Biography of Prince Shôtoku

(Shôtoku Taishi go-ichidaiki, 聖徳太子御一代記)

Publisher: Jôshû-ya Jûzô



Prince Shôtoku (574 - 622) was an imperial prince of the Yamato court of Japan.  He served as regent for his aunt, Empress Suiko, who ruled from 592 to 628.  Shôtoku’s most important domestic achievements were the establishment of a system of twelve court ranks in 603 and a seventeen-article constitution in 604.  The constitution established a centralized government run by those who had merit, rather than those with inherited positions.  The prince’s chief achievement in foreign relations was the opening of relations with the Sui dynasty (581–618) of China.  Japan’s relationship to China had been that of a tributary state.  Prince Shôtoku changed the relationship to one of equals, supposedly shocking the Chinese emperor by addressing him as the ruler of the nation “where the sun sets,” while Japan was the nation “where the sun rises.”  Prince Shôtoku also declared Buddhism the official religion of Japan, and several miracles have been ascribed to him.  The prints in this series are each about 10 by 14 inches (25 by 36 centimeters), a size known as ôban.


Scene: People stopping to admire the gourd that miraculously appeared at the time of the birth of Prince Shôtoku

Robinson: S14.1

Scene: Lightning emanation from the great tree that Kawabe no Omi is about to fell for Prince Shôtoku’s ship

Robinson: S14.2


Image courtesy of Kate Zotova

Scene: This relic which was presented to Soga no Umako by Shiba Tatto does not smash when hammered by the partisans of Moriya no Omuraji

Robinson: S14.3

Scene: In order to escape from Moriya who ambushed him Prince Shôtoku vanishes into a tree on which his shadowy form appears

Robinson: S14.4


Image courtesy of Richard Illing

Scene: Prince Shôtoku directing the attack on Moriya’s castle

Robinson: S14.5


“Robinson” refers to listing in Kuniyoshi: The Warrior-Prints by Basil William Robinson (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 1982) and its privately published supplement.