Emperor Go-Daigo (後醍醐天皇)

Basic Information: Emperor

The Emperor Go-Daigo, born on November 2, 1288, and died on September 19, 1339, was the 96th Emperor.
Posthumous name: Takaharu
In October, 1926, an imperial prescript was issued and the imperial genealogy was rewritten to change his title from the 95th to the 96th Emperor.


Emperor Go-Daigo is the 2nd son of Emperor Go-Uda, belonging to the Daigakuji-to lineage. His real mother was an adopted daughter of the Naidaijin Morotsugu KAZANIN, named Daitenmonin FUJIWARA no Tadako (her real father was Sangi, Tadatsugu ITSUTSUJI). He was born on November 2, 1288, and was declared as an imperial prince in 1302. In 1304, he was given the official title, Daizainosochi, and called "Sochinomiya."


In 1308, he presented himself as the Crown Prince for the Emperor Hanazono, who belonged to the Jimyoin-to lineage, and by the abduction of the Emperor Hanazono in March 29, 1318, he succeeded to the throne on April 30 of the same year when he was only 31 years old. During the first three years since his enthronement, the Abdicated Emperor Go-Uda, his father, continued the rule. In the Daikakuji-to lineage, the Emperor Go-Daigo had been considered from the beginning as a caretaker emperor, and his enthronement was conditional, to be terminated at the time when the Prince Kuniyoshi, son of the late Emperor Go-Nijo (his elder brother), would be grown up. Emperor Go-Daigo's discontent grew stronger, because, as a caretaker emperor, succession by his sons was precluded from the beginning. This dissatisfaction lead him to feel hostile toward the Kamakura Shogunate that arbitrated this arrangement.

Toppling of the Shogunate

The discovery of the Emperor's plan to overthrow the Kamakura Shogunate in 1324 provoked the Shochu Incident, and the Rokuhara Tandai (the agency for safety and judicial affairs) disposed of the close vassals of Emperor Go-Daigo, including Suketomo HINO. After the Incident, the Shogunate did not punish the Emperor. Even after this frustrating incident, the Emperor, who formed a plot to overthrow the Shogunate, closely associated with monks such as Monkan of Godai-ji Temple and Enkan of Hossho-ji Temple. In 1329 he offered a prayer in private wishing for control over the Kanto district, with the excuse that the prayer was for his wife's easy delivery. With this excuse he made use of visits to temples in the northern part of Kyoto, such as Kofuku-ji Temple and Enryaku-ji Temple, to make contact with influential religious persons. However, since around this time, a split of the aristocrats into the Imperial Faction and the Prince Kuniyoshi Faction began to be visible, and the Imperial Faction was caught in a difficult situation because the Jimyoin-to lineage and the Bakufu (Shogunate) supported the latter faction. After the death of the Prince Kuniyo, the pressure on Emperor Go-Daigo to abdicate intensified. In 1331, his plan to overthrow the Shogunate was again discovered because of the betrayal of his close associate, Sadafusa YOSHIDA. The Emperor sensed danger, and quickly decided to leave the imperial palace with the Three Sacred Treasures of Japan, raised an army and secluded himself in a castle in Mt. Kasagi in Kyoto (today's Kasagi Town, Soraku District, Kyoto Prefecture). The castle, however, fell to the attacks of the Shogun's army and he was arrested. This was called the "Genko Incident".

Exile and Return

In the following year, 1332, he was exiled to the Oki Island, and the Bakufu (Shogunate), in turn, enthroned Emperor Kogon, who was planned to succeed to the throne after Prince Kuniyoshi. During this period, anti-Bakufu insurgents (Akuto), such as Prince Moriyoshi (a son of the Emperor Go-Daigo), Masashige KUSUNOKI of Kawachi Province, and Norimura AKAMATSU (Enshin), were active in their sphere of influence. In this situation, Emperor Go-Daigo escaped from Oki Island with the help of Nagatoshi NAWA and his family, and he raised an army at Mt. Senjo, Hoki Province (present day Kotoura Town, Tohoku District, Totori Prefecture). Takauji ASHIKAGA, who was dispatched by the Shogunate, however, stood by the Emperor and attacked Rokuhara Tandai. Soon after that, Yoshisada NITTA, who raised an army in eastern Japan, defeated the Kamakura Shogunate and ruined the HOJO Family.

