Prince Shotoku (574-622) is unquestionably Japan’s first great leader. Though he was nable to become an emperor, he was the most influential figure in the early days of Japan. China was tremendously powerful in his days, and all Asian countries except Japan were subordinated by China. But Prince Shotoku strongly felt the necessity of Japan’s independence of China, and dispatched a mission to China to deliver his personal letter to then emperor of China. In his letter, Prince Shotoku expressed his desire to develop cooperative relations between China and Japan on an equal footing.
His diplomatic sense is rather reckless from the viewpoint of the Sinocentrism. To make the matter worse, then Chinese emperor was tremendously powerful and tyrannical. Naturally, the Chinese emperor got furious about the personal letter from Prince Shotoku. However, the domestic political turmoil prevented the Chinese emperor from taking retaliatory actions. We Japanese have to remember that the resolute and decisive attitude taken by Prince Shotoku set Japan free from the subordinate position imposed by China and enabled Japan to develop without any inhibition.
The enactment of the Constitution of Seventeen Articles is another great achievement of Prince Shotoku. He emphasized the importance of harmony in Article 1 and suggested having discussions to solve a big problem in Article 17. These two articles enormously affected the mindset of Japanese in every respect of activities including politics and business. Today, lots of discussions are under way on various political issues in the Diet, and no diet member dares to take a risk. Playing safe for the sake of election seems to be prevailing in the Diet. How does Prince Shotoku evaluate today’s situation in the Diet?
Horyuji Temple built by Prince Shogoku