Emperor Suinin

Emperor Suinin
Artistic depiction of Emperor Suinin.

Emperor Suinin

Emperor Suinin (垂仁天皇) was the eleventh Emperor of Japan, being the third child of Emperor Sujin1 ruling at one time from Tamaki Palace, Makimuku.2

It is attested that one of his wives elder brothers devised a plot to try and have Suinin’s wife kill him. During his reign, it is said formal contact with Korea was established.

He also, after a prophetic dream announced the Sacred Mirror to be enshrined in the Ise Grand Shrine, appointing one of his daughters as resident priestess-guardian.1

During the 7th year of his reign a man known as Kuehaya was declared the strongest man at court. One minister stated Nomi no Sukune as a potential rival to Kuehaya and they were ordered to wrestle. Kuehaya is killed after being kicked in the ribs and groin, and Nomi no Sukune was then given his lands and allowed to stay at court. This story is likely a fabrication and a way to show how the Haji took over land in Yamato from older less influential familes.

These exploits have seen him credited with founding sumo, though not of modern rules.

According to records such as the Nihongi during his reign the practise of human sacrifice was carried out, when a person died, their retainers were buried alive alongside them. When the Empress Hibasuhime died he asked what should be done, his ministers saying they should follow the old traditions of burying retainers alongside her as had been done upon the death of Yamatohiko.

However, Nomi no Sukune stepped in with another idea saying human sacrifice was contrary to a benevolent government. And so he took 300 potters and made images in clay. The Emperor liked what had been created, dubbing them haniwa and this became the replacement of human sacrifice. For his work he was given the name of Haji ‘master potter’ and was put incharge of pottery workers (Haji Be) and funerary rites.

The mentioning of Nomi no Sukune is not seen in the pages of the Kojiki, however it does state that the Haji Be were founded during this Emperors reign.

One branch of the Haji lived near the site apparently that of Emperor Suinins tomb, which may have helped in joining the Haji Clan with the story of the haniwa in later records.2

Footnotes

1. Martin, P. (1997) ”The Chrysanthemum Throne”. Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing Limited.
2. Borgen, R. (1975) “The Origins of the Sugawara. A History of the Haji Family”. Monumenta Nipponica. Vol.30 No.4 pp.405-422

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