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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

And the abolition of the custom of junshi


are in the story of this sovereign some very pathetic elements. Prince Saho, elder brother of the Empress, plotted to usurp the throne. Having cajoled his sister into an admission that her brother was dearer than her husband, he bade her prove it by killing the Emperor in his sleep. But when an opportunity offered to perpetrate the deed as the sovereign lay sleeping with her knees as pillow, her heart melted, and her tears, falling on the Emperor's face, disturbed his slumber. He sought the cause of her distress, and learning it, sent a force to seize the rebel. Remorse drove the Empress to die with Prince Saho. Carrying her little son, she entered the fort where her brother with his followers had taken refuge. The Imperial troops set fire to the fort--which is described as having been built with rice-bags piled up--and the Empress emerged with the child in her arms; but having thus provided for its safety, she fled again to the fort and perished with her brother. This terrible scene appears to have given the child such a shock that he lost the use of speech, and the Records devote large space to describing the means employed for the amusement of the child, the long chase and final capture of a swan whose cry, as it flew overhead, had first moved the youth to speech, and the cure ultimately effected by building a shrine for the worship of the deity of Izumo, who, in a previous age, had been compelled to abdicate the sovereignty of the country in favour of a later descendant of
the Sun goddess, and whose resentment was thereafter often responsible for calamities overtaking the Court or the people of Japan.


Two events specially memorable in this reign were the transfer of the shrine of the Sun goddess to Ise, where it has remained ever since, and the abolition of the custom of junshi, or following in death. The latter shocking usage, a common rite of animistic religion, was in part voluntary, in part compulsory. In its latter aspect it came vividly under the notice of the Emperor Suinin when the tomb of his younger brother, Yamato, having been built within earshot of the palace, the cries of his personal attendants, buried alive around his grave, were heard, day and night, until death brought silence. In the following year (A.D. 3), the Empress having died, a courtier, Nomi-no-Sukune, advised the substitution of clay figures for the victims hitherto sacrificed. Nominally, the practice of compulsory junshi ceased from that date,* but voluntary junshi continued to find occasional observance until modern times.

*Of course it is to be remembered that the dates given by Japanese historians prior to the fifth century A.D. are very apocryphal.


The name of Nomi-no-Sukune is associated with the first mention of wrestling in Japanese history. By the Chronicles a brief account is given of a match between Nomi and Taema-no-Kuehaya. The latter was represented to be so strong that he could break horns and straighten hooks. His frequently expressed desire was to find a worthy competitor. Nomi-no-Sukune, summoned from Izumo by the Emperor, met Kuehaya in the lists of the palace of Tamaki and kicked him to death. Wrestling thereafter became a national pastime, but its methods underwent radical change, kicking being abolished altogether.


It is believed by Japanese historians that during the reign of Suinin a local government station (chinju-fu) was established in Anra province of Mimana, and that this station, subsequently known as Nippon-fu, was transferred to Tsukushi (Kyushu) and named Dazai-fu when Japan's influence in Mimana waned. The first general (shoguri) of the chinju-fu was Prince Shihotari, and the term kishi--which in Korea signified headman--was thenceforth incorporated into his family name. To the members of that family in later generations was entrusted the conduct of the Empire's foreign affairs. But it does not appear that the Imperial Court in Yamato paid much attention to oversea countries in early eras. Intercourse with these was conducted, for the most part, by the local magnates who held sway in the western regions of Japan.

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