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p. xii


E.T.N.—W. G. Aston’s English translation of the Nihongi
E.T.K.—B. H. Chamberlain’s English translation of the Kojiki
T.A.S.J.Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan

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 According to a time-honoured tradition, when our Imperial Ancestors were still in the Plain of High Heaven, there were certain families in whose special care the rites of Shintō were preserved. Namely, the Nakatomi, the Imbe and also the Sarume, of whom we may reasonably believe that the Nakatomi and the Imbe were equally entrusted with the Imperial religious functions. The Imbe family is lineally descended from Takami-Musubi-no-Kami through Futotama-no-Mikoto and Ame-no-Tomi-no-Mikoto, while the Nakatomi family is descended from Kamumi-Musubi-no-Kami through Ame-no-Koyane-no-Mikoto and Ame-no-Taneko-no-Mikoto. Together with these two Musubi-no-Kami, stands Ame-no-Minakanushi-no-Kami, and thus is formed a divine triad in the Japanese Pantheon at the opening of the Kojiki or Records of Ancient Matters.

 According to Japanese mythology, the “eternal night” of darkness or pitch-darkness prevailed after the withdrawal of the Sun-Goddess into the Heavenly Rock-Cave, and then Futotama-no-Mikoto (whom the Imbe family claim as their ancestor) and p. 2 Ame-no-Koyane-no-Mikoto (the ancestor of the Nakatomi family), aided by Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto (the ancestor of the Sarume family), were summoned to perform due ceremonies essential to draw forth the Sun-Goddess from her retreat. On this momentous occasion, neither the Nakatomi nor the Imbe played the chief rôle to the other’s disparagement, but both were equally important and essential to the proper performance of the religious rites in the Plain of High Heaven.

 When the Heavenly Grandson descended to earth, and the Emperor Jimmu established the Imperial Court in Yamato after his triumphant entrance into that province, both the above families enjoyed equal privileges in the religious ceremonies observed at the Court.

 Kamatari, the renowned ancestor of the Fujiwara family (which sprang from the same root as the Nakatomi), gained supremacy in the political arena, after the Soga family had been annihilated in A.D. 645 during the reign of the Empress Kōkyoku. Later on, through its marital relations with the Imperial House, the Fujiwara family practically governed Japan de facto and the authority of the Nakatomi gradually superseded that of the rival Imbe family in the religious rites observed at the Imperial Court. Thus, for example, in A.D. 684 (the reign of the Emperor Temmu), the Asomi, i.e., the newly established Second Court Rank, was conferred on the Nakatomi, whilst only the Sukune, or Third Court Rank, was bestowed on the Imbe. This incident clearly p. 3 proves that the Imbe then ranked below the Nakatomi, quite contrary to our time-honoured tradition that the Nakatomi and the Imbe were originally treated on exactly the same level at the Imperial Court, both in the Plain of High Heaven and in this Land of Luxuriant Reed Plains.

 Only those shrines which were closely related to the Nakatomi family enjoyed special prerogatives as to the official offerings, whilst, no matter how superior, according to the sacred traditions of ancient Japan, the other shrines were, they were neglected for the receipt of the Imperial offerings, if they had no relationship with the Nakatomi family. The prejudices and partiality of the Nakatomi naturally aroused the righteous indignation of Imbe-no-Hironari and forced him, when replying to the Emperor Heijō’s gracious message, to call His Majesty’s attention to the “Eleven Things” neglected by the Imperial Government, as told in the book Kogoshūi, which under these circumstances and with such a purpose was inscribed by Imbe-no-Hironari at the beginning of the 9th century in the reign of the Emperor Heijō (A.D. 806-809).



