The current collection of essays is a product of the work of the “Family Register of Villages” Research Group—established in 2009 under the auspices of Professor Kyohei Ooyama. “Family Register of Villages” refers to two databases: 1) In the “List of Villages,” the first mention of villages in ancient and medieval Japanese writing by province and district is collected, and 2) The “List of the First Mention of Villages by Province per Century” has summarized the number of first mentions of villages in each province and century. In other words, the “List of Villages” records when each village—which formed the lives of the people—was established (i.e., a collection of their first mentions in historical record), how it was linked to early modern villages, and, when applicable, the time of its disappearance. This information is compared against the family register of individuals that contains records of a person’s life from his/her birth to death, and is termed the “Family Register of Villages.” The Family Register of Villages Research Group was established to compile this register for each province.
The current volume features a compilation of essays by the family register compilers on the characteristics of ancient and medieval villages in each province, and is based on the Family Register of Villages database published online (https://drfh.jp/mura). It also collects essays by researchers of ancient and medieval settlement history who supported Family Register of Villages Research Group efforts and provided help and support on various occasions, such as presenting papers at symposia organized by the group. More concretely, the Introduction presents an overall outline of the Family Register of Villages, which serves as the basis for all essays appearing in the volume. Part One is composed of nine chapters on the structure of local communities that surround the village, as well as the state of rule and order found there. Part Two contains nine chapters focusing on the worlds of Shinto and Buddhism that serve to fill in the details of these villages through a focus on village life and the surrounding environs. It concludes with an essay by the editors, which articulates the future research agenda.
The Family Register of Villages is a valuable tool for the study of history of settlements and popular history that brings to light for researchers the spread of popular society on the Japanese Archipelago as well as its content. The current volume shows that the rise and fall of the village traced in the Family Register of Villages is in fact intimately interrelated not only with the formation of individuals’ livelihoods and religious observations but also with the development of political history and occurrences of natural disaster. Compilation of the Family Register of Villages for 68 countries was no simple task, and the current volume was produced while the register was not yet complete. However, as many villages face the prospect of extinction due to administrative mergers and natural disaster, we would like to take this opportunity to invite readers to consider how to protect and maintain the lifestyles and foundations of these people by engaging with this work.
(Written by MIEDA Akiko, Associate Professor of Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology / 2019)