Emperor Buretsu (Muretsu) (武烈天皇)

Emperor Buretsu (489 - January 7, 507) was the twenty-fifth Japanese Emperor (reign: 498 - 507). There are various theories as to whether or not he actually existed.

He was also known as Ohatsuse no Wakasazaki no Mikoto, Ohatsuse no Wakazaki no Sumera Mikoto (according to "Nihonshoki", Chronicles of Japan) and Ohatsuse no Wakazaki no Mikoto (according to "Kojiki", Records of Ancient Matters).

According to Kojiki he ruled the realm from the age of ten for eight years from the palace Namiki at Hatsuse. As there was no crown prince, the Ohatsube clan was established as mikoshiro (a clan who belongs to the imperial court) to pass on the name of Emperor Buretsu to later generations. When the emperor passed away, there was no ruler (child of the emperor) to succeed.
Therefore Prince Odo, the fifth descendant of Emperor Homuda (Emperor Ojin) was made to come from Chikatsuafumi (Omi Province) and together with Princess Tashiraka (TASHIRAKA no Himemiko) was presented with the realm.' (Kojiki)


His father was Emperor Ninken and his mother was KASUGA no Oiratsume no Himemiko, daughter of Emperor Yuryaku.

Empress: KASUGA no Iratsume (not mentioned in Kojiki)
'There was no man or woman, no heir to succeed" ("Nihonshoki") and also 'There was no ruler (child of the emperor) to succeed' ("Kojiki").

The Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace was Namiki at Hatsue, 泊瀬列城宮 (possibly Izumo, Sakurai City, Nara Prefecture). In Kojiki the name of the palace is written with different Chinese characters, '長谷之列木宮,' but pronounced the same.

Brief Personal History

In January 494 he was installed as Crown Prince. After the death of Emperor Ninken in 498, the minister HEGURI no Matori led the state of affairs in his own way and was arrogant. OTOMO no Kanamura and others were anguished.

The ten year old Crown Prince tried to get engaged to Kagehime, the daughter of MONONOBE no Arakahi, but Kagehime already had an affair with Shibi, the son of the minister Matori. At a poetry reading party in Tsubaichi (Sakurai City), the Crown Prince became so mad when he had lost the singing competition with Shibi so much so that he had Shibi executed by OTOMO no Kanamura in Narayama (Nara City) and moreover in November he also had the minister Matori killed.

Later on in the same year in December he was coronated, the Imperial Palace was decided to be Namiki at Hatsuse and OTOMO no Kanamura was made minister of state (Omuraji).

In the year 500 at the age of eleven the Emperor cut open the belly of a pregnant woman and looked at the embryo. It is said that thereafter he committed absurd deeds seeking the bizarre, like having people dig up yam after he had torn out their nails, letting people drift from the gutter of a pond and with a spear stabbing them to death, having people climb up trees and shot them down and he had women copulate with horses (in other words bestiality). He forgot that the empire was famishing and indulged in wining and dining with his court ladies day and night. Kanamura was deeply distressed about the Emperor's atrocities and admonished him according to "Tensho "(a chronological history of Japan) and "Sendai Kujihongi Taiseikyo". A theory exists that Emperor Buretsu didn't actually exist, but was described by parts of the legend of Emperor Yuryaku, who was also described as the Evil Emperor. The existence of all the emperors after Emperor Keitai, the next Emperor to Emperor Buretsu, is considered to be certain; therefore, Emperor Buretsu is the latest Emperor whose existence is doubted.

He passed away without a successor in January 507. According to "Fuso Ryakki" (A Brief History of Japan) and "Mizukagami" he passed away at the age of eighteen. "Tensho" records an age of sixty-one, which is doubtful.

Differences between "Nihonshoki" and "Kojiki"

In "Nihonshoki" he is described as a very wicked person, like "he worked much evil and accomplished no good thing". The reports of him contradict each other as it is written how he was a very wicked person and thought little of politics but at the same strict trials were conducted. The general explanation behind these differences is, that Emperor Buretsu was passed off as a tyrant in "Shoki" with the intention to justify the enthronement of the next era's Emperor, Keitai, who was only distantly related (see Emperor Keitai). As the Emperor was of a very young age, the kind of cruel acts we see in "Shoki" (short for Nihonshoki) are considered impossible, though there are various theories about the age of Emperor Buretsu.

On the other hand in "Kojiki" there is no record of him as tyrant and the only two things recorded are that he had no wife and children and ODO no Mikoto (the later Emperor Keitai) was asked to succeed the Imperial Throne after he had passed away.

In "Nihonshoki" the Crown Prince competed against HEGURI no Omi Shibi at a poetry reading party over Kagehime, daughter of MONONOBE no Arakahi and when he was defeated he ordered Kanamaru to kill Shibi. However, according to "Kojiki," Oke no Miko, later Emperor Kenzo and Shibi no Omi (corresponding to HEGURI no Omi Shibi in "Nihonshoki") competed each other at the poetry reading party to get Ouo, the daughter of Uda no Obito. In other words, the Crown Prince and the woman at the poetry reading party are in a complete different setting. Which of them is the original legend is not determined, but at least in "Kojiki" and "Nihonshoki" there is obviously quite a discrepancy in the tale of Emperor Buretsu, still doubts remain if he actually existed.

Before and during Word War II many of those cruel stories were completely omitted from Japanese history text books. Even today in many text books there is no description of the cruel character, many do not even mention Emperor Buretsu at all.

Imperial Mausoleum

The "Engishiki"(one of the earliest extant written records of imperial court etiquette compiled in the Engi era) states, that Emperor Buretsu was buried in Kataoka no Iwatsuki no oka no kita no Misasagi.

But a scientific society published its opinion that the current Imperial Mausoleum (ryobo) in Imaizumi, Kashiba City, Nara Prefecture, determined by the Imperial Household Agency, "was not built as a tumulus (kofun), but is just a natural hill. Hence the actual existence of the Imperial Mausoleum is doubted by some. Kunpei GAMO compared it to a tumulus in Tsukiyama in Yamatotakada City, which is a place designated as a possible tomb of a member of the Imperial Family (ryobo sankochi).


In the Book of the Ling Dynasty "Ryojo"(梁書) it is recorded that "the Great General of Holding the East the King of Wa, Bu was given the title"the General of Subduing the East in 502" which is regarded as meaning Emperor Buretsu as it corresponds chronologically to Bu, the King of Wa (Waobu,倭王武). The "Bu" of Waobu may derive from the Chinese character 稚 (meaning young). The W changed to V in pronunciation.
It can be concluded that the assumed Emperor Yuryaku, 478 and Bu, the King of Wa, derive from the same Chinese character 稚,

[Original Japanese]