Fujiwara no Sonohito (藤原園人)

FUJIWARA no Sonohito (756-January 22, 819) was a politician from the end of the Nara period to the beginning of the Heian period. His father was FUJIWARA no Kaedemaro of the Northern House of the Fujiwara clan. His mother was the daughter of FUJIWARA no Yoshitsugu (the Ceremonial House of the Fujiwara clan). Later, he was also called Sakino yamashinano otodo (literally, 'former Yamashina minister').


The life of Sonohito was described in the historical materials such as "Shoku Nihongi" (Chronicle of Japan Continued) and "Nihonkoki" (Later Chronicle of Japan).

His father Kaedemaro worked for local administration for a long time, holding various positions such as Saikaidoshi (a governmental officer of Kyusyu district) and a governor of province. After that, he died in 776 which was four years after he was promoted to Sangi (councilor). At that time Sonohito was Sani (courtier without post), but he was conferred to Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) in 779 which was three years after his father's death.

After that, Sonohito held various positions such as not only provincial governors and local officials like his father, but also secretarial positions of Daijokan such as shonagon (Lesser counselor) and benkan (officials of the daijokan). It seems that Sonohito was a benevolent ruler who carefully considered the lives of farmers, for example, in the Bungo Province where he worked as governor in the Enryaku era there is a hokora (a small shrine) to honor his good governance and virtue (Goryo-sha in Oga, Hinode Town, Oita Prefecture).

Sonohito surely achieved satisfactory results and was promoted to Sangi and Kansatsushi (inspector) in the Daido era (late 800s) when he was over 50 years old. Around this time, Sonohito aggressively proposed policies, many of which were implemented. Sonohito's proposition of civilian rule consisted of the two main principles of Hyakusho bumin (relief of the poor) and the oppression of influential families (Imperial families, dominant nobility and temples and shrines). In those days, one century passed after the implementation of Ritsuryo system (a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo code), and farmers who had been assumed as an equal class tended to be stratified. The conventional order of community began to change as most of the farmers gradually became poor and subordinated to a few rich farmers. In addition, influential families such as dominant nobility, temples and shrines tended to develop more land over the regulation of Konden einen shizai Law (a law allowing farmers who cleared new lands to own them permanently) in order to strengthen their economic bases, and press farmers' lives. The equality of farmers was a precondition in order to keep the Ritsuryo system. Sonohito's proposition of policies aimed to maintain the equality of farmers and, eventually, to maintain the Ritsuryo system, and the government, which adopted Sonohito's policies, also aimed to maintain the Ritsuryo system.

By the way, Sonohito was promoted to Sangi when Emperor Heizei on June, 806. On the same month Sonohito was also assigned to Kotaitei no fu (A chief secretary of kotaitei - the younger brother of an Emperor who is heir apparent) of the Imperial Prince Kamino (the later Emperor Saga) who was chosen to kotaitei. In 809 the Emperor Saga was enthroned. In 812, when the reign of the Emperor Saga became stable after the Kusuko Incident in the previous year, Sonohito was assigned to udaijin (minister of the right) which was the chief of Daijokan (Grand Council of State) in those days with the deep confidence of the emperor.

According to the historical materials such as "Nihonkoki," it seems that the policies of the government which Sonohito led were Hyakushobumin and the oppression of influential families which had been proposed since he was Sangi. However, social conditions did not necessarily became better in spite of Sonohito's vigorous efforts. In addition, some people say that Sonohito's policies were not unique and only succeeded the principles of the former politicians such as the Emperor Kanmu and FUJIWARA no Otsugu. FUJIWARA no Fuyutsugu who became the chief of Daijokan after Sonohito changed the principle of the Ritsuryo system greatly and implemented the easing of regulations of development by influential families.

In 819 Sonohito died at the age of 63. Emperor Saga regretted his death greatly and posthumously conferred to sadaijin (minister of the left) and Shoichii (Senior First Rank) as well as sending an emissary to his funeral. Kukai also wrote condolences for Sonohito.

In 779

(January 12) Jugoinoge
(February 23) Mino no suke (assistant governor of Mino Province)

In 781

(May 25) Bicchu no kami (the governor of Bicchu Province)

In 783

(February 25) shonagon

In 785

(January 27) benkan
(October 2) Aki no kami (governor of Aki Province)

In 789

(January 6) Jugoinojo (Junior Fifth Rank, Upper Grade)
(February 4) Bingo no kami (governor of Bingo Province)
(March 16) Dazai no shoni (Junior Assistant Governor-General of Dazai-fu offices)

In 791

(January 22) Bungo no kami (governor of Bungo Province)

In 798

(July 27) The Emperor ordered Sonohito to regulate the old capital of Heijo. At that time, he was Ukyo no daibu (Master of the Western Capital Offices) and Yamato no kami (governor of Yamato Province) in Shogoinoge (Senior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade).

In 799

(April 28) Jushiinoge (Junior Forth Rank, Lower Grade) before this date.
(September 10) benkan

In 803

Sagami no kami (governor of Sagami Province)

In 805

(October 23) Okura-kyo (Minister of the Treasury) in Jushiijo (Junior Fourth Rank, Upper Grade) before this time.

In 806

(February 16) Kunaikyo (Minister of the Sovereign's Household)
(March 18) gon-sangi
(May 19) kotaishi no fu as an additional post
(May 24) Sanyodo (Chugoku district on the coast of the Seto Inland Sea) kansatsushi (allocated in stead of Sangi)
Shoshiinoge (Senior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade) before June

In 808

(April 3) Hokurikudo (Hokuriku district on the coast of Japan Sea) kansatsuhi as an additional post
(June 28) Minbukyo (Minister of Popular Affairs) as an additional post

In 809

(March 30) Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank)
(April 13) Shosanmi (Senior Third Rank)
(September 19) Chunagon (vice-councilor of state)

In 810

(February 8) Dainagon (chief councilor of state)
(September 18) Togu no fu (an official in charge of education of the Crown Prince) as an additional post

In 812

(February 5) udaijin (the chief of Daijokain)

In 814

(January 7) Junii (Junior Second Rank)
(June) submitted "Shinsen Shojiroku" (Newly Compiled Register of Clan Names and Titles of Nobility) to the Emperor Saga with the Imperial Prince Manda and so on.

In 818

(December 19) died and was posthumously conferred to sadaijin and Shoichii.