Emperor Go-Toba (後鳥羽天皇)

Emperor Go-Toba (August 6, 1180 - March 28, 1239) (his reign was August 20, 1183 - January 11, 1198) was the eighty-second Emperor, being in power during the end of the Heian period to the early Kamakura period. His posthumous name was Takahira.


Emperor Takakura's fourth prince's mother was Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank), Nobutaka BOMON's daughter, FUJIWARA no Shokushi.
Emperor Antoku's younger half-brother
Emperor Go-Shirakawa's grandchild

Brief Personal History

When the Taira clan was pushed out of Kyoto by the force of MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka (1183), Emperor Antoku escaped to the west with the Taira clan and a new Emperor was needed. Hokuriku no Miya (Prince Hokuriku) was recommended by Nakayoshi KISO; however, Emperor Go-Shirakawa decided that Prince Takahira should succeed to the Imperial Throne. It is said this was recommended by Eishi TAKASHINA.

Because Emperor Go-Toba was enthroned before the abdication of Emperor Antoku, there was an overlapping period of two years in which there were two emperors (between 1183 and 1185), until the Taira clan disappeared. Since Emperor Antoku took three sacred emblems of the Imperial Family with him, together with the Taira clan, in their absence there was an emergency plan: the Cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa ordered Emperor Go-Toba to succeed to the Imperial Throne as a command from a former Emperor.

Until March 1192, the cloister government of Cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa continued. Following the death of the Cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa, MINAMOTO no Yoritomo was ordered to become Seii Taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians") with the help of the kanpaku (chief adviser) to the Emperor, Kanezane KUJO; Yoritomo started Japan's feudal government in Kamakura (later known as the Kamakura government). In 1196, after MINAMOTO no Michichika's daughter had a son, it caused a political change and Kanezane KUJO's people were forced to leave the Imperial Palace; even his daughter, Ninshi KUJO, lost her position as the second consort of the Emperor and had to leave.

The cloister government

On January 11, 1198, Emperor Tsuchimikado took over the Imperial Throne, but Emperor Go-Toba continued to run his cloister government as a retired emperor for 23 years until 1221, spanning three generations starting from Emperor Tsuchimikado and continuing to Emperor Juntoku and Emperor Chukyo. Once he became the retired emperor, he made an active effort to become a (high-ranking) courtier allowed into the Imperial Palace, as a court noble (traditionally, people who served an emperor would stay with him after his reign) in order to reform the system of the cloister government; he was ready to take forceful action against the Kamakura government, which had started to behave conspicuously.

The Jokyu War

On May 14, 1221, the Retired Emperor Go-Toba gave an official document to expel the regent Yoshitoki HOJO from the government; he gathered the solders near Kyoto and triggered the Jokyu War, but he was severely beaten by the Kamakura government. Slightly more than two months after the incident, on July 9, Yoshitoki's son Yasutoki HOJO came to Kyoto with 190,000 solders; subsequently, the Retired Emperor Go-Toba was sentenced to deportation and sent to Oki no-shima Island (Naka no shima, Ama County, Oki Province, the present-day Ama-cho Town). Emperor Juntoku helped his father defeat the Kamakura government, but he was then sent to Sado ga-shima Island; the Emperor Tsuchimikado also went to Tosa Province by his own will, although he was not involved in the incident. Apart from these three retired emperors, the Retired Emperor's prince, Masanari, was sentenced to deportation and sent to Tajima Province; Prince Yorihito was sentenced to deportation and sent to Bizen Province. Furthermore, the young Emperor Chukyo, who was enthroned for three months (he was four years old) was removed, and instead Takakura-in's grandchild (the future Emperor Horikawa) was recommended to succeed the Imperial Throne, and his father, Prince Morisada, took control of the cloister government.

The Emperor's death

The Retired Emperorr Go-Toba, who had become a cloistered emperor before he was about to be sentenced to deportation and sent to Oki, died at the place of exile on February 20, 1239, while Emperor Shijo was in power. In May of that year, he was given the posthumous name of Kentoku-in. Because there was no one to succeed the Imperial Throne from Emperor Go-Takakura's line, Emperor Go-Saga (Prince Tsuchimikado) was enthroned in July 1242; and the suffix -in used in posthumous Buddhist names was changed to Go-Toba-in. This is an exception, and there is no other successive Emperor but Go-Toba-in whose posthumous name was changed.

As a poet

Go-Toba (no)-in was one of the greatest, most outstanding poets of the Medieval period; his poems had an enormous impact on the later periods.

It is unknown when Go-Toba-in acquired an interest in poetry, but generally it is said that he started when he abdicated the throne in January 1198; also, in August of that year he suddenly started writing poems after the imperial visit to Kumano, and in 1199 he often opened poetry competitions (poetry parties or contests). Go-Toba-in admired FUJIWARA no Sadaie's (Teika) style of poetry writing, the latter being the main person of the Kujo Family in the world of tanka poetry; the tanka circle, being similar to 新儀非拠達磨歌 at that time, was the stylistic manner of praising something and criticizing at the same time. In July 1200, when Shoji Shodo Hyakushu Waka was held, Go-Toba-in invited the poets of the Kujo Family, representing the world of tanka poetry, along with members of the tanka circle and the Mikohidari Family, such as Princess Shikishi (Shokushi), Yoshitsune KUJO, FUJIWARA no Shunzei (Toshinari), Jien, Jakuren, FUJIWARA no Sadaie (Teika) and FUJIWARA no Ietaka to send poems to the Imperial Palace or temples. With this collection of 100 poems, Go-Toba-in began studying under FUJIWARA no Shunzei (Toshinari); he was directly affected by the style of FUJIWARA no Sadaie (Teika), and his poetry experienced dramatic improvement. In August of that year, Go-Toba-in started making poems for Shoji Godo Hyakushu Waka. The reprehensive poets were FUJIWARA no Masatsune, MINAMOTO no Tomochika, KAMO no Chomei and Go-Toba in no Kunaikyo, who were mostly newcomers from among the aides of Go-Toba-in; he tried to find new poets to serve the other people, but later on it helped to create a base for the In aide group together with the KUJO Family group and the Mikohidari Family group within Shin Kokin Kajin gun.

