Emperor Antoku (安徳天皇)

Emperor Antoku (December 22, 1178 - April 25, 1185) was the eighty-first Emperor. He reigned from April 22, 1180 to March 24, 1185. His first name was Tokihito.


His father was Emperor Takakura, his mother was Tokuko (later called Kenrei-mon in), a daughter of TAIRA no Kiyomori, and his grandfather was TAIRA no Kiyomori.

Brief Personal History

He was born on November 12, 1178 and became Crown Prince on December 15, not long after his birth. He ascended to the throne on February 21, 1180 and was officially enthroned on April 22, when he was two years old; however, Kiyomori took actual control of the government.

On the year of the enthronement, the capital city was moved to Fukuhara-Kyo (the ancient capital of Fukuhara-kyo) and the Emperor visited the city (currently Kobe City); however, within half a year the capital was transferred back to Kyoto City. In 1183 he was forced to leave the city carrying three sacred emblems of the Imperial Family with him, when MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka entered the city. He was accompanied by the Heike clan on his way to Yashima via Dazaifu, and set up a temporary palace at Yashima. The Emperor escaped to the sea after the Taira clan lost the Battle of Yashima against Kamakura solders of the Minamoto clan, the Minamotos having been sent by MINAMOTO no Yoritomo. In 1185, the Taira clan and Minamoto clan fought each other in the decisive war, the Battle of Dannoura. The Taira clan lost the battle, which resulted in the clan's destruction.

When Emperor's grandmother TAIRA no Tokiko picked him up while wearing a sacred jewel (one of the San-shu no jingi) and a sacred sword (one of the San-shu no jingi), having decided to commit suicide, the Emperor said to her, 'Amaze, where are you going to take me?'
Ni-no Ama tried not to cry and said to the Emperor, 'You were born as a son of Heaven because you did a good deed in your past life, but your life seemed to be finished due to bad luck.
I will take you to a wonderful place called the Pure Land (of Amida Buddha)--Paradise--since this world is too harsh and painful.'
Emperor Antoku prayed to Amitabha with his little hands put together, but Ni-no Ama said to the Emperor to comfort him, 'There is a city under the waves,' then she jumped into the rapid stream of Dannoura while holding the Emperor against her body, thus ending Emperor Antoku's life at the youngest age among the successive emperors (referred to in "The Tale of the Heike" ('Sentei Minage')).

His mother, Kenrei-mon in, also jumped into the sea to commit suicide, and her body was found and pulled up by raking her hair. When this incident occurred, two of three sacred emblems of the Imperial Family, Yasakani no Magatama and Ama no murakumo no Tsurugi, were lost in the sea. It is said that a sacred jewel (one of San-shu no jingi) was found in the sea, but a sacred sword (one of San-shu no jingi) had been lost in the sea.

There is an Otabisho (Otabidokoro) in Izaki Town, Shimonoseki City, where the fishermen rested the body of Emperor Antoku temporarily after they found his body in the fishing net, on the day after the Battle of Dannoura.

Because Emperor Go-Toba was enthroned in 1183 and Emperor Antoku died in 1185, there was an overlapping period of two years (1183 to 1185) in which there were two emperors.

Posthumous name, Tsuigo, a different name

He was posthumously given the Chinese-style name 'Antoku-Tei.'
Subsequent to the Meiji period, the Emperor was referred to as 'Emperor Antoku.'

Eras during his reign

Jisho/Chisho: April 12, 1180 - July 14, 1181

Yowa: July 14, 1181 - May 27, 1182

Juei: May 27, 1182 - April 16, 1184

Genryaku: April 16, 1184 - March 24, 1185

The Taira clan still used Juei eras after the start of the new era.

The Imperial Mausoleum

After the Emperor drowned himself in the sea, Amida-ji Temple Miei-do was built to mourn his spirit.

Later, Emperor Antoku was respected as an enshrined deity of Suiten-gu Shrine (Kurume City, Fukuoka Prefecture) (a temple sacred to the guardian deity of mariners); he was also respected as a god of water and a god who ensured the easy delivery of healthy babies.

During the Meiji period it was decided that his mausoleum should be called Amidaji-no-misasagi, having been sited next to Amida-ji Temple, which was chosen out of more than ten traditional places. Due to the movement of Haibutsu Kisyaku, the place was called Akama-Jingu Shrine where Emperor Antoku was enshrined. (Shimonoseki City, Yamaguchi Prefecture).

The legend

There is a legend that the Emperor did not drawn himself but instead escaped to a rural area protected by guards remaining from the Taira clan. Please refer to the section on the Fleeing Heike Warrior.

There are more than 20 such legends in Japan, particularly in the Kyushu and Shikoku regions, including the one in which TAIRA no Morikuni allowed the Emperor to move to a hideout in Nishi-Iya Sanson of Awa Province (currently Miyoshi City, Tokushima Prefecture), or that the Emperor escaped to Io-jima Island in Satsuma Province (currently Mishima-mura Village, Kagoshima Prefecture) guarded by TAIRA no Sukemori, or that the Emperor escaped to Tsushima Island and became an ancestor of the So-uji (the So clan), etc. (Although there has been a place called Antoku in Nakagawa-machi Town, Chikushi County, Fukuoka Prefecture since olden days, as far as the literature is concerned, it does not mean the name came from Emperor Antoku; it is said that Antoku-dai is the place where the local military commander Tanenao HARADA welcomed the Emperor during the Gempei War (the Taira-Minamoto War).
According to "The Tale of the Heike," the Heike clan tried to set up a base at Dazaifu, but the government buildings had been damaged and lost in the war; consequently, it is said that 'the Emperor had his temporary abode at 岩戸少卿 (Tanenao OKURA's place.')

There is no written proof whether Emperor Antoku in fact existed as stated in the legend of Io-jima Island, but it is said there was a person whom the local people called 'Mr. Emperor.'
Also, that person was known to have a 'secret box.'
Although this 'secret box' was stolen by the Shimazu clan and it is not known what the box contained, it is considered that the box might have contained a sacred sword (one of the San-shu no jingi), which was otherwise believed to have been lost at sea during the Battle of Dannoura.

Because there is a description in "The Tale of the Heike" to imply that the Emperor Antoku could have been a woman, in the story of Yoshitsune Sen-bon Zakura (Yoshitsune's one thousand cherry trees) of Joruri and Kabuki there is a story based on the possibility that Emperor Antoku was a woman (WATANABE, 199082; please refer to page 122).

[Original Japanese]