The “tail” of a celestial messenger
The early Seventh Century was a time when Buddhism was gaining in popularity among the elite of Japan, as the poor gravitated toward Shintoism. The Chinese writing system, including calligraphy, became more popular. The general population lived, largely, in clans, and these people would, within a few decades, develop their first powerful central government.
Following a shift in power away from the position of emperor, Prince Shotoku Taishi came to hold significant power. A scholar, he moved to establish a Confucian system of meritocracy, based on Chinese principles. These principles were codified as a constitution consisting of 17 articles outlining a government ruled by the most accomplished citizens.
The “red sign” appearing in the sky was interpreted, by some, to be a bad omen. Moreover, pheasants are traditionally important in Japanese culture, said to be messengers from heaven.
“It is the oldest Japanese astronomical record of a ‘red sign.’ It could be a red aurora produced during magnetic storms. However, convincing reasons have not been provided, although the description has been very famous among Japanese people for a long time,” said Ryuho Kataoka, of The Graduate University for Advanced Studies and the National Institute of Polar Research.
One problem with the idea that this phenomenon was the result of aurora is that these events do not, typically, resemble the shape of a pheasant’s tail. Also, Japan is not, currently, well-positioned for significant displays of northern lights. The ancient display was also not likely to be a comet, as these visitors from the outer Solar System are usually white, yellow, or green — not red.