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We are
constrained to conjecture that many of the verses quoted in the
Records and the Chronicles were fitted in after ages to the events
they commemorate. Another striking feature in the lives of these
early sovereigns is that while on the one hand their residences are
spoken of as muro, a term generally applied to dwellings partially
underground, on the other, we find more than one reference to high
towers. Thus Yuryaku is shown as "ordering commissioners to erect a
lofty pavilion in which he assumes the Imperial dignity," and the
Emperor Nintoku is represented as "ascending a lofty tower and
looking far and wide" on the occasion of his celebrated sympathy with
the people's poverty.

ENGRAVING: ANCIENT ACROBATIC PERFORMANCE

ENGRAVING: DAIRISAMA (KINO) AND OKUSAMA (QUEEN) OF THE FEAST OF THE
DOLLS



CHAPTER XIII

THE PROTOHISTORIC SOVEREIGNS (Continued)

The 22nd Sovereign, Seinei A.D. 480-484

" 23rd " Kenso " 485-487

" 24th " Ninken " 488-498

" 25th " Muretsu " 499-506

" 26th " Keitai " 507-531

" 27th " Ankan " 534-535

" 28th " Senkwa " 536-539

DISPUTE ABOUT THE SUCCESSION

THE Emperor Yuryaku's evil act in robbing Tasa of his wife, Waka,
entailed serious consequences. He selected to succeed to the throne
his son Seinei, by Princess Kara, who belonged to the Katsuragi
branch of the great Takenouchi family. But Princess Waka conspired to
secure the dignity for the younger of her own two sons, Iwaki and
Hoshikawa, who were both older than Seinei. She urged Hoshikawa to
assert his claim by seizing the Imperial treasury, and she herself
with Prince Iwaki and others accompanied him thither. They
underestimated the power of the Katsuragi family. Siege was laid to
the treasury and all its inmates were burned, with the exception of
one minor official to whom mercy was extended and who, in token of
gratitude, presented twenty-five acres of rice-land to the o-muraji,
Lord Otomo, commander of the investing force.

THE FUGITIVE PRINCES

The Emperor Seinei had no offspring, and for a time it seemed that
the succession in the direct line would be interrupted. For this lack
of heirs the responsibility ultimately rested with Yuryaku. In his
fierce ambition to sweep away every obstacle, actual or potential,
that barred his ascent to the throne, he inveigled Prince Oshiwa,
eldest son of the Emperor Richu, to accompany him on a hunting
expedition, and slew him mercilessly on the moor of Kaya. Oshiwa had
two sons, Oke and Woke, mere children at the time of their father's
murder. They fled, under the care of Omi, a muraji, who, with his
son, Adahiko, secreted them in the remote province of Inaba. Omi
ultimately committed suicide in order to avoid the risk of capture
and interrogation under torture, and the two little princes, still
accompanied by Adahiko, calling themselves "the urchins of Tamba,"
became menials in the service of the obito of the Shijimi granaries
in the province of Harima.

Twenty-four years had been passed in that seclusion when it chanced
that Odate, governor of the province, visited the obito on an
occasion when the latter was holding a revel to celebrate the
building of a new house, it fell to the lot of the two princes to act
as torch-bearers, the lowest role that could be assigned to them, and
the younger counselled his brother that the time had come to declare
themselves, for death was preferable to such a life. Tradition says
that, being invited to dance "when the night had become profound,
when the revel was at its height and when every one else had danced
in turn," the Prince Woke, accompanying his movements with verses
extemporized for the occasion, danced so gracefully that the governor
twice asked him to continue, and at length he announced the rank and
lineage of his brother and himself. The governor, astonished, "made
repeated obeisance to the youths, built a palace for their temporary
accommodation, and going up to the capital, disclosed the whole
affair to the Emperor, who expressed profound satisfaction."

Oke, the elder of the two, was made Prince Imperial, and should have
ascended the throne on the death of Seinei, a few months later.
Arguing, however, that to his younger brother, Woke it was entirely
due that they had emerged from a state of abject misery, Oke
announced his determination to cede the honour to Woke, who, in turn,
declined to take precedence of his elder brother. This dispute of
mutual deference continued for a whole year, during a part of which
time the administration was carried on by Princess Awo, elder sister
of Woke. At length the latter yielded and assumed the sceptre. His
first care was to collect the bones of his father, Prince Oshiwa,
who had been murdered and buried unceremoniously on the moor of Kaya
in Omi province. It was long before the place of interment could be
discovered, but at length an old woman served as guide, and the bones
of the prince were found mingled in inextricable confusion with those
of his loyal vassal, Nakachiko, who had shared his fate.