Kenmu Restoration

Returning to Kyoto, Emperor Go-Daigo denied the legitimacy of Emperor Kogon's reign and started the Kenmu Restoration. He also appointed his son, who had been considered illegitimate, to be the successor, excluding the son of his elder brother (the late Emperor Go-Nijo), who was in the direct line of Daigakuji-to, although Emperor Go-Daigo himself belonged the same lineage, in order to that his direct descendants might monopolize the privileges of the imperial lineage. His such a pretension produced conflicts not only with the Jimyoin-to lineage, an opposition imperial lineage, but also with some within the Daigakuji-to lineage, who were supposed to be on his side.

The Kenmu Restoration appeared to be a reactionary movement, but was in fact an old and ignorant imperial dictatorship, and most of the measures introduced, such as aristocracy-centered political management that excluded the samurai, sudden reforms, inability to handle lawsuits for land, inequality in rewards, and the unreasonable Daidairi Construction Plan, caused discontent in various sectors, especially in the samurai class. As a consequence, criticism of the government for its incompetency grew, as was evidenced in the famous Nijogawara Graffiti, and the government completely lost power over the public.

Estrangement of Takauji ASHIKAGA

In 1335, Takauji ASHIKAGA, who had traveled to eastern Japan without obtaining an imperial edict in order to suppress the Nakasendai Rebellion, became disaffected with the new government and privately rewarded the swordsmen who had accompanied him to suppress the rebellion. Emperor Go-Daigo ordered Yoshisada NITTA to track Takauji down. Although Yoshisada was defeated at the battle of Takenoshita in Hakone, he fought back the ASHIKAGA's army in Kyoto in cooperation with Masashige KUSUNOKI and Akiie KITABATAKE, among others. Takauji fled to Kyushu, but after reconstructing his army, he again approached to Kyoto in the following year, with a decree previously obtained from the abducted Emperor Kogon. Masashige KUSUNOKI proposed to the Emperor Go-Daigo to reconcile with Takauji ASHIKAGA, but the Emperor refused it and ordered Yoshisada and Masashige to track down Takauji. However, the army of Yoshisada NITTA and Masashige KUSUNOKI was defeated at the Battle of Minatogawa, where Masashige was killed, and Yoshisada fled to Kyoto.

Northern and Southern Courts Period

When the army of ASHIKAGA entered in Kyoto, the Emperor Go-Daigo escaped to Mt. Hiei and fought back. However, the Emperor accepted the reconciliation proposed by ASHIKAGA, and he handed over the Three Sacred Treasures to Takauji. Takauji ASHIKAGA, backed by the Emperor Komyo of the Jimyoin-to lineage, opened a new legitimate Shogunate with the enactment of a new political platform called Kenmu Shikimoku. The Emperor Go-Daigo left Kyoto and opened the Southern Court in the mountains of Yoshino (Yoshino Town, Yoshino District, Nara Prefecture), based on the insistence that the Three Sacred Treasures handed over to Takauji were imitations. In this way, the Northern and Southern Courts Period started with the coexistence of the Kyoto Imperial Court (Northern Court) and the Yoshino Imperial Court (Southern Court) at the same time. Emperor Go-Daigo dispatched his sons to strategically important places to oppose the Northern Court, Princes Takayoshi and Tsuneyoshi to Hokuriku accompanied by Yoshisada NITTA, Prince Kaneyoshi to Kyushu as Seiseishogun (general in charge of the western conquest), Prince Muneyoshi to the East and Emperor Go-Murakami to Mutsu Province, respectively. However, before he was able to rally from that inferior position, he fell ill and after abdicating the throne to the Prince Noriyoshi (later Emperor Go-Murakami) on August 15, 1339, died at Konrin-ji Temple the next day, leaving as his last will the defeat of his imperial enemy and the recapture of Kyoto.
He died in the 52nd year of his life (age at death: 50)

Emperor Go-Murakami, who resided in Sumiyoshi Angu, held a large memorial service for Emperor Go-Daigo at Shogonjodo-ji Temple, the family temple of the Tsumori Family whose members had served as chief priests of the Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine, the family shrine of the Southern Court. Similarly, Takauji ASHIKAGA constructed Tenryu-ji Temple in Kyoto and dedicated it to the memory of Emperor Go-Daigo.