 In substance the Kogoshūi is chiefly a protest written by Imbe-no-Hironari against a rival family. Hence, one naturally presumes that the work breathes a spirit of rivalry and jealousy, p. 4 and in some respects this is an undeniable fact. For example, in the Kogoshūi the part taken by Takami-Musubi-no-Kami is fairly prominent in the issue of Divine Commands in High Heaven together with Amaterasu-Ō-Mikami, whereas the Nihongi directs those commands to Amaterasu-Ō-Mikami alone. Why is this? Because Takami-Musubi-no-Kami being regarded as the divine ancestor of the Imbe family, it is reasonable to suppose that Imbe-no-Hironari desired to claim the same high position for his own divine ancestor Takami-Musubi-no-Kami as that of the Divine Imperial Ancestress Amaterasu-Ō-Mikami herself. Therefore, Nasa (or Kusakabe-Katsutaka) published his contradiction of the Kogoshūi account styling his book Gisai or My Inability to Agree with Imbe-no-Hironari (i.e., briefly, Kusakabe’s Critique on Imbe-no-Hironari’s Kogoshūi). At the same time one must remember that the Kogoshūi records a tradition specially transmitted to and preserved by the Imbe family, just as the Nihongi preserves various traditions as different versions of one and the same event, and so one may reasonably conclude that the value of the Kogoshūi is equal to that of the family records preserved by the Takahashi family, the Hata family,* and so forth. From this standpoint, it appears that Moto-Ori and Hirata greatly sympathize with Imbe-no-Hironari’s attitude and are against the author Kusakabe (Vide Moto-Ori, The Gisai-Ben. The Collected Works, Japanese edition, vol. v, pp. 1445-1447).

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 The most popular edition of the Kogoshūi circulated in Japan relates that the Kogoshūi was first written by Imbe-no-Hironari himself on the 13th day of the 2nd month in the 2nd year of Daidō (A.D. 807), when he held the Lower Grade of the Junior Fifth Court Rank, but one of the most authentic Japanese histories (the Ruiju-Kokushi, Japanese edition, vol. XCIX, 11th month, 3rd year of Daidō) states that Imbe-no-Hironari was actually in the Higher Grade of the Senior Sixth Court Rank (a degree inferior to the Lower Grade of the Junior Fifth Court Rank), and so, in order to harmonize the date with this historical fact, a certain edition of the Kogoshūi puts the date 13th day of the 12th month in the 3rd year of Daidō, as that when Imbe-no-Hironari submitted the Kogoshūi to the Imperial Throne. We believe, however, that the variations, both in the dates and in Hironari’s Court Rank, were inserted later by some unknown scribes and therefore the date on which the Kogoshūi was actually tendered to His Imperial Majesty may in all probability be that which is popularly accepted, namely, the 13th day of the 2nd month in the 2nd year of Daidō.

 It is an historical fact that in the 1st year of Daidō, A.D. 806, there was a controversy between the Imbe and the Nakatomi p. 6 on the powers entrusted to their respective families in the matter of religious ceremonies held at the Imperial Court, and therefore it is with good reason concluded with the unknown writer whose notes are inscribed in the Yakumoshō (Japanese edition, vol. I) written by the Emperor Juntoku (+ A.D. 1242)—the Maeda manuscripts also tell us that the date is the 1st year of Daidō—that Hironari made his first draft of the Kogoshūi during the 1st year of Daidō (806), or at the beginning of the following year (807)—as stated in the passage of our Kogoshūi text—and submitted it to the Emperor Heijō against his rival Nakatomi, thus making the best use of the opportunity afforded by the controversy between those two rival Houses. Therefore one of the most authentic official Japanese histories records:—

 “Prior to this (the 10th day of the 8th month in the lst year of Daidō), there had been a law-suit between the Nakatomi and the Imbe when they set forth their respective claims thus. The Nakatomi family complained:

 “ ‘It was the Imbe family that was wont to manufacture official offerings for the gods, but as they never enjoyed the privilege of reciting a liturgy, that family should not be sent as Imperial Envoys to bring official offerings to any shrine.’

 “The Imbe family, however, protested against the accusation, saying:

 “ ‘It is the right of the Imbe family to present the Imperial sacrificial gifts to a shrine and offer prayer, therefore one or p. 7 more members of that family should be appointed as Imperial messengers to offer sacrifices at a shrine, and the Nakatomi family should be entrusted with the expiatory rites.’

