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conspirators first met to plot the removal of the Soga. This Fujiwara familywould later become the leading family in Japan.Traditional Japanese accounts probably paint a somewhat idealized portraitof the Taika reforms that were implemented after 645, but there is little doubtthat a radical new centralization of power began to be rapidly asserted in themiddle to late seventh century. As of the early 600s, it is likely that many localJapanese chieftains had still been really little more than “autonomous allies ofthe king,” and the reach of the Yamato court may not have extended very farbeyond the palace itself, except for some direct royal estates and certain groupsof workers.29After the Taika coup d’état, the process of centralized statedevelopment in Japan accelerated and intensified. Part of the urgency behind thisdrive may have been fear of invasion from Tang China.The Taika coup in Japan in 645 happened to coincide with the beginning ofa new series of Tang Dynasty attacks on Koguryŏ, in Korea. When the Tangstrategy shifted from direct frontal assault from the north to an alliance with Silla
and an attack on Koguryŏ from the south, through Paekche, Yamato sent anexpeditionary force to assist Paekche. The Japanese expeditionary force wasannihilated in 663, however, with the reported loss of four hundred boats and tenthousand men. Paekche ceased to exist, and in 668, Koguryŏ was obliteratedalso. For a few years after 668, it even appeared as though the entire Koreanpeninsula might be brought under Tang control, which would have put Japanwithin easy reach as the next potential target of Tang conquest. Efforts tostrengthen the Japanese state in this moment of crisis took the form of anaccelerated adoption of Chinese-style imperial institutions, which was simply themost impressive administrative model then available. This Chinese model wasprobably mostly introduced only indirectly, through the intermediary of Silla inKorea rather than directly from Tang, but even the Sillans and Japanesesometimes communicated with each other using the Chinese written language.30These late seventh-century innovations included a new name for Japan. Inspeech, the old name Yamato probably long continued to be used, but Yamatowas not a written word. The oldest written name for Japan was Wa. But,although the origins of this name Wa are obscure and it did not becomeflagrantly offensive until much later, by the late 600s the Japanese court hadalready apparently become dissatisfied with Wa and favored a new writtenname, chosen for the meaning of its Chinese characters: Nihon (“Origin of theSun,” sometimes also pronouncedNippon). Nihon is still the standard Japanesename for Japan today. It was also about this time that the rulers of Japandefinitely began using what has since become the standard Japanese title for“emperor,”tennō(literally, “Heavenly Sovereign”). This is a variant of theChinese imperial title, and the complete set of standard Chinese imperial titleswere also officially adopted in Japan.