7th c.- 9th c. rivalry of the ritualist clans, and rituals of the royal court

Kogo Shūi (古語拾遺) is a historical record of the Inbe clan of Japan written in the early Heian period (794–1185). It was composed by Inbe no Hironari in 807 using material transmitted orally over several generations of the Inbe clan. Historically, both the Inbe and Nakatomi clans had long performed religious services for the Japanese imperial court.

It seems that until 645 CE, there were two clans of Shinto ritualists: the Inbe  (who traced their descent to the kami Ame no Futodama no Mikoto) and the Nakatomi (who traced their descent to the kami Ame no Koyane no Mikoto), each of which were seen as political equals.

At the time of the Kogo Shui’s composition, Nakatomi had gained supremacy as priests in the eyes of the imperial court. Nakatomi clan members were ranked higher than those of the Inbe. However, at the beginning of the Heian period, the Fujiwara clan, whom the Nakatomi clan are a branch of, seized political power. This strengthened the Nakatomi clan while weakening the Inbe clan and caused conflict between the two clans.

The Inbe clan composed the Kogo Shui as a response to their having lost political favor and support at the Imperial court. Compiled by Inbe no Hironari the Kogo Shui presented to Emperor Heizei  (September 29, 774 – August 9, 824) in 807 CE. , the text is written with the intent of clarifying the history and of legitimizing the rights of the Inbe clan as well as to underline the injustice of the Nakatomi clan and decline of the Inbe clan.

The Kogo Shui contains a number of legends and other events that the Inbe believed had been overlooked by the imperial court when determining the amount of authority that could be granted to the Inbe. The latter part of the work describes eleven different grievances that the Inbe bear against the Nakatomi.

The authenticity of the Kogo Shui

The historical events described within the Kogo Shūi are nearly identical with those found in Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, the oldest written histories of Japan. However, there are several events unique to the text, so the Kogo Shūi serves as a valuable source of early Japanese history not found in the national histories.

The Kogo Shui is an important ancient work that serves as a supplement to the Nihon Shoki. At its core, the Kogo Shui is a collection of basic legends that have parallels in the Nihon Shoki or Kojiki.

The texts purport that the legends recorded within are unchanged from their 7th century preservation by the Inbe clan. Thus, the text not only serves as a testament to the history of the Inbe clan, but as a companion text, that corroborates the mythological and genealogical context, if not the content of the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki, thus confirming the latter two works as authentic texts of the royal court.

Linguistically, the text contains a large number of old words written in man’yōgana which make it a valuable resource for studying Old Japanese.

The text consists of three major sections:

  1. The historical events of clan ancestor Amenofutodama no Mikoto and his grandson Amamito no Mikoto.
  2. A description of the national history from Emperor Jinmu through Emperor Tenmu.
  3. Eleven points of discontent with the Nakatomi clan and the decline of the Inbe clan



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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