Prince Otomo enthronement theory (大友皇子即位説)

The Prince Otomo enthronement theory was advocated in the Edo period and it was a long-lasting dispute in the Japanese history. Emperor Kobun who led the imperial court after the death of Emperor Tenchi in 671 lost in the Jinshin War against Prince Oama (Emperor Tenmu) and died in 672. The point in dispute was over whether Prince Otomo was enthroned and became an emperor or died without enthronement. Prince Otomo was given a posthumous title in 1870 and called Emperor Kobun, so the theory was also called an Emperor Kobun enthronement theory.

Summary

The basic historical document regarding the Jinshin War was "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan), which does not say that Prince Otomo became the crown prince or was enthroned. "Kaifuso" (Fond Recollections of Poetry) that was written later does refer to Prince Otome as 'the crown prince,' but not as an emperor. The enthronement of Prince Otomo appeared in several historical documents in the Heian period.

"Chronicles of Japan" is a government-selected historical document which was compiled by Imperial Prince Toneri, a son of Emperor Tenmu. The Prince Otomo enthronement theory says that the compiler did not wrote about the enthronement in Chronicles, although he knew that the prince was enthroned. The Prince Otomo non-enthronement theory basically accepts the description of Chronicles and says that Prince Otomo was not enthroned but he did lead the imperial court. Ruling the country without official accession to the Chrysanthemum Throne is called Shosei, so the non-enthronement theory may be called a Prince Otomo Shosei theory.

There are other theories on this issue: the Yamatohime no Okimi enthronement theory says that the empress of Emperor Tenchi, Yamatohime no Okimi, was enthroned instead of Prince Otomo, and the Yamatohime no Okimi Shosei theory says that Yamatohime no Okimi ruled the country without official accession to the Chrysanthemum Throne.

The Prince Otomo enthronement theory was dominant in the Edo period and the early Meiji period. Therefore the government gave Prince Otomo a posthumous title of Emperor Kobun in 1870. By the end of the Meiji period, however, the reasons for the enthronement theory were questioned and now, at the beginning of the 21st century, it is generally understood that the prince was not enthroned.

Prince Otomo enthronement theory

"Mizu Kagami" (The Water Mirror), "Okagami" (The Great Mirror), "Fuso Ryakki" (A Brief History of Japan), "Dainihonshi" (Great history of Japan), Nobutomo BAN, official theories in the Meiji period

Prince Otomo Shosei theory (non-enthronement theory)

- "Chronicles of Japan", Takashi TANAKA, Kojiro NAOKI

Yamatohime no Okimi enthronement theory

- Sadakichi KIDA, Mitsuo TOYAMA

Yamatohime no Okimi Shosei theory

- Katsumi KUROITA

Issues of the Prince Otomo enthronement theory

The following sections describe issues that support the enthronement theory and some objections to them from the viewpoint of the non-enthronement theory. This does not mean that theories described after the supporting issues are correct.

Descriptions of enthronement in the Heian period

The enthronement of Prince Otomo was recorded in many documents in the Heian period. The earliest document was "Saikyuki" (exemplary book on Heian rituals) written in the 10th century, and it says that Emperor Tenchi 'was enthroned in December' in the 10th year of Emperor Tenchi.

"Fuso Ryakki" (A Brief History of Japan) says 'Otomo Grand Minister became the crown prince in October in the 10th year of Emperor Tenchi. The emperor died on December 3. Prince Otomo was enthroned on December 5.'

"Nenju Gyoji Hisho" says that Prince Otomo 'became the crown prince and was enthroned.'

"Ritsubo Shidai" (Joun Gairyaku) says 'he was enthroned on December 5' in the 10th year of Emperor Tenchi.

"Mizu Kagami" says that 'Prince Otomo was appointed as togu in October' and 'since the emperor died on December 3, in the 10th year of Emperor Tenchi, Prince Otomo succeeded the throne on December 5'.

"Okagami" (the Great Mirror) did not state the enthronement of Prince Otomo in the section of the succession of Tenchi and Tenmu, but says that 'Prince Otomo became an emperor and died as an emperor,' and 'this prince held the post of Grand Minister and became the emperor in the same year.'

With such a lot of descriptions, it can be concluded that in the Heian period the enthronement of Prince Otomo was generally accepted as a fact. However, it cannot be denied that the Heian period was centuries after the Jinshin War in the 7th century, and a large quantity of such descriptions can be partly attributed to "Fuso Ryakki" (A Brief History of Japan). "Okagami" (the Great Mirror) contains an erroneous description that Prince Otomo became Emperor Tenmu, and there is a question about its reliability as a historical document. "Mizu Kagami" also contains erroneous descriptions, saying that Tenchi went missing and two days later Price Otomo was enthroned. The sudden enthronement was questionable because it was much different from those of the preceding and succeeding emperors.

