Emperor Reigen (霊元天皇)

Emperor Reigen (July 9, 1654 - September 24, 1732) was the 112th Emperor, counting from Emperor Jimmu. His reign was from March 5, 1663 to March 21, 1687. His childhood name was Atenomiya (Prince Ate), and his posthumous name was Satohito. He was often called Sento-sama, (Sir Sento) (since he had ruled the cloister government for a long time).
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Brief Personal History

Before his eldest brother, Emperor Gokomyo, died in 1654, he had been adopted and became the crown prince. Due to the sudden death of Emperor Gokomyo, there was concern that the Emperor might be poisoned by someone, and the Emperor's acceptance to adopt Atenomiya (Prince Ate, later called Emperor Reigen) was questioned; however, Emperor Gokomyo's close advisers insisted that the Emperor wanted this arrangement to be organized in order to prepare for the worst-case scenario when Atenomiya was born. Moreover, at that time it was considered reasonable for Atenomiya (Prince Ate) to succeed as a court noble (princely house), doing so in the future as the adopted Crown Prince; however, knowing the background of Atenomiya, Prince Ate's mother was a younger cousin of Emperor Gokomyo's maternal side, and all the potential princes were either to succeed the court noble (princely house) or become priests and enter the temples, but Atenomiya (Prince Ate) was the only prince who had no planned future among the male members of the Imperial Family. In 1658, the Emperor was given the order of Shin-no-senge. In December 1662, he celebrated his coming of age (gempuku) and succeeded to the Imperial Throne after his brother, Emperor Gosai, abdicated the throne to him in January 1663.

In the early stage of his reign, his father, the Cloistered Emperor Gomizunoo, had political control by running the cloister government, but Emperor Reigen took direct control of politics after his father's death in 1680. Emperor Reigen aimed for the reconstruction of Imperial families to take place and created his own way to run the government, one step further than his father had tried to do; therefore, he lacked a close relationship with Japan's feudal government, so the court nobles who were on the government's side were completely deprived of their potential for succession.
In 1681, Emperor Reigen forced Crown Prince Ichinomiya (later known as the Cloistered Imperial Prince Saishin), who had been named successor to the Imperial Throne in the Cloistered Emperor's will, to become a priest and banished Ichinomiya's maternal grandfather, Saneoki OGURA, to Sado Province because the latter had opposed the Emperor in what would become known as the 'Ogura Incident.'
Subsequently, in 1682, when Fusasuke TAKATSUKASA resigned from his post as kanpaku (chief adviser) to the Emperor, Emperor Reigen appointed Fuyutsune (Kaneteru) ICHIJO, of Udaijin (Minister of the right), to be a successor, although in an original orderly manner Motohiro KONOE of Sadaijin (Minister of the left), should have been appointed instead; but the Emperor did not do so, as he suspected that Motohiro KONOE was critical to him after giving measures to him in the wake of the Ogura Incident. Masayuki INABA, the shogunate's military governor stationed in Kyoto, was shocked by the Emperor's willingness to penetrate and organize personnel in such an unfair way. In 1683 there was a ceremonial investiture of the crown prince, the Imperial Prince Asahito (later called Emperor Higashiyama), who was expected to ascend to the Imperial Throne; this brought back the title of Crown Prince, which had not been used for a long time. Because the shogun of this period, Tunayoshi TOKUGAWA, respected the Imperial Court, the relationship between the Imperial Court and Japan's feudal government was steady.

After the succession of Imperial Prince Asahito (later called Emperor Higashiyama) to the Imperial Throne in 1687, he went to live at Sento-Imperial Palace and started ruling the cloister government (after this he was called Sento-sama, (Sir Sento)), and he organized the Great Thanksgiving Service (after the Enthronement of the Emperor) for the celebration of a new Emperor, which had not been done for a long time. This event inflamed the government of Edo, since it had been trying to control the Imperial Court by using the kampaku (chief adviser) to the Emperor, as well as Kinchu Narabini Kuge Shohatto. The cloister government could not have been regulated by the government of Edo with Kinchu Narabini Kuge Shohatto, since its system was beyond the control of the Imperial Palace. In fact, the government of Edo was against the cloister government of the late Cloistered Emperor Gomizunoo, which was being continued by the young Emperor; meanwhile, the daughter of the second shogun, Hidetada TOKUGAWA, who was also the pontificate second consort of the Emperor, Tohuku-Mon In, protected the cloister government, which had to be ignored, but the government of Edo did not intend to do the same with the Retired Emperor Reigen. The government of Edo immediately warned the Imperial Palace not to accept the cloister government, but the Retired Emperor Reigen took no notice of it.

