The Taika Reform Edicts
Translated by W.G. Aston, Nihongi (London: Kegan, Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1896), 197-227

The Role of the Emperor

   Autumn, 8th month, 14th day.

An edict was issued, saying,

   "Going back to the origin of things, we find that it is Heaven and Earth with the male and female principles of nature, which guard the four seasons from mutual confusion. We find, more over, that it is this Heaven and Earth which produces the ten thousand things. Amongst these ten thousand things Man is the most miraculously gifted. Among the most miraculously gifted beings, the sage takes the position of ruler. Therefore the Sage Rulers, that is, the Emperors, take Heaven as their model in ruling the World, and never for a moment dismiss from their breasts the thought of how men shall gain their fit place. . . ."

The Monarchy and the People

   Summer, 4th month, 29th day.

   An edict was issued as follows,

   "The Empire was entrusted (by the Sun-Goddess to her descendants, with the words) 'My children, in their capacity as Deities, shall rule it.' For this reason, this country, since Heaven and Earth began, has been a monarchy. From the time that Our Imperial ancestor first ruled the land, there has been great concord in the Empire, and there has never been any factiousness. In recent times, however, the names, first of the Gods, and then of the Emperors, have in some cases been separated (from their proper application) and converted into the Uji of Omi or Muraji, or they have been separated and made the qualifications of Miyakko, etc. In consequence of this, the minds of the people of the whole country take a strong partisan bias, and conceiving a deep sense of the "me" and "you," hold firmly each to their names. Moreover the feeble and incompetent Omi, Muraji, Tomo no Miyakko  and Kuni no Miyakko  make of such names their family names; and so the names of Gods and the names of sovereigns are applied to persons and places in an unauthorized manner, in accordance with the bent of their own feelings. Now, by using the names of Gods and the names of sovereigns as bribes, they draw to themselves the slaves of others, and so bring dishonor upon unspotted names.

   The consequence is that the minds of the people have become unsettled and the government of the country cannot be carried on. The duty has therefore now devolved on Us in Our capacity as Celestial Divinity, to regulate and settle these things. In order to make them understood, and thereby to order the State and to order the people, We shall issue, one after another, a succession of edicts, one earlier, another later, one to-day and another to-morrow. But the people, who have always trusted in the civilizing influence exercised by the Emperors, and who are used to old customs, will certainly find it hard to wait until these edicts are made. We shall therefore remit to all, from Princes and Ministers down to the common people of all classes, the tax in lieu of service."