The following passages have been excerpted from Andreea IONESCU’s “The Descent of the Japanese Patriarch: from History to Literary Representations” Cultural Intertexts Year 1 Vol. 1-2/2014 58
To this ends, it seems important to depict the historical context portrayed in which the two novels is set, as well as the mental patterns centred on the emperor’s persona which were about to be shattered in order to create a reference point for the allusions to the descent of the embedded father figures. Added will be references to how the Japanese society is constructed on the metaphor of the parent-child relationship
The rise of the imperial court
The myth that surrounds the Mikado of Japan started in the 8th century after the capital moved to Nara.
Following a Chinese political model, the power of the Mikado grew with every new measure or reform. Not only politics and economy flourished during those times but also religion or the arts. Of even greater importance was the advance in the art of architecture. This was intimately associated with Buddhism, a cult which demanded stately temples and pagodas for its due exercise. The increased authority of the court also required edifices more befitting its dignity and more in consonance with its gorgeous costumes and ceremonial adopted from China than the old one-reign palaces (Aston 1907: 18). The newly gained power, the fantastic elegance of the court and its aweinspiring costumes which could layer up to 20 kimonos worn at a time, each one longer than the previous, together with the introduction of the new administrative edifices imposed throughout Japan, a measure never encountered before, brought about a need to justify all this extravagance to the lower classes and to the world. To this purpose, the Mikado commanded that a chronicle of the birth of Japan be written, which would explain his superiority. In this manner, “the first written book which has come down to us in Japanese, or indeed in any Turanian tongue” (Aston 1907: 18) was created. Roughly translated as Records of Ancient Matters, the Kojiki begins with the creation of the world and, naturally, of the islands of Japan as well. It also includes details on how many of the Shinto deities, the gods of the official religion in Japan, were conceived, what part of nature they governed or how they died. Thus, everything in creation is explained, from the existence of their gods to the foundation of the Japanese nation. Last but not least it proves an interest even in how poetry was invented and why it should be as respected as always. The chronicle is a mixture of legend and fact, beginning with myth and then turning to real history. Despite starting with a series of legends which follow the adventures of the most important Shinto gods, there is a transition to reality at a certain moment, when after a long period of reigning in the skies, the Sun-Goddess, Amaterasu, sends one of her grandsons to earth. He decides that he should remain here and becomes the first emperor of Japan, the great-grandfather of the ruling emperor at the time the Kojiki was written. From this tale, it becomes clear why the Mikado should be held in such esteem, why he should be entitled to command any way he might choose, and why every wish he might have has to be respected: he is the direct descendant of Amaterasu, the Sun goddess. As a leading figure among the Shinto gods, Amaterasu, who is the sun itself, is the very essence of the Japanese people. She is the reason why there is an image of the sun on the national banner, and why Japan is the country of the rising sun. It would only be fair therefore that the Mikado, as the grandson of the sun, be allowed any desired amount of power (see Nakane 1973)