Emperor Chokei (長慶天皇)

Emperor Chokei (1343 – September 4, 1394; reign: April 6, 1368 – November 1383) was the ninety-eighth emperor of Japan, who lived in the period of the Northern and Southern Courts. He was the third emperor of the Southern Court. His imina (personal name) was Yutanari. In Japan, the Southern Court was identified as the orthodox in 1911. Even after that, the Emperor Chokei's reign had not been identified until Kuniji YASHIRO made empirical research on materials and identified the reign with academic validity (YASHIRO found old materials in an old house in Nara, a region dominated by the old Southern Court).

Brief Personal History

Records say that after the death of the Emperor Gomurakami, he succeeded to the throne on April 6, 1368 at Suminoe-den (Shoin-den) in Sumiyoshi Ward, Osaka City, which was the place of Sumiyoshi-angu (a gozasho (a room for a noble person) for the Southern Court) and a residence of Tsumori clan, members of which served as Guji (chief of those who serves shrine, controls festivals and general affairs) of Sumiyoshitaisha Shrine.

The Southern Court was losing its power with the loss of leaders such as Chikafusa KITABATAKE. Emperor Chokei did not advance the reconciliatory negotiation with the Northern Court, which had been carried out in the era of the Emperor Gomurakami. And in the era of the Emperor Chokei, a warrior in the Southen Court, Masanori KUSUNOKI submitted to the Northern Court. From these facts, some suppose that the Emperor Chokei was a hard liner towards the Northern Court. Records say that he abdicated the throne in favor of his younger brother, Emperor Gokameyama just after the issuance of a rinji (Emperor's command) of tax exemption in November 1383 (other records say in 1384). After that, the Southern Court resumed the reconciliatory negotiation with the Northern Court. His comings and goings after the unification of the Southern and Northern Courts are unknown. Some say that he did not go to Kyoto while others say that in his later years he went to Keijuin Temple, a Tacchu (minor temple) of Tenryu-ji Temple and where his son, Shocho KAIMON resided. It is said that he died on September 4, 1394 at the age of 52.

He enjoyed literature and poems, and left the "Sengensho Commentary," an annotation of the Tale of Genji, and many poems.

It had been a questionable matter whether he really succeeded the throne or not, and there had been discussions on this matter since around the Edo period. In and after the Meiji period, empirical research was carried out and "Research on the Succession of the Emperor Chokei" and other books were published in the Taisho period. In October 1926, a Shosho (imperial edict, decree) was issued to admit him in the imperial line as the ninety-eighth emperor of Japan, and to designate the imperial mausoleum.

Across Japan, including Tohoku region, there are legends that say Emperor Chokei visited these areas secretly, and some say that he invented the Nanbu Senbei (Nanbu rice cracker).

Posthumous Name and Title, Alias

He was also called Chokeiin and Keijuin.

Gengo (era name) during his Reign

Shohei: April 6, 1368 – August 24, 1370

Kentoku: August 24, 1370 – November 4, 1372

Bunchu: November 7, 1372 – July 4, 1375

Tenju: July 4, 1375 – March 14, 1381

Kowa: March 14, 1381 – November 1383

Mausoleum and Relics

His mausoleum is Saga-no-higashi-no-misasagi Imperial mausoleum, located in Suminokura-cho, Saga Tenryuji, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto City. There are no documents that describe how the Emperor spent his later years. Although the Imperial Household Ministry (now the Imperial Household Agency) investigated temples, old houses and places appearing in legends in Kinki region, no materials were found that convey information on his mausoleum. However, as his relatives including the prince left where they had lived and went to Kyoto in their later years, it is estimated that the Emperor Chokei did the same. In addition, from the fact that the Emperor was also called 'Keijuin' after Keijuin Temple (a Tacchu of Tenryu-ji Temple), where the prince Shocho KAIMON (also known as Shochoo; the 30th chief priest of Shokoku-ji Temple) resided, it is estimated that the Emperor lived his later years in Keijuin Temple (emperors at that time were named after where they lived), and that after his death, the temple held memorial service for him. Therefore, the site of Keijuin Temple was considered to be the place that had the strongest tie with the Emperor. The site of Keijuin Temple was arranged and designated as a referable mausoleum according to the discussion in the extraordinary investigation committee of the Imperial mausoleums and tombs (1935 – 1944), which followed the examples of designated mausoleums that were not located where the dead were buried, such as those of Emperor Kanmu and Emperor Antoku. Then on February 11, 1944 (the National Foundation Day), the name was given to the mausoleum. On the same day, the mausoleum of the Prince, Shocho KAIMON was also designated in the same area. However, there are as many as twenty places in Japan that are supposed to be the mausoleum of the Emperor Chokei, such as Aomori Prefecture, Kawakami Village (Nara Prefecture), Ota City (Gunma Prefecture) and Ninohe City (Iwate Prefecture).

There is a legend that says that Emperor Chokei owned 'Akaito Odoshi Yoroi Kabuto, Osode tsuki' (odoshi armor with red strings, set with a helmet and large sleeves), which is designated as a national treasure and kept in Kushihiki-hachimangu Shrine in Hachinohe City.

On October 22, 1385, he offered to Mt. Koya the 'Petition and Prayer Text of Emperor Chomei's Own Handwriting,' which is designated as a national treasure and kept in Kongobu-ji Temple. His handwritten signature of "Daijotenno Yutanari" (The Retired Emperor Yutanari) is on the text.

[Original Japanese]