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New Japanese high-school textbooks to be issued in 2014 are throwing into question the existence of Prince Shōtoku. See article entitled 聖徳太子は実在せず? 高校日本史教科書に「疑う」記述 in the Asahi Shimbun (March 27, 2013). For a brief discussion of this topic, see the PMJS List (Premodern Japanese Studies).

Below notes are from Lost Identity by Ken Joseph Jr., Kobunsha Paperbacks; First Published 2005, June 30. ISBN 4334933610. Japanese language. National bestseller in Japan. Explores the arrival of Nestorian Christianity in Japan from the 5th century AD onward and discusses the profound impact of Nestorian Christianity on many Japanese Buddhist traditions.


  1. Proximity of Death. Prince Shotoku’s mother died in +621. That was followed two months later by his beloved wife. On the very next day, the prince himself died (he was 49). The proximity of those deaths certainly sounds suspicious, although no direct evidence of foul play has been found. However, the handling of Prince Shotoku’s funeral does raise serious questions (see below).
  2. Lack of Proper Funeral Rites. The normal practice for handling the death of a member of the royal family was to lay the body in a temporary shelter for a rather lengthy period during which a series of ceremonies were performed to placate and console the spirit of the deceased. Some contemporary examples of the length of time of this "mogari" (殯) period that are recorded in the "Nihon Shoki" (Chronicles of Japan) are 5 months for Emperor Kinmei (欽明天皇) and 6 months for Empress Suiko (who had appointed Prince Shoutoku as her regent and died some 7 years after him). However, when it came to Prince Shotoku, it says that this period was bypassed. Apparently he was buried within a very short time of his death. His death is recorded to have been on Feb. 5, and the Nihon Shoki uses the phrase "within that month" to describe how quickly he was buried. It doesn't record how many days he lay in state, but one would have expected that for such a great man who had contributed so much to his country, a particularly long period of mourning would have been called for. That, however, was not the case. It is even recorded that the prince's brother, Kume no Miko (来目皇子) was given these memorial rites at his death. But it doesn't record any "mogari" rites being given for Prince Shotoku. Interestingly, the Nihon Shoki records that when Emperor Sushun was assassinated, the normal protocol of mogari rites was skipped over and that he was buried immediately. Apparently those who murdered him (namely Soga and his cohorts) wanted to cover up their deeds as quickly as possible.
  3. Shotoku’s Son was Forced to Commit Suicide, Ending Shotoku’s Direct Family Line. After Empress Suiko's death in 628, a dispute arose concerning who should be the next emperor, with Soga's son, Soga no Emishi (蘇我蝦夷) and grandson, Soga no Iruka (蘇我入鹿) conspiring to keep their stranglehold on the imperial throne. While Shoutoku's son Yamashiro no Ooe no Ou (山背大兄王) was in line to claim the throne, the Sogas threw their strong support behind Prince Tamura, thus preempting Yamashiro's claim to power. Prince Tamura finally ascended the throne the following year as Emperor Jomei (舒明), and when he died in 641, the Soga duo intervened again to keep Yamashiro off the throne by conspiring to get the widow of Emperor Jomei installed as the new emperor (empress). As Yamashiro continued to be a threat to their control, however, in 643, Soga no Iruka forced him into the act of ritual suicide along with all of the members of his family. It was, in effect, a planned massacre. The tyranny of the Soga family had reached its peak, and soon an uprising took place with Soga no Iruka being assassinated in 645 and his father being forced to commit suicide the following day.
  4. There was a nail driven into the head of the Guze Kannon, which was reportedly made in the image of Shotoku Taishi. Statue remains hidden for centuries, and no one is allowed to see it.
  5. He was an goryou, avenging spirit, just like Daruma, who was poisoned.
  6. Shotoko is also known as omayado, prince of the stable door, for his legend in Japan says he was born outside the stable. This is very reminiscent of the nativity story of the birth of Jesus Christ. Also, it does seem rather unlikely that a prince of the Japanese imperial family would be born in such a lowly place as the stable door.
  7. Cloth Riping Kannon. Same story as onryo. Same as Shotoku giving to beggar.

