The Jinno Shotoki (A Chronicle of Gods and Sovereigns) (神皇正統記)

The Jinno Shotoki (A Chronicle of Gods and Sovereigns) was written by the court noble Chikafusa KITABATAKE during the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan) on behalf of the young Emperor Gomurakami; it is a book on history that Chikafusa wrote at Oda-jo Castle in Hitachi Province (present day Oda, Tsukuba City, Ibaraki Prefecture), in which he lays out the case for why the Yoshino Court (often called the Southern Court) and its imperial lineage was the true, legitimate one.

The book describes each successive generation of Japanese emperor, from the age of myth all the way up until Emperor Gomurakami's enthronement (the passage on Emperor Godaigo's death is borrowed from the Kakurin, a section from an ancient Chinese history book). Concerning when the Jinno Shotoki was written, it is said to have been in the autumn of 1339, the year Emperor Godaigo died and the new Emperor Gomurakami ascended to the throne. The book was presented to Emperor Gomurakami, yet in the colophon, it is addressed only to "a (foolish) child"; some have pointed out that it is impossible to conceive of Chikafusa daring to refer to the Emperor as essentially a dumb child. Regarding this problem, it has been argued that the book was originally addressed to Chikatomo YUKI and then later revised and presented to Emperor Gomurakami. As a result, it is thought Chikafusa KITABATAKE wrote it while he was in the Kanto, and used only what few references he had on hand in writing it, which explains the errors and misrepresentations seen here and there concerning true historical events (as they were understood in those days).

In it, he argues that retaining possession of the Three Sacred Treasures of the Imperial Family is an absolutely vital requirement for the ruler of Japan to remain legitimate. But on the other hand, he may have been influenced by the "Bussotoki" (the Record of the Buddhist Founders) and Song-period philosophy (especially that of the 'Spring and Autumn Annals,' the 'Mencius,' and the 'I Ching') into intentionally emphasizing other virtues over Gomurakami's royal lineage. Consequently, Chikafusa is critical of Emperor Gotoba, who instigated the Jokyu War, and by contrast highly esteems the era of stability ushered in by the good government that began after the time of Yoshitoki HOJO and his son Yasutoki, who fought the loyalist forces into submission; the book also includes the seemingly contradictory assertion that 'the one that was truly faithful to the intentions of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu was Yasutoki,' but to Chikafusa, who placed such emphasis on virtuous rule, it must have seemed consistent and logical. Keigetsu OMACHI has argued that 'This line stresses the importance of benevolent rule. Yoritomo and Yasutoki were empty; benevolent rule is the truth. Chikafusa's praise of Yoritomo and Yasutoki, in other words, is actually praise of benevolent rule.
This is the unbiased opinion of all ages.'

Yet some have pointed out the inconsistency in Chikafusa not criticizing Gotoba's enthronement per se, which was done by decree of Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa during the chaotic era of the Jisho-Juei war despite not having possession of all Three Sacred Treasures of the Imperial Family at the time.

Concerning the Jokyu war, the Jinno Shotoki has the following to say:

MINAMOTO no Yoritomo had exceptional merit, but when viewed from the perspective of the Imperial Court, which commands all under heaven, he is surely of little interest. How much less so Yoritomo's wife Masako HOJO or his rear vassal Yoshitoki HOJO, to whom the reins of government fell after Yoritomo's death; truly, to seek to eliminate such as these is an undertaking that is not unreasonable. Yet Yoritomo was the one who pacified the disorder in the land, relieved the distress of the Imperial house, and brought peace to the common folk, and even if MINAMOTO no Sanetomo had died, if they wished to eliminate the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), it was necessary for them to replace it with an even better government. Moreover, the battle to become ruler (not supreme ruler) of the land should involve the striking down of the guilty and avoid destroying the blameless. Yoritomo ascended to a high official rank, but it was Emperor Goshirakawa who intended that he recognize the establishment of the shugo system; it was not something Yoritomo did without sanction. Yoshitoki did not go against popular opinion. Gotoba erred in trying to subjugate Yoritomo's rear vassal Yoshitoki merely because he had taken control of all under heaven. But this certainly cannot be compared to enemies of the court who plot to overthrow the imperial government and gain profit from it. It follows that the chance to overthrow the bakufu did not reach fruition, and it cannot be doubted that heaven did not smile on such an attempt. Yet for a subject or retainer to raise his hand against his superior is the worst injustice of all. In the end, all should yield to the majesty of the Emperor. Firstly, had there been a path that would have enabled him to rule virtuously, establish the prestige of the imperial court, and be victorious against Yoshitoki, then by all means that path should have been taken and Yoshitoki should have been struck down. In any other case, he should have closely examined conditions and circumstances of the world, and trusted in the will of heaven to determine whether to go to war, following public opinion. Eventually, the imperial throne passed to Gotoba's descendant (Emperor Gosaga), so it cannot be said that Gotoba did not achieve his intentions, but it is most regrettable that the imperial Court was brought momentarily to the brink of collapse.

(From the section dealing with 'the Dethroned Emperor' (referring to Emperor Chukyo))

Furthermore, Chikafusa criticizes aspects of Emperor Godaigo's policies that were inconsistent with right and correct principles.

Overall, Chikafusa places emphasis on the standpoint and position of the conservative aristocracy, and argues the combination of Emperor with court nobility (which really refers to the family of Sekkan (regents) and the Murakami branch of the Minamoto clan), joining together to rule all Japan and taking a leadership role over the warrior class, was the ideal polity (in particular, he draws a very clear distinction between nobles and Buddhist priests, whom he terms 'the (good) people,' and warriors, called just 'persons,' thereby reflecting, it has been argued, his own views of social status). On the other hand, he simultaneously advances the very active view that if the ruler and his retainers observe and safeguard a virtuous style of government, by basing their actions on correct principles, the course of history could be rescued from a misguided direction and restored to the correct path.

After the unification of the Southern and Northern Courts, Chikafusa's book was willfully altered under the influence of the Muromachi bakufu to support the view that the Northern Court lineage was the one true and legitimate lineage, and a book critical of Chikafusa's viewpoint was written by Harutomi KOZUKI--and dubbed a "sequel"--called the "Zoku (continued) Jinno Shotoki." Mitsukuni TOKUGAWA, however, rated Chikafusa's opinions very highly in his 'Dainihonshi' (History of Greater Japan), and argued in places for the view that even from Chikafusa's perspective, who would likely have criticized the fundamental existence of the Edo bakufu, it was nevertheless possible to achieve a 'virtuous governmental administration under the warrior class,' citing contemporary examples of Yasutoki-like figures within the bakufu.

The 'Jinno Shotoki,' which was in harmony with the Mito school (a Tokugawa-era, pro-Imperial school of thought), continued to exert influence over later views of Imperial history. Beginning in the Meiji period, however, when looked at from an ultranationalist point of view, Chikafusa's book was denounced as far too heavily influenced by Confucianism, Buddhism, and the Ise sect of Shinto--which were all considered heretical--and for that reason, efforts were made to alter the text (to criticize Chikafusa's opinions) under the name of "the re-revision," but such efforts never really took root. Research and study of the 'Jinno Shotoki' experienced a resurgence a few years after the end of World War II, once the Imperial house had been barred from active involvement in governing.

[Original Japanese]