Important Cultural PropertySuccession records of a plot of land at Naranaka Village, Soekami County, Yamato Province

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  • Handscroll
  • Ink on paper
  • 29.1×758.6 cm
  • Heian period, 954–1002
  • Kyushu National Museum
  • P14989

From the Heian period onward, whenever possession of a plot of land was transferred from one person to another, a sales receipt would be created and attached to a document detailing the land’s past and present owners. This document was known as a succession record (tetsugi shōmon). The succession records here are for a plot of land located at 5-, 5-ri, 1-tsubo, Naranaka-, Soekami-gun, Yamato Province (located near the Nara Shrine in present-day Nara Town, Tenri City, Nara Prefecture). Attached in order of succession from left to right, these receipts trace the process of transfer of this piece of land from 954 to 1002. According to the records, Hata Anako first inherited the land from her late mother, Tayako, and then sold it to Wakae Yoshikuni for 150 bundles of rice. Subsequent sales receipts come respectively from when the land was transferred to the following people: Fujiwara, Nakai Jin, Marube Tokitada, Marube Ōhira (who had inherited it from his father, Tokitada), Takahashi Keizō, Kamitsuna Gobō (head of Kanshūji Temple), Keisen (high priest of Tōdaiji Temple), Hōshun (high priest of Tōdaiji), Kenshin (Hōshun’s disciple), Tsuina (of Tōdaiji), and Myōen (high priest and head of Tōdaiji).

Each receipt bears the signature of an official (Jp. tone) as well as the official seal of the Soekami County. The latter, in particular, tells us that the buying and selling of land was overseen by the national government under the ritsuryō system. Having retained the entirety of its original form, this document shows us how such succession records were created early on in Japan’s national history. Furthermore, it provides evidence for how many of Tōdaiji’s plots of land in the Yamato Province, such as this Soekami plot, were purchased by their monks.

These succession records, alongside three other historical documents in our collection dated 1148, 1249, and 1271 respectively, used to belong to the Sekido family of Nagoya. Together, they form a set of documents relating to the Tōdaiji Temple.