KOFUN PERIOD, CLANS AND EARLY YAMATO RULERS

KOFUN PERIOD AND YAMATO


Kofun crown

Sometime during the Kofun period, emerged the first state in Japan – Yamato, though there is still much debate over exactly when Yamato became a centralized state and even where it was located. By the late fifth century, power fell to the Yamato clan, which won control over much of Honshu island and the northern half of Kyushu and eventually established Japan’s imperial line.

The Yamato polity, which would dominate Japan for centuries to come, emerged by the late fifth century. It was distinguished by powerful great clans or extended families, including their dependents. Each clan was headed by a patriarch who performed sacred rites to the clan’s kami to ensure the long-term welfare of the clan. Clan members were the aristocracy, and the kingly line that controlled the Yamato court was at its pinnacle. The Yamato conquered the Yamato plain (now in Nara prefecture) around A.D. 300 by an alliance of clans that evolved into the Yamato kingdom. This is the first period when Japan was regarded as a unified entity. [Source: Library of Congress]

Aileen Kawagoe wrote in Heritage of Japan: “During the Kofun period, the leaders of Yamato held sacred roles as powerful priest kings. Explosive agricultural growth during the last part of the third century, and the fruits thereof, gave the Yamato kings the ability to marshal the human and physical resources needed for constructing huge mounds … and to undertake military campaigns into the Korean peninsula. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

Yamato Period Wikipedia article on the Yamato period Wikipedia article ; Kojiki, Nihongi and Sacred Shinto Texts sacred-texts.com ; Book: Secret History of the Yamato Dynasty prnewswire.co.uk Imperial Household Agency kunaicho.go.jp/eindexList of Emperors of Japan friesian.com ; Buddhism and Prince Shotoku onmarkproductions.com ; Essay on the Japanese Missions to Tang China aboutjapan.japansociety.org . References: 1) The Chronicles of Wa, Gishiwajinden by Wes Injerd; 2) Wa (Japan), Wikipedia; 3) Excerpts from the History of the Kingdom of Wei, Columbia University’s Primary Source Document Asia for Educators. Asuka Wikipedia article on Asuka Wikipedia ; Asuka Park asuka-park.go.jp ; Asuka Historical Museum asukanet.gr.jp ; UNESCO World Heritage sites ; Map: Asuka Park asuka-park.go.jp ; Getting There: Asuka is accessible from Nara, Kyoto and Osaka by train.

Good Early Japanese History Websites: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com; Essay on Early Japan aboutjapan.japansociety.org ; Japanese Archeology www.t-net.ne.jp/~keally/index.htm ; Ancient Japan Links on Archeolink archaeolink.com ;Essay on Rice and History aboutjapan.japansociety.org

Jomon and Yayoi Websites Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com; Charles T. Keally, Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology (retired), Sophia University, Tokyo, t-net.ne.jp/~keally/jomon.; Metropolitan Museum of Art Department of Asian Art. "Jomon Culture (ca. 10,500–ca. 300 B.C.)", Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, October 2002, metmuseum.orgWikipedia article on the Jomon Wikipedia ; Dogu Exhibition at the British Museum britishmuseum.org ; Back to the Future furutasigaku. . Historical Parks Sannai Maruyama is a Jomon Site in Northern Honshu sannaimaruyama.pref.aomori.jp ; Yoshinogari Historical Park (between Tosu and Saga on the JR Nagasaki line south of Fukuoka) is an interesting historical park that brings to life the Yayoi Period (400 B.C. to A.D. 300). Website: yoshinogari.jp/en ;Good Photos of Jomon, Yayoi and Kofun Sites at Japan-Photo Archive japan-photo.de . Prehistoric Archaeology of Japan” dil2.sakura.ne.jp is the Niigata Prefectural Museum of History website. It has pages on shell middens; plant exploitation and “Jomon subsistence“.

