AS201 Japan: Age of the Gods/Kojiki Myths
Plain of High Heaven =Takamagahara
Izanagi (Male) and Izanami (Female) Deities
give birth to many deities, including the brother and sister pair of:
Amaterasu-no-Omikoto (Sun Goddess) and
Susu-no-O (Storm God)
[Makes one think about the Wei Records that report Himiko being assisted by a younger brother...]
Ninigi-no-mikoto, Amaterasu's Grandson
Given 3 Sacred Treasures: Mirror, Sword, Jewels
and told to "Pacify the Land"
Ninigi's Grandson allegedly becomes Japan's first emperor, Emperor Jimmu or Jimmu tennô, as he is called later...but Jimmu is not historically verifiable;
and he definitely did not emerge as a ruler in 660 BC!! 660 BCE was still late Neolithic times in the Japanese archipelago--no agriculture, no large communities, no social stratification, no elites, no elaborate burial mounds--pretty much an egalitarian hunting, gathering, foraging society.
Perhaps Emperor Sujin is first verifiable ruler but most likely he ruled in the Third Century AD, between 219-249, not 97-30 BC as official chronology would have it. Also known as Mimaki Iri-biko; his "Mimaki line" continued to rule through the next 4 monarchs: Suinin, Keiko, Seimu and Chuai. Then a new line starting with Empress Jingu comes to rule...but is she fictitious? Inserted into the chronology to resemble Himiko? But she is followed by the indisputable early ruler Ojin, or Homuda Wake, followed by his son, Nintoku whose tomb is the largest in Japan. This lineage seems to be closely associated with Mimana or Kaya/Gaya on the tip of the Korean Peninsula; sometimes thought to be a Puyo aristocrat from Kokguryo.
As Kidder notes, "The construction of large mounded tombs in Japan is too coincidental with the break up of the Han dynasty (AD 220) not to be related. Some mound builders are undoubtedly among the new migrants, but without doubt, by the end of the Yayoi period, tribal groups had coalesced under security needs, the power of chieftans had become greatly inflated with land acquisitions and access to or control of metal resources, and the chieftans or their associates had gained stature by exercising their special relationship to the kami. This last was a view promoted by the rising professional class of diviners. Collections of tribes in the major population centers of north Kyushu, Izumo, Kibi, and the Kinki were under Yamato pressure to join the larger confederacy. The Wa then got their first chief among chieftans (Ôkimi), called Sujin tennô by later writers. All of this centralization of power set the stage for the building of the tombs." (J. Edward Kidder, Himiko and Japan's Elusive Chiefdom, p. 274) As Silla was stepping up its attacks on Koguryo and Paekche, the situation on the peninsula was destabilized and many elites and their followers were looking for more fortuitous cirdumstances.
And later he writes: "Princess Yamato-totohi-momoso, the aunt of Emperor Sujin, the female shaman to whom the Hashikaka Tomb is attributed, fits the time period in my view." (281)
So Kidder would place Princess Himiko in the thriving Makimuku community where the first mounded tombs were built and what must have been the most thriving political commmunity of its day, as well as the hub of a substantial trading network. (Ibid.)
Gina Barnes fundamentally agrees with Kidder that the Makimuku and later Miwa courts were constituted on the basis of ritual authority, hence the role of a shaman priestess would be central. She concludes, as does Kidder, that probably the Yamatai location mentioned in the Wei Chronicles and the female ruler Himiko can be equated with Princess Yamato who was related to the Sujin line of rulers who built tombs in the southwestern Nara Basin, and is the person buried in the Hashihaka Tomb. This sounds convincing to me though, there are other theories! See Peter Metevelis' ideas below, for example.
Brief Summary from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himiko:
Researchers have struggled to reconcile Himiko/Pimiko between the Chinese and Japanese historical sources above. While the Wei Zhi described her as an important ruler in 3rd-century Japan, early Japanese historians purposely avoided naming Himiko, even when the Nihon Shoki quoted the Wei Zhi about envoys from Wa....