Son of Emperor Go-Uda of the Daikakuji-to lineage. His mother was an adopted daughter of the Naidaijin Morotsugu KAZANIN, named Daitenmonin FUJIWARA no Tadako (her real father was a sangi, Tadatsugu ITSUTSUJI.).


In this period, Chikafusa KITABATAKE already criticized this new politics in his book, Jinno Shotoki (Chronicles of the Authentic Lineages of the Divine Emperors), from a conservative aristocratic perspective.

In those days, the evaluation that Emperor Go-Daigo was an illegitimate sovereign was firmly established, and in Dai Nihonshi, which Mitsukuni TOKUGAWA began to compile, there is a section recognizing that Emperor Go-Daigo was illegitimate based on the foundation that the Southern Court was legitimate. In Tokushi Yoron, the author, Hakuseki ARAI, placed Emperor Go-Daigo at the end of his list of responsible emperors, based on his historical view that the accumulated immorality of successive emperors lead to the appearance of samurai government.

In Sanyo RAI's 'Nihon Gaishi', although he criticizes Emperor Go-Daigo, he makes a positive evaluation of his government shortly after coronation.


Tsunetada KONOE



Sadafusa YOSHIDA

Suketomo HINO

Toshimoto HINO


Kiyotada BOMON

Takasuke SHIJO

Saneyo TOIN



Posthumous Titles, Honorary Titles, Other Titles

He emulated the reign of Emperor Daigo, whose era, called "Enki no Chi" (reign of Enki), was considered an era of emperor-oriented government
Although the emperor's posthumous name or honorary name is generally given after his death, he named himself "Go-Daigo" after Emperor Daigo. This arrangement is called "willed posthumous name," and has been common since the era of the Emperor Shirakawa. "Go-Daigo" is categorized as an honorary name (in some cases the honorary name is considered a type of posthumous name, but strictly speaking, these two are different).

After the Emperor passed away, within the Northern Count several "ingo," honorary posthumous Buddhist names, that included a Chinese letter 徳 (toku) were proposed to dedicate him, such as Sutoku-in, Antoku-in, Kentoku-in, Juntoku-in, but finally the name "Go-Daigo" was dedicated, respecting his will in life as the Southern Court did. There is another account that says that the honorary posthumous Buddhist name of the Emperor was "Gentoku-in" after the then era name, "Gentoku."

Based on the assumption that the Northern Court was legitimate, there is an idea that he should be called Gentoku (Gentoku-in) for the first half of the period (until the Genko Incident) and Go-Daigo (Go Daigo-in) for the latter half (from his return to Kyoto and the new government of Kenmu to the enthronement of the Emperor Komyo); however, considering that "the once abdicated Emperor Go-Daigo returned to the throne after an interval of the era of Emperor Kogon," this is only a personal opinion.

Empresses, Princes, and Princesses

Empress (Chugu): Kishi SAIONJI (1303-1333), a daughter of Sanekane SAIONJI


Princess Kanshi, future Empress of Kogon)

Empress (Chugu): Princess Junshi (1311-1337), a daughter of the Emperor Go-Fushimi

Princess Yukiko

Court Lady: FUJIWARA no Yoshiko, a daughter of Michihira NIJO

Imperial Court Lady: Ichijo no Tsubone, of Yugimonin, a daughter of Sanetoshi FUJIWARA

Prince Tokiyoshi

Prince Josonho

Imperial princess (Emperor's daughter)

Court Lady: Yasuko ANO (1302-1359), daughter of Sanekado ANO

Prince Tsuneyoshi (1325-1368)

Prince Nariyoshi (1326-1344)

Prince Yoshinori: future Emperor Go-Murakami (1328-1368)

Princess Shoshi, future Saigu

Princess Koreko

Court Lady: Minamoto no Shinshi (?-?), daughter of MINAMOTO no Morochika

Prince Morinaga (1308-1335)

Prince Kaneyoshi (1329-1383)

Prince Mitsuyoshi


Prince Seijo

Prince Honin

Prince Genen

Prince Saikei

Prince Tomoyoshi


Mumongensen (1324-1380)

Court lady: FUJIWARA no Tameko, daughter of Tameyo NIJO

Prince Takayoshi (1311-1337)

Prince Muneyoshi (1312-1385)

Princess Keishi (1326?-1339)

Princess Kinshi

Court lady: Koto no naishi, daughter of MINAMOTO no Tsunesuke

Imperial princess (Emperor's daughter)

Court Lady: Saemonnokami no Tsubone of Yugimonin, daughter of Tametada MIKOHIDARI

Imperial princess (Emperor's daughter)

Court lady: Minbugyo Sanmi, daughter of Tsunemitsu HINO?