Good Japanese History Websites: ; Wikipedia article on History of Japan Wikipedia ; Samurai Archives samurai-archives.com ; National Museum of Japanese History rekihaku.ac.jp ; Japanese History Documentation Project openhistory.org/jhdp ; Cambridge University Bibliography of Japanese History to 1912 ames.cam.ac.uk ; Sengoku Daimyo sengokudaimyo.co ; English Translations of Important Historical Documents hi.u-tokyo.ac.jp/iriki ; WWW-VL: History: Japan (semi good but dated source ) vlib.iue.it/history/asia/Japan ; Forums Delphi Forums, Good Discussion Group on Japanese History forums.delphiforums.com/samuraihistory ; Tousando tousando.proboards.com

Yamato Clan and Mt. Miwa


Mt. Miwa from Hashihaka kofun

Kawagoe wrote: “Six huge burial mounds (each more than twice as large as any mound found in Korea) have been found located at the foot of Mt Miwa in present-day Nara Prefecture. King Suijin, is believed to be buried in the fifth of the six Shiki mounds. There existed a close link between Yamato’s first kings and the worship of a local deity (called kami) residing on Mt Miwa. This can be seen from the investigations into the Mt Miwa site and the myths, traditions as well as offerings and religious symbols around the sacred mountain. Omiwa shrine – became the major religious institution for the worship of the Mt Miwa kami – a place where ancient rites have been performed since Suijin’s time. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

Mount Miwa is a beautifully-formed mountain with a smooth ridge line. At an altitude of 467 m, it is worshiped as a repository of the god enshrined in Omiwa Shrine, which is believed to the oldest shrine in Japan. The enshrined god is Omononushi No Kami, who appears in the myths of Japan. The mountain has many legends, and has been worshiped from ancient times as a sacred mountain of the god. [Source: JNTO]

The sacred role of the Yamato kings and the worship of Mt Miwa’s kami is described in ancient Japanese text, the Nihon Shoki: “In the early days of King Suijin’s reign, a number of calamities befell his kingdom. Now, King Suijin was a ruler who gave serious attention “to the worship of kami and to his heavenly duties“. This state of things led King Suijin to seek the advice and assistance from the kami upon which he received a revelation, transmitted through a shaman princess, that the calamities would cease if the kami were to be worshipped. Suijin asked which kami was speaking and received the following response, “I am Omono Nushi no Kami worshipped within the borders of Yamato and residing on Mt Miwa.”

Kofun Period Imperial Rulers (ca. 3rd century–538 A.D.)


Emperor Ojin

Ojin (A.D. 270-310 in the Nihon Shoki, probably real, ca. 370-390 or early 5th century).

Nintoku (A.D. 313-399 in the Nihon Shoki,actual early 5th century).

Ritchu (A.D. 400-405 in the Nihon Shoki, actual early 5th century).

Hanzei (A.D. 406-410 in the Nihon Shoki, actual early 5th century).

Ingyo (A.D. 412-453 in the Nihon Shoki, actual early 5th century).

Anko (A.D. 453-456 in the Nihon Shoki, actual mid 5th century) .

Yuryaku (456-479 in the Nihon Shoki, probably correct).

Seinei (480-484 in the Nihon Shoki, probably correct).

Kenzo (485-487 in the Nihon Shoki, probably correct).

Ninken (488-498 in the Nihon Shoki, probably correct).

Buretsu (498-506 in the Nihon Shoki, probably correct).

Keitai (507-531 in the Nihon Shoki, probably correct).

Ankan (531-535 in the Nihon Shoki, probably correct).