In Japanese historical and archeological periodization, the 2nd–3rd century era of Queen Himiko was between late Yayoi period and early Kofun period.Kofun (古墳 "old tumulus") refers to characteristic keyhole-shaped burial mounds, and the Wei Zhi noting "a great mound was raised, more than a hundred paces in diameter" for Pimiko's tomb, may well be the earliest written record of a kofun. Several archeological excavations of Yayoi and Kofun sites in kinki region, have revealed Chinese-style bronze mirrors, called shinju-kyo (神獣鏡 "mirror decorated with gods and animals"). Many scholars who support the Kinki theory associate these shinju-kyo with the "one hundred bronze mirrors" that the Wei Zhi (Tsunoda 1951, p. 15) records Emperor Cao Rui presented to Queen Himiko, while other scholars oppose it (Edwards 1998, 1999). Hashihaka kofun in Sakurai, Nara was given a recent boost by radio-carbon dating circa 240–60 (Japan Times 2009). The early Chinese records of Himiko/Pimiko and her Yamatai polity remain something of aRorschach test. To different interpreters, this early Japanese shaman queen can appear as evidence of: communalism (Marxists), Jōmon priestess rulers (Feminist history), Japanese conquest of Korea (Akima 1993), Mongolian conquest of Japan (Namio Egami's "horserider theory"), the imperial system originating with tandem rule by a female shaman and male monarch (Mori 1979), the "patriarchal revolution" replacing female deities and priestesses with male counterparts (Ellwood 1990), or a shamanic advisor to the federation of Wa chieftains who "must have looked like a ruling queen to Chinese envoys" (Matsumoto 1983).
Also, an online site points out that Critical analysis of Japanese, Chinese and Korean history books and some of the scripts originating from contemporary relics, researchers have come to a plausible theory that Emperor Sujin, the 10th emperor mentioned by Nihon Shoki, must have been the real founder of Japan. A monumental burial mound of Emperor Sujin still exists in Yanagimoto in the south-east area of Nara Basin or Yamato Basin. It was built in the first half of the fourth century AD.
The Hokenoyama kofun was built in the middle of 3rd century and is one of the tumuli of its type. . .Scholars share the view that these tumuli belong to the Yamato state under the first Emperors. But, to the south of Emperor Sujin's grave, in the Makimuku area, there are several older graves of the same shape, the oldest of them was built already in the second century AD, but with a particular design common only to those old mounds, and many people wonder whether the largest of those graves might belong to Himiko.
Anyhow, the latest discoveries in Makimuku, the neighborhood of those old graves, indicate that there was a large settlement with monumental constructions in the third century. Many people believe that the long lasting discussion, whether Himiko's "Yamatai" existed in North Kyushu or in Kinki District, came to an end with the conclusion that Himiko lived in Nara Basin and not in North Kyushu. [Note below that Peter Metevelis takes exception to this conclusion. It's always fun when scholars do not fully agree!]
However, it is clear that the Japanese state or polity began its existence in the fourth century with its power center on the Eastern fringe of Nara Basin. There are at least four huge tumuli around here and they must belong to the kings from that time. They are "Hashihaka", "Nishi-Tonozuka", "Andon-Yama" (Grave of the first Emperor Sujin) and "Shibuya-Mukaiyama" (Grave of the third (or second) Emperor Keikô). If we agree that Emperors Sujin and Keikô were buried in the two newer tumuli, the question remains as to which kings were buried in the other two older tumuli.
|Name||Time of construction||Length||Height||Burried person|
|Hashihaka||Second half of 3C||278||30||Himiko?|
|Nishi-Tonozuka||Late 3C or early 4C||234|
|Andon-Yama||First half of 4C||242||23||Emperor Sujin|
|Shibuya-Mukaiyama||Second half of 4C||310||23||Emperor Keikô|
Adapted from: http://www.ocada.jp/provinces/yamatai.php
Ôjin Tenno 270-310, some 20 years later, might also be a strong candidate for the earliest Japanese monarch; he might have been a renegade Puyo aristocrat who came over from Paekche or Koguryo and took over the Sujin line and moved its base from Kyushu to the Yamato Plain...
