Emperor Reizei (冷泉天皇)

Emperor Reizei (June 12, 950 - November 21, 1011) was the sixty-third emperor (his reign was in the mid-Heian period, from November 15, 967 to September 27, 969). He was the second prince of Emperor Murakami. His name was Prince Norihira. His mother was FUJIWARA no Anshi, the daughter of FUJIWARA no Morosuke, the second consort of an Emperor. He was the older half-brother of Emperor Enyu.


He was chosen over Prince Hirohira and became the crown prince soon after his birth. It is presumed that the brothers, FUJIWARA no Saneyori and Morosuke, who were in the leadership position during this period, assisted in making the future Emperor Reizei the crown prince. In 967, he succeeded to the throne at age 18, following the death of Emperor Murakami. For the first time there was an enthronement ceremony at Shishin-den (the hall designated for state ceremonies). The Emperor had suffered mental illness since he was the crown prince, and therefore FUJIWAEA no Saneyori became chancellor (chief advisor to the Emperor). The Anna Incident took place, and Prince Tamehira, the fourth prince of Emperor Murakami, and Prince Morihira fought each other to become the crown prince during Emperor Reizei's reign; consequently, Emperor Enyu (Prince Morihira) became the Emperor in 969. After the Emperor passed the throne to Emperor Enyu, he became known as Retired Emperor Reizei-in. He died at 62 years of age. It is said that he died of dysentery.

Subsequently, the Imperial Throne was shared with his brother (from the Enyu line) for about 50 years until Emperor Go-Ichijo succeeded to the throne; the Imperial line was brought together after the enthronement of Emperor Go-Sanjo, who was a great-grandchild from both lines, having his mother from the Reizei line and his father from the Enyu line.

His name as an retired emperor came from 'Reizei in,' which was built by Emperor Saga on the northeast of the current Nijo-jo Castle as his detached palace; it was an imperial villa that later became Go-in (retired emperor's palace).

Emperor Reizei's aberration

Emperor Reizei appeared physically healthy, but since his days as the crown prince he had exhibited strange behavior that belied his insanity. There are the following episodes in "Go ki," written by OE no Masafusa.

He continually kicked a kemari ball (a game played by aristocrats of the Heian period) without minding that his foot was getting hurt.

He continued to send letters back to his father, Emperor Murakami, containing pictures of an enlarged penis.

He sat down on the roof of the caretaker's lodge near Seiryo-den (the Emperor's residence).

When he was in bed with his illness, he would sing in a loud voice.

When there was a fire at his palace (Gosho) after he abdicated the throne, as he was escaping to a safe place he sang loudly inside the cow-drawn carriage.

During an official ceremony, he took off his crown suddenly and, saying, 'I cannot wear this heavy thing anymore,' he pulled Uma no myobu's arm aggressively, who was serving near him, into the room with a partition and raped her.

In addition to the above strange behavior, Emperor Reizei had no maternal relationship with the regent, FUJIWARA no Saneyori, and Imperial Prince Tamehira, who was considered to be a powerful successor to the throne, had MINAMOTO no Takaakira as father-in-law; this inflamed the FUJIWARA clan (and became a foreshadowing of the Anna Incident), and consequently Emperor Reizei abdicated within just two years after his enthronement. However, after the abdication the Retired Emperor Reizei lived to the age of 61, presumably due to not having too much stress that he had when in power; it was ironic that his relatives like Prince Morosada (the Emperor Kazan) or other princes and princesses, his brother Emperor Enyu and his Prince (Emperor) Ichijo, passed away before him. However, his imperial line certainly fused together with Princess Teishi and Emperor Enyu's line after his death.

Eras during his reign


The Imperial Mausoleum

It is in Sakura moto no misasagi in Shishi ga tani, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto City.

[Original Japanese]