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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Here again Takenouchi no Sukune acted a great part


of the Imperial princes and nobles was a constantly growing quantity. But the political situation developed a new phase when the Sukune family appeared upon the scene. The first evidence of this was manifested in a striking incident. When the Emperor Chuai died, his consort, Jingo, was enceinte* But the Emperor left two sons by a previous marriage, and clearly one of them should have succeeded to the throne. Nevertheless, the prime minister, Takenouchi-no-Sukune, contrived to have the unborn child recognized as Prince Imperial.** Naturally the deceased Emperor's two elder sons refused to be arbitrarily set aside in favour of a baby step-brother. The principle of primogeniture did not possess binding force in those days, but it had never previously been violated except by the deliberate and ostensibly reasonable choice of an Emperor. The two princes, therefore, called their partisans to arms and prepared to resist the return of Jingo to Yamato. Here again Takenouchi-no-Sukune acted a great part. He carried the child by the outer sea to a place of safety in Kii, while the forces of the Empress sailed up the Inland Sea to meet the brothers at Naniwa (modern Osaka). Moreover, when the final combat took place, this same Takenouchi devised a strategy which won the day, and in every great event during the reign of the Empress his figure stands prominent. Finally, his granddaughter became the consort of the Emperor Nintoku (313-399), an alliance which opened a channel for exercising direct influence upon the Throne and also furnished a precedent adopted freely in subsequent times by other noble families harbouring similarly ambitious aims. In short, from the accession of the Empress Jingo a large part of the sovereign power began to pass into the hands of the prime minister.

*As illustrating the confused chronology of the Nihongi, it may be noted that, calculated by the incident of Chuai's career, he must have been fully one hundred years old when he begot this child. That is marvellous enough, but to add to the perplexity the Nihongi says that Chuai died at fifty-two.

**The legend says of this child that its birth was artificially delayed until the return of the empress from the Korean expedition, but the fact seems to be that the Emperor died at the end of June and the Empress' accouchement took place in the following April.

ENGRAVING: DEVIL WITH DRAGON HEAD (Sculptured Wood Figure in the Museum at Kyoto)

ENGRAVING: HORSE RACE IN OLD JAPAN

CHAPTER X

THE PREHISTORIC SOVEREIGNS (Continued)

THE SOCIAL ORGANIZATION

AT the beginning of the previous chapter brief reference was made to the three great divisions of the inhabitants of Japan; namely, the Shimbetsu (Kami class) the Kwobetsu (Imperial class) and the Bambetsu (aboriginal class). The Shimbetsu comprised three sub-classes; namely, first, the Tenjin, a term used to designate the descendants of the great primeval trinity and of the other Kami prior to the Sun goddess; secondly, the Tenson, or descendants of the Sun goddess to Jimmu's father (Ugaya-fukiaezu), and thirdly, the Chigi, an appellation applied to the chiefs found in Izumo by the envoys of the Sun goddess and in Yamato by Jimmu--chiefs who, though deprived of power, were recognized to be of the same lineage as their conquerors. It is plain that few genealogical trees could be actually traced further back than the Chigi. Hence, for all practical purposes, the Shimbetsu consisted of the descendants of vanquished chiefs, and the fact was tacitly acknowledged by assigning to this class the second place in the social scale, though the inclusion of the Tenjin and the Tenson should have assured its precedence. The Kwobetsu comprised all Emperors and Imperial princes from Jimmu downwards. This was the premier class. The heads of all its families possessed as a birthright the title of omi (grandee), while the head of a Shimbetsu family was a muraji (group-chief). The Bambetsu ranked incomparably below either the Kwobetsu or the Shimbetsu. It consisted of foreigners who had immigrated from China or Korea and of aboriginal tribes alien to the Yamato race. Members of the Ban class were designated yakko (or yatsuko), a term signifying "subject" or "servant."


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