Peter Metevelis in his Japanese Mythology and the Primeval World: A Comparative Symbolic Approach, takes a slightly different tack where he argues that Yamataikoku WAS, in fact, located in Kyushu, but it should not to be confused with the Yamato polity located in the Nara Basin in Kinai. He proposes a four stage process beginning in 228 when Sujin (r. 219-249?) consolidates power in the Kinai Region, and in the second phase, he and his allies march through western Honshu consolidating power further. In the third phase, the monarch we know as Keikô continues the consolidation all the way down to Kyushu swallowing up the Yamatai capital in the process. In the final phase, in 300-350 CE, Yamato even had influence and sway on the Korean Peninsula. This theory would make Himiko an influential “Kumaso Queen” who may have sent envoys to China pretending they represented the Yamato Court as well; or maybe they were not even masquerading as anything but simply advancing their cause as one of the important contending kingdoms in Wa. She may have been stimulated to do so by Sujin’s menacing consolidating victories on Honshu. So, in Metevelis' view, Yamatai was by no means an embryonic Yamato and Yamato was no successor to Yamatai. Rather, Yamato was a competing power with Himiko's Yamatai that eventually devoured it.
Metevelis theorizes that in the early fifth century, the imperial court confidently moved out of the Nara Basin, the site where the original consolidation had occurred at Makimuku, and into the open plains area around Osaka. This gave them access to intercourse with Korean Peninsula and China. Yamato’s power peaked under Nintoku (r. 395-427), the son of Ôjin, whose zenpô-kôen tomb, the largest in Japan and possibly the largest in the world, but he may have been outmaneuvered by the skilled horsemanship and statecraft of Koguryô horseman and lost some power.
Yuryaku tenno from 456-479 AD or possibly even as late as
Keitai Tenno 507-531 is the first of the monarchs to rule at the Asuka Court or palace, an historically verifable site. Possibly, he came to power AFTER the early Japanese state had formed and it was hi-jacked by people with superior military technology and state-building experience...possibly an immigrant group from the Korean Peninsula.
How interesting the times surrounding the fifth century have proved to later historians, but what a curse to have lived then. Around the Roman Empire, barbarian invasions were plunging Western civilization into what would become a half-millennium Dark Age. In the East, the even more powerful Han dynasty of China had crumbled into "The Sixteen Kingdoms" before the onslaught of horsemen from central and northern Asia. But from the ensuing chaos, in a previously remote and underdeveloped archipelago, was launched a potentially powerful new state -- the Yamato kingdom of Japan.
A Chinese chronicle compiled in A.D. 297 refers to the inhabitants of the Japanese islands simply as the Wa -- literally, "The Little People" -- and describes a fragmented political structure of more than a hundred separate tribes, nominally ruled by a female shaman, Queen Himiko (meaning "Sun Daughter"). Scarcely two centuries later, however, by the reign of Emperor Keitai (c. A.D. 507-531), a strong central government had emerged on the Yamato Plain, near present-day Nara, ruled by an aristocracy of horse riding warriors. But where did they come from?
Everyone agrees, for instance, that during the early fifth century (Ojin's time) large numbers of people from the Korean peninsula did come to Japan, bringing with them a multitude of new skills and customs. A dramatic change is seen in pottery, which changes from soft, homemade, low-fired pots to a hard stoneware, known as Sue pottery m fired at temperatures of more than 1,000°C and turned out on wheels by professional craftsmen. And in some early fifth century noblemen's tombs, archeologists have found a few trappings associated with horseriding.
But the great burst of horseriding gear and clay effigies (haniwa) of horses does not appear in the tombs until the latter half of the fifth century. If either Sujin or Ojin were a leader of conquering horsemen, one would expect more horse trappings in tombs from their era. That point forms the basis of criticism leveled at both Egami and Ledyard by J. Edward Kidder, an American archeologist with 20 years' experience in Japan, now a professor at International Christian University in Tokyo.
"Ledyard is off on his timing," Kidder told SCIENCE NEWS. "I think the horseriders came in a second wave of immigrants; there's no strong archeological evidence for horseriders until the late fifth century." And the riders need not have come as an invasion force: "I think these people filtered in ... and eventually united and dominated," he says. The pressure for migration would still have come from the chaos sweeping down from northern China, but Kidder believes the refugees escaped in much the same way those from Vietnam have recently -- in families and small groups. Nevertheless, they brought with them enough advanced skills to quickly rise to positions of leadership, a rise that parallels the domination of some present-day developing countries by overseas Chinese.
Kidder has also examined the ancient texts and he reaches a very different conclusion from Ledyard: "Ojin is a farmer, not a horserider!" he exclaims with sudden emphasis after describing the early emperor's preoccupation with building ponds and roads. "The Kojiki [written in A.D. 712] says that a pair of horses was sent as a gift to Japan's king, either Ojin or a successor, and that he couldn't find anyone to take care of them. They had to get a Korean. If the king were a horseman, he would have had people around him who knew what to do with these animals."
