It is on record that, in several cases, these stories led to the dismissal of governors and their replacement by their traducers. Konin decreed that such crimes should be punished by the death of all concerned.
The death of the Empress Shotoku without issue and the consequent extinction of the Emperor Temmu's line furnished an opportunity to these loyal statesmen, and they availed themselves of it to set Konin upon the throne, as will be presently described. In this crisis of the empire's fortunes, the Fujiwara family acted a leading part.
Konin justified the zeal of his supporters, but his benevolent and upright reign has been sullied by historical romanticists, who represent him as party to an unnatural intrigue based on the alleged licentiousness and shamelessness of his consort, Princess Inokami, a lady then in her fifty-sixth year with a hitherto blameless record.
These latter, probably educated in part by the be system, which tended to reduce the worker with his hands to a position of marked subservience, had learned to regard their own hereditary privileges as practically unlimited, and to conclude that well nigh any measure of forced labour was due to them from their inferiors. Konin could not correct this conception, and neither could Kwammu.
They were probably poisoned on the same day, and stories injurious to the lady's reputation stories going so far as to accuse her of attempting the life of the Emperor by incantation were circulated in justification of the murder. Certain it is, however, that to Momokawa's exertions the Emperor Kwammu owed his accession, as had his father, Konin.
In 774, Koken issued an edict that provincial governors who had held office for five years or upwards should be dismissed at once, those of shorter terms being allowed to complete five years and then removed. Another evil, inaugurated during the reign of Shomu, when faith in the potency of supernatural influences obsessed men's minds, was severely dealt with by Konin.
To the Emperor Konin belongs the credit of correcting some flagrant abuses in provincial administration. There was an inconvenient outcome of the religious mania which pervaded the upper classes during the reigns of Shomu and Koken.
This monarch, as already shown, was specially selected by his father, Konin, at the instance of Fujiwara Momokawa, who observed in the young prince qualities essential to a ruler of men. Whether Kwammu's career as Emperor reached the full standard of his promise as prince, historians are not agreed. Konin receives a larger meed of praise.
These reforms, supplemented by the removal of many superfluous officials, earned for Konin such popularity that for the first time in Japan's history, the sovereign's birthday became a festival*, thereafter celebrated through all ages. *Called Tenchosetsu.
By their united efforts Prince Shirakabe was proclaimed and became the Emperor Konin, his youngest son, Osabe, being appointed Prince Imperial.