Princess Hishi

Court lady: Gon-Chunagon no Tsubone

Princess Sadako

Court lady: Daughter of Mototoki Hojo

Imperial princess (daughter of the emperor)

Court lady: Minbugyo no Tsubone

Imperial princess (Emperor's daughter), Spouse of Mototsugu KONOE

Court lady: YAMASHINA Saneko

Imperial princess (Emperor's daughter)

Court lady: Kintoshi TOIN

Princess Yuko

Court lady: Bomon no Tsubone

Imperial princess (Emperor's daughter)

Court lady: Gon Dainagon Sanmi no Tsubone, daughter of Tamemichi NIJO

Imperial princess (Emperor's daughter)

Court lady: Dainagon Naishinosuke, daughter of Moroshige KITABATAKE

Court lady: Tsunetomo SESONJI

Her real mother is unknown

Yodoni (?-1396), the 5th chief priest (nun) of Tokei-ji Temple

Reading of the Princes' Names

In the names of the princes of the Emperor Go-Daigo, the inherited letter "良" is used. From a long time ago there has been an argument about whether it was pronounced "naga" or "yoshi."

The theory that asserts "naga" is the right pronunciation of the letter.

In old days, the Prince's name 護良 was often pronounced as "morinaga." For example, the Kamakura-gu Shrine that enshrines the Prince, calls him Prince Morinaga, saying that "moriyoshi" is an mistaken pronunciation of the enshrined deity's name. The shrine insists that the pronunciation of "morinaga" is correct because the shrine was built at the order of Emperor Meiji, and its name, Kamakura-gu, as well as the enshrined deity's name Prince Morinaga, were set in the name of the Emperor Meiji. In the Directory of Imperial Tombs, referring to the Tomb of the Prince (located in Nikaido, Kamakura City and now managed by the Imperial Household Agency), there is a pronunciation guide that says the letters inscribed on the gravestone are pronounced "morinaga shinno no haka" (Tomb of the Prince Morinaga), the same annotation as at Kamakura-gu.

As for the pronunciation guide that says to pronounce his name as "morinaka," it is said that the Directory is based on the reading guidebook, Kikunsho, which is said to have been written by Kaneyoshi ICHIJO.

At Iinoya-gu Shrine, where his younger brother is enshrined, the deity's name is pronounced as "Kanenaga Shinno (Prince Munenaga), "and not "Muneyoshi." At Yatsushiro-gu Shrine, where another younger brother is enshrined, the deity's name is pronounced as "Kanenaga Shinno (Prince Kanenaga)," and not "Kaneyoshi." At Kanegasaki-gu Shrine, where his elder brother and younger brother are enshrined, the deities' names are pronounced respectively as "Takanaga Shinno (Prince Takanaga)" and "Tunenaga Shinno (Prince Tunenaga)," and neither "Takayoshi" nor "Tuneyoshi."

In conclusion, all of the four shrines where the princes of Emperor Go-Daigo are enshrined as deities adopt the reading "naga" for the letter 良. These shrines were under the control of Jingikan, a governmental institution in charge of Shinto affairs, and categorized as "Kanpei-sha" (Shrines served by Jingikan), and therefore, it can be thought that Jingikan had established the rule to pronounce the letter 良 as "naga."

The Theory That "yoshi" Is The Right Pronunciation of The Letter 良

However, recent historical research has revealed the following facts:

The oldest extant guide, Kikunsho is a written copy made in 1681, and the instruction to pronounce as "morinaka" has not been proven to have been written by Kaneyoshi ICHIJO himself.

In a written copy of Teikeizu, a historical document written in the same period as Kikunsho, the Prince's name that should have been written as 儀義 was miswritten as 義儀, therefore, it can be surmised that his name was pronounced as "Noriyoshi."

In Jinno Hyakudai Gumyoki" (a compendium of successive emperors' names), the Emperor's name 義良 is written as 儀良 with the instruction to pronounce as "noriyoshi."

