Introduction to the Japanese History - DOC by moti


									A.   Rise and Fall of the Tenno(天皇)

Tenno referred to the Japanese emperors, as Kaiser referred to the German emperors and Tsar
referred to the Russian emperors. The Japanese are proud to claim that the ruling imperial family
is the longest-surviving monarchical dynasty on earth.    It could be dated back to 660 B.C. when
Tenno Jimmu (神武天皇)ascended to the throne. In saying so, the Japanese say that the source
of the legitimacy of the imperial ruling family was hereditary and unchangeable.

Fundamentally it was man who were eligible to become Tenno, although there were female Tenno
in the Japanese History. Like most of the theocrats, Tenno claimed both spiritual and temporal
character. He was the man with supreme authority; and he was God„s descendant.

There are documents in support of the supreme position of Tenno. Kojiki (古事記)is the first
historical book on the imperial genealogies and succession of Japan from the age of Gods to Empress
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Suiko (推古天皇, reigned AD. 554-628) Another book, Nihon-shoki (日本書記) which is the
oldest history book, is concerned about history from the age of Gods to Empress Jito (皇極天皇
reigned AD. 645-702). The third document, Taiho Ritsuryo (大寶律令)which was compiled in
701, is a legal document about penal laws (ritsu) and administrative laws (ryo) based on the Tang„s
legal system. Its compilation was coincided with the height of the imperial authority.

The Japanese Tenno came from the Yamato Plain (大和平原), claiming themselves divine
descendants of the Sun God.      The Tenno having unified the whole country began to set up
institutions based on the T„ang model whereby an emperor -- well-educated officialdom hierarchy
was set up. Beyond the central government, there were provinces and districts and villages.

The heyday of the Imperial rule did not last long.    By the 9th century its authority was on the
wane. Despite its decline, however, there were alleged rulers who claimed to rule Japan on the
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behalf of Tenno. They could be sessho (攝政) or regent, kampaku (關白) or Chief Councillor
to the Emperor and Shogun (將軍).

The Imperial rule was its lowest ebb during the late Ashikaga (足利)era and the Sengoku jidai
(戰國時代, 1490-1573). The royal family had to live on the financial assistance provided by few
loyal daimyo. Some ambitious Tenno, such as Emperor Ogimachi (正親町天皇), wanted to
revive the imperial authority in vain. However, when Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豐臣秀吉)became
kampaku, the status and prestige of the Imperial family were raised. Emperor Go Yozei (後陽成
天皇) for example, conferred on him the family name of Toyotomi in 1586. In return the Imperial
family received land and allowance.

When the Tokugawas were in power, they tried to make use of the imperial influence to consolidate
their legitimate position. While the imperial family lived in Kyoto, received thousands of koku
(石)and were treated with respect, it and the nobles, or kuge (公家), were subject to varying
degree of control. The Tokugawas might control assignment of the important posts, minimize
contact between the Emperor and other tozamas (外樣大名)and appoint Kyoto shoshidai (京都
所司代)to watch the kuge.

The importance of the Imperial rule increased in the mid-Tokugawa era when there were studies
claiming that Tenno was the real ruler of the country, whereas the Tokugawas were just the
usurpers (篡權者). With the revival of shintoism (神道)and other studies, people began to
divert their attention to the once forgotten imperial family.

After the coming of the Westerners, the weaknesses of the Tokugawas were exposed.        Some of the
patriotic intellectuals and samurai (武士) organized the restoration movement to rally support.
It is known as the Sonno-joi movement (尊王攘夷運動). Some anti-Tokugawa tozama, such as
Choshu (長州) Satsuma (薩摩)used different methods to embarrass the Tokugawas, leading
to the Restoration Movement (王政復古)and finally the Meiji Restoration (明治維新).

After 1868 Tenno was still the nominal ruler of the country. With no actual power and authority,
he had the absolute support of the leaders of the country. The Meiji Constitution of 1889 (明治欽
定憲法)confirmed his supreme position and even stated that he was sacred. The success of the
Meiji modernization was even credited to Emperor Meiji (reigned 1868-1912). This special “right”
enjoyed by the Japanese emperors were, however, denied by the Americans in 1947 when a more
democratic and western style constitution was laid down. But today, Tenno is still the most
respectable figure in the hearts of every Japanese. His sayings and influence on the Japanese
politics and society are still discernible.

B.   Founding of the Tokugawa Bakufu (1603-1868)

Sengoku jidai or the Era of the Country at War was the period when everything were in chaos.
Following the collapse of the central control under the nominal rule of Ashikaga, many daimyo
claimed independence and developed their own realms. Ashikaga Shoguns were appointed or
deposed at any time; Kyoto was in ruins and the kuge faced starvation. There were emergence of
gekokujo (下剋上), or the phenomenon of the low oppressing the high, at different levels.

Long periods of war resulted in the existence of the fittest and the strongest. Amongst them was
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Oda Nobunaga (織田信長) A daimyo of Owari (尾張) he would have unified the country had
he not been assassinated by one of his subordinates, Akechi Mitsuhide (明智光秀)in 1581. His
land, men and even his achievements were then “inherited” by one of his subordinates, a man of
humble origin, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. By force and coercion, Toyotomi conquered the whole of the
country and ended the Sengoku jidai.          However, he was satisfied with his position as being
kampaku rather than set up a new regime of his own. Notwithstanding the fact that he wanted to
set up a permanent rule for his family, all of his belongings were “inherited” by his friend, ally and

enemy. He was Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Tokugawa Ieyasu (德川家康)was a man of samurai origin. Despite his being the master of
Mikawa (三河), he was once a hostage and had gone through many life-and-death struggles.
Before his ascendancy to power, he had to struggle with the Takeda family (武田家族), Oda who
was his ally and Toyotomi who was his enemy. Taking advantage of the helpless situation of the
Toyotomi family after the death of Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1598, he defeated the pro-Toyotomi
family supporters at the battle of Sekigahara (關原) He claimed himself Shogun and founded the
Bakufu three years later. The last Bakufu, the Edo or Tokugawa Bakufu, was thus set up in 1603 .
It lasted until 1868 when the government under the “leadership” of Emperor Meiji was established
to replace it.


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