Compilation policy of "Chronicles of Japan"

The most detailed and oldest historical material regarding the Jinshin War that still exists today is "Chronicles of Japan." "Chronicles of Japan" says that Emperor Tenchi was followed by Emperor Tenmu and does not mention the enthronement of Prince Otomo. The Prince Otomo enthronement theory considers that a compiler of "Chronicles of Japan" deleted the fact of the enthronement of Prince Otomo intentionally.

Volume 27 of "Chronicles of Japan" deals with the period of Emperor Tenchi, volumes 28 and 29, the period of Emperor Tenmu and the last volume 30, the period of Emperor Jito. Volume 28 deals with only the first year of Emperor Tenmu and volume 29 deals with the remaining 14 years. The first year of Emperor Tenmu in "Chronicles of Japan" is the year of the Jinshin War that occurred from June to July. This is the only instance in "Chronicles of Japan" that an entire volume is allocated to one year. It is clear that the Jinshin War was regarded as a particularly important incidence in the compilation of "Chronicles of Japan".

It is considered that, like the Taika Reforms, this war was recognized as an important incidence that characterized the 'new era' at the time of compilation of the Chronicles. Also, the compilers were probably motivated to legitimate the Emperor's family line. Imperial Prince Toneri, son of Tenmu, led the compilers of "Chronicles of Japan" and the emperor at the time of its completion was Empress Gensho, a grandchild of Tenmu, so the Tenmu family held the Imperial Throne during the compilation of the Chronicles. There is a high possibility that any fact that could be a reproach to Emperor Tenmu was not recorded. It is known that the government erased undesirable facts from "Shoku Nihongi" (Chronicle of Japan Continued), and they seemed to consider that it was better than making up lies.

However, only two imperial family members, Price Otomo and Yamabe no Okimi, died in the war, and all the other imperial family members related to Emperor Tenchi, including Kadono no Okimi, son of Otomo, stayed in the imperial court. There were also many who survived the war, including low- and middle-ranking government officials. Since the imperial family and vassals were expected to read "Chronicles of Japan," some pointed out that it seemed difficult for the compilers to deny well-known facts.

A fact that the contents of "Chronicles of Japan" were unreliable may support the conclusion that its authenticity was unknown, but it cannot lead to such conclusions that the contrary to the descriptions of "Chronicles of Japan" was true or imaginations of advocates were true. It is possible to doubt descriptions of "Chronicles of Japan" and deny the enthronement of Prince Otomo as well. Other materials are necessary to advocate the enthronement theory positively.

Tai sui (an imaginary star directly opposite to Jupiter) articles and "Chronicles of Japan" falsifying theory

"Chronicles of Japan" says that the year of the Jinshin War is the first year of Emperor Tenmu and the enthronement of Emperor Tenmu was February 27 in the second year of Emperor Tenmu. This statement seemed contradictory but it was common description for some emperors; for example, Emperor Tenchi was enthroned in the 7th year of his reign and Empress Jito was enthroned in the 4th year of her reign. Since this is a matter of the policy of chronology of "Chronicles of Japan," it was not directly associated with the issue of the enthronement of Prince Otomo.

A theory that the compilers of "Chronicles of Japan" originally placed the first year of Emperor Tenmu following the year of Jinshin (or Mizunoe-saru, one of the Oriental Zodiac) was developed based on the policy of compilation. If such chronological order was determined from the very start of compiling "Chronicles of Japan," it can be estimated that the first year of Emperor Tenmu was designated for the next year of Jinshin not because it was the year of enthronement but because the Jinshin year was under the reign of another emperor.

The Chronicles of Japan falsifying theory advocated by Nobutomo BAN says that Chronicles of Japan was actually completed in 714 and falsified (revised) in 720, which was generally believed as the year of completion. Ban considered a fact that the tai sui article appeared in the second year of Emperor Tenmu as an evidence of revision. The tai sui article of "Chronicles of Japan" shows the Oriental zodiac of a year by generally stating 'the tai sui of this year was xx' at the end of the article of the first year of the emperor. In case of Tenmu, however, the statement appeared at the end of the second year instead of the first year. Ban pointed out that this indicates that the year following the Jinshin year was originally designated as the first year of Emperor Tenmu which was concluded with the tai sui article, but the article was left when the first year of Emperor Tenmu was changed to the prior year.

