Emperor Saga (嵯峨天皇)

Emperor Saga (October 3, 786 - August 24, 842) was the fifty-second Emperor (his reign lasted from May 8, 809 to May 29, 823). His first name was Kamino.


Emperor Saga was the second prince of Emperor Kammu, and his mother was Empress FUJIWARA no Otomuro. His older half-brother was Emperor Heizei. His younger half-brother was Emperor Junna. The Empress was TACHIBANA no Kachiko (Empress Danrin).

Brief Personal History

Emperor Saga became the second prince when his brother, Emperor Heizei, was enthroned. However, Emperor Heizei already had Prince Takaoka and Prince Abo, so the means by which Emperor Saga became the second prince was that his deceased father, Emperor Kammu, had intended it.

Given the above situation, Emperor Saga's nephew, Prince Takaoka, became the crown prince