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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The Emperor made a progress to Chinu


HANSHO

style="text-align: justify;">The Emperor Hansho's short reign of five years is not remarkable for anything except an indirect evidence that Chinese customs were beginning to be adopted at the Japanese Court. In the earliest eras, the ladies who enjoyed the sovereign's favour were classed simply as "Empress" or "consort." But from the days of Hansho we find three ranks of concubines.

INKYO

Inkyo was a younger brother of his predecessor, Hansho, as the latter had been of Richu. No formal nomination of Inkyo as Prince Imperial had taken place, and thus for the first time the sceptre was found without any legalized heir or any son of the deceased sovereign to take it. In these circumstances, the ministers held a council and agreed to offer the throne to Inkyo, the elder of two surviving sons of Nintoku. Inkyo was suffering from a disease supposed to be incurable, and, distrusting his own competence, he persistently refused to accept the responsibility. The incident responsible for his ultimate consent was the intervention of a concubine, Onakatsu, afterwards Empress. Under pretext of carrying water for the prince she entered his chamber, and when he turned his back on her entreaty that he would comply with the ministers' desire, she remained standing in the bitter cold of a stormy day of January, until the water, which she had spilled over her arm, became frozen and she fell in a faint. Then the prince yielded.

A year later envoys were sent to seek medical assistance in Korea, which was evidently regarded as the home of the healing science as well as of many other arts borrowed from China. A physician arrived from Sinra, and Inkyo's malady was cured.

In this reign took place a celebrated incident, already referred to, when the lineage of the nobles was corrected by recourse to the ordeal of boiling water. But a much larger space in the annals is occupied with the story of an affair, important only as illustrating the manners and customs of the time. From an early period it had been usual that Japanese ladies on festive occasions should go through the graceful performance of "woven paces and waving hands," which constituted dancing, and, in the era now occupying our attention, there prevailed in the highest circles a custom that the danseuse should offer a maiden to the most honoured among the guests. One winter's day, at the opening of a new palace, the Empress Onakatsu danced to the music of the Emperor's lute. Onakatsu had a younger sister, Oto, of extraordinary beauty, and the Emperor, fain to possess the girl but fearful of offending the Empress, had planned this dance so that Onakatsu, in compliance with the recognized usage, might be constrained to place her sister at his disposal. It fell out as Inkyo wished, but there then ensued a chapter of incidents in which the dignity of the Crown fared ill. Again and again the beautiful Oto refused to obey her sovereign's summons, and when at length, by an unworthy ruse, she was induced to repair to the palace, it was found impossible to make her an inmate of it in defiance of the Empress' jealousy. She had to be housed elsewhere, and still the Imperial lover was baffled, for he dared not brave the elder sister's resentment by visiting the younger. Finally he took advantage of the Empress' confinement to pay the long-deferred visit, but, on learning of the event, the outraged wife set fire to the parturition house and attempted to commit suicide. "Many years have passed," she is recorded to have said to the Emperor, "since I first bound up my hair and became thy companion in the inner palace. It is too cruel of thee, O Emperor! Wherefore just on this night when I am in childbirth and hanging between life and death, must thou go to Fujiwara?" Inkyo had the grace to be "greatly shocked" and to "soothe the mind of the Empress with explanations," but he did not mend his infidelity. At Oto's request he built a residence for her at Chinu in the neighbouring province of Kawachi, and thereafter the compilers of the Chronicles, with fine irony, confine their record of three consecutive years' events to a repetition of the single phrase, "the Emperor made a progress to Chinu."


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