Human Rights and the concept of People as the Emperor’s great treasure: “Oomitakara”

The concept of “the people as the nation’s treasure” existed for millennia in Japan. The word “Oomitakara” was used to mean “people” in the ancient Japan.  In the first Japanese formal historical document called “Nihonshoki”  which was completed in AD 720,  the Emperor Nintoku’s words are recorded.  It states the following:

The reason for the Heavenly Person (Emperor) to be standing is for “Oomitakara,” the People.

Book of Emperor Nintoku, Nihonshoki

Since the Chinese characters were considered the international language at the time, the Japanese made 2 kinds of historical documents, one in Chinese and one in Japanese language. Nihonshoki was written in Chinese and Kojiki was written in Japanese “Kana” letters.

The word “Oomitakara” was sometimes expressed using the Chinese characters 百姓 which means “all people with all kinds of last names.”  The characters 大御宝 was also used to mean “Oomitakara” which means “Great Honored Treasure.”

The Japanese word “takara” generally means “treasure.”  According to the dictionay “Genkai,” the word “ta” in “takara” is derived from “ta” as in “rice field.”  The word “kara” generally means “from” but it also means “people” or “companions” as in the words such as “harakara” and  “yakara.”  “Harakara” consists of the word hara (womb) and kara (out of, people) .  The word “yakara” traditionally meant “people that belong to the same tribe.”  Therefore, the word “takara” also meant “people at the rice field” or “companions at the field” in the old days.

The concept of “human rights” was traditionally expressed in the word, “Oomitakara” in Japan.  This was not only Emperor Nintoku’s personal credo, but it was considered something that was passed down from his ancestors as the basic principle.  The following phrase is found in book 3 of Nihonshoki  which is included in the declaration of founding the county (Kenkoku no Mikotonori) by the first Emperor Jimmu.

The Emperor’s work is to benefit “Oomitakara,” the people.

Emperor Jimmu, Book 3, Nihonshoki

It also says that the Emperor must humbly take on the throne and respect “Oomitakara,” the people. In this case, the word people (Oomitakara) was expressed using the characters元元 which means “The foundation of the foundation” or “the basis of the basis”  This suggests that the people was considered the basic foundation of the country.

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