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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Jito then 690 finally ascended the throne


The

effect of these measures was almost revolutionary. They changed the whole fabric of the Japanese polity. But in spite of all Temmu's precautions to accomplish the centralization of power, success was menaced by a factor which could scarcely have been controlled. The arable lands in the home provinces at that time probably did not exceed 130,000 acres, and the food stuffs produced cannot have sufficed for more than a million persons. As for the forests, their capacities were ill developed, and thus it fell out that the sustenance fiefs granted to omi and muraji of the lower grades did not exceed a few acres. Gradually, as families multiplied, the conditions of life became too straightened in such circumstances, and relief began to be sought in provincial appointments, which furnished opportunities for getting possession of land. It was in this way that local magnates had their origin and the seeds of genuine feudalism were sown. Another direction in which success fell short of purpose was in the matter of the hereditary guilds (be). The Daika reforms had aimed at converting everyone in the empire into a veritable unit of the nation, not a mere member of an uji or a tomobe. But it proved impossible to carry out this system in the case of the tomobe (called also kakibe), or labouring element of the uji, and the yakabe, or domestic servants of a family. To these their old status had to be left.

THE FORTY-FIRST SOVEREIGN, THE EMPRESS JITO (A.D. 690-697)

style="text-align: justify;">The Emperor Temmu died in 686, and the throne remained nominally unoccupied until 690. A similar interregnum had separated the accession of Tenchi from the death of his predecessor, the Empress Saimei, and both events were due to a cognate cause. Tenchi did not wish that his reforms should be directly associated with the Throne until their success was assured; Temmu desired that the additions made by him to the Daika system should be consolidated by the genius of his wife before the sceptre passed finally into the hands of his son. Jito had stood by her husband's side when, as Prince Oama, he had barely escaped the menaces of the Omi Court, and there is reason to think that she had subsequently shared his administrative confidence as she had assisted at his military councils. The heir to the throne, Prince Kusakabe, was then in his twenty-fifth year, but he quietly endorsed the paternal behest that his mother should direct State affairs. The arrangement was doubtless intended to be temporary, but Kusakabe died three years later, and yielding to the solicitations of her ministers, Jito then (690) finally ascended the throne.

Her reign, however, was not entirely free from the family strife which too often accompanied a change of sovereigns in Japan's early days. In addition to his legitimate offspring, Kusakabe, the Emperor Temmu left several sons by secondary consorts, and the eldest survivor of these, Prince Otsu, listening to the counsels of the Omi Court's partisans and prompted by his own well-deserved popularity and military prowess, intrigued to seize the throne. He was executed in his house, and his fate is memorable for two reasons: the first, that his young wife, Princess Yamanobe, "hastened thither with her hair dishevelled and her feet bare and joined him in death;" the second, that all his followers, over thirty in number, were pardoned--rare clemency in those days. Prince Otsu is said to have inaugurated a pastime which afterwards became very popular--the composition of Chinese verses.


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