The first emperor described in the texts as actually riding a horse comes two reigns after Ojin, "and the groom holds the bit while he rides," Kidder recalls -- hardly characteristic of a warrior horseman. It is not until the end of the Ojin line of kings that one of them is finally described as riding off to do some hunting. But until the tombs of these kings are actually opened, no one can be sure of their true involvement with horses. Says Kidder: "If you open Ojin's tomb and find it full of saddles, I'll take it all back in triplicate."
Yet another factor is that the Imperial Household Agency, which is responsible for the management of the burial sites and perhaps the most conservative of any government agency in Japan, refuses to allow excavation of the sites except in special circumstances. They cite privacy concerns as one reason for their refusal, saying that the “peace and calm” of the late emperor must be maintained. They claim that excavations of the burial sites are “tantamount to destruction” of the tombs.
Some historians assert that the real reason for the refusal is that a full-scale, open excavation would show that the earliest Japanese emperors were Korean–either horse-riding invaders who conquered the native population early in the fourth century, or priest-kings. Foreigners in Japan like to circulate a rumor that the excavation of one important imperial tomb was trumpeted in the press some years ago, only to be hushed up when too many Korean artifacts were discovered.
The substantial contact between the Korean Peninsula and Japan in those days is not in question. The current Emperor Akihito admitted some Korean heritage during a press conference in 2001. He said he felt a close “kinship” with Korea because the Shoku Nihongi (Chronicles of Japan) records that the mother of Emperor Kammu (#50, 781-806) was from the line of King Muryong of Baekche....the Guardian fails to report that the reason the emperors are related to King Muryong is that Muryong is thought by many to have been born in Japan in June 461—specifically Kakara Island, part of Chinzei-cho in Saga Prefecture. The people on the island have been holding festivals for the past few years honoring his birth as a way to promote exchange between Japan and South Korea. The Baekche royalty wound up in Kyushu—some say Miyazaki Prefecture—because they had to flee the Korean Peninsula after winding up on the short end of battles with the other two major kingdoms in the region.
“Would we expect to find that the occupants of the earliest large tombs, the third-century figures who originally carved out the Yamato polity, to have been Korean aristocrats who came over and wrested power from indigenous leaders, helping raise a backward nation up to the level of early statehood? That is what is all too often implied by whisperings of ‘Korean bones’. That view I reject. The emergence of the ancient Yamato polity was an indigenous phenomenon.”
John Douglas has a very good overview of the issue in this article on the website of the Association for Asian Research. Written in 2004, it is excellent for the most part, though there are a few flaws. He discusses the Emperors Sujin (#10) and Ojin (#15) as if they were real people, without bringing up the possibility that they might be legendary figures. Douglas also quotes Gina Barnes without mentioning her assertion quoted above that there is no direct evidence for a Korean-born emperor. Most regrettably, he can’t resist a snide and hopelessly outdated cliche about Japanese attitudes all too common among some scholars and observers: “Even now, the slightest suggestion that Japan’s revered and unbroken dynasty of emperors might have Korean ancestors comes as an unspeakable heresy.”
Gina Barnes is now reexamining data from Yamato-area sites with a view toward measuring the three variables considered most important in state formation: demographic changes, increased specialization in crafts and agricultural production, and a progression from towns to cities to state centers. She has found, for example, that craft and agricultural specialization were already well advanced in the early fourth century, with pottery making and bead working organized on at least the village level. By the time of Ojin and his line a century later, previous tribal groupings had given way to an administrative system capable of undertaking major public works projects, including irrigation canals, huge tombs, and large-scale importation of iron from southern Korea.
Barnes concludes, however, that although the early Yamato kings had formed a small centralized state, and had pacified their neighbors around the Inland Sea, political unification of the whole of southern Japan was not begun until the sixth century, with Emperor Keitai and his successors. It is only then that one finds population concentrations large enough to be called cities, and evidence for that most characteristic sign of statecraft -- a bureaucracy. The rise of the horseriding nobility in the late fifth century, therefore, would only have climaxed development of the Yamato state, not brought it about.
Ah, so many possibilities! Will we ever know for sure?
