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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

In prosecuting his Yamato campaign


a chronological point of view it is difficult to imagine the co-existence of Jimmu and his great-granduncle, but the story may perhaps be accepted in so far as it confirms the tradition that, in prosecuting his Yamato campaign, Jimmu received the submission of several chieftains (Kami) belonging to the same race as himself. Reference to these facts is essential to an understanding of the class distinctions found in the Japanese social system. All the chieftains who led the expedition from Kyushu were subsequently designated Tenshin--a term which may be conveniently rendered "Kami of the descent"--and all those who, like Nigihayahi, had previously been in occupation of the country, were styled kum-tsu-Kami, or "territorial Kami." Another method of distinguishing was to include the former in the Kwobetsu and the latter in the Shimbetsu--distinctions which will be more fully explained hereafter--and after apotheosis the members of these two classes became respectively "deities of heaven" and "deities of earth," a distinction possessing historical rather than qualificatory force.

As for subdivisions, the head of a Kwobetsu family had the title of omi (grandee) and the head of a Shimbetsu family that of muraji (chief). Thus, the organization of the State depended primarily on the principle of ancestor worship. The sceptre descended by divine right without any regard to its holder's competence, while the administrative posts were filled by men of the

same race with a similar hereditary title. Aliens like the Yezo, the Tsuchi-gumo, and the Kumaso were either exterminated or made slaves (nuhi).


As to the term "Yamato," it appears that, in the earliest times, the whole country now called Japan was known as Yamato, and that subsequently the designation became restricted to the province which became the seat of government. The Chinese, when they first took cognizance of the islands lying on their east, seem to have applied the name Wado--pronounced "Yamato" by the Japanese--to the tribes inhabiting the western shores of Japan, namely, the Kumaso or the Tsuchi-gumo, and in writing the word they used ideographs conveying a sense of contempt. The Japanese, not unnaturally, changed these ideographs to others having the same sounds but signifying "great peace." At a later time the Chinese or the Koreans began to designate these eastern islands, Jih-pen, or "Sunrise Island," a term which, in the fifteenth century, was perverted by the Dutch into Japan.


In attempting to construct coherent annals out of the somewhat fragmentary Japanese histories of remote ages, the student is immediately confronted by chronological difficulties. Apart from the broad fact that the average age of the first seventeen Emperors from Jimmu downwards is 109 years, while the average age of the next seventeen is only sixty-one and a half years, there are irreconcilable discrepancies in some of the dates themselves. Thus, according to the Records, the eighth Emperor, Kogen, died at fifty-seven, but according to the Chronicles he ascended the throne at fifty-nine and reigned fifty-six years. Again, whereas the ninth sovereign, Kaikwa, is by the Records given a life of only sixty-three years, the Chronicles make him assume the sceptre at fifty-one and wield it for fifty-nine years. Such conflicts of evidence are fatal to confidence. Nor do they disappear wholly until the beginning of the fifth century, at which time, moreover, the incidents of Japanese history receive their first confirmation from the history of China and Korea.

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