Emperor Komei (孝明天皇)

Emperor Komei (July 22, 1831 - January 30, 1867) was the Emperor during late Edo period. (the hundred twenty first Emperor, his reign was from March 10, 1846 to January 30, 1867)
His posthumous name was Osahito. His childhood's name was Hironomiya.

The Shogun during his reign was the twelfth Shogun Ieyoshi TOKUGAWA, the thirteenth Shogun Iesada TOKUGAWA, fourteenth Shogun Iemochi TOKUGAWA, fifteenth Shogun Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA.


He was Emperor Ninko's fourth Prince
His foster mother was Sadaijin (Minister of the left), Masahiro TAKATSUKASA's daughter, Ninko Nyogo (a high-ranking lady in the court) (later become Chugu - the second consort of an emperor), Yasuko TAKATSUKASA (Shinsakuheimonin).
His real mother was Sanemitsu OGIMACHI's daughter, Ninko Nashinosuke (lady-in-waiting), Naoko OGIMACHI. (Shintaikenmonin)
His official Empress was Hisatada KUJO's daughter, Empress Dowager Eisho.

Brief Personal History

His childhood' name was Hironomiya. He became Crown Prince in 1840 and succeeded to the throne due to his father, Emperor Ninko's death in 1846. He took after his father and loved to study, he took father's will and established the court nobles learning center, Gakushuin.

Since Matthew Perry came to Japan in 1853, the Emperor had an influential voice in politics in the bakufu, he distrusted the incident when a chief minister [councilor] of the Tokugawa shogunate, Naosuke II of the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) arbitrarily made agreements with overseas countries, and even once, he expressed the exclusion of foreigners from Japan (the Imperial order of exclusion of foreigners in March (1863)). After this Imperial order was issued, the Shimonoseki War and the Kagoshima Bombardment; the Satsuma (Kagoshima)-British War took place, and some foreigners were attacked by Japanese people and the movement to exclusionism was becoming severe in Japan. Emperor Komei was a strong believer of exclusionism, he let his younger sister Imperial Princess Kazunomiya Chikako marry to the fourteenth Seii Taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians"), Iemochi TOKUGAWA, and he encouraged the movement of the union of the Imperial Court and the Shogunate, he strongly wished isolation for the country. When Iemochi came to Kyoto, he went to Kamo-jinja Shrine and Iwashimizu hachiman-gu Shrine to pray for a bright future of the exclusionism policy. It was said he especially trusted the military governorship of Kyoto, the lord of the Aizu Domain, Katamori MATSUDAIRA very much.

However in 1865, navies from various overseas countries thought the cause of the exclusionism movement was due to the existence of Emperor Komei, and they sent a fleet to Osaka Bay and demanded Imperial sanction of the Emperor for the agreement, finally the Emperor realized how serious the situation was, he decided to issue an Imperial sanction of the agreement.
But there was yet a conservative movement such as the prohibition on studying medicine, although such a movement was kept within the Imperial palace. (Of course western culture was not totally denied, as you can see there was a wristwatch left in the Imperial Palace.)

On December 25, 1866, the following year, the Emperor died after 21 years of his reign, it seemed he followed the death of his younger brother in law, Iemochi.

It was said he died of smallpox.

Eras during his reign.








Posthumous name, Tsuigo

He received the name of Emperor Komei and the posthumous name in Chinese style.
He was the last Emperor who received a posthumous name. (Sometimes Tsuigo is considered to be a type of posthumous name, however strictly speaking these are two different names.)

The Imperial Mausoleum

The Mausoleum was changed from the existing tombstone style of Buddhist rites to an older style, the round barrow, the Nochinotsukinowa Mausoleum (later called Tsukinowano higashiyamano misasagi) was established within Sennyu-ji Temple of the successive Emperor's Mausoleum.

He was enshrined in Heian-jingu Shrine in 1940 (Emperor Jinmu's enthronement in the era of 2600), as the last emperor of the ancient capital of Heian Kyo, together with the first Emperor of the ancient capital of Heian Kyo, Emperor Kanmu.