- 2 books of creation myths
- Account of the foundation of the state by Jimmu Tenno dated to 663/660 BC
- 8 rulers generally considered imaginary
- Account of Sujin Tenno, thought to be historical and linked to the start of the kofun archaeological monuments
- 3 descendants of Sujin, perhaps historical, though there is much myth and little history in this part of the text
- Chuai Tenno and Jingu Kogo, probably mythical characters (Jingu = Himiko of Yamatai)
- Ojin Tenno, probable founder of a dynasty, possible horse-riding foreign invader
- 6 historical descendants of Ojin
- 4 more troublesome descendants of Ojin, possibly covering up the collapse of the dynasty
- Keitai Tenno, probable founder of a new dynasty, the one that continues today
- 3 sons of Keitai whose accounts seem confused about some things
- More or less reliable history based on government records, 572 - 697
An important component of Nihon Shoki is material, some of it quite lengthy, which is evidently taken from other books which were either written in Paekche or by Paekche immigrants in Japan. At least 3 different books of this kind are given names in footnotes, and other portions not given footnotes are assumed to be of the same character. For some rulers the Paekche material is much more voluminous than the Japanese material. This is important for two reasons. It gives information about ancient Korea that is not in Samguk Sagi or later Korean works, and it permits linking sections of Nihon Shoki to known Korean dates. This is vital because the dates in the earlier parts of Nihon Shoki were deliberately falsified to make Japanese history seem longer than it really was.
According to Nihon Shoki the Yamato government was founded in 660 BC. It was recognized as early as the 19th century that the authors of Nihon Shoki arbitrarily chose that founding date for astrological reasons and then had to find some way to fill that vast period of time with material, some of which they simply made up. The Chinese used then (and for some purposes use now) a 60 year cycle for routine dating outside of the formal dating by reign titles. This cycle includes the familiar 12 zodiacal signs (Year of the Ox and so on) that are combined with additional elements to get 60 years with individual names. The year 601 AD was the first year of such a cycle and 660 BC is exactly 1,260 years earlier. In the time Nihon Shoki was written the Chinese considered this amount of time, 21 60 year cycles, to be a particularly significant block of time, an era. 601 AD was an important year for the authors of Nihon Shoki because it occurred during the reign of Suiko Tenno, which they considered to be the beginning of the new era of "modern" Japan, so it was appropriate to begin "ancient" Japan 1260 years earlier.
The Nihon Shoki says that the Yamato state was founded by a conqueror from Kyushu. No one believes in Jimmu Tenno, but what if this conqueror was Sujin Tenno? This is exactly what Egami Namiohas suggested. The Chinese say that on two separate occasions the Wa elevated a male ruler but he could not get the people to obey him and the solution was to replace him with a female ruler. This surely indicates a major internal disagreement about the proper way to organize society. What if the losers of the struggle after the death of Himiko decided to leave Kyushu and set up the kind of society they wanted in central Honshu? This would provide an excellent explanation of how it could be that the Chinese found a kingdom called Yamatai in Kyushu and a generation later we find one called Yamato in the Nara plain. They took the name with them. Such a move would be attractive for another reason, also. From this time onward the Kinai was always the center of Japan because it had the largest concentration of good farmland and became the wealthiest region, the one best suited to support a large aristocracy. Communications in Japan are always difficult, but this is definitely the most central location from that point of view as well. It is inconceivable that a ruler in Kyushu could have ruled all of Japan in the conditions that prevailed in ancient or medieval times. However, it was just barely possible for a ruler in the Kinai to manage this under favorable circumstances that frequently failed to materialize. Kyushu was often essentially independent and so was the far north east.
Chuai Tenno represents the point in Nihon Shoki where its authors intended to take notice of Himiko. Most historians, and all historians who subscribe to the "horse rider" theory, believe that the authors of Nihon Shoki also found it necessary to deal with the fact that the dynasty founded by Sujin now came to an end and was replaced by a new dynasty founded by Ojin. In the Nihon Shoki, Chuai is the father of Ojin, but the relationship has its unusual aspects, starting with the fact that Ojin was born a full year after Chuai died thanks to the magical intervention of his mother, who was too busy to give birth at the natural point in time. Chuai Tenno found it necessary to take an army to Kyushu to deal with rebellion. Many of the details of the account of his journey match the campaign of Keiko exactly, which has raised suspicions of copying. At any rate, when he reached Kyushu he found a collection of small states with female rulers.
