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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

One vague and the other improbable


is plain that these conditions cannot be reconciled except on one of two suppositions: either that the Takama-ga-hara of this section of the annals was in a foreign country, or that the descent of Ninigi in the south of Japan was in the sequel of a complete defeat involving the Court's flight from Yamato as well as from Izumo.

Let us first consider the theory of a foreign country. Was it Korea or was it China? In favour of Korea there are only two arguments, one vague and the other improbable. The former is that one of Ninigi's alleged reasons for choosing Tsukushi as a landing-place was that it faced Korea. The latter, that Tsukushi was selected because it offered a convenient base for defending Japan against Korea. It will be observed that the two hypotheses are mutually conflicting, and that neither accounts for debarkation at a part of Tsukushi conspicuously remote from Korea. It is not wholly impossible, however, that Ninigi came from China, and that the Court which is said to have commissioned him was a Chinese Court.

In the history of China a belief is recorded that the Japanese sovereigns are descended from a Chinese prince, Tai Peh, whose father wished to disinherit him in favour of a younger son. Tai Peh fled to Wu in the present Chekiang, and thence passed to Japan about 800 B.C. Another record alleges that the first sovereign of Japan was a son of Shao-kang of the Hsia dynasty (about 850 B.C.), who

tattooed his body and cut off his hair for purposes of disguise and lived on the bank of the Yangtsze, occupying himself with fishing until at length he fled to Japan.

That Ninigi may have been identical with one of these persons is not inconceivable, but such a hypothesis refuses to be reconciled with the story of the fighting in Izumo which preceded the descent to Tsukushi. The much more credible supposition is that the Yamato Court, confronted by a formidable rebellion having its centre in Izumo, retired to Tsukushi, and there, in the course of years, mustered all its followers for an expedition ultimately led by the grandson of the fugitive monarch to restore the sway of his house. This interpretation of the legend consists with the fact that when Jimmu reached Yamato, the original identity of his own race with that of the then ruler of the province was proved by a comparison of weapons.


With regard to the legend of the ocean Kami, the rationalists conceive that the tribe inhabiting Tsukushi at the time of Ninigi's arrival there had originally immigrated from the south and had gradually spread inland. Those inhabiting the littoral districts were ultimately placed by Ninigi under the rule of Prince Hohodemi, and those inhabiting the mountain regions under the sway of Prince Hosuseri. The boats and hooks of the legend are symbolical of military and naval power respectively. The brothers having quarrelled about the limits of their jurisdictions, Hohodemi was worsted, and by the advice of a local elder he went to Korea to seek assistance. There he married the daughter of the Ocean King--so called because Korea lay beyond the sea from Japan--and, after some years' residence, was given a force of war-vessels (described in the legend as "crocodiles") together with minute instructions (the tide-ebbing and the tide-flowing jewels) as to their skilful management. These ships ultimately enabled him to gain a complete victory over his elder brother.


These rationalizing processes will commend themselves in different degrees to different minds. One learned author has compared such analyses to estimating the historical residuum of the Cinderella legend by subtracting the pumpkin coach and the godmother. But we are constrained to acknowledge some background of truth in the annals of old Japan, and anything that tends to disclose that background is welcome. It has to be noted, however, that though many learned Japanese commentators have sought to rationalize the events described in the Records and the Chronicles, the great bulk of the nation believes in the literal accuracy of these works as profoundly as the great bulk of Anglo-Saxon people believes in the Bible, its cosmogony, and its miracles.

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