The argument in relation to the Emperor's death

How the emperor passed away
On January 16, 1867, Emperor Komei was not well as he had the flue, but he attended a Shinto ritual held in the Imperial Palace although his doctors stopped him from attending, on the following day (on 12th), he had a fever. According to the sergeant, Mitsuoki IRAKO's diary, who had been treating Emperor's chronic illness, hemorrhoids, when Emperor Komei had a fever on the 12th, his physician (equivalent to doctor) in charge of the Emperors daily health check, 高階経由 did check up and gave medicine to the Emperor, but he did not get better on the following day. On the 14th, one of the chief doctors to the emperor and Yoshiko NAKAYAMA's doctor who did daily check ups, 山本隨 participated in Emperor's treatment, Mitsuoki was also called in on the 15th, they continued the medical examinations on the Emperor day and night.

On January 21, after four people, Yamamoto, Takashina, Irako and 高階経由's son, Tsunenori conducted medical examinations, they came across the possibility that the Emperor might have been infected with smallpox.

Since the physician (equivalent to doctor) in charge of daily health checks, 高階経由, did not have much experience treating smallpox, Kanemichi NISHIO and Kyo HISANO (they were both pediatricians) who had treated smallpox before, were called in to participate in the medical examination, there was more possibility that the Emperor might have smallpox, on the 17th, the Imperial Palace made an official announcement to Buketenso (an Imperial official in charge of communications between the samurai and the court) that the Emperor was infected with smallpox.

After that 天脈拝診 (conducting medical examination by touching Emperor's body) was conducted by qualified thirteen doctors and Nishio and Hisano, total of fifteen doctors who work in the Imperial Palace, then they were separated into three groups to start twenty four hours treatment.

The first group
The head of the group: Atsuhira FUJIKI (Jushiinojo (Junior Fourth Rank, Upper Grade) tenyaku no gon no suke (director in charge of prescribing medicine to Emperor), Isenokami (the head of Ise Province - currently Mie Prefecture))
A physician (equivalent to doctor) in charge of the Emperors daily health check: 高階経由 (Jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade), tenyaku shojo, Akinokami (the head of Aki Province - currently Hiroshima Prefecture)
Masafumi YAMAMOTO (Jugoinojo (Junior Fifth Rank, Upper Grade), Zusho no kami (the director of the library) and Awanokami (the head of Awa Province - currently Chiba Prefecture))
高階経支 (Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade), Tangonokami (the head of Tango Province (current Kyoto Prefecture))
高階経徳 (Shorokuinoge (Senior Sixth Rank, Lower Grade), Chikuzennosuke)
The second group
The head of the group: 山本隨 (Jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade), tenyaku taijo (person in charge of prescribing medicine to Emperor), Daigakusuke and Yamatonokami (the head of Yamato Province - currently Kanagawa Prefecture), later called 恭隨)
河原実徳 (Shogoinoge (Senior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade), tenyaku sho sakan and the Iyonokami (the head of Iyo Province - currently Ehime Prefecture))
西尾兼道 (Jugoinojo (Junior Fifth Rank, Upper Grade), Tosanokami (the head of Tosa Province - currently Kochi Prefecture), originally he was a pediatrician, but as he was very experienced treating smallpox, he was on call.)
大町淳信 (Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade), Danjodaihitsu (a vice minister of government official in charge of checking illegal matters under the government based on the ritsuryo legal codes) Suonokami (the head of Suo Province - currently Yamaguchi Prefecture)
Kyo HISANO (Shorokuinoge (Senior Sixth Rank, Lower Grade), Dewanosuke, originally he was a pediatrician, but as he was very experienced treating smallpox, he was on call.)
The third group
The head of the group: Seiken FUJIKI (Jugoinojo (Junior Fifth Rank, Upper Grade), Ominokami (the head of Omi Province - current Shiga Prefecture))
Mitsuoki IRAKO (Jugoinojo (Junior Fifth Rank, Upper Grade), Oribenokami (an official position equivalent to Shorokuinoge or Senior Sixth Rank, Lower Grade), Mutsunokami (the head of the current Tohoku district area))
福井登 (Jugoinojo (Junior Fifth Rank, Upper Grade), Kazuenosuke (assistant to an accountant) and Bungonokami (the head of Bungo Province - currently Oita Prefecture), later he changed his name to Sadanori).
三角有紀 (Shorokuinoge (Senior Sixth Rank, Lower Grade), Settunosuke)
伊良子光信 (Jurokuinojo (Junior Sixth Rank, Upper Grade), Awanosuke)

According to Emperor Komei's official biography, "Komei Tenno ki," the Emperor's doctors used to make regular announcements in terms of the Emperor's health as 'Emperor's health record.'
According to this 'Emperor's health record,' it said '御順症' which meant the Emperor was getting better accordingly by following the standard process of someone who had smallpox and got better.