Ban also pointed out other evidences that revision was not organized properly; for example, Prince Oama was variously referred to as 'kotaishi (crown prince),' 'kotaitei (the younger brother of an Emperor who is heir apparent),' or 'togu' in Tenchi Tenno ki and Tenmu Tenno ki, and a story that Prince Oama declined the Imperial Throne and became a priest appeared twice in different volumes.

Sadakichi KIDA criticized this theory by pointing out that the Jinshin year was the first year of an emperor's reign whether "Chronicles of Japan" was revised or not. According to the rule of the tai sui of the first year, the Jinshin year was the first year of Emperor Kobun even if it was not the first year of Emperor Tenmu, and the tai sui article should have been placed in the Jinshin year in "Chronicles of Japan" before revision. A careless mistake in forgetting deletion may be acceptable, but it was not understandable that the tai sui article was erased from where it could be left untouched.

In consideration of that fact, it is natural to think that the tai sui article did not appear in the first year not because it was overlooked, but because it was edited in such a way from the beginning. The tai sui article was written for convenience of readers, and there was no direct relationship between the Oriental zodiac and the enthronement. It was considered to be an irregular description due to an exceptional edition of allocating an entire volume to the Jinshin year.

Ten emperors from the Minister of the Center' in "Shoku Nihongi" (Chronicle of Japan Continued)

"Shoku Nihongi" (Chronicle of Japan Continued) written in the Nara period says that when Emperor Junnin gave the name of EMI no Oshikatsu to FUJIWARA no Nakamaro in 758, the emperor praised the Fujiwara clan for their achievements by stating in the imperial order, 'almost a hundred years from the days of the Minister of the Center at Imperial Palace Omi Otsu no Miya (omitted) through the reigns of ten emperors.'
Since this 'Minister of the Center' refers to FUJIWARA no Kamatari and Imperial Palace Omi Otsu no Miya was a capital established by Emperor Tenchi, there are only nine emperors during the said period, namely, Tenchi, Tenmu, Jito, Monmu, Genmei, Gensho, Shomu, Koken, and Junnin. If Emperor Otomo is included, the number of emperors is ten.

There is a different opinion that if Prince Kusakabe is included, the number of emperors is ten.

The eighth year of enthronement in Kanoetatsu' in an inscription on Yakushiji Toto (East Pagoda)

In the East Pagoda of Yakushiji Temple in Nara, there is a roban (dew basin at the bottom of a pagoda finial) with an inscription 'in the eighth year of the enthronement of His Majesty the Emperor at Kiyohara no Miya, the year of Koshin.'
Since Kiyohara no Miya refers to Asuka Kiyomihara no Miya, this 'Emperor' is Emperor Tenmu. The year of Koshin (or Kanoe-tatsu, one of the Oriental Zodiac) of Emperor Tenmu is 680. If the Jinshin year (672) is the first year of Emperor Tenmu as described in "Chronicles of Japan," the Koshin year is the ninth year. If the first year is Kiyu (or Mizunoto-tori, one of the Oriental Zodiac) (673), the Koshin year is the eighth year and it is consistent with the inscription. This is a proof that the first year of Emperor Tenmu was considered to be the Kiyu year in the period of Emperor Jito when the inscription was made, and that "Chronicles of Japan" modified the calculated number of years. Katsushika KUSAKABE pointed this out first.

However, "Chronicles of Japan" says that the enthronement occurred in the second year of Emperor Tenmu, or the Kiyu year, and that the first year was the Jinshin year, the description of 'in the eighth year of the enthronement' does not contradict the contents of "Chronicles of Japan."

'The will of heaven was not implemented' in "Kaifuso"

"Kaifuso" written in the Nara period described a story of Prince Otomo sympathetically and, unlike "Chronicles of Japan," it called Prince Otomo 'crown prince', but it did not refer to him as an emperor or describe that he was enthroned. Otomo was called 'crown prince' repeatedly in the story. "Kaifuso" contains an episode of Kadono no Okimi, son of Otomo, who was described as 'the oldest son of Prince Otomo'.

Yoshiomi TANIMORI considered that the fact that "Kaifuso" referred to Emperor Tenchi as Tankai Ex-Emperor suggests presence of Tankai Post-Emperor and the enthronement of Prince Otomo. Nobutomo BAN argued that the preface declared that "Kaifuso" contained poems 'from Tankai to Heito,' but Prince Otomo was the only one poet of the Tankai (Omi) period, indicating that this one was the emperor. "Kaifuso" says that 'the will of heaven was not implemented' when Prince Otomo died, and there is a theory that states that the 'the will of heaven' means the position of the emperor.