Senka (535-539 in the Nihon Shoki, probably correct). [Source: Charles T. Keally, Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology (retired), Sophia University, Tokyo, t-net.ne.jp/~keally/kofun , The Nihon Shoki is an ancient history record finished in A.D. 720]

Yamato Under the Saki Kings

Kawagoe wrote: “During the last half of the 4th century, the Yamato kings became deeply involved in kami worship at a different shrine: the Isonokami. Isonokami became the leading Yamato shrine after the kings became tied to the strong uji clans in the Saki area as palaces and mounds became built farther and farther north (although the kami at Mt Miwa continued to be worshipped). However, archaeological evidence shows that the Isonokami Shrine did not become important until the locus of Yamato power had shifted to the Saki area. The burial mounds of Saki include Gosashi mound, also known as the tomb of Empress Jingu who, according to legend, ruled as regent for her son around AD 200. National Geographic reported that Gosashi mound tomb was opened to examinations by experts for the first time just in April 2008. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]


Yamato

Situated on "Yamanobe-no-michi," Japan’s oldest path from the base of Mt. Miwa to Nara, Isonokami Jingu is one of the oldest shrines of Japan. The shrine is dedicated not to a man or god but to a divine sward named Futsunomitama no okami. According to legend, when Japan’s first Emperor Jinmu visited Kumano, Wakayama, during his conquering of Yamato, he froze due to exposure to poisonous air of a local god, and then a sward named Futsu-no-mitama saved him. It is said that the sword was later moved and enshrined in Isonokami Jingu. Since then the Imperial family has dedicated swords to the shrine. The shrine is said to be an armory of the Yamato Court. [Source: JNTO]

Kawagoe wrote: “Yamato had prospered under the rule of Saki kings, control of territorial borders expanded, so that the sum of their accumulated wealth, power and authority was now passed down to the line of descendants. The mounds had thus come to symbolize and affirm the divine authority transmitted to living successors, the mound builders. The kings buried in the Saki mounds had inherited the authority of earlier Shiki kings. Thus Saki mounds were built successively not simply to honour the souls of the deceased Yamato kings, but also as a symbol of hereditary authority. <^>

“As the Yamato kings expanded into other regions of Japan, during the last years of the 4th century, they brought the lands in the west, and in the northeast under Yamato control. Yamato Takeru no Mikoto’s military campaigns are noted in the Nihon Shoki and Kojiki along with mention of the divine assistance received from kami and other supernatural beings. <^>

“The military interests and exploits of King Suinin’s successors, his two sons, were also woven into legends to: 1) o legitimise the affirm the sacred connections between the Yamato king and his son; 2) to affirm the sacred role of Yamato warrior-king and their role as custodians of the sacred “military” treasures. Nihon shoki states that king Suinin’s eldest son (Prince Inishiki no Mikoto) had a thousand swords made and that he was placed in charge of Isonokami’s divine treasures. The records also allege that he founded the Mononobe clan and thenceforth a succession of Mononobe clan chieftains served as custodians of Isonokami treasures. Though the Nihon Shoki entries were obviously revisions to mythology to legitimise the line of authority, they must also reflect the reality of a rapid expansion of the Yamato realm and the extensive use of iron weapons at a time when many military campaigns were carried out.” <^>

Kofun Tombs Reveal Evidence of Sacred-Secular Dual Kingship Model of Society

Dual kingship was a model of rulership practised by a great number of societies and cultures, namely, by the Sarmatians, Scythians, Spartans, Romans, Germanic and Dacian tribes, Huns and many others. The Twin Brothers or Rival Quarreling Brothers myths can usually be found in narrated or written clan genealogies and/or court epics and songs. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]


Kofun entrance

In a paper entitled “Dual Kingship in the Kofun Period as Seen from the Keyhole Tombs”, Naofumi Kishimoto that the dual kingship or diarchy model of rulership can be inferred from a scrutiny of the artefacts and layout of the Kofun Period tumuli of the 3rd to 5th centuries. Kishimoto wrote: “Heralding the beginning of Japan’s state formation, the Kofun period (3rd-6th century) witnessed the emergence of a supraregional consolidation of the Japanese archipelago superseding that of the preceding Yayoi period. The enormous number of tombs spread across the archipelago palpably limns the relationship between local chieftains and the paramount Wa kings. For four hundred years, this relationship was characterized by the construction of monumental kingly tombs commissioned by the Wa elite and the building of smaller-scale iterations by local rulers. [Source: “Dual Kingship in the Kofun Period as Seen from the Keyhole Tombs” by Naofumi Kishimoto, Urban Scope Journal – Volume 4, May 2013; the article originally appeared in volume 208 of Historia (2008)]

