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1940—A YEAR OF SINGULAR IMPORTANCE The year 1940 was the 2,600th anniversary of the accession of the first Emperor of Japan, Emperor Jinmu in 660 B.C. The event was entirely mythical; yet, remarkably, the government of Japan was organized under a constitution of 1889which accepted the event as historical. The unbroken succession of Emperors from Emperor Jinmu was the explicit basis for Japanese imperial sovereignty. His accession was recorded in two works of historical writingunrivaled in authority, Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters, 712 A.D.), and Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan, 720 A.D.). How these works came into being, and how they shaped Japanese thinking throughout history, is the main subject of this study. It was one thing for the government of Japan to celebrate the anniversary of the mythicalfirst Emperor; it was quite another for the historians of the day to acquiesce in the event. Scientific history entered Japan from the West in the late nineteenth century, and by 1940it was clear to Japanese historians that the first histories, Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, were not authentic records of the past. Japanese historians knew very well that the story of Emperor Jinmu was a concoction made by unknown people, and recorded as fact in those two works. Yet none of the great historians ofJapan spoke a word to that effect. A single scholar at Waseda University, Tsuda Sokichi (1873-1961) had published works sceptical ofthe alleged facts ofancient history; for this he was brought to trial in 1941 on a charge of insulting the dignity of the imperial house. There were many reasons why historians were silent upon the subject, chiefly the power of nationalism in a time of crisis, and the power of the 1 2 POLITICAL THOUGHT IN JAPANESE HISTORICAL WRITING state to silence criticismofthe basis of imperial sovereignty. In this work we turn to athird, the power ofthe tradition ofJapanese political thought in historical writing. ...


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