be) system after the Taika Reforms to serve the Imperial Court mainly with military techniques. Zakko took its name from the groups of the same name under the ritsuryo system of Tang Dynasty, although they were not included in senmin (one of the two main castes of the ritsuryo system, meaning humble or lowly people) class, unlike in the Tang Dynasty. Zakko, however, are believed to have been treated in a similar way to senmin (with the exception of some who were given ikai [Court rank] in recognition of their contribution), as seen from the facts that they were registered not in the general family register in which citizens and shinabe (technicians in offices) were listed but in the special family register called "zakkoseki," and that they passed on their social status as well as skills in a hereditary manner under the direct control of government offices. Zakko and ryoko (imperial tomb guard) which was one of Goshiki no sen (the base people of five colors) were similar in terms of legal status, but are different in that zakko, as with citizens, were obliged to be involved in giso (to stockpile grain in case of famine).

Under the ritsuryo system, such kinds of zakko are known to have existed as Kudarabe (10 each under Okura-sho [Ministry of the Treasury] and Kuraryo [Palace Storehouse Bureau]), Kudarahe (11under Okura-sho and 10 under Kuraryo), Zokuko (Zoheishi [Weapons-Manufacturing Bureau], and Imonono Tsukasa [Casting Bureau] also has workers dispatched from Zoheishi and Kanuchibe of Kajishi [Smithery Bureau]), Kanuchibe (338 under Kajishi plus 217 for Zokuko of Zoheishi), Hakohe (197 under Kyotoshi [the Ministry of the Sovereign's Household]), Shiko/Umakai (302 under Samaryo [Left Division of Bureau of Horses] and 260 under Umaryo [Right Division of Bureau of Horses]) (government offices which zakko belonged to are shown in parentheses with number indicating the statutory number of zakko, which can be identified in Shikiinryo [law which stipulates duties of the ministries]). In addition, there are thought to have been kuratsukuri (saddle makers) (Paragraph March 15, 752 of "Shoku Nihongi" [Chronicle of Japan Continued]), although no details have yet been found.

Zakko mostly lived near the capital, such as in Kinai region (provinces surrounding Kyoto and Nara) and its surrounding provinces. There were various forms of zakko, such as Kudarabe, Kudarahe and Shiko who were summoned to serve on a periodic rotating or temporary basis, Zokuko and Kanuchibe who were required to work for government offices in the agricultural off-season, and Hakohe who offered a certain amount of products every year. In return, they were exempted from part of assignments imposed, such as cho (tributes) and zoyo (irregular corvee), as well as from military service, but it is thought that they were engaged in harder work than shinabe in terms of both contents and treatment.

Later on, with the development of the ritsuryo system, increasing number people were liberated from zakko status and became citizens for the purpose of decreasing senmin classes. On April 3, 744, umakai (horse breeders) and zakko were emancipated in full scale and those who had zakko-specific kabane (hereditary title) were allowed by an imperial decree to change it to the general kabane. This was not only part of the administrative arrangement, but also intended to use zakko's skills to erect the statue of Birushana Buddha in Todai-ji Temple as well as to fake "chishiki (donation to build Buddhist temples and statues) (voluntary participation)" for building the Great Buddha, and some even go so far as to say that if the Great Buddha was completed by the delusive emancipation of zakko, the old regime was scheduled to be restore. But, it is difficult to rely only on such explanation to account for everything, as discussed later.

Afterward, on March 15, 752, Kyoshiki (the Capital Bureau) and kokushi (provincial governors) with hongan (birthplace) received an order to identify and register those who were formerly members of zakko by investigating old zakkoseki before the abolishment of zakko in order to get them engaged in their jobs as before. This order followed Daijokanpu (the official documents of the Daijokan, the office of the supreme political leader) issued in the previous year, which required umakai liberated together with zakko to work the shift at Meryo (the section taking care of imperial horses) for the number of days equivalent to that of, and in place of, zoyo. This order is often thought to have brought back zakko, which serves as the basis for interpreting the above-mentioned imperial decree in 744 as temporal. It is believed, however, that old zakkoseki was ordered to be investigated to implement this order, reflecting the fact that the situation of those who were formerly members of zakko and became citizens after the abolishment of zakko was not grasped. Therefore, no measures seem to have been taken on the assumption of the restoration of zakko in 744. Despite the policy of full-scale abolishment of umakai and zakko developed and implemented in 744, "review of and changes in the reform path" were pursued in 752 probably because military goods, in the manufacturing and procurement of which zakko had been involved, were usually in no demand from (or forbidden to) ordinary citizens, unlike luxury and sophisticated goods produced by shinabe, which caused problems in meeting the demand for the military goods and in handing down skills.
In addition, the rank of former zakko people was not changed from the citizen to zakko again, as is obvious from the fact that zakkoseki was not prepared after the Tenpyo-shoho era, thus they are thought in fact to have served government offices within the scope of zoyo defined under the ritsuryo codes even when requisitioned (this can also be assumed from the subsequent treatment of umakai which followed the similar emancipation process.)
"Engishiki" (an ancient book for codes and procedures on national rites and prayers) provides for 372 Kajitsube under Mokuryo (Bureau of Carpentry), 166 Shiko under Samaryo, 127 Shiko under Umaryo, and 310 Zokuko under Hyogoryo (Bureau of Military Storehouses), which are believed in fact to have been in the peasant class supported by government offices. Additionally, the theory advocated at one time after the war that senmin in the medieval period has its roots in zakko is far from true, and it is presumed that zakko system was effectively abolished in 744 and had become nominal ever since.