Prince Shotoku: the Legend, the Leader, the Man

  • Who Was Prince Shotoku

    When people refer to Japan as a Buddhist nation, this man is being remembered in a small way. Prince Shotoku was regent (interim ruler) appointed by Empress Suiko in 593. He is also known as Prince Umayado, or Prince Kamitsumiya. He is known and revered for promulgating Buddhism in Japan. He is the one who, in correspondence with China’s emperor, penned the famous, “From the sovereign of the land of the rising sun, to the sovereign of the land of the setting sun”.

    Harbinger of Buddhism

    Prince Shotoku was an ardent Buddhist and established several temples throughout the Kansai area. The most notable among these would be Shitenno in Osaka and Horyu temple in Nara. He made his main palace, Ikaruga-no-miya, in the eastern corner of the Horyu temple complex.

    Furthermore, inspired by Buddhism he established a rank system for the court. A twelve level system that was similar to systems in China, based on Confucianism. Furthermore, he also established a seventeen-article constitution. This constitution was less about how the government should work, and more about how people should be. It established the values that were expected of politicians, royalty, and members of the court.


    Prince Shotoku was also believed to have written a treatise on Buddhism called the Sangyo Gisho “Annotated Commentaries on the Three Sutras”. These writings are dated back to 615 B.C. making it the first Japanese work, and making Prince Shotoku the first Japanese writer.

    Modern-day Legacy

    There are many education facilities that continue in his honor; Shitennoji High School and Jr. High School, Shitennoji College, Shotoku Gakuen University, and Seitoku University. He also used to be on the 10,000 yen banknote.

    In Closing

    Prince Shotoku was a foundational leader in Japan’s early history. All Japanese, and those who love Japan owe him a great deal for the wonderful country that we enjoy.

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