It is well known in the field of ancient history that advocates can make various interpretations to their advantage by using this kind of cipher theory, so it is not regarded as an academic approach anymore.

History of theories

The first thesis that covered a history of theories on the enthronement of Prince Otomo was 大友天皇考Study of Emperor Otomo, a thesis covering "Dainihonshi" (Great history of Japan) by Kojiro HIRADE, published in 1897. Based on this thesis, "Study history: Jinshin War" by Ryosaku HOSHINO detailed the studies up to modern times and is the most important literary work today.

Edo period

The first literary work that advocated the enthronement theory based on historical investigations was "Teio Rekisu Zu" written by Kassho NABA in 1624 in the Edo period. The text was lost, but his autobiography remains. It says that "Chronicles of Japan," "Kaifuso" and a Koshi Jijoshi document indicated that Prince Otomo was an emperor. The Koshi Jijoshi document is an unknown document. Since 'Emperor Otomo' was not found in "Chronicles of Japan" and "Kaifuso," it was considered that the conclusion was made based on some proofs, but details were unknown because the text was lost.

"Dainihonshi" (Great history of Japan) compiled by order of Mitsukuni TOKUGAWA contained a history of Emperor Otomo as one of its 'three characteristics'. Few chroniclers opposed to the Otomo enthronement theory in the Mito Province. Since the enthronement was just a theory, the history could be edited without mentioning it, but the history of Otomo was compiled according to the strong intention of Mitsukuni.

Katsushika KUSAKABE wrote "Yakushiji Satsumei Shaku (Interpretation of Inscription of Yakushiji Temple)" in 1794 and pointed out the existence of the inscription "the eighth year of enthronement, Boshin" on the East Pagoda of Yakushiji Temple, noted that the tai sui article of the history of Tenmu was in the second year instead of the first year, and asserted that if the Jinshin year was not an interregnum, Otomo had the Imperial Throne.

Kotosuga TANIGAWA opposed to the enthronement theory and doubted the worth of Mizu Kagami as a historical material in "Zoku Dainihonshi Shiki" (a commentary on Japanese history) in 1774 and asserted that it was inconceivable that a state ceremony of enthronement was held immediately after the death of the emperor even in a turbulent age, not to mention the war immediately followed the ceremony. Yoshiki KONDO authored "Theories of Legitimacy" in 1829, put forward a theory that the Jinshin year was an interregnum, and argued that interpretation of the inscription of Yakushiji Temple and the tai sui article did not necessarily follow that Otomo was enthroned.

The final authoritative edition of the study of the Jinshin War in the Edo period is said to be "Nagara no Yamakaze" (The Mountain Wind of Nagara: a detailed commentary on Chronicles of Japan) written by Nobutomo BAN. Ban advocated a Chronicles of Japan falsifying theory in "Hikobae" (Essays on Study of Historical Artefacts), and based on this theory he argued the enthronement theory in "Nagara no Yamakaze," supposing that the first year of Emperor Otomo was established in "Chronicles of Japan" in 714. Ban also argued that "Kaifuso" was formulated not to disclose the fact of the enthronement.

All points at issue that support the enthronement theory were shown in the book by Ban and the Prince Otomo enthronement theory became a common view. Since general history books, such as "Nihon Seiki", supported the Prince Otomo enthronement theory, the enthronement of Prince Otomo was a prevailing view among intellectuals at the end of the Edo period and in the early Meiji period.

From the Meiji period to World War II

On July 23, 1870, the young Meiji government gave posthumous titles of Emperor Kobun, Emperor Junnin, and Emperor Chukyo to Otomo Tei, Dethroned Emperor (Awaji) and Dethroned Emperor Kujo, respectively. It was an offer of posthumous titles to three emperors, not an act to acknowledge them as emperors by giving such titles. Since it was clear that Junnin and Chukyo were emperors without posthumous titles, there was no problem, but the existence of 'Otomo Tei' was only based on theories. People inside and outside government presented dissenting opinions, but the government did not accept them because they were a minority.

In 1904, Sadakichi KIDA published a thesis 'the history of Emperor Otomo with precedents of succession of empresses to the Imperial Throne' to suggest that there was a possibility that an empress was put up in the Jinshin year. Kida criticized the "Chronicles of Japan" falsifying theory in this thesis and argued that double mistakes could not be made at the same time: the unnecessary tai sui in the second year of Emperor Tenmu was not deleted and the necessary tai sui Jinshin was deleted erroneously.

