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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Then 587 muraji of the Nakatomi


This

last outrage provoked a remonstrance from Shotoku Taishi's daughter, and she was thenceforth reckoned among the enemies of the Soga. One year later (643), this feud ended in bloodshed. Emishi's usurpation of Imperial authority was carried so far that he did not hesitate to confer the rank of o-omi on his son, Iruka, and upon the latter's younger brother also. Iruka now conceived the design of placing upon the throne Prince Furubito, a son of the Emperor Jomei. It will be remembered that the Soga chief, Emishi, had lent his omnipotent influence to secure the sceptre for Jomei, because of the latter's affection for Emishi's daughter. This lady, having become one of Jomei's consorts, had borne to him Prince Furubito, who was consequently Iruka's uncle. Iruka determined that the prince should succeed the Empress Kogyoku. To that end it was necessary to remove the Shotoku family, against which, as shown above, the Soga had also a special grudge. Not even the form of devising a protest was observed. Orders were simply issued to a military force that the Shotoku house should be extirpated. Its representative was Prince Yamashiro, the same who had effaced himself so magnanimously at the time of Jomei's accession. He behaved with ever greater nobility on this occasion. Having by a ruse escaped from the Soga troops, he was urged by his followers to flee to the eastern provinces, and there raising an army, to march back to the attack of the Soga.

There

is reason to think that this policy would have succeeded. But the prince replied: "I do not wish it to be said by after generations that, for my sake, anyone has mourned the loss of a father or a mother. Is it only when one has conquered in battle that one is to be called a hero? Is he not also a hero who has made firm his country at the expense of his own life?" He then returned to the temple at Ikaruga, which his father had built, and being presently besieged there by the Soga forces, he and the members of his family, twenty-three in all, committed suicide. This tragedy shocked even Emishi. He warned Iruka against the peril of such extreme measures.

ENGRAVING: FUJIWARA KAMATAKI

There now appears a statesman destined to leave his name indelibly written on the pages of Japanese history, Kamatari, muraji of the Nakatomi-uji. The Nakatomi's functions were specially connected with Shinto rites, and Kamatari must be supposed to have entertained little good-will towards the Soga, who were the leaders of the Buddhist faction, and whose feud with the military party sixty-seven years previously had involved the violent death of Katsumi, then (587) muraji of the Nakatomi. Moreover, Kamatari makes his first appearance in the annals as chief Shinto official. Nevertheless, it is not apparent that religious zeal or personal resentment was primarily responsible for Kamatari's determination to compass the ruin of the Soga. Essentially an upright man and a loyal subject, he seems to have been inspired by a frank resolve to protect the Throne against schemes of lawless ambitions, unconscious that his own family, the Fujiwara, were destined to repeat on a still larger scale the same abuses.


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