In part of a written copy of Masukagami, the name of the Prince 世良 is accompanied by an instruction to read as "yoyoshi," and the name of prince 尊良 has an instruction to pronounce as "takayoshi."

Based on such evidence, current thought is negative regarding pronouncing the letter 良 as "naga."

Names of the Eras during His Reign

Bunpo: February 26, 1318-April 28, 1319

Geno: April 28, 1319-February 23, 1321

Genko: February 23, 1321-December 9, 1324

Shochu: December 9, 13241-April 26, 1326

Karyaku: April 26, 1326-August 29, 1329

Gentoku: August 29, 1329-August 9, 1331

Genko: August 9, 1331-January 29, 1334

Kenmu: January 29, 1334-February 29, 1936

Engen: February 29, 1336-August 26, 1939



Kenmu Nenchu Gyoji: a compendium of professional functions written using the Japanese notation system
Later on, it was often used in the Imperial Court. This book is renowned as a historical document about the imperial protocol in the Middle Ages, about which much is still unknown. It is compiled in the Public Affairs section of Gunshoruiju (a catalogue of classified books).

Imperial Tombs and Mausoleums

His Imperial Tomb is a round-shaped mound called "Tono-ono-misasagi" and situated within the Nyorin-ji Temple at Yoshinoyama, Yoshino Town, Yoshino District, Nara Prefecture. Although imperial tombs are generally constructed facing the south, the tomb of the Emperor Go-Daigo faces north. It is said that this represents Emperor Go-Daigo's strong desire to go back north to Kyoto. According to a classic history book, Taiheiki, the last words of the Emperor Go-Daigo were "Even though my body might be covered with moss in the Junanzan mountain, my soul is always keen for the sky of the north.

In 1889 the Yoshino Shrine dedicated to the Emperor Go-Daigo was constructed in Yoshino Town. All emperors are enshrined in the "Korei-den" (imperial mausoleum), one of the "Kyuchu San-Den" (three imperial sanctuaries), on the premises of the Imperial Palace.

Furthermore, at Soji-ji Temple (Tsurumi Ward, Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture), which Emperor Go-Daigo allowed to use purple vestments and designated a Kanji (official temple), there is a mausoleum where Emperor Go-daigo's statue and mortuary tablet, etc are installed. This mausoleum was constructed in 1937 to commemorate the 600th anniversary of Emperor Go-Daigo's death.

HIRAIZUMI, Kiyoshi. (Sep., 1934/May, 1983). Kenmu Chuko no Hongi. Shibundo/Nihongaku Kyokai.

Kenmugikai ed. (Sep., 1939). Emperor Go-Daigo Hosan Essay Collection. Shibundo.

HIRAIZUMI, Kiyoshi. (June. 1970). Meiji no Genryu. Jiji Press Ltd.

MURAMATSU, Takeshi. (1981). Teio Go-Daigo "Chusei" no Hikari to Kage. Chuko Bunko. ISBN 4-12-200828-X.

AMINO, Yoshihiko. (1993). Igyo no Oken. Heibonsha Library. ISBN 4-582-76010-4.

MORI, Shigeaki. (2000). Go-Daigo Tenno: Nanboku-cho Doran o Irodotta Hao. Chuko Shinsho. ISBN 4-12-101521-5.

SATO, Kazuhiko. and Kunio HIGUCHI. (Eds.) (2004). Go-Daigo Tenno no Subete (All about Emperor Go-Daigo) Shin-Jinbutsuoraisha. ISBN 4-404-03212-9.

Works Featuring Emperor Go-Daigo

Taiheiki, NHK Taiga Drama. (Actor: Nizaemon KATAOKA the 15th).

SAWADA, Hirofumi. Sanzokuo., which is a historical comic that describes the Northern and Southern Courts Period. Here he is described as an emperor with dignity recognized even by Masashige KUSUNOKI.

ASAMATSU, Ken. Jakyoku Kairo. Igyo Collection Vol. 33 "Haunted Houses" Kobunsha, 2005.

Appeared in "The World," which was born out of Emperor Kogon's staff. Because of a grudge against Emperor Kogon, he changes into a vengeful spirit sprinkling flames like an active volcano, and chases Ikkyu, who stood in for Emperor Kogon.

[Original Japanese]