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One of the greatest episodes in Japanese history occurred so long ago it is in danger of being forgotten.

The earliest rumblings were in the fifth century. The climax — a palace revolt — came in 645. It marked a new era. The name given it is fitting: Taika, “great reform.” There have been few greater. Japan entered it in semi-barbaric infancy. Few foresaw — though some perhaps did — the splendors of the Nara Period (710-94) a mere half-century ahead.

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