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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The Empress abdicated in favour of Prince Karu


THE

MILITARY SYSTEM

It has been seen that the Emperors Kotoku and Temmu attached much importance to the development of military efficiency and that they issued orders with reference to the training of provincials, the armed equipment of the people, the storage of weapons of war, and the maintenance of men-at-arms by officials. Compulsory service, however, does not appear to have been inaugurated until the reign of the Empress Jito, when (689) her Majesty instructed the local governors that one-fourth of the able-bodied men in each province should be trained every year in warlike exercises. This was the beginning of the conscription system in Japan.

THE ORDER OF SUCCESSION OF THE THRONE

That the throne should be occupied by members of the Imperial family only had been a recognized principle of the Japanese polity from remotest epochs. But there had been an early departure from the rule of primogeniture, and since the time of Nintoku the eligibility of brothers also had been acknowledged in practice. To this latitude of choice many disturbances were attributable, notably the fell Jinshin struggle, and the terrors of that year were still fresh in men's minds when, during Jito's reign, the deaths of two Crown Princes in succession brought up the dangerous problem again for solution. The princes were Kusakabe and Takaichi. The former had been nominated by his father, Temmu, but was

instructed to leave the reins of power in the hands of his mother, Jito, for a time. He died in the year 689, while Jito was still regent, and Takaichi, another of Temmu's sons, who had distinguished himself as commander of a division of troops in the Jinshin campaign, was made Prince Imperial. But he too died in 696, and it thus fell out that the only surviving and legitimate offspring of an Emperor who had actually reigned was Prince Kuzuno, son of Kobun.

To his accession, however, there was this great objection that his father, though wielding the sceptre for a few months, had borne arms in the Jinshin disturbance against Temmu and Jito, and was held to have forfeited his title by defeat and suicide. His assumption of the sceptre would have created a most embarrassing situation, and his enforced disqualification might have led to trouble. In this dilemma, the Empress convened a State council, Prince Kuzuno also being present, and submitted the question for their decision. But none replied until Kuzuno himself, coming forward, declared that unless the principle of primogeniture were strictly followed, endless complications would be inevitable. This involved the sacrifice of his own claim and the recognition of Karu, eldest son of the late Kusakabe. The 14th of March, 696, when this patriotic declaration was made, is memorable in Japanese history as the date when the principle of primogeniture first received official approval. Six months afterwards, the Empress abdicated in favour of Prince Karu, known in history as forty-second sovereign, Mommu. She herself was honoured by her successor with the title of Dajo-Tenno (Great Superior).

ENGRAVING: ONE OF THE ORNAMENTAL GATES USED IN JAPANESE GARDENS

ENGRAVING: SWORDS

CHAPTER XVI

THE DAIHO LAWS AND THE YORO LAWS

THE FORTY-SECOND SOVEREIGN, THE EMPEROR MOMMU (A.D. 697-707)

THE Emperor Mommu took for consort a daughter of Fuhito, representative of the Fujiwara family and son of the great Kamatari. She did not receive the title of Empress, that distinction having been hitherto strictly confined to spouses chosen from a Kwobetsu family, whereas the Fujiwara belonged to the Shimbetsu. But this union proved the first step towards a practice which soon became habitual and which produced a marked effect on the history of Japan, the practice of supplying Imperial consorts from the Fujiwara family.


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