 “As the arguments of both parties were fairly well founded on historical grounds, the issue still hung in the balance. But on the same day, an Imperial Edict was issued, saying:

 “ ‘According to the Nihonshoki (Nihongi) or Chronicles of Japan, when Amaterasu-Ō-Mikami concealed herself in the Heavenly Rock-Cave, Ame-no-Koyane-no-Mikoto, ancestor of the Nakatomi family, and Futotama-no-Mikoto, ancestor of the Imbe family, both united in offering prayer to Amaterasu-Ō-Mikami to persuade her to leave the cave, and hung five hundred large jewels linked together by an august string, on the upper branch of a fine sacred Sakaki* tree with five hundred branches, which had been brought from the Heavenly Mt. Kagu; an eight-hand-span mirror or large mirror on the central branches, and offerings of fine cloth both blue and white in colour on the lower branches. Hence it is correct that the Nakatomi and the Imbe should share together in offering prayers to the Gods.’

 “And again, according to the Jingiryō (Book of Administrative Law for the Shintō Religion), ‘On the occasion of the Prayer Service for the Yearly Harvest and of the Monthly Service at a p. 8 shrine an official of the Nakatomi family is to recite a liturgy and one of the Imbe is to deliver the Amatsu-Kami-no-Yogoto* or Congratulatary Address for the new Emperor in reference to the auspicious events of the Divine Age in Heaven, whilst the function of the Imbe is to present the Emperor with both the Mirror and the Sword—the Divine Imperial Regalia.

 “ ‘In the Ōharai or Great Purification Ceremony on the last days of the 6th and 12th months, an official of the Nakatomi family is to present the expiatory offerings to the Emperor, while an official of the Fumi family on the East and West of the Capital is to present the expiatory sword and recite the expiatory prayer (in Chinese), and then an official of the Nakatomi family is to deliver a congratulatory address (in Japanese). An Imperial Envoy who brings offerings to any shrine other than those shrines regularly appointed to be worshipped by the Administrative Law for the Shintō Religion shall be a person holding the Fifth, or a higher, Court Rank, and also at the same time he should always be appointed by divination.’

 “So in sending Imperial Envoys to a shrine to present offerings other than the regular sacrifices established by the Administrative Law, both the Nakatomi and the Imbe should be appointed, and all other things divine be conducted in strict p. 9 accordance with the Shintō Administrative Law” (The Nihonkōki, vol. XIV. The Kokushi-Taikei, Japanese edition, vol. III, p. 77).



 There are different manuscripts of the Kogoshūi; for instance, the Urabe manuscript (derived from the Heiman manuscript), the Ise, the Hirano, and the Hōryūji manuscript existing as early as A.D. 1238. The facsimile of the Hōryūji or Ryakunin manuscript was made by Mikannagi-Kiyonao of Ise in A.D. 1847. The facsimile of the Temmon manuscript was made by the late Dr. Inoue-Yorikuni some years ago. The oldest manuscript still extant and preserved in the Yoshida family of Kyōto is a manuscript written in A.D. 1225 (the 1st year of Karoku). The next oldest manuscripts, which are now preserved by Marquis Maeda-Toshinari in Tōkyō, seem to have been made a little later than the Yoshida manuscript in the Karoku Era. We can say for certain that the block-printed book of Kogoshūi was already in existence in A.D. 1685, when, at the latest, Tatsuno-Hirochika published the Kogoshūi-Genyoshō, and one must remember that this was the first block-printed Kogoshūi in which together with the text a valuable commentary in Chinese is found. Later on, however, some of the succeeding commentaries are worth reading when we study the Kogoshūi text. The following commentaries p. 10 are always useful companions to the student, and of them, those written by Ikebe and by Kubo are the best:—

(1) Ikebe-no-Mahari, The Kogoshūi-Shinchū, or A New Commentary on the Kogoshūi.
(2) Kubo-Sueshige, The Kogoshūi-Kōgi, or Studies and Notes on the Kogoshūi.
(3) Takada-Hakuō, The Kogoshūi-Jimō-Setsuge, or A Companion to the Beginner Studying the Kogoshūi.
(4) Hirata-Atsutane, The Koshichō, or An Essay Concerning the Ancient Histories (vol. I).
(5) Tatsuno-Hirochika, The Kogoshūi-Genyoshō, or Some Notes in Chinese Characters on the Kogoshūi.



