Emperor Kokaku (光格天皇)

Emperor Kokaku (September 23, 1771 - December 11, 1840), the 119th Emperor, reigned during the Edo period from December 16, 1779 to May 7, 1817. His name from childhood was Sachinomiya. His initial personal name was Morohito, but later it was changed to Tomohito.

It could be due to the Emperor being from the Kaninnomiya family of a collateral line, but he was keen to restore the ceremonies of the Imperial Palace, which had been lost since medieval times. He worked hard to revive the authority of the Imperial Palace, and it was said that he established the basis for the transition of the palace to the modern imperial system.


He was the sixth prince of Imperial Prince Kaninnomiya Sukehito (Emperor Kyoko). His mother was Iwashiro OE, a daughter of Rin IWAMURO of Daitetsu ya in Kurayoshi City, Tottori Prefecture. He was adopted by Emperor Gomomozono, who was in critical condition, a day before he was enthroned (it has been said that Emperor Gomomozono had already died, but that wasn't verified because there was an interregnum period).

Brief Personal History

Originally, the Emperor intended to move from the Kaninnomiya family to Shogoin Temple to become a priest, but there was no one to succeed the throne when Emperor Gomomozono died in 1779. Thus the new Emperor had to come from the Miyake (house of an imperial prince). At that time, there were three candidates for succession to the Imperial Throne—Imperial Prince Fushiminomiya Sadayoshi, Imperial Prince Kaninnomiya Haruhito and Haruhito's younger brother, Imperial Prince Sachinomiya Morohito—but since it was decided that the former Emperor's daughter, Princess Yoshiko, would become the Empress, Prince Haruhito was ruled out as a candidate because he was already married; consequently, Uchisaki NOKOE recommended Prince Sadayoshi and Naozane KUJO recommended Prince Morohito out of the two remaining candidates. After having a meeting, although Imperial Prince Sadayoshi was younger and close in age to the princess, Imperial Prince Morohito was chosen as he had a close genealogy; subsequently, he was adopted and succeeded to the throne on very short notice. At that time, Emperor Gosakuramachi, who had been in power for the past two generations, had made contact with Fushiminomiya to succeed to the throne, whereupon he and Uchisaki KONOE recommended Imperial Prince Sadayoshi; however, there was no chance for Imperial Prince Sadayoshi to be a successor to the Imperial Throne.

Beginning in 1782, the Emperor lived in Shogoin Temple as his temporary palace for three years after the Kyoto Imperial Palace burned down. Moreover, in 1799 Imperial Prince (monk-prince) Shogoinnomiya Michihito issued a statement to the Emperor regarding En no gyoja go-onki (1,100th anniversary of the death of En no gyoja). On January 25 of the same year, the Emperor sent an imperial envoy to Shogoin Temple to convey the posthumous name of Jinben dai bosatsu.

At the Tenmei Famine, the Emperor demanded that the government rescue people, and in regard to the conflict between Japan and Russia in the north, he made the government report the situation to him, whereupon he tried to restore the authority of the Imperial Palace. He intended to present the title of Retired Emperor to his father in defiance of the government; this incident was called Songo Ikken (conflict between the Imperial Palace and the Edo government).

He was known to have many talents and loved to study; additionally, he worked hard to restore the events for the Imperial Palace, such as the special festivals of Iwashimizu Hachiman-gu Shrine and Kamo-jinja Shrine and also to restore ceremonial rites of the Imperial Palace.

In 1817 he became a retired emperor after he abdicated and passed the position to Emperor Nintoku (thus becoming the last retired emperor in Japan's history). He died in 1840.

Eras during his reign

Anei (November 16, 1772) - April 2, 1782
Tenmei April 2, 1782 - January 25, 1789
Kansei January 25, 1789 - February 5, 1801
Kyowa February 5, 1801 - February 11, 1804
Bunka February 11, 1804 - April 22, 1818

Posthumous name, Tsuigo, a different name

It was the first restoration of Chinese-style posthumous name selection since the fifty-eighth Emperor Koko, and the first in 1,000 years, whereby he received the posthumous name 'Emperor Kokaku.'
Since then the name was called 'something-in.'

Imperial mausoleum

The Emperor was entombed in Nochi no Tsuki no Wa no Misasagi, in Senzan-cho, Imagumano, in the Higashiyama Ward of Kyoto City.


According to the description in an essay, "Mimibukuro" dating from the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries, on the first year of Tenmei, there is a legend that one dog was very loyal to the owner, so in reward for that loyalty the Emperor Kokaku conferred the sixth court rank upon the dog.

[Original Japanese]