However, according to the record on the following day, on the 25th in Mitsuoki IRAKO's diary mentioned previously, it said that the Emperor had much phlegm and Atsuhira FUJIKI and Seiken gave him a massage, and Mitsuoki applied ointment on Emperor's body, all the doctors, mixed from different groups, were watching the Emperor closely day and night, and then the Emperor died after eleven o'clock in the morning on the same day.

It was also mentioned in Tadayasu NAKAYAMA's diary in a heretical way how the Emperor was suffering from smallpox, 'the Emperor was bleeding from Kyuko (mouth, eyes, ears, urethral hall and the anus).'
Still the Emperor's death was not officially announced, even on the 25th, the day the Emperor died, there was a journal by the name of 福井登, that reported 'the Emperor was feeling better.'
It was on the 29th when the death of the Emperor was officially announced.

The theory of the Emperor's assassination, an unnatural death

Although Emperor Komei suffered from a malignant hemorrhoids for a long time, as it was previously mentioned, apart from this the Emperor was quite healthy and it was written in Tadayasu NAKAYAMA's diary, as mentioned before, he said, 'I was very shocked to know the Emperor suffered from unusual diseases like smallpox, since he had been very healthy and did not even get the flu recently.'
Because the Emperor with good health died young at thirty six years of age, counting in the old Japanese way, unexpectedly, there was a suspicious rumor going around about the cause of his death just after he died.

After the Meiji Restoration, Kokokushikan (emperor-centered historiography which is based on state Shinto) was established in society, it was prohibited to talk about suspicions and scandals in public concerning the Imperial Family, it was prohibited to talk about the theory of Emperor's assassination for a long time, but in July 1940, an obstetrician and gynecologist in Kyoto, Riichiro SAEKI wrote in his essay while he was attending the Kansai Branch of the Japan Society of Medical History, that 'when the Emperor had smallpox, Tomomi IWAKURA ordered his younger sister and the lady-in-waiting, Motoko HORIKAWA, to purposely give poison to the Emperor.'

After Japan lost World War Ⅱ, when the freedom of speech was returned to society, the theory of the Emperor's unnatural death was suddenly back in the world of criticism.
It was Masashi NEZU who first argued scholarly about the theory of the Emperor's assassination, he published an essay of "Did Emperor Komei die of disease or poison?" "Emperor Komei and Nakagawanomiya"
Nezu assumed the possibility of the Emperor's death was caused by arsenic, after following 'the Emperor's health report' written by the Imperial doctors, that said the Emperor was getting better, Nezu collated the record that all of a sudden the Emperor died in agony. He put fourth the theory that Iwakura planned the assassination of the Emperor and Horikawa carried it out, the same theory previously mentioned by Saeki.

Between 1975 and 1977, the diary of medical examinations written by Mitsuoki IRAKO, previously mentioned, was serially published in the "Shiga Medical Association newsletter" by his relative, 伊良子光孝 who runs a medical practice in Shiga Prefecture. Most of the writing in this diary was objective, there was no content that can be specified as to why the Emperor died, this was not an essay where Mitsuoki wrote his personal opinion about the cause of the Emperor's death. However 光孝 who published this diary, left his commentary about the possibility that the Emperor might have been poisoned and died although it was not conclusive, but it was the same theory as Nezu's.

There are a few a researchers in the academic world who insisted on the theory was true about the Emperor being poisoned, the Emperor's unnatural death was the dominant theory until the early 1980's.

Apart from this, there was another theory that the Emperor was killed by tying rope around his neck or by being stabbed to death by someone, there were many rumors like 'doctors of the household of an Imperial prince was called at midnight to the Imperial Palace who treated a nobleman who presumably could have been emperor Komei, he was in blood after being stabbed around his stomach, although treated, he died.'
However it was understandable if the Emperor had an incurable disease with an unknown cause, it was not natural to call a doctor from outside if the Emperor was apparently stabbed, so this theory was not seriously considered to be true among historians since it was very unrealistic compared to the theory of the Emperor being killed by poison.

[Original Japanese]