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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Konin justified the zeal of his supporters


Konin

justified the zeal of his supporters, but his benevolent and upright reign has been sullied by historical romanticists, who represent him as party to an unnatural intrigue based on the alleged licentiousness and shamelessness of his consort, Princess Inokami, a lady then in her fifty-sixth year with a hitherto blameless record. Much space has been given to this strange tale by certain annalists, but its only apparent basis of fact would seem to be that Momokawa, wishing to secure the succession to Prince Yamabe--afterwards Emperor Kwammu--compassed the deaths of the Empress Inokami and her son, Osabe, the heir apparent. They were probably poisoned on the same day, and stories injurious to the lady's reputation--stories going so far as to accuse her of attempting the life of the Emperor by incantation--were circulated in justification of the murder. Certain it is, however, that to Momokawa's exertions the Emperor Kwammu owed his accession, as had his father, Konin. Kwammu, known in his days of priesthood as Yamabe, was Konin's eldest son, and would have been named Prince Imperial on his father's ascent of the throne had not his mother, Takano, been deficient in qualifications of lineage. He had held the posts of president of the University and minister of the Central Department, and his career, alike in office and on the throne, bore witness to the wisdom of his supporters.

As illustrating the religious faith of the age, it is noteworthy that

Momokawa, by way of promoting Prince Yamabe's interests, caused a statue to be made in his likeness, and, enshrining it in the temple Bonshaku-ji, ordered the priests to offer supplications in its behalf. The chronicle further relates that after the deaths of the Empress (Inokami) and her son (Osabe), Momokawa and Emperor Konin were much troubled by the spirits of the deceased. That kind of belief in the maleficent as well as in the beneficent powers of the dead became very prevalent in later times. Momokawa died before the accession of Kwammu, but to him was largely due the great influence subsequently wielded by the Fujiwara at Court. It is on record that Kwammu, speaking in after years to Momokawa's son, Otsugu, recalled his father's memory with tears, and said that but for Momokawa he would never have reigned over the empire.

The fact is that the Fujiwara were a natural outcome of the situation. The Tang systems, which Kamatari, the great founder of the family, had been chiefly instrumental in introducing, placed in the hands of the sovereign powers much too extensive to be safely entrusted to a monarch qualified only by heredity. Comprehending the logic of their organization, the Chinese made their monarchs' tenure of authority depend upon the verdict of the nation. But in Japan the title to the crown being divinely bequeathed, there could be no question of appeal to a popular tribunal. So long as men like Kotoku, Tenchi, and Temmu occupied the throne, the Tang polity showed no flagrant defects. But when the exercise of almost unlimited authority fell into the hands of a religious fanatic like Shomu, or a licentious lady like Koken, it became necessary either that the principle of heredity should be set aside altogether, or that some method of limited selection should be employed.


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