New Year’s Day Taika Reform Edict

(646)

Context

Beginning in the fourth century, there was a dramatic increase in contact between Japan and the Asian continent, leading to the introduction of Buddhism, Chinese-style writing, and eventually a Chinese-style government. During this period Japan was a loose confederation of uji, which maintained top government positions and regulated their own lands throughout Japan. One such uji, the Soga, increased its influence in Japan by choosing the succession of the imperial family. Soga support of the newly introduced religion of Buddhism and the clan’s control of the imperial family led to conflicts with other prominent uji, the most important conflict being a military victory over the Mononobe uji in 587. This victory led to the increase of Soga power within the imperial court, placing clan members in important government positions.

The Soga uji, as part of its control over the imperial court, appointed Prince Shotoku as regent in 593. Prince Shotoku tried to end the...