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They are the Zoku Nihongi
(Supplementary Chronicles of Japan), in forty volumes, which covers
the period from 697 to 791 and was finished in 798; the Nihon Koki
(Later Chronicles of Japan), in forty volumes--ten only
survive--which covers the period from 792 to 833; the Zoku Nihon Koki
(Supplementary Later Chronicles), in twenty volumes, which covers the
single reign of the Emperor Nimmyo (834-850) and was compiled in 869;
the Montoku Jitsu-roku (True Annals of Montoku), in ten volumes,
covering the reign of Montoku (851-858), and compiled in 879, and the
Sandai Jitsu-roku (True Annals of Three Reigns) in fifty volumes,
covering the period from 859 to 887 and compiled in 901. These five
compilations together with the Nihon Shoki are honoured as the Six
National Histories. It is noticeable that the writers were men of the
highest rank, from prime ministers downwards. In such honour was the
historiographer's art held in Japan in the eighth and ninth
centuries.

CHRONOLOGY

Before beginning to read Japanese history it is necessary to know
something of the chronology followed in its pages. There have been in
Japan four systems for counting the passage of time. The first is by
the reigns of the Emperors. That is to say, the first year of a
sovereign's reign--reckoning from the New Year's day following his
accession--became the 1 of the series, and the years were thenceforth
numbered consecutively until his death or abdication. This method
might be sufficiently accurate if the exact duration of each reign
were known as well as the exact sequence of the reigns. But no such
precision could be expected in the case of unwritten history,
transmitted orally from generation to generation. Thus, while
Japanese annalists, by accepting the aggregate duration of all the
reigns known to them, arrive at the conclusion that the first
Emperor, Jimmu, ascended the throne in the year 660 B.C., it is found
on analysis that their figures assign to the first seventeen
sovereigns an average age of 109 years.

The second system was by means of periods deriving their name (nengo)
from some remarkable incident. Thus, the discovery of copper in Japan
was commemorated by calling the year Wado (Japanese copper), and the
era so called lasted seven years. Such a plan was even more liable to
error than the device of reckoning by reigns, and a specially
confusing feature was that the first year of the period dated
retrospectively from the previous New Year's day, so that events were
often recorded as having occurred in the final year of one period and
in the opening year of another. This system was originally imported
from China in the year A.D. 645, and is at present in use, the year
1910 being the forty-third of the Meiji (Enlightenment and Peace)
period.

The third system was that of the sexagenary cycle. This was operated
after the manner of a clock having two concentric dials, the
circumference of the larger dial being divided into ten equal parts,
each marked with one of the ten "celestial signs," and the
circumference of the smaller dial being divided into twelve equal
parts each marked with one of the twelve signs of the zodiac. The
long hand of the clock, pointing to the larger dial, was supposed to
make one revolution in ten years, and the shorter hand, pointing to
the small dial, revolved once in twelve years. Thus, starting from
the point where the marks on the two dials coincide, the long hand
gained upon the short hand by one-sixtieth each year, and once in
every sixty years the two hands were found at the point of
conjunction. Years were indicated by naming the "celestial stem" and
the zodiacal sign to which the imaginary hands happen to be pointing,
just as clock-time is indicated by the minutes read from the long
hand and the hours from the short. The sexagenary cycle came into use
in China in 623 B.C. The exact date of its importation into Japan is
unknown, but it was probably about the end of the fourth century A.D.
It is a sufficiently accurate manner of counting so long as the tale
of cycles is carefully kept, but any neglect in that respect exposes
the calculator to an error of sixty years or some multiple of sixty.
Keen scrutiny and collation of the histories of China, Korea, and
Japan have exposed a mistake of at least 120 years connected with the
earliest employment of the sexagenary cycle in Japan.

The fourth method corresponds to that adopted in Europe where the
number of a year is referred to the birth of Christ. In Japan, the
accession of the Emperor Jimmu--660 B.C.--is taken for a basis, and
thus the Occidental year 1910 becomes the 2570th year of the Japanese
dynasty. With such methods of reckoning some collateral evidence is
needed before accepting any of the dates given in Japanese annals.
Kaempfer and even Rein were content to endorse the chronology of the
Chronicles--the Records avoid dates altogether--but other Occidental
scholars* have with justice been more sceptical, and their doubts
have been confirmed by several eminent Japanese historians in recent
times. Where, then, is collateral evidence to be found?

