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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

And when Ninigi set out to conquer Japan


areas on which buildings stood were generally surrounded by palisades, and for a long time no other kind of defence save these palings seems to have been devised. Indeed, no mention of castles occurs until the first century B.C., when the strange term "rice-castle" (ina-ki) is found; the reference being apparently to a palisade fortified with rice-bags, or to a rice-granary used as a fortress. The palace of the sovereign towered so high by comparison that it was termed Asahi-no-tada-sasu-miya (miya on which the morning sun shines direct), or Yuhi-no-hiteru-miya (miya illumined by the evening sun), or some other figurative epithet, and to the Emperor himself was applied the title 0-mikado (great august Gate). The dwellings occupied by the nobility were similarly built, though on a less pretentious scale, and those of the inferior classes appear to have been little better than huts, not a few of them being partially sunk in the ground, as is attested by the fact that the term "enter" took the form of "creep in" (hairu).


In the instruction said to have been given by Amaterasu to her grandson Ninigi, on the eve of his expedition to Japan, the words are recorded: "My child, regard this mirror as you regard me. Keep it in the same house with yourself, and make it the mirror of purity." Accordingly the insignia--the mirror, the jewel, and the sword--were always kept in the main hall of the

palace under the care of the Nakatomi and the Imibe families. An ancient volume (Kogo-shui) records that when the palace of Kashihara was reached by Jimmu's army, the grandson of the founder of the Imibe family--cutting timber with a consecrated axe (imi-ono) and digging foundations with a consecrated spade (imi-suki)--constructed a palace in which he placed the mirror, the jewel, and the sword, setting out offerings and reciting prayers to celebrate the completion of the building and the installation of the insignia.

"At that time the sovereign was still very close to the Kami, and the articles and utensils for the latter were little distinguished from those for the former. Within the palace there stood a store house (imi-kura), the Imibe family discharging daily and nightly the duties relating to it." Thus it is seen that in remote antiquity religious rites and administrative functions were not distinguished. The sovereign's residence was the shrine of the Kami, and the term for "worship" (matsuri) was synonymous with that for "government."


The ceremony spoken of above--the Odono matsuri, or consecration of the palace--is the earliest religious rite mentioned. Next in importance was the "harvest festival." In the records of the mythological age it is related that Amaterasu obtained seeds of the "five cereals," and, recognizing their value as food, caused them to be cultivated, offering a part to the Kami when they were ripe and eating some herself. This became a yearly custom, and when Ninigi set out to conquer Japan, his grandmother gave rice seed to the ancestors of the Nakatomi and the Imibe families, who thenceforth conducted the harvest festival (nii-name, literally "tasting the new rice") every autumn, the sovereign himself taking part, and the head of the Nakatomi reciting a prayer for the eternity of the Imperial line and the longevity of the Emperor. Other important rites were the "great purification" (Oharai) performed twice a year, on the last day of the sixth month and the last day of the twelfth month; the "fire-subduing fete," the "spirit-tranquillizing fete," etc.

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