Kida argued the Yamatohime no Okimi enthronement theory and the Yamatohime no Okimi enthronement or Shosei theory became a dominant theory in the academic world. However, when Kida lost his job due to Nanbokucho-Seijunron (argument on legitimacy of either Northern or Southern Dynasty) in 1911, the Yamatohime no Okimi enthronement or Shosei theory similar to that argument was also criticized. Kida developed his theory further and published a thesis 'Go Tankai no miya Gyo Tenno theory' in 1922. In response to this, Katsumi KUROITA argued in 1932 that a rough outline of Kida's thesis was acceptable but there was no proof of the enthronement, and assumed Shosei (ruling without official accession to the Chrysanthemum Throne).

Enthronement theory and theory of justification/Emperor system

The enthronement theory was considered to be associated with the morals of advocates in the Edo period to 1945. Kassho NABA who argued the enthronement first asserted that his theory followed the precedent of justification of Shu Emperor and put forward the theory of justification of Sogaku (Neo-Confucianism). Most advocates of the Prince Otomo enthronement theory criticized Emperor Tenmu as a criminal and blamed opponents who did not make such criticism by saying that such attitude could lead to acceptance of treason. The advocates of the non-enthronement theory, on the other hand, blamed opponents by saying that it was insolent that commoners gave titles of emperors.

Various ideological theories were advocated before the early Meiji period, but none of them were judged correct as long as they were academic disputes. The Prince Otomo enthronement theory was approved by the government in 1872 simply because it was a dominant theory at that time. Government officials did not consider the non-enthronement theory irreverent during discussion.

Once posthumous titles were given to emperors, however, the opponents to the enthronement of Emperor Kobun were doomed to be opponents to the judgment of Emperor Meiji. In Japan in those days, calm discussions were possible only within the academic circle of history, but there was no academic freedom outside the circle, and the government, politicians, shintoists and newspapers attacked the impiety of scholars. When advancing the Yamatohime no Okimi enthronement theory, Kida had to defend his theory from the allegation of irreverence by making a lame excuse. Scholars were dispirited and did not respond to the Yamatohime no Okimi enthronement theory actively.

After the World War II

The taboo on issues of the Imperial Throne was eliminated after the World War II. However, since the urgent task for historians was elimination of the Kokoku Shikan (emperor-centered historiography which is based on state Shinto), the priority of succession to the Imperial Throne decreased. The difference between the enthronement theory and the non-enthronement theory is whether the ceremony of the enthronement was held, or when it was held. Historians considered that it was important that Prince Otomo ruled the imperial court and the Jinshin War occurred regarding to the succession to the Imperial Throne, and whether formal enthronement was performed was a trivial problem.

Takashi TANAKA who supported the Kokoku Shikan kept his interest in the issue of the Imperial Throne and picked up the issue of succession after the war. Tanaka published a thesis that denied the theory that 'Chutenno' was Yamatohime no Okimi, which was the basis of argument of the Yamatohime no Okimi enthronement theory and got the issue back to where it was at the start.

Many studies were made on the Jinshin War, its various aspects were discussed actively, and the enthronement issue was also considered. By that time, the criticism of the Chronicles of Japan falsifying theory by Kida and the criticism of the Yamatohime no Okimi emperor theory by Tanaka had become common perception. No researchers supported the Prince Otomo enthronement theory. However, since the reliability of descriptions of "Chronicles of Japan" did not increase, the dispute regarding the enthronement theory was not solved, and was left to the conjecture of scholars. Kojiro NAOKI who led the studies of the Jinshin War after the war supported the Prince Otomo Shosei theory, which became the mainstream. Mitsuo TOYAMA advocated the Yamatohime no Okimi enthronement theory again in the 1990's and Kazuhiro KURAMOTO asserted a theory in the 2000's that the Jinshin War broke out when the enthronement of Yamatohime no Okimi was planned, resulting in revival of the Yamatohime no Okimi enthronement and Shosei theories with the background of a relay successor empress theory, and the issue was still unsettled.

If Emperor Kobun was excluded, the number of generation of emperors was shifted by one, and it has an influence on the number of generation of the current emperor. This is the reason why enthronement/non-enthronement was regarded important before the war. There are many other emperors whose number of generation was uncertain, and historians have to admit that the number of generation was a matter of political decision. The numbers are not changed by theories in the study of history after the war, and Emperor Kobun is the 39th emperor in the genealogy and chart.