“A diachronic analysis of keyhole tomb (zenpokoenfun) construction in the Kinki region of central Japan suggests the coexistence of two disparate lines of tombs adopting separate blueprints. A clear reason for this, however, has yet to be proposed. I have come to view the nature of Kofun-period rulership as divided between two kings: one orchestrating state ritual and the other managing administrative affairs. This view, known as “sacred-secular dual kingship,” has long been espoused by historians of Japan’s early texts. Even from an archaeological perspective, the tombs of the incipient Oyamato Tomb Group suggest the coexistence of two different types of kings. Arguments for “sacred-secular dual kingship,” however, have focused on a gendered division of labor between male and female paramounts, while nevertheless adhering to the image of a monolithic imperial line of male administrative emperors, informed by Japan’s earliest domestic histories, the Kojiki (712) and Nihon shoki (720). In this paper, however, I propose a politico-ritual model of dual kingship in which two coexisting male kings assumed different leadership roles; furthermore, I suggest that even the role of the sacred king (often framed as a shamanistic queen) had been filled by a male from early on. There were thus two nuclei of authority in the Kofun period. Before unifying into a single line in the early-6th century, however, this structure was responsible for political instability and regime changes.”

Uji and Be

According to “Topics in Japanese Cultural History”: :In general, what characterized political and social organization in the Japanese islands prior to 645? First, there were numerous ethnic groups living in the islands, and culture, social organization, government, et cetera varied widely from place to place. In many, but not all, parts of the islands of Kyushu, Shikoku, and Honshu, social organization was based on hereditary groups of workers called be, a term of Korean origin. There were, for example, be consisting of farmers, be consisting of potters, be consisting of storytellers, be consisting of porters, and, in some cases, be consisting of warriors. These be usually served a powerful local family, the generic term for which is uji. [Source: “Topics in Japanese Cultural History” by Gregory Smits, Penn State University figal-sensei.org *~*]


Clan emblem for Inoue

“The term uji is often translated "clan" in the sense of an extended family. The size of territory dominated by a particular uji varied, depending on time and circumstances. Some uji were powerful and controlled a wide area; others were weak. Both be and uji had their own internal social hierarchies, the details of which varied from place to place. One generalization about most uji, is that they claimed descend from a founding ancestor. Furthermore, the head of each uji usually worshiped the spirit of that founding ancestor as well as the spirits of more recent ancestors. In a very general way, much of the religious activity in the ancient Japanese islands can be called "ancestor worship." Furthermore, this religious activity was inextricably interconnected with social organization and political power. *~*

“The various uji (and remember that not all of the ethnic or political groups living in the ancient Japanese islands were organized in terms of uji and be) sometimes competed with each other and sometimes cooperated with each other. This competition sometimes took the form of open warfare, though in many cases the threat of warfare would be sufficient to coerce a weaker uji into making concessions to a stronger one. Cooperation often took the form of several uji collaborating to form a loose confederacy. In such cases, the head of one of the uji in the confederation often claimed some degree of leadership or hegemony over the other uji. Sometimes this claim was based on military or economic strength; often religion also played a role. For example, the head of one uji might claim superiority over another based on being the descendant of a more prestigious ancestral founder. In all cases, however, political organization at a level greater than an individual uji was weak, and each uji typically retained a strong sense of its own identity.” *~*

Kofun-Era Society: Clans, Court Relations and Hereditary Titles

Kawagoe wrote: From the earlier rice-farming communities, groups of clans emerged who were charged with specialized tasks (e.g. building and maintaining dikes and canals) and specific areas of control emerged. The head of these clan groups performed the rites that honored and placated the community’s kami (local deity) … an important job for kofun people. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

