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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

But the Omi Ritsu ryo had the character of genuine laws


signifies to converse about military affairs.


During the reign of Tenchi no rescript embodying signal administrative changes was issued, though the reforms previously inaugurated seem to have made steady progress. But by a legislative office specially organized for the purpose there was enacted a body of twenty-two laws called the Omi Ritsu-ryo (the Omi Statutes), Omi, on the shore of Lake Biwa, being then the seat of the Imperial Court. Shotoku Taishi's Jushichi Kempo, though often spoken of as a legislative ordinance, was really an ethical code, but the Omi Ritsu-ryo had the character of genuine laws, the first of their kind in Japan. Unfortunately this valuable document did not survive. Our knowledge of it is confined to a statement in the Memoirs of Kamatari that it was compiled in the year 667. Two years later--that is to say, in the year after Tenchi's actual accession--the census register, which had formed an important feature of the Daika reforms, became an accomplished fact. Thenceforth there was no further occasion to appeal to the barbarous ordeal of boiling water (kuga-dachi) when questions of lineage had to be determined.


Among four "palace ladies" (uneme) upon whom the Emperor Tenchi looked with favour, one, Yaka of Iga province,

bore him a son known in his boyhood days as Prince Iga but afterwards called Prince Otomo. For this lad his father conceived a strong affection, and would doubtless have named him heir apparent had he not been deterred by the consideration that during his own abstention from actually occupying the throne, administrative duties would have to be entrusted mainly to the hands of a Prince Imperial, and Otomo, being only thirteen years of age, could not undertake such a task. Thus, on Tenchi's younger brother, Oama, the dignity of Crown Prince was conferred, and he became the Emperor's locum tenens, in which position he won universal applause by sagacity and energy. But during these seven years of nominal interregnum, the fame of Prince Otomo also grew upon men's lips. An ancient book speaks of him as "wise and intelligent; an able administrator alike of civil and of military affairs; commanding respect and esteem; sage of speech, and rich in learning." When the Emperor actually ascended the throne, Otomo had reached his twentieth year, and four years later (671) the sovereign appointed him prime minister (dajo daijin), an office then created for the first time.

Thenceforth the question of Tenchi's successor began to be disquieting. The technical right was on Oama's side, but the paternal sympathy was with Otomo. Tradition has handed down a tale about a certain Princess Nukata, who, having bestowed her affections originally on Prince Oama, was afterwards constrained to yield to the addresses of the Emperor Tenchi, and thus the two brothers became enemies. But that story does not accord with facts. It is also related that during a banquet at the palace on the occasion of Tenchi's accession, Prince Oama thrust a spear through the floor from below, and the Emperor would have punished the outrage with death had not Kamatari interceded for the prince. These narratives are cited to prove that the Emperor Tenchi's purpose was to leave the throne to Otomo, not Oama. There is, however, no valid reason to infer any such intention. What actually occurred was that when, within a few months of Otomo's appointment as dajo daijin, the sovereign found himself mortally sick, he summoned Oama and named him to succeed But Oama, having been warned of a powerful conspiracy to place Otomo on the throne, and not unsuspicious that it had the Emperor's sympathy, declined the honour and announced his intention of entering religion, which he did by retiring to the monastery at Yoshino. The conspirators, at whose head were the minister of the Left, Soga no Akae, and the minister of the Right, Nakatomi no Kane, aimed at reverting to the times when, by placing on the throne a prince of their own choice, one or two great uji had grasped the whole political power. The prime mover was Kane, muraji of the Nakatomi.

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