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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Assuming that Nintoku was then sixteen


who wrote the Shaku Nihongi in the era 1264--1274.


A generally accepted belief is that the study of the Chinese classics exercised a marked ethical influence upon the Japanese nation. That is a conclusion which may be profitably contrasted with the views of Japan's most distinguished historians. Mr. Abe Kozo says: "Acquaintance with the Chinese classics may be supposed to have produced a considerable moral effect on the people of Japan. Nothing of the kind seems to have been the case. The practical civilization of China was accepted, but not her ethical code. For any palpable moral influence the arrival of Buddhism had to be awaited. Already the principles of loyalty and obedience, propriety, and righteousness were recognized in Japan though not embodied in any written code." Dr. Ariga writes: "Our countrymen did not acquire anything specially new in the way of moral tenets. They must have been surprised to find that in China men did not respect the occupants of the throne. A subject might murder his sovereign and succeed him without incurring the odium of the people." Rai Sanyo says: "Moral principles are like the sun and the moon; they cannot be monopolized by any one country. In every land there are parents and children, rulers and ruled, husbands and wives. Where these relations exist, there also filial piety and affection, loyalty and righteousness

may naturally be found. In our country we lack the precise terminology of the classics, but it does not follow that we lack the principles expressed. What the Japanese acquired from the classics was the method of formulating the thought, not the thought itself."


This sovereign is represented by the Chronicles as having reigned eighty-six years, and by the Records as having died at the age of eighty-three. The same Chronicles make him the lover of a girl whom his father, also her lover, generously ceded to him. This event happened in A.D. 282. Assuming that Nintoku was then sixteen, he cannot have been less than 133 at the time of his death. It is thus seen that the chronology of this period, also, is untrustworthy. Nintoku's reign is remembered chiefly on account of the strange circumstances in which he came to the throne, his benevolent charity, and the slights he suffered at the hands of a jealous consort. His father, Ojin, by an exercise of caprice not uncommon on the part of Japan's ancient sovereigns, had nominated a younger son, Waka-iratsuko, to be his heir. But this prince showed invincible reluctance to assume the sceptre after Ojin's death. He asserted himself stoutly by killing one of his elder brothers who conspired against him, though he resolutely declined to take precedence of the other brother, and the latter, proving equally diffident, the throne remained unoccupied for three years when Waka-iratsuko solved the problem by committing suicide.

Such are the simplest outlines of the story. But its details, when filled in by critical Japanese historians of later ages, suggest a different impression. When Ojin died his eldest two sons were living respectively in Naniwa (Osaka) and Yamato, and the Crown Prince, Waka-iratsuko, was at Uji. They were thus excellently situated for setting up independent claims. From the time of Nintoku's birth, the prime minister, head of the great Takenouchi family, had taken a special interest in the child, and when the lad grew up he married this Takenouchi's granddaughter, who became the mother of three Emperors. Presently the representatives of all branches of the Takenouchi family came into possession of influential positions at Court, among others that of o-omi, so that in this reign were laid the foundations of the controlling power subsequently vested in the hands of the Heguri, Katsuragi, and Soga houses. In short, this epoch saw the beginning of a state of affairs destined to leave its mark permanently on Japanese history, the relegation of the sovereign to the place of a faineant and the usurpation of the administrative authority by a group of great nobles.

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