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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Like the Kojiki and the Manyo shu


concerned in the compilation of the Dai Nihon-shi were Asaka Kaku, Kuriyama Gen, and Miyake Atsuaki. They excluded the Empress Jingo from the successive dynasties; they included the Emperor Kobun in the history proper, and they declared the legitimacy of the Southern Court as against the Northern. But in the volume devoted to enumeration of the constituents of the empire, they omitted the islands of Ezo and Ryukyu. This profound study of ancient history could not fail to expose the fact that the shogunate usurped powers which properly belonged to the sovereign and to the sovereign alone. But Mitsukuni and his collaborators did not give prominence to this feature. They confined themselves rather to historical details.



It was reserved for four other men to lay bare the facts of the Mikado's divine right and to rehabilitate the Shinto cult. These men were Kada Azumamaro (1668-1736), Kamo Mabuchi (1697-1769), Motoori Norinaga (1730-1801), and Hirata Atsutane (1776-1834). Associated with them were other scholars of less note, but these are overshadowed by the four great masters. Kada, indeed, did not achieve much more than the restoration of pure Japanese literature to the pedestal upon which it deserved to stand. That in itself was no insignificant task, for during the five centuries that separated the Gen-Hei struggle from the

establishment of the Tokugawa family, Japanese books had shared the destruction that overtook everything in this period of wasting warfare, and the Japanese language itself had undergone such change that to read and understand ancient books, like the Kojiki and the Manyo-shu, demanded a special course of study. To make that study and to prepare the path for others was Kada's task, and he performed it so conscientiously that his successors were at once able to obtain access to the treasures of ancient literature. It was reserved for Mabuchi to take the lead in championing Japanese ethical systems as against Chinese. By his writings we are taught the nature of the struggle waged throughout the Tokugawa period between Chinese philosophy and Japanese ethics, and we are enabled, also, to reach a lucid understanding of the Shinto cult as understood by the Japanese themselves. The simplest route to that understanding is to let the four masters speak briefly, each for himself:

"Learning is a matter in which the highest interests of the empire are involved, and no man ought to be vain enough to imagine that he is able by himself to develop it thoroughly. Nor should the student blindly adhere to the opinions of his teacher. Anyone who desires to study Japanese literature should first acquire a good knowledge of Chinese, and then pass over to the Manyo-shu, from which he may discover the ancient principles of the divine age. If he resolve bravely to love and admire antiquity, there is no reason why he should fail to acquire the ancient style in poetry as well as in other things. In ancient times, as the poet expressed only the genuine sentiments of his heart, his style was naturally direct, but since the practice of writing upon subjects chosen by lot came into vogue, the language of poetry has become ornate and the ideas forced. The expression of fictitious sentiment about the relations of the sexes and miscellaneous subjects is not genuine poetry. [Kada Azumamaro.]

"Wherein lies the value of a rule of conduct? In its conducing to the good order of the State. The Chinese for ages past have had a succession of different dynasties to rule over them, but Japan has been faithful to one uninterrupted line of sovereigns. Every Chinese dynasty was founded upon rebellion and parricide. Sometimes, a powerful ruler was able to transmit his authority to his son and grandson, but they, in their turn, were inevitably deposed and murdered, and the country was in a perpetual state of civil war. A philosophy which produces such effects must be founded on a false system. When Confucianism was first introduced into Japan, the simple-minded people, deceived by its plausible appearance, accepted it with eagerness and allowed it to spread its influence everywhere. The consequence was the civil war which broke out immediately after the death of Tenji Tenno, in A.D. 671, between that Emperor's brother and son, which only came to an end in 672 by the suicide of the latter.

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