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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Shotoku and Umako were allies otherwise

When the o-omi judged the time fitting, he proposed to the Emperor that an expedition should be despatched to recover Mimana, which had been lost to Japan some time previously. An army of twenty thousand men, commanded by a majority of the omi and muraji, was sent to Tsukushi, and all potential opponents of the Soga chief having been thus removed, he proceeded to carry out his design against the Emperor's life. The very indignity done to Sushun's remains testifies the thoroughness of the Soga plot. It has been shown that in early days the erection of a tomb for an Imperial personage was a heavy task, involving much time and labour. Pending the completion of the work, the corpse was put into a coffin and guarded day and night, for which purpose a separate palace was* erected. When the sepulchre had been fully prepared, the remains were transferred thither with elaborate ceremonials,** and the tomb was thenceforth under the care of guardians (rioko).

*Called Araki-no-miya, or the "rough palace." The interval during which time the coffin remained there was termed kari-mo-gari, or "temporary mourning."

**Known as kakushi-matsuri, or the "rite of hiding." It would seem that the term of one year's mourning prescribed in the case of a parent had its origin in the above arrangement.

All these observances were dispensed with in the case of the Emperor Sushun. His remains did not receive even the measure of respect that would have been paid to the corpse of the commonest among his subjects. Nothing could indicate more vividly the omnipotence of the o-omi; everything had been prepared so that his partisans could bury the body almost before it was cold. Had Prince Shotoku protested, he would have been guilty of the futility described by a Chinese proverb as "spitting at the sky." Besides, Shotoku and Umako were allies otherwise. The Soga minister, in his struggle with the military party, had needed the assistance of Shotoku, and had secured it by community of allegiance to Buddhism. The prince, in his projected struggle against the uji system, needed the assistance of Buddhist disciples in general, and in his effort to reach the throne, needed the assistance of Umako in particular. In short, he was building the edifice of a great reform, and to have pitted himself, at the age of nineteen, against the mature strength of the o-omi would have been to perish on the threshold of his purpose.


By the contrivance of Umako, the consort of the Emperor Bidatsu was now placed on the throne, Prince Shotoku being nominated Prince Imperial and regent. The Soga-uji held absolute power in every department of State affairs.


One of the most remarkable documents in Japanese annals is the Jushichi Kempo, or Seventeen-Article Constitution, compiled by Shotoku Taishi in A.D. 604. It is commonly spoken of as the first written law of Japan. But it is not a body of laws in the proper sense of the term. There are no penal provisions, nor is there any evidence of promulgation with Imperial sanction. The seventeen articles are simply moral maxims, based on the teachings of Buddhism and Confucianism, and appealing to the sanctions of conscience. Prince Shotoku, in his capacity of regent, compiled them and issued them to officials in the guise of "instructions."

I. Harmony is to be valued, and the avoidance of wanton opposition honoured. All men are swayed by class feeling and few are intelligent. Hence some disobey their lords and fathers or maintain feuds with neighbouring villages. But when the high are harmonious and the low friendly, and when there is concord in the discussion of affairs, right views spontaneously find acceptance. What is there that cannot be then accomplished?

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