Soga–Mononobe conflict

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The Soga–Mononobe conflict (552-587 AD) was a political and military dispute that took place in Japan during the Asuka Period between the pro-Shinto Mononobe clan, led by Mononobe no Moriya, and the pro-Buddhist Soga clan, led by Soga no Umako, which would eventually emerge victorious.


The circumstances under which the fighting took place are extremely murky. Some references to devastating epidemics polarizing a Japanese society were made.[1]

Battle at Mount Shigi[edit]

Takeshi Umehara notes that some ancient and medieval accounts say that the decisive battle took place in July of 587 near Mount Shigi.[2][A]

Between July 1 and 2 the Soga are said to have been defeated in a series of engagements with the Mononobe,[2] who, according to the Nihon Shoki, employed a type of fortification called an inaki, a palisade constructed from bundles of rice plants.[3]

The Soga gradually retreated westward and by July 3 the demoralized Soga troops had finally concentrated in the area between Mount Shigi and Mount Ikoma.[2] Legend has it that at this point Prince Shotoku of the Soga cut down a sacred nuride tree, fashioned it into an image of the Four Heavenly Kings of Buddhism, and placed it on his forehead. Shotoku and Soga no Umako then both openly vowed to build a temple to the Four Heavenly Kings should they be victorious in the battle, which reenergized their men prior to the final confrontation.[2][4][5] In this final battle the turning point came when a Soga archer, named by the Nihon Shoki as one Tomi no Obito Ichii,[4] fired the arrow which killed Mononobe clan leader Mononobe no Moriya, after which his forces were quickly routed.[2]

The main line of the Mononobe family, the most powerful opponent of Buddhism, was, together with its retainers killed in the battle. The survivors were dispersed, and some adopted a different name.[6][7][8]

Shotoku has traditionally been credited with the founding of two temples which he is said to have had constructed following the battle: Shitennoji and Shigisan Temple.[5]


A The name of Mount Shigi where the battle took place has been written as both Shigisan[2][9][10] and Shigisen and for this reason the battle has been referred to as the Battle of Shigisan[11] or Battle of Shigisen.[12][13]


  1. ^ Jacques H. Kamstra, "Encounter Or Syncretism: The Initial Growth of Japanese Buddhism", p.324
  2. ^ a b c d e f Takeshi Umehara , 仏教の勝利 (Tokyo: Shogakkan, 1980), 291-292.
  3. ^ RKC Shekhar, Dictionary of Architecture (Delhi: Isha Books, 2005), 143.
  4. ^ a b Kenneth Doo Lee, The Prince and the Monk: Shōtoku worship in Shinran's Buddhism (Tokyo: Shogakkan, 1980), 62.
  5. ^ a b Ian Reader and George J Tanabe, Practically Religious: Worldly Benefits and the Common Religion of Japan (Honolulu: University of Hawaiì Press, 1998), 159-160.
  6. ^ George Sansom, A History of Japan to 1334, 1958, vol.1 p.49.
  7. ^ Jonathan Edward Kidder, Himiko and Japan's Elusive Chiefdom of Yamatai: Archaeology, History, and Mythology, University of Hawaii Press, 2007 p.271.
  8. ^ Michael Como, Shotoku: Ethnicity, Ritual, and Violence in the Japanese Buddhist Tradition, Oxford University Press, 2008 p.177.
  9. ^ Enichi Ocho et al., 総合佛教大辞典 (Kyoto: Hozokan, 1987), 523.
  10. ^ Bunei Tsunoda, 平安時代史事典 (Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 1994), 1070.
  11. ^ Kidder, Jr., J. Edward (Winter 1989). "The Fujinoki Sarcophagus". Monumenta Nipponica. Sophia University. 44 (4): 415–460. doi:10.2307/2384537. JSTOR 2384537. ... and other families in the so-called Battle of Shigisan 信貴山, 587, ...
  12. ^ Wolff, Richard (2007). The Popular Encyclopedia of World Religions. Harvest House Publishers. p. 70. ISBN 0736920072.
  13. ^ Christensen, Jack Arden (1981). Nichiren: Leader of Buddhist Reformation in Japan. Jain Publishing Company. p. 9. ISBN 0875730868.