Source: JAANUS
Keka 悔過 is a term used in Buddhism meaning repentance of one's sins, and refers to the chanting of prayers to various Buddhist deities to express repentance. When the ceremony is addressed to the Yakushi Buddha 薬師如来, it is known as Yakushi Keka 薬師悔過. A very early example of the Yakushi Keka ceremony is recorded to have taken place in the year 747, when prayers were said for the Emperor Shoumu's 聖武 recovery from illness. The ceremony itself consists of reciting repeatedly the name of the Yakushi Nyorai, and is said to have a magical quality because it is always carried out at night. It was very popular in the 8th and 9th c. as it was believed to silence the unquiet spirits of those who had fallen in political turmoil. 

The Osaka and Nara areas of Japan are often referred to as the eastern terminus of the silk roads.
Naniwa (Osaka), the gateway to Korea and China
Rev. Ken Joseph Jr. was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, where his parents met following the call of General Douglas McArthur for 10,000 young Americans to come and help rebuild postwar Japan. An Assyrian, his grandparents escaped Northern Iraq during the Kurdish-led massacres of Assyrians during the Assyrian Holocaust of 1917-1919 and came to the United States and settled in Chicago.

Ken graduated from the Christian Academy in Japan and Biola University in La Mirada, California, with degrees in Intercultural Communications and Mass Communications, returning to Japan in 1987.A Christian minister, Rev. Ken Joseph Jr. currently serves as a pastor in Tokyo Japan, is Founder & Director of The Japan Helpline, a worldwide 24-hour emergency hotline and relief assistance organization, and is Founder & Director of the Japan-based Keikyo Institute, which studies the historical roots of Christianity in Asia.

Ken Joseph Jr, is well known in Japan, where he has just completed his eighth book in Japanese, hosts a radio program, serves as a commentator on numerous television programs, writes regular columns in Japan`s major newspapers, and is much in demand throghout Japan to speak at universities, public forums and other gatherings.

Rev. Joseph has a Radio Program, column and has just completed his eighth book - all in Japanese! He is currently working on a book about his experiences in Iraq and the current situation in the Middle East.  Japanese
Biography of Prince Shoutoku" (Shoutokutaishi e-den 聖徳太子絵伝), 1069.

Read the English Version of Lost Identity OnlineWho Were the Keikyo?
Kirishtan artifact. The word "Keikyo" derives from the Chinese expression meaning "The Shining Religion." It is the name given to a group of indigenous Japanese Christians who lived in Japan, possibly as early as 198 A.D.

Tragically, much of the information that would shed light on early details of Keikyo history has been lost as a result of the 280-year persecution of the Kiristan.

Many scholars believe that following the dispersion of the early church, many faithful Christian missionaries took the command of Christ to "go to the ends of the earth" seriously. Evidence exists of Christian missionaries reaching India in 52 A.D., China in 61 A.D., and Japan in 198 or 199 A.D. Early Christians frequently traveled abroad in self-sustaining communities, extending throughout the known world at that time.

Though their progeny are in the minority in India, they still number in the tens of thousands. In China, during the Tang Dynasty, large Keikyo Temples were erected in every province.The influence of the Keikyo in Japan was profound. It is believed they were involved in the founding of the city of Kyoto, whose Uzumasa area contains the same Chinese characters used in China to refer to the Christian church.

In the Imperial Chronicles of Japan there is reference to a visit of a Keikyo Priest to the Imperial Household in 737 A.D. Many other references in various historical records of the same era hint at the extensive influence of the Keikyo. The Empress Komyo appears to have embraced Christianity, and became known as a great saint who performed miracles of healing. Her great niece entered a Christian convent and experienced a vision of heaven which she depicted in a large work of embroidery. This work of art is still on exhibit in the holy city of Kyoto.

For a bit more on Nestorians in Japan, see the PMJS List (Premodern Japanese Studies).

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