Shōtoku Taisha (聖徳太子) also known as Prince Umayado was the son of Emperor Yomei nephew of Empress Suiko. He is said to have been able to speak at birth and was an accomplished scholar, able to attend several petitions of men simultaneously. He was a devout Buddhist and died aged 49, 621AD.
During his aunt’s reign, she installed her nephew as Crown Prince and as the de-facto leader (sesshō) he helped reorganised her court. He put the nobility into an elaborate hierarchy, giving appropriate robes and insignia and also established and centralised the administration.
Prior to the reign of Emperor Sushun, Mononobe no Moriya did not wish Sushun to ascend to the throne. During a later skirmish against the Soga and Shōtoku he was defeated and killed by Shōtoku. However, Moriya’s soul not wanting to rest transformed into a flock of woodpeckers (known as the Teratsutsuki 寺つつき) which attacked Shōtoku’s temple, Shitennō-ji which he had built in thanks to the ‘four heavenly kings for helping him defeat the Mononobe.
In the book known as the Genpei Seisuiki it says:
‘in order to destroy the temple, Moriya’s furious spirit transformed into a flock of several thousand woodpeckers, which began hurling themselves to death on the building. Taisha transformed himself into a hawk to chase them away. It is said no woodpeckers can be seen near [here] to this day.’2
1. Martin, P. (1997) ”The Chrysanthemum Throne”. Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing Limited.
2. Yoda, H. and Alt, M. (2016) “Japandemonium: Illustrated: The Yokai Encyclopaedia of Toriyama Sekien.”. New York: over Publications, Inc.
3. Kodansha. (1993) ”Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia”. Tokyo: Kodansha Ltd.
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