Michi no Obitona (道首名)

MICHI no Obitona (663 - May 18, 718) is a government official from the period of Emperor Monmu through until the early Nara period. His family name is Kun or Ko. He was engaged in the selection of Taiho Ritsuryo (Taiho Code), and achieved good results as a local official. Even after his death, he was remembered as a good official for long periods.

Place of origin

The place of his origin is unknown, but there is a theory that the MICHI clan is a powerful local clan in the Hokuriku region, and his name, Obitona came from the name of the branch family that entered into the central region taking advantage of the relationship with the Abe clan. This is a different story, but Michi no iratsume, who seemed to be a member of the same clan, became the wife of Emperor Tenchi and gave birth to Prince Shiki. However, her relationship with Obitona is unknown.

Selection of the Ritsuryo codes

It is said that he started to learn the Ritsuryo codes in his adolescent period, and was familiar with duties of a government official. On July 11, 700, he was granted roku due to the achievement in selecting Taiho Ritsuryo (Taiho Code). His Ikai (Court rank) at that time was tsuidaiichi (the thirty-third grade of the forty-eight grades of transition cap rank in the cap rank and official rank systems). He was regarded as the only member that was specialized in the Taiho Ritsuryo among the 19 selecting members. On May 23, 701, he gave kosetsu (lectures such as those on the Buddhist scriptures) on new codes to all the officials, and on June 1(old calendar), he also gave kosetsu on Soni ryo (Regulations for Monks and Nuns) at Daian-ji Temple. He was Shoshichiinoge (Senior Seventh Rank, Lower Grade) at that time.

On May 3, 711, he was appointed to Jugoi (Junior Fifth Rank). On October 27, 712, he was appointed to the first Kenshiragi-shi (Japanese envoy to Silla) after transferring the national capital to Heijokyo, and on December 5, 712, he resigned. He returned on September 8, 713, in the following year.

Good official

On September 24, 713, he was appointed to the post in Chikugo Province in addition to the post in Higo Province he assumed (the date of the appointment to those posts is unknown). In the places to which he was appointed, he advised the local people to have a regular vocation, and instructed them on cultivation planning, planting fruit trees, keeping chickens or porks in a timely manner, establishing ordinances on them. He often visited the places to which he was appointed, and punished the people who didn't comply with his teachings. The local people resented and complained about him at first, but they came to follow his teachings within a few years because they became happy to find that their crop yields gradually increased.
He also promoted the know-how on irrigation technology by constructing farm ponds or banks to 'enabled the stable wet-rice agriculture.'
It is said that he had a number of farm ponds in Higo Province or Chikugo Province including Ajiuno-Ike pond in Higo. It is believed that thanks to Obitona's contribution, the local people can enjoy the good water facilities even today. Kazuo AOKI assumes that Obitona had read agricultural books of China as well as learning the ritsuryo. Because of this, AOKI thinks, Obitona was able to provide agricultural support and construction of farm ponds that required the Chinese technology.

In February 715, he was appointed to Jugoinojo (Junior Fifth Rank, Upper Grade), and in February 718, he was appointed to Shogoinoge (Senior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade). He passed away on May 18 in the same year during his service as Chikugo no kami (the governor of Chikugo). The local people worshipped him after his death, and he became a good model for a person who discusses the duties of officials. The Shoku Nihongi (Chronicle of Japan Continued) contains his detailed obituary, which is exceptional in Shokki in which the description of obituary is generally limited to the officials in the court rank higher than the forth after the era of the Emperor Junnin. In later years, even when MICHI no Hiromochi (道広持), his descendant, changed his name into Todo Ason in 835, it was still said that Obitona's achievements had been appreciated. In 865, he was conferred Jushii (Junior Fourth Rank) posthumously because he was a good official.

A five-character-line poem created by Obitona was contained in Kaifusou (Fond Recollections of Poetry).