The ethics of that remote age are illustrated vividly in this page of
the record. A double sepulchre was erected in memory of the murdered
prince and his faithful follower and the old woman who had pointed
out the place of their unhonoured grave was given a house in the
vicinity of the palace, a rope with a bell attached being stretched
between the two residences to serve as a support for her infirm feet
and as a means of announcing her coming when she visited the palace.
But the same benevolent sovereign who directed these gracious doings
was with difficulty dissuaded from demolishing the tomb and
scattering to the winds of heaven the bones of the Emperor Yuryaku,
under whose hand Prince Oshiwa had fallen.

THE VENDETTA

In connexion with this, the introduction of the principle of the
vendetta has to be noted. Its first practical application is
generally referred to the act of the boy-prince, Mayuwa, who stabbed
his father's slayer, the Emperor Anko (A.D. 456). But the details of
Anko's fate are involved in some mystery, and it is not until the
time (A.D. 486) of Kenso that we find a definite enunciation of the
Confucian doctrine, afterwards rigidly obeyed in Japan, "A man should
not live under the same heaven with his father's enemy." History
alleges that, by his brother's counsels, the Emperor Kenso was
induced to abandon his intention of desecrating Yuryaku's tomb, but
the condition of the tomb to-day suggests that these counsels were
not entirely effective.

BANQUETS

The annals of this epoch refer more than once to banquets at the
palace. Towards the close of Seinei's reign we read of "a national
drinking-festival which lasted five days," and when Kenso ascended
the throne he "went to the park, where he held revel by the winding
streams," the high officials in great numbers being his guests. On
this latter occasion the ministers are said to have "uttered
reiterated cries of 'banzai'"*, which has come into vogue once more in
modern times as the equivalent of "hurrah."

*Banzai means literally "ten thousand years," and thus corresponds to
viva.

THE EMPEROR NINKEN

The twenty-fourth sovereign, Ninken, was the elder of the two
brothers, Oke and Woke, whose escape from the murderous ambition of
the Emperor Yuryaku and their ultimate restoration to princely rank
have been already described. He succeeded to the throne after the
death of his younger brother, and occupied it for ten years of a most
uneventful reign. Apart from the fact that tanners were invited from
Korea to improve the process followed in Japan, the records contain
nothing worthy of attention. One incident, however, deserves to be
noted as showing the paramount importance attached in those early
days to all the formalities of etiquette. The Empress dowager
committed suicide, dreading lest she should be put to death for a
breach of politeness committed towards Ninken during the life of his
predecessor, Kenso. At a banquet in the palace she had twice
neglected to kneel when presenting, first, a knife and, secondly, a
cup of wine to Ninken, then Prince Imperial. It has already been
related that the Empress Onakatsu, consort of Inkyo, was disposed to
inflict the death penalty on a high official who had slighted her
unwittingly prior to her husband's accession. There can be no doubt
that differences of rank received most rigid recognition in early
Japan.

THE EMPEROR MURETSU

This sovereign was the eldest son of his predecessor, Ninken.
According to the Chronicles, his reign opened with a rebellion by the
great Heguri family, whose representative, Matori, attempted to usurp
the Imperial dignity while his son, Shibi, defiantly wooed and won
for himself the object of the Emperor's affections. Matori had been
Yuryaku's minister, and his power as well as his family influence
were very great, but the military nobles adhered to the sovereign's
cause and the Heguri were annihilated. In the Records this event is
attributed to the reign of Seinei in a much abbreviated form, but the
account given in the Chronicles commands the greater credence. The
Chronicles, however, represent Muretsu as a monster of cruelty, the
Nero of Japanese history, who plucked out men's nails and made them
dig up yams with their mutilated fingers; who pulled out people's
hair; who made them ascend trees which were then cut down, and who
perpetrated other hideous excesses. Here again the Records, as
well as other ancient authorities are absolutely silent, and the
story in the Chronicles has attracted keen analyses by modern
historiographers. Their almost unanimous conclusion is that the
annals of King Multa of Kudara have been confused with those of the
Emperor Muretsu. This Korean sovereign, contemporary with Muretsu,
committed all kinds of atrocities and was finally deposed by his
people. There are evidences that the compilers of the Chronicles drew
largely on the pages of Korean writers, and it is not difficult to
imagine accidental intermixing such as that suggested by the critics
in this case.

KEITAI

The death of the Emperor Muretsu left the throne without any
successor in the direct line of descent, and for the first time since
the foundation of the Empire, it became necessary for the great
officials to make a selection among the scions of the remote Imperial
families.



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