 The opening of the 9th century was a time when Chinese culture gained great influence in Japan. The mother of the Emperor Kammu was descended from Shumō (or Tobo), the first King of Kudara or Pèkché (The Shoku-Nihongi, vol. XI. The Kokushi-Taikei, Japanese edition, vol. II, p. 763), and the two celebrated Japanese Buddhist monks Dengyō-Daishi (Saichō), Kōbō-Daishi (Kūkai), and others were more or less affected by p. 11 Chinese thought and civilization, especially after visiting China. The Emperor Kammu in A.D. 785 and 787 gave orders that worship be offered to the Heavenly God, or rather to Heaven Itself, at Katano in Kawachi Province, but this is a Chinese religious custom which is entirely alien to the original Shintō cult of old Japan (The Shoku-Nihongi, vol. XXXVIII, vol. XXXIX. The Kokushi-Taikei, Japanese edition, vol. II, pp. 720, 735. The Nihon-Montoku-Tennō-Jitsuroku, vol. VIII. The Kokushi-Taikei, Japanese edition, vol. III, p. 539). There was another trend of thought, however, which ran counter to the spirit of the times that blindly accepted the Chinese civilization then overpowering the country with its irresistible force—Nationalism versus foreign influence! Conservatism versus liberalism! So, according to the Nihonkōki, an historical book compiled under Government auspices, an Imperial Edict was issued in A.D. 809, forbidding the circulation of a spurious work, written from the standpoint of Chinese and Korean immigrants and entitled Wakan-Sōrekitei-Fuzu or the Book of the Genealogies of All the Sovereigns both at Home and Abroad, it being injurious to social order in Japan, because it falsely asserts that the Imperial families of China and Japan and the royal house of Korea are all sprung from one and the same God, Ame-no-Minakanushi-no-Kami, one of the greatest deities worshipped by the ancient Japanese, and thus blasphemes the highest heavenly ancestral God of the Imperial family of Japan (Vide the Nihonkōki, vol. XVII. The Kokushi-Taikei, p. 12 Japanese edition, vol. III, p. 93). Moreover, the appearance of the Shinsen-Shōjiroku or Catalogue (Register) of Family (or Clan) Names compiled in A.D. 815 by the Imperial Prince Manta, the Daidō-Ruijuhō or Work on the Japanese Medical Prescriptions Classified in the Daidō Era compiled in A.D. 808 by Abe-no-Sanenao, Izumo-no-Hirosada, etc., and the Daidō-Hongi, or A Japanese History Compiled in the Daidō Era (the beginning of the 9th century), whose fragments—a description of some Shintō rites performed at the Ise Shrine—are still extant in the books entitled Jingū-Zatsureishū and Kōji-Satabumi (Vide the Gunsho-Ruijū, Japanese edition, vol. IV, and the Zoku-Gunsho-Ruijū, Japanese edition, vol. IV), is the surest evidence of the activity of counter-currents of the conservative nationalism to which Imbe-no-Hironari belonged. Hence his book Kogoshūi was written in antagonism to and conflict with the “new tendency to ostentation and frivolity,” as stated in his preface to the Kogoshūi.



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* For example, the Takahashi-Ujibumi, the Hata-Uji-no-Honkeichō, etc.

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* Eurya Ochnacea Szyse (Cleyera Japonica). This tree is still revered as sacred to the Gods of Shintō. Some commentators opine that “sakaki” was a name originally given to all evergreens.

Vide W. G. Aston. E.T.N., vol. I. pp. 43, 44.

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* Amatsu-Kami-no-Yogoto otherwise called “Nakatomi-no-Yogoto” or “Congratulatory Address by the Nakatomi Family” (Vide Fujiwara-no-Yorinaga’s Diary, called “Taiki-Bekki” in the Japanese edition).