Memories of the Sea vol.4 – The Ending and Beginning –

Two large mirrors mean the beginning and tell us to get back to the starting point.

Kinjubudokyō – A national treasure – The magnificent bronze mirror made in the Tang dynasty is dedicated to Ōyamazumi Shrine on Ōmishima Island. The divine mirrors of the Ōyamazumi Shrine, the Katori Shrine, and Imperial treasures of the Shōsōin are known collectively as the “Three Ancient Mirrors in Japan.”

It is made of giant Japanese cedar with cupronickel, and the “Grape” motif of a Chinese pattern is designed skillfully on the back; it originally came from the west across the Silk Road. In general, the grape has the meaning of bringing an abundant harvest. Therefore, the grape design adopts as the paradise iconography in a Chinese tone. It seems like an ideal ethereal utopia like Tougenkyō, which exists outside of the world for centuries. We wonder how the fascinated mirror reached this island.

In ancient times, when Japan used to be called by its oldest recorded name “Wa or Yamato Japan,” the Korean Peninsula was in a tense situation. The Yamatochōtei, the Imperial Court in the Japanese Yamato period, organized over 10,000 navies to respond to a request for help from Baekje of the Korean Peninsula, with which it has had a close relationship for a long time.

It is said that Saimei-tennō, the Empress of Japan, had himself stopped in Iyo. Then, a group of fisheries and navigation engineers from the coasts and islands in the Seto Inland Sea mobilized. It reports is reported that Kinjubudokyō, the Emperor of Japan dedicated upon praying for his victory before the war.

The opponent was a great, powerful country, the Tang dynasty of China. It was apparent that it was not easy to defeat them. Why did the Emperor himself go to the battlefield and take on such a large challenge? At that time, the power relationships of East Asia were changing. Therefore, there was a possibility of Japan getting entangled in the conflict as well. He feared an invasion so that he attempted to protect this small island of Japan, according to one explanation.

Emperor Saimei, who tried to go into the field before achieving a goal, died suddenly at Tsukushi Province in Kyusyu before joining the war, because he was old and exhausted from the long journey.

Emperor Tenji inherited the intention of his deceased mother, Emperor Seimei. He sent his troops to Baekgang of the Korean Peninsula. Then, Yamato Japan was defeated as well as Baekje, and over 400 ships belonging to Yamato Japan sunk into the sea, in a devastating battle against the allied forces of the Tang dynasty and Silla. Moreover, Emperor Tenji decided to strengthen the defense of our country in various areas of Japan due to fear of further attacks from the troops of the Tang dynasty.

It had become possible to unify the unsystematic situation of the country until then due to having to deal with its danger. After that, “Wa(Yamato Japan)” started becoming “Japan,” a unified nation of the centralized structure.

The Battle of Baekgang led to a significant turning point.

Emperor Tenji later dedicated one mirror to Ōyamazumi Shrine. Chomeifūkikyo – in this mirror is the initial wish for national peace and prosperity reflected? Or, was his spirit there making a dedication to his mother, without giving up in the battle? We are not sure about the meaning at this point. However, we can imagine a situation where he couldn’t fight against the changing times, just defend against it desperately, as he had to advance, even though he knew many sacrifices would have to be made.

Independence from the continents – The Ending and Beginning of a nation –
When we attempt to look at the soul of Japan and our place again, these two large mirrors take us back to the beginning and also tell us to go back to the basics.

  • PhotosYoshiyuki Mori
  • WordsAtsuko Ogawa
  • DesignNoriaki Hosaka
  • Translation Mina Ishikawa