However, there was strong opposition on the Imperial Court side. It was Motohiro KONOE, Sadaijin. Motohiro tried to prevent the breakdown between the two parties by working with the government of Edo, but the Retired Emperor Reigen considered Motohiro as being on the government of Edo's side and strongly resisted any need to deal with him. After Kaneteru ICHIJO resigned in 1693, there was no one to succeed his position as kampaku, so the Retired Emperor had no choice but to choose Motohiro KONOE to be the successor as kampaku. However, Shogun Tsunayoshi TOKUGAWA personally was not fond of Motohiro and did not want to support the cloister government of the Retired Emperor Reigen or the government of Motohiro KONOE; thus there was no conspiracy for the government of Edo and kanpaku to work together in pressuring the cloister government (the government ruled from Sento-Imperial Palace).

In 1694, the Retired Emperor Reigen announced that he would allow Emperor Higashiyama to rule the government, since the latter was old enough to do so. However, Emperor Higashiyama was frustrated that the Retired Emperor Reigen had all the political power and he did not have any means of control, so he tried to rule the government directly with the help of Motohiro KONOE in order to improve the relationship with the government of Edo. On the other hand, the government of Edo welcomed this movement and showed its interest in supporting the Emperor's directly ruled government. After Tsunayoshi reconciled with Ienobu TOKUGAWA (the nephew of Tsunayoshi and husband of Motohiro's daughter), which was the reason that Tsunayoshi did not like Motohiro KONOE, he appointed Ienobu as his successor, which made it more apparent that the government of Edo would support the Imperial Court. Meanwhile, the Retired Emperor Reigen worked with Sekkan, the families privileged to become Sessho and Kampaku, who are critical to Motohiro KONOE, he often shocked the government of the Emperor Higashiyama or the subsequent Emperor, Nakamikado. Additionally, he changed his anti-shogunate attitude and organized the engagement of Princess Yasonomiya Yosiko and Seii Taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians"), Ietsugu TOKUGAWA, outflanking the Emperor Nakamikado and Motohiro KONOE, in order to have a better relationship with the government of Edo, but this collapsed after the death of Ietsugu. He contributed to the government of the Imperial Palace by ruling the cloister government (the government ruled from Sento-Imperial Palace) for a long time, together with the Emperor Gomizuno. He took the tonsure, entered the priesthood and became a cloistered emperor in 1713. His Buddhist name was Sojo. He died in 1732.

He was an expert creator of poetry, having been taught Kokin Denju by the Emperor Gosai; in turn he educated other poets such as Michimi NAKANOIN, Sanekage MUSHANOKOJI and Mitsuhide KARASUMARU. He is also known as a king of nogaki, together with Emperor Goyozei, within the successive sons of Heaven during the Momoyama period to the Edo period. The ex-Emperor Reigen's calligraphy of his own writing was passed to a limited feudal lord family (such as the YANAGISAWA Family) through his personal attendants, and was honored as a family treasure. His historical calligraphy of large square cards and paper for writing traditional verses were invested with an air of dignity; with their divine tone they would guide people to the world of courtliness. It is known that the ARISUGAWA school of calligraphy was originated through this style of handwriting.

Additionally, he gave KAKINOMOTO no Hitomaro the court rank accorded to a god after designating Michimi NAKANOIN as a shokei, or a high-ranking court noble.

Eras during his reign





Posthumous names, Tsuigo, a different name

The Emperor was given Shigo, the posthumous name 'Reigen-in' (the ex-Emperor Reigen), which came from the posthumous name of Emperor Korei and Emperor Kogen.
After the Taisho period he was referred to as 'Emperor Reigen.'

The Imperial Mausoleum

The Emperor was entombed in Tsukinowano misasagi, a stone pagoda at Sennyu-ji Temple, in Kyoto Prefecture. All the past Emperors are enshrined in Koreiden, one of the Three Palace Sanctuaries.

[Original Japanese]