“Clans of the 5th century located in and around the Nara plain formed groups, thought to have been called uji by a Yamato king, and these uji groups became hereditary and the roles of the uji clans were passed down through families from generation to generation. Uji likely evolved from the earlier be occupational groups.Occupational groups (be) attached to court and the supporting clans helped to generate much of Yamato’s economic and military might. Be was a word of Paekche (Korean) origin. Both be and uji are considered by some historians to be units for the control of the Yamato society. <^>


Clan emblem for Asakura

“The highest kabane titles were awarded to men who headed powerful and strategic clans who were bound to one Yamato king after another by family ties. The most prestigious kabane were bestowed as a hereditary right on clan leaders at the court with the lowest going to clan leaders in local areas. The highest two omi and muraji were granted only to the heads of powerful clans who served the Yamato kings directly and who resided in the neighborhood of the capital. Great omi or great muraji was bestowed only on the head of the strongest clan. <^>

“Inscriptions on a bronze mirror from the Suda Hachiman Shrine in Wakayama Prefecture, bearing the date AD 443, has Chinese characters on it including of a clan “Kawachi” and “Atai” the kabane title bestowed by a Yamato king. Another inscription on a 5th century Inariyama sword also included the name of a clan and title kabane. The inscription revealed that the sword’s owner Owake no Omi had served King Yuryaku and his predecessors generation after generation. Owake was the name of the clan and Omi was the kabane title bestowed.” <^>

Although the accuracy of the Nihon Shoki chronicles had been doubted earlier by historians, experts have come recently come to regard the reports after the year 400 as surprisingly accurate accounts of dates and events, as well as of the relationships between the Yamato king’s court and the clans. Title appointments changed often along with new lines of Yamato kings. Historians study these appointments carefully – when the appointments of great omi changed (locally or regionally), they sometimes suggested a shift or break in the Yamato king’s line of descent. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

“King Yuryaku in the 5th century expanded the use of kabane appointments as a way to strengthen his court’s control of the country. Kabane titles were given out to clan leaders in outlying regions to obtain the chieftains’ allegiance to the Yamato court and to incorporate clan groups from beyond the Nara plain into the Yamato state system. The Yamato leaders jealously guarded the right and responsibility for organizing the trade of goods, for the Yamato court especially during the late Kofun period. Struggles and conflicts often took place over those rights between the clan groups.

Prince Yamatotakeru


Yamato Takeru

Kawagoe wrote: “Japan’s first two official history books, the Kojiki (completed in AD 712) and Nihon Shoki(completed in AD 720) chronicled the legend and life of Prince Yamatotakeru, who historians think is possibly based on a true character who lived around the 4th century. According to the chronicles, he was son of King Keiko, who by tradition is regarded as the 12th Emperor of Japan (Tenno). Historians today tend to discount events up to the 5th century as fictional or partially fictional accounts that were inserted to provide an unbroken imperial line of ancestors leading to the kami or divine gods. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

“The story details of the legendary character are however studied as historians think that the route the prince took reflects the true locations of the day as Yamato court battled to control and expand its territory at the dawning of the Japanese nation. The prince’s path of territorial domination is thought to mirror the archaeological evidence of the patterns of shrines and burial tombs of the Yamato period. The famous sword that Susa no O no Mikoto used to kill the legendary eight-headed serpent was recorded by the Nihon shoki as having been deposited at the shrine of Isonokami. <^>

“The sacred sword in question is thought to be an existing seven-pronged sword (shichishito), which is a genuine archaeological artefact dated by the gold inlaid inscription to 369, that had been presented to a Yamato king and placed in the safekeeping of Isonokami storehouse. In 1873, the chief priest of Isonokami had examined and made the connection between the similarity of the inscribed wording on the sword with the ones mentioned in the Nihon shoki report... Prince Yamato Takeru is today revered as a folk hero for his courage and ingenuity. He is said to be entombed in the Mausoleum of the White Plover.” <^>

Legend of Prince Yamato Takeru


Yamato Takeru between burning grass

Kawagoe wrote: As the legend goes, Prince Yamato who was at first known as Prince Ousu had slain his elder brother. His grieving father King Keiko, fearing the evil nature of his son, sent Prince Ousu to Izumo Province (eastern Shimane Prefecture) and then to the land of Kumaso (Kumamoto Prefecture) to battle brigands and rebels. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

“Before Prince Yamato prayed at the shrines of Ise asking the blessing of Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess for her blessings on his ventures. Prince Yamato’s aunt who was high priestess of the Ise shrines, presented him with a rich silk robe, saying it would be of good luck to him. Then the prince left the palace on his journey taking his wife Princess Ototachibana and a number of loyal followers. He proceeded to the southern Island of Kyushu which was infested with brigands and bandits. <^>

“While King Keiko had hoped the prince would fail in his quest, Prince Ousu showed great wile and cunning defeating his enemies one after the other. During one episode of his adventures, Prince Yamato donned the rich silk robe his aunt had given him, let down his hair, stuck a comb and decked himself with jewels. He had disguised himself as a woman, and thus appareled he entered his enemies’ tent during a banquet where Kumaso and his brother Takeru were feasting and drinking. Kumaso beckoned to the prince disguised as a fair serving woman, bidding him to serve wine as quickly as possible. When Kumaso had become drunk, the prince stabbed the two Kumaso warrior brothers to death. As the brother of Kumaso lay dying, he demanded to know who the prince really was, and the brigand then bestowed upon the prince the title Yamato Takeru, meaning “The Bravest of Yamato”. <^>

Prince Yamato Takeru Travels and Victories

Kawagoe wrote: ““Despite his victories, King Keiko remained resolute in his view of his son. He ordered Prince Yamato Takeru (as he was now called) to the rebel provinces, the eastern land whose people disobeyed the imperial court. When Prince Yamato Takeru was on his way back to the capital, he encounted another outlaw named Idzumo Takeru. He befriended the outlaw, and invited Takeru to go swimming with him in the river Hinokawa. While the brigand was swimming down-stream the Prince secretly replaced the brigand’s sword with a fake wooden sword. When Takeru came out of the water, the Prince challenged him to a duel to prove who was the better swordsman of the two, and while Takeru fumbled and struggled with his fake wooden sword, Prince Yamato Takeru killed the outlaw. He then returned to the palace where he was feasted and bestowed many gifts by the King his father. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]


Another rendering of Yamato Takeru

“The King soon ordered his son to go and quell the Emishi uprising in the eastern provinces. Before he left, he was given a spear made from a holly tree called the “Eight-Arms-Length-Spear”. The prince, as before, went to pray for success at the Ise shrines. His aunt, this time, presented him with a sword and a bag containing flints. The sacred sword named Kusanagi no tsurugi had once belonged to the gods, having been discovered by Susano Mikoto, the brother of Sun goddess Amaterasu. (The sword was used by Susano to slay the great eight-headed serpent that had terrorized the locals was deposited at the shrine of Isonokami.) <^>

“When Prince Yamato Takeru was in the province of Suruga, he had been invited to a deer-hunt and while engaged in the deer hunt on a great and wild plain covered with huge grass, he became conscious of a bush fire. Flames and smoke were fast upon him and beginning to close off his route of escape. The Prince realized that he had walked into a trap! Then, the Prince, aided by his sacred sword Kusanagi, opened the bag his aunt had given him, using the flints, set fire to the grass nearest him, and with the sword Kusanagi began cutting through tall green blades on the either side as quickly as possible. As he did so, the wind suddenly changed and blew the flames away from him, so that the Prince was able to escape the burning inferno that had been the work of the Emishi warring tribesmen (ancestors of the Ainu). That was how the sword came to be dubbed the “Grass-Cleaving Sword”. <^>

“After having obeyed his father’s command in quelling the Emishi uprising, Prince Yamato Takeru headed further east. There he scored many victories against his enemies but he lost his wife Ototachibanahime. During a violent storm, the princess threw herself into the sea as a sacrifice to placate the wrath of the sea god. <^>

“Next, Prince Yamato Takeru passed through the province of Owari until he came to the province of Omi which was terrorized by a great serpent that descended the mountain every day, entering the villages and eating many of its human occupants. Prince Yamato Takeru climbed up the Mount Ibaki seeking to find the serpent and when he found it, he slaughtered the serpent by twisting his bare arms about it. No sooner had he done so, darkness and heavy rains fell. When the Prince had descended the mountain, he found that his feet burned with a strange pain and he felt terribly ill. The serpent had stung the Prince, but fortunately, the Prince regained his health. While still in the east, together with an old sage from those parts, Prince Yamato Takeru also composed the first renga poem in Kai Province in which Mount Tsukuba (in Ibaraki Prefecture) featured as a central theme. <^>

“Despite Prince Yamato Takeru’s great victories, he finally came to an early demise through disease, supposedly cursed by a local god of Mount Ibuki (located at the border of Omi Province and Mino Province) for having earlier blasphemed the god. With that tragic death, his adventures ended on the Plains of Tagi, where he turned into a white plover before vanishing from the world of the living.” <^>

Fifth Century Japan: Rebellions and Rise of Royal Estates

Kawagoe wrote:” The 5th century was a century of wealth for the Yamato kings compared to the one before it. One evidence of the flourishing wealth of the kings was the increasing number of royal estates being established by the Yamato court. A royal estate was a piece of land (including the inhabitants, buildings and produce from it) that was regarded by law as belonging to a Yamato king as a hereditary right. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]


kofun believed to belong to Yamato Takeru

“Early royal estates were located mainly in and around the Nara plain and were administered directly by the Yamato court. Nihon shoki mentions that King Keiko in the 4th century had been granted the Yamato royal estate while he was crown prince. This was confirmed to be fact from archaeological digs that indicated that the estate was located in the present-day village of Miyake in the Shiki District of Yamato in the area where huge burial mounds were built during the 5th and 6th century. Later royal estates were established in outlying districts and distance provinces extending the control of the Yamato court and state. By establishing royal estates, a king could hope to increase his revenues and income. <^>

“In northern Kyushu, a clan leader who went by the name of Iwai and who was governor of Tsukushi Province had rebeled against orders to provide troops and supplies for an expedition against Silla. According to the Nihon shoki, Iwai had accepted bribes from Silla and obstructed the mobilization of troops. The Yamato court’s military plans had been thwarted and forces had to be diverted to put down the Iwai rebellion and have Iwai killed. <^>

Following the Iwai rebellion, the Yamato court then took steps to strengthen its control in the land. Strong clans like Iwai’s were appearing in most regions, but especially on the Kanto plain and the Kibi plateau where agricultural land had been opened up, increasing the wealth and power of the clans in control of those lands. Immediately, after Iwai’s defeat, in 528 the Yamato court set up royal estates in Tsukushi (Iwai’s domain), and then in other distant provinces where the Yamato court had had to use military force either against an uncooperative provincial governor or in order to instal its own loyal appointed provincial governors (called Miyatsuko) to manage the royal estates. <^>

“Nihon shoki lists such royal estates established in more than a dozen provinces in the reign of Emperor Ankan in 535. The royal estates were usually established in outlying regions of special and economic and strategic value to the Yamato court. The Yamato court appointed its own provincial governors to manage these royal estates.” <^>

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>; Charles T. Keally, Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology (retired), Sophia University, Tokyo, figal-sensei.org *~*; Asia for Educators Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu ; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan; Library of Congress; Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO); New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; Daily Yomiuri; Japan News; Times of London; National Geographic; The New Yorker; Reuters; Associated Press; Lonely Planet Guides; Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications. Many sources are cited at the end of the facts for which they are used.

Last updated September 2016

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