*Notably Bramsen, Aston, Satow, and Chamberlain.

In the pages of Chinese and Korean history. There is, of course, no
inherent reason for attributing to Korean history accuracy superior
to that of Japanese history. But in China the habit of continuously
compiling written annals had been practised for many centuries before
Japanese events began even to furnish materials for romantic
recitations, and no serious errors have been proved against Chinese
historiographers during the periods when comparison with Japanese
annals is feasible. In Korea's case, too, verification is partially
possible. Thus, during the first five centuries of the Christian era,
Chinese annals contain sixteen notices of events in Korea. If Korean
history be examined as to these events, it is found to agree in ten
instances, to disagree in two, and to be silent in four.* This record
tends strongly to confirm the accuracy of the Korean annals, and it
is further to be remembered that the Korean peninsula was divided
during many centuries into three principalities whose records serve
as mutual checks. Finally, Korean historians do not make any such
demand upon our credulity as the Japanese do in the matter of length
of sovereigns' reigns. For example, while the number of successions
to the throne of Japan during the first four centuries of the
Christian era is set down as seven only, making fifty-six years the
average duration of a reign, the corresponding numbers for the three
Korean principalities are sixteen, seventeen, and sixteen,
respectively, making the average length of a reign from twenty-four
to twenty-five years. It is, indeed, a very remarkable fact that
whereas the average age of the first seventeen Emperors of Japan, who
are supposed to have reigned from 660 B.C. down to A.D. 399, was 109
years, this incredible habit of longevity ceased abruptly from the
beginning of the fifth century, the average age of the next seventeen
having been only sixty-one and a half years; and it is a most
suggestive coincidence that the year A.D. 461 is the first date of
the accepted Japanese chronology which is confirmed by Korean
authorities.

*Aston's essay on Early Japanese History

In fact, the conclusion is almost compulsory that Japanese authentic
history, so far as dates are concerned, begins from the fifth
century. Chinese annals, it is true, furnish one noteworthy and much
earlier confirmation of Japanese records. They show that Japan was
ruled by a very renowned queen during the first half of the third
century of the Christian era, and it was precisely at that epoch that
the Empress Jingo is related by Japanese history to have made herself
celebrated at home and abroad. Chinese historiographers, however, put
Jingo's death in the year A.D. 247, whereas Japanese annalists give
the date as 269. Indeed there is reason to think that just at this
time--second half of the third century--some special causes operated
to disturb historical coherence in Japan, for not only does Chinese
history refer to several signal events in Japan which find no place
in the latter's records, but also Korean history indicates that the
Japanese dates of certain cardinal incidents err by exactly 120
years. Two cycles in the sexagenary system of reckoning constitute
120 years, and the explanation already given makes it easy to
conceive the dropping of that length of time by recorders having only
tradition to guide them.

On the whole, whatever may be said as to the events of early Japanese
history, its dates can not be considered trustworthy before the
beginning of the fifth century. There is evidently one other point to
be considered in this context; namely, the introduction of writing.
Should it appear that the time when the Japanese first began to
possess written records coincides with the time when, according to
independent research, the dates given in their annals begin to
synchronize with those of Chinese and Korean history, another very
important landmark will be furnished. There, is such synchronism, but
it is obtained at the cost of considerations which cannot be lightly
dismissed. For, although it is pretty clearly established that an
event which occured at the beginning of the fifth century preluded
the general study of the Chinese language in Japan and may not
unreasonably be supposed to have led to the use of the Chinese script
in compiling historical records, still it is even more clearly
established that from a much remoter era Japan had been on terms of
some intimacy with her neighbours, China and Korea, and had exchanged
written communications with them, so that the art of writing was
assuredly known to her long before the fifth century of the Christian
era, to whatever services she applied it. This subject will present
itself again for examination in more convenient circumstances.

ENGRAVING: YUKIMIDORO (Style of Stone Lantern used in Japanese
Gardens)

ENGRAVING: "YATSUHASHI" STYLE OF GARDEN BRIDGE



CHAPTER II

JAPANESE MYTHOLOGY

KAMI

THE mythological page of a country's history has an interest of its
own apart from legendary relations; it affords indications of the
people's creeds and furnishes traces of the nation's genesis.



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