Having been involved in two 100-poem collections, Go-Toba in became more determined to live as a poet and finally decided to make an anthology of poems (collected) by imperial command; in July 1201 he rebuilt the Waka-dokoro. The Yoryuudo were FUJIWARA no Yoshitsune, Gien, MINAMOTO no Michichika, MINAMOTO no Michitomo, Shakua (Shunzei, Toshinari), FUJIWARA no Sadaie (Teika), Jakuren, FUJIWARA no Ietaka, FUJIWARA no Takanobu, FUJIWARA no Ariie (Rokujo-Toke), MINAMOTO no Tomochika, FUJIWARA no Masatsune, KAMO no Chomei, FUJIWARA no Hideyoshi (Hideto), for a total of 14 poets (the last three poets were added later), and Kaiko was MINAMOTO no Ienaga. Prior to this time, the largest-ever Sen-gohyaku-ban-Utaawase had been organized. The 30 main contemporary poets created poems by turns, and each poet gave a Han-shi in the poetry-contest style, as the largest such event yet held; this poetry contest was the most valuable in literary history, since it evaluated the poems of the Shin kokin period and revealed talented poets who had previously been unknown. Furthermore, in November of that year, after the great poetry event, six poets, FUJIWARA no Sadaie (Teika), FUJIWARA no Ariie, MINAMOTO no Michitomo, FUJIWARA no Ietaka, FUJIWARA no Masatsune, and Jakuren were tasked with organizing an anthology (collection) of poems by imperial command; this was the start of making "Shin-Kokin Wakashu (New Collection of Ancient and Modem Times)" for the Imperial Court. In terms of editing the above, according to the record written in "Meigetsu-ki" and others, Go-Toba-in was deeply involved in choosing poems or constructing the layout of the poems, so it would not be an exaggeration to state that he was one of the actual editors.

In later years, the title of Hakuseki ARAI's essay, 'Oritaku Shiba no ki," came from Go-Toba-in's poem. Each time I think of you, I pick some branches of the tree and burn them in the fire; it is nice to cough with smoke, as if it were your memento. (Shin-Kokin Wakashu (New Collection of Ancient and Modem Times) Volume No. 8, "Song of sorrow").

Evaluation after the age

After the Cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa died, Go-Toba-in, as a Chiten no kimi, ruled the government directly or started a cloister government, whereupon he forced Emperor Tsuchimikado to abdicate from the throne and let his favorite (the future Emperor Juntoku) assume the throne, followed by Emperor Juntoku's descendants as successors; thus it is needless to say that the lords and princes were hostile against him due to this incident. It was unpopular that the enthronement had been organized without the presence of three sacred emblems of the Imperial Family. Apart from Go-Toba-in's aides, the lords turned a cold shoulder toward Go-Toba-in because he had an arbitrary government (although he was not very talented as a leader), and he attempted incautious plans to defeat the Kamakura government. Consequently, after the Jokyu War there was little sympathy for Go-Toba-in, although the Kamakura government had strong political power; in historical books such as "Gukansho," "Rokudai shojiki" and "Jinno shotoki," it is said that the Emperor deserved to die the way he did after ruling the government through the use of his dominant power. On the other hand, there was a movement to re-evaluate Go-Toba-in as a poet after the closure of the Kamakura government. The Go-Toba-in shows the aspect of his support for court culture in "Masukagami."

The posthumous name Tsuigo was a different name.

He was called Okino-in during his sentence of deportation until he received his posthumous name.

Gosyo yaki, Kikumon

He appreciated sword-making, and therefore ordered a sword from his favorite craftsman, Hyogo-gusari koshirae. He himself made a hamon and applied the kikumon with 16 petals.
It is called 'Gosho yaki' or 'Kiku Gyosaku.'
This was the beginning of the Imperial Family's kikumon.

Eras during his reign

Juei: August 20, 1183 - April 16, 1184

Genryaku: April 16, 1184 - August 14, 1185

Bunchi: August 14, 1185 - April 11, 1190

Kenkyu: April 11, 1190 - January 11, 1198

The Imperial Mausoleum

The Emperor was entombed in Oharano misasagi at Shorin-in Town, Ohara, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto City.

There is a cremation mound called Okiamacho no misasagi at Ama-cho Town, Oki County, Shimane Prefecture.

The Emperor is enshrined as a deity at Minase-jingu Shrine, Shimamoto-cho Town, Mishima County, Osaka Prefecture.

Related TV programs, movies, etc.

Kusa Moeru (1979 NHK period drama) played by Yoshinori ENDO=>Tatsunosuke ONOE (original)
Yoshitsune (NKH period drama) (NHK period drama airing in 2005), played by Gai MITSUMATA

[Original Japanese]