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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

400 when Richu condemned the muraji

Tattooing on the face was another form of penalty. The first mention of it occurs in A.D. 400 when Richu condemned the muraji, Hamako, to be thus branded, but whether the practice originated then or dated from an earlier period, the annals do not show. It was variously called hitae-kizamu (slicing the brow), me-saku (splitting the eyes), and so on, but these terms signified nothing worse than tattooing on the forehead or round the eyes. The Emperor Richu deemed that such notoriety was sufficient penalty for high treason, but Yuryaku inflicted tattooing on a man whose dog had killed one of his Majesty's fowls.

Death at the stake appears to have been very uncommon. This terrible form of punishment seems to have been revived by Yuryaku. He caused it to be inflicted on one of the ladies-in-waiting and her paramour, who had forestalled him in the girl's affections. The first instance is mentioned in the annals of the Empress Jingo, but the victim was a Korean and the incident happened in war. To Yuryaku was reserved the infamy of employing such a penalty in the case of a woman. Highly placed personages were often allowed to expiate an offence by performing the religious rite of harai (purification), the offender defraying all expenses.


As Chinese literature became familiar and as the arts of the Middle Kingdom and Korea were imported into Japan, the latter's customs naturally underwent some changes. This was noticeable in the case of architecture. Lofty buildings, as has been already stated, began to take the place of the partially subterranean muro. The annals make no special reference to the authors of this innovation, but it is mentioned that among the descendants of the Chinese, Achi, and the Korean, Tsuka, there were men who practised carpentry. Apparently the fashion of high buildings was established in the reign of Anko when (A.D. 456) the term ro or takadono (lofty edifice) is, for the first time, applied to the palace of Anko in Yamato. A few years later (468), we find mention of two carpenters,* Tsuguno and Mita, who, especially the latter, were famous experts in Korean architecture, and who received orders from Yuryaku to erect high buildings. It appears further that silk curtains (tsumugi-kaki) came into use in this age for partitioning rooms, and that a species of straw mat (tatsu-gomo) served for carpet when people were hunting, travelling, or campaigning.

*It should be remembered that as all Japanese edifices were made of timber, the carpenter and the architect were one and the same.


Occasional references have been made already to the art of shipbuilding in Japan, and the facts elicited may be summed up very briefly. They are that the first instance of naming a ship is recorded in the year A.D. 274, when the Karano (one hundred feet long) was built to order of the Emperor Ojin by the carpenters of Izu promontory, which place was famed for skill in this respect; that the general method of building was to hollow out tree-trunks,* and that the arrival of naval architects from Shiragi (A.D. 300) inaugurated a superior method of construction, differing little from that employed in later ages.

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