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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Whose descendants constituted the Otomo and Kume families


Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Vol. 6, p. 189 b.

The first mention of Japan in Chinese records is contained in a book called Shan-hai-ching, which states that "the northern and southern Wo* were subject to the kingdom of Yen." Yen was in the modern province of Pechili. It existed as an independent kingdom from 1 122 to 265 B.C. That the inhabitants of Japan were at any time subject to Yen is highly improbable, but that they were tributaries is not unlikely. In other words, intercourse between Japan and northern China was established in remote times via the Korean peninsula, and people from Japan, travelling by this route, carried presents to the Court of Yen, a procedure which, in Chinese eyes constituted an acknowledgement of suzerainty. The "northern and southern Wo" were probably the kingdom of Yamato and that set up in Kyushu by Ninigi, a supposition which lends approximate confirmation to the date assigned by Japanese historians for the expedition of Jimmu Tenno. It is also recorded in the Chronicles of the Eastern Barbarians, a work of the Han dynasty (A.D. 25-221), that Sin-Han, one of the three Korean kingdoms, produced iron, and that Wo and Ma-Han, the western of these Korean kingdoms, traded in it and used it as currency. It is very possible that this was the iron used for manufacturing the ancient double-edged swords (tsurugi) and halberds of the Yamato, a hypothesis strengthened by the fact that the sword of Susanoo was called

Orochi no Kara-suki, Kara being a Japanese name for Korea.

*This word was originally pronounced Wa, and is written with the ideograph signifying "dwarf." It was applied to the Japanese by Chinese writers in earliest times, but on what ground such an epithet was chosen there is no evidence.




If it be insisted that no credence attaches to traditions unsupported by written annals, then what the Records and the Chronicles, compiled in the eighth century, tell of the manners and customs of Japan twelve or thirteen hundred years previously, must be dismissed as romance. A view so extreme is scarcely justified. There must be a foundation of truth in works which, for the most part, have received the imprimatur of all subsequent generations of Japanese. Especially does that hold as to indications of manners, customs, and institutions. These, at least, are likely to be mirrored with a certain measure of accuracy, though they may often reflect an age later than that to which they are referred, and may even have been partially moulded to suit the ideas of their narrators. In briefly epitomizing this page of history, the plan here pursued is to adhere as far as possible to Japanese interpretations, since these must of necessity be most intelligent.


At the basis of the social structure stand the trinity of Kami, mythologically called the Central Master (Naka-Nushi) and the two Constructive Chiefs (Musubi no Kami). The Central Master was the progenitor of the Imperial family; the Constructive Chiefs were the nobility, the official class. What was originally involved in the conception of official functions, we learn from incidents prefatory to the expedition conducted by Ninigi for the subjugation of Japan. Amaterasu (the Sun goddess) attached to the person of her grandson four chiefs and one chieftainess. To two of the former (Koyane and Futodama) she entrusted all matters relating to religious rites, and they became respectively the ancestors of the Nakatomi and the Imibe families. To the female Kami (Usume) was entrusted the making of sacred music and she founded the Sarume family. Finally, all military functions were committed to the chiefs, Oshihi and Kume, whose descendants constituted the Otomo and Kume families.

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