1:the 6th century


About deploying emissaries to Sui China in the Asuka period

In those days, China was ruled by a great empire; Sui

Shotoku-Taishi dispatched envoys to Sui China. The envoys traveled to Sui by a fleet of ships. At that time, Sui never had equal diplomatic relations with other nations, because Sui considered other nations as just barbarians. Therefore, if the rulers in these barbarian areas paid tribute to Sui's Imperial Court, the Emperor approved them as countries.

However, Shotoku-Taishi sent a letter to the Emperor and in this letter, Shotoku-taishi said “I'm the son of the Emperor where the sun rises and sending this letter to the king of the country where the sun goes down.  How are you?”

Therefore, when Sui 's Emperor read the letter, he was very furious, but the messenger who brought the letter was able to return to Japan alive. It is said that Sui was fighting neighboring countries in those days, so Sui's Emperor avoided conflict with to Japan.

This anecdote shows that Shotoku-taishi tried to take a very bold strategy about diplomacy, despite the peace-oriented Buddhism-based domestic political policy.

Syotoku-taishi's portrait appeared  on Japanese paper currencies from 1930 to 1984.


↑This photo is from AC. https://www.photo-ac.com/

※The Asuka period ranged from the later 6th century to the mid 7th century. The Asuka period coincides with the later Kofun period.


About the two systems established by Syotoku-Taishi in the Asuka period

In 593, Syotoku-Taishi became Sessyo of Empress Suiko.

Sessyo was a position to assist Emperor or Empress. When a woman or a very young boy came to the throne, one of close advisers became Sessyo

Umayado_miko ←Syotoku-Taishi This painting is from Wikipedia


Syotoku-Taishi established two important systems. One is the system of twelve courtly ranks established in 603.

Due to the system, talented personnel could obtain good positions in the Imperial Court. This system divided positions of the Imperial Court into twelve courtly ranks.

Another is the Seventeen-Article Constitution promulgated in 604. This constitution showed the rules which officers in the Imperial Court had to obey.

Article first said that the Imperial Court officers had to cooperate with other officers.

Article second said that the Imperial Court officers had to respect Buddhism.

Article third said that the Imperial Court officers had to be loyal to the Emperor.

From the Constitution, you can understand that Syotoku-Taishi respected Buddhism more than Shinto which was Japanese indigenous religion from ancient times.


Horyuji-temple in Nara prefecture. It is said that the temple was founded by Syotoku-Taishi in 607.The temple is considered the oldest wooden building in the world. It is registered as a World Heritage.

※The Asuka period ranged from the later 6th century to the mid 7th century. The Asuka period coincides with the later Kofun period.


About powerful local ruling families in the Asuka period

The Asuka period ranged from the later 6th century to the mid 7th century. The Asuka period coincides with the later Kofun period. The period was named after the place where the capital was located, today's Asuka-village in Nara prefecture.

The Yamato Imperial Court governed Japan in the period. The Court was organized by local lords and led by Okimi; later Emperor. The top of the Court was Okimi, but two major local ruling families had immense power in those days. One of them was Soga and the other was Mononobe. Soga and Mononobe had seriously conflict, because Soga supported Buddhism and Mononobe supported Shinto.


Horyuji-Temple in Nara prefecture


Shimogamo-Shinto Shrine in Kyoto

In 587, Umako Soga destroyed Mononobe and obtained overwhelming power in the Court.  In 592, Umako Soga assassinated the Sushun Emperor  and made Suiko succeed to the throne as the first Empress. Umako Soga wielded very strong power in the Court.


The Yamato Imperial Court’s political system in the Kofun period

From the 5th century to the 6th century, the Yamato Imperial Court led by Okimi, later Emperor, formed a ruling system that subdued regional ruling families from the Kanto, around today’s Tokyo, area to the middle of Kyusyu area, which is a western island of the Japanese archipelago.


The system was called Shisei-system. (氏姓制度) This was composed of Uji and Kabane . First, the Court established Uji that was an organization of local lords classified by blood relationship. Then each Uji was given some role and Okimi gave Kabane to Uji depending on the role. Later, Kabane showed the Uji's rank in the Imperial Court.


↑Takamatsuzuka-Kofun in Nara prefecture

This photo is from AC



※the Kofun period ranged from the later third century to the seventh century.

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  • Hi there! I'm Lala. I'm a Japanese living in Tokyo. I'm an English speaking licensed guide and authorized tour conductor. If you have questions, please leave comments on this blog or send me e-mails. lalalamumin☆yahoo.co.jp (please replace ☆ with @ when you send me e-mails)

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