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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Moved against Anahobe and Moriya


FINAL

STRUGGLE BETWEEN THE MONONOBE AND THE SOGA

In the second year of his reign, the Emperor Yomei was seized with the malady which had killed his father. In his extremity he desired to be received into the Buddhist faith to which he had always inclined, and he ordered the leading officials to consider the matter. A council was held. Moriya, o-muraji of the Mononobe, and Katsumi, muraji of the Nakatomi, objected resolutely. They asked why the Kami of the country should be abandoned in a moment of crisis. But Umako, o-omi of the Soga, said: "It is our duty to obey the Imperial commands and to give relief to his Majesty. Who will dare to suggest contumely?" Buddhist priests were then summoned to the palace. It was a moment of extreme tension. Prince Umayado (Shotoku) grasped the hands of the o-omi and exclaimed, "If the minister had not believed in Buddhism, who would have ventured to give such counsel?" Umako's answer is said to have been: "Your Imperial Highness will work for the propagation of the faith. I, a humble subject, will maintain it to the death." Moriya, the o-muraji, made no attempt to hide his resentment, but recognizing that his adherents in the palace were comparatively few, he withdrew to a safe place and there concentrated his forces, endeavouring, at the same time, to enlist by magic rites the assistance of the Kami against the disciples of the foreign faith. Meanwhile the Emperor's malady ended fatally. His reign had lasted only

one year. At the point of death he was comforted by an assurance that the son of Shiba Tachito would renounce the world to revere his Majesty's memory and would make an image of the Buddha sixteen feet high.

Buddhism had now gained a firm footing at the Yamato Court, but its opponents were still active. Their leader, the o-muraji, thought that his best chance of success was to contrive the accession of Prince Anahobe, whose attempt to take precedence of his elder brother, the Emperor Yomei, has been already noted. The conspiracy was discovered, and the Soga forces, acting under the nominal authority of the deceased Emperor's consort, Umako's niece, moved against Anahobe and Moriya, who had not been able to combine their strength. The destruction of Prince Anahobe was easily effected, but the work of dealing with the o-muraji taxed the resources of the Soga to the utmost. Moriya himself ascended a tree and by skill of archery held his assailants long at bay. Archery had been practised assiduously by the Yamato warrior from time immemorial, and arrows possessing remarkable power of penetration had been devised. During the reign of Nintoku, when envoys from Koma presented to the Court iron shields and iron targets, a Japanese archer, Tatebito, was able to pierce them; and in the time of Yuryaku, a rebel named Iratsuko shot a shaft which, passing through his adversary's shield and twofold armour, entered the flesh of his body to the depth of an inch. There was an archery hall within the enclosure of the palace; whenever envoys or functionaries from foreign countries visited Yamato they were invited to shoot there; frequent trials of skill took place, and when oversea sovereigns applied for military aid, it was not unusual to send some bundles of arrows in lieu of soldiers.

Thus, the general of the Mononobe, perched among the branches of a tree, with an unlimited supply of shafts and with highly trained skill as a bowman, was a formidable adversary. Moriya and his large following of born soldiers drove back the Soga forces three times. Success seemed to be in sight for the champion of the Kami. At this desperate stage Prince Shotoku--then a lad of sixteen--fastened to his helmet images of the "Four Guardian Kings of Heaven"* and vowed to build a temple in their honour if victory was vouchsafed to his arms. At the same time, the o-omi, Umako, took oath to dedicate temples and propagate Buddhism. The combat had now assumed a distinctly religious character. Shotoku and Umako advanced again to the attack; Moriya was shot down; his family and followers fled, were put to the sword or sent into slavery, and all his property was confiscated.


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