Ojin founded a dynasty that was from beginning to end intensely involved with Korea. It ruled, in a loose sense, the parts of southern Korea that were not part of Paekche or Silla, called Imna by the Koreans and Mimana by the Japanese. It was an extremely close ally at all times of Paekche, and more than once sent troops to escort a Paekche prince living at the Japanese court to assume the throne back home. It was involved in frequent warfare against Silla and Koguryo, which were enemies of Paekche and allied with each other. The dynasty sent at least 13 embassies to southern China.
The second ruler, Nintoku, gained the throne by murdering his elder brother, and most of his successors imitated this example. Yuryaku Tenno was such an efficient killer that there was, perhaps, no survivor of the clan other than his three sons when he died, and one of them promptly killed the other two. The exact end of the dynasty is obscure, but it seems pretty clear that Keitai Tenno represented a new one, that followed quite different policies in respect to Korea and China.
Keitai Tenno was supposedly a 6th generation descendant of Ojin, but he was an outsider from the north who had never been involved in politics before being tapped as ruler. He was already a grown man with two adult sons. He immediately married the widow of a ruler from the Ojin dynasty and soon had a third son. There seems to have been a problem about the succession when he died, and Nihon Shoki and Kojiki disagree conspicuously about dates at this time. Officially the two older sons briefly ruled one after the other and then the third son took over. Many (but not all) historians think that the third son was the successor and that disgruntled nobles later set up the two elder sons at a rival court. This is why I put the beginning of chronologically valid history at 572 rather than a generation earlier.
However, most historians would agree that it is unlikely that Keitai was actually a direct descendant of the Ojin dynasty. It is said that his father was a fifth generation descendant of Ojin, which made Keitai sixth generation. According to the law in effect at the time that Nihon Shoki was written that would mean that he could not claim membership in the ruling clan, five generations being the cutoff point, with a fifth generation prince having strictly limited privileges. It may be that the point was that he was descended from the Puyo invading group.
He was new and the policies followed by his successors were noticeably different in important respects than those of the Ojin dynasty. Whereas the political roots of the Ojin dynasty were in Korea and it was always heavily involved in Korea, the subsequent dynasty for the next two hundred years consistently showed a special connection with the regions to the east and north east of Yamato. The rulers were always careful to keep considerable numbers of eastern warriors called toneri at court. These were apparently younger members of the rural clans who served a term at court and then went home again. Keitai's successors allowed the Japanese position in Korea to be dismantled by the Kingdom of Silla without putting up much resistance. They also sent no embassies to China. And, there soon occurred a considerable shakeup among the leading aristocratic clans.
The new dynasty presided over the gradual loss of the Japanese position in Korea to Silla. Keitai Tenno himself sent a large army to Korea early in his reign. It first ran into a major rebellion in Kyushu ("The Iwai Rebellion") but continued on to spend several years in Korea with no concrete accomplishments to show for it. Almost the entire Nihon Shoki article about Kimmei Tenno, the fourth ruler of this group, is actually Korean and is about the (unsuccessful) efforts of King Song of Paekche to persuade Kimmei to do something about Silla's aggression in Imna. Eventually Silla conquered Mimana and Japan was excluded from Korea. The court continued to plan attacks on Silla from time to time for another hundred and fifty years, but for one reason or another none of them actually left the country.
All in all it would be fair to say that the level of social development in this era was rather like that shown by the Celtic tribes known to the Romans of the era of Julius Caesar, though the construction of the kofun tombs shows that the rulers had rather greater power to gather wealth from the commoners than their European counterparts. As of the reigns of Keitai and Kimmei there is no sign of direct influence from China nor is their any sign that the experience of the Korean kingdoms was causing the Japanese to think that their own society needed to be reformed. The Korean kingdoms were at least nominally literate, but it is believed that they were only beginning serious efforts to replace tribal methods of rule with Chinese style bureaucratic institutions supported by formal taxation in the 6th century. It is clear that Paekche attempted such a reorganization only after its disastrous war with Silla between 551 and 554. Before then, it is believed, "civilization" existed only in the royal capital and the countryside was administered by traditional rulers much like those found in Japan. Silla raised itself from the weakest kingdom to the strongest in the period of a generation by using Chinese methods to increase the power and wealth of the state, and Paekche and Koguryo were forced to respond in order to survive. In the next generation Japan began to feel the same pressure.
From: a "WikiBook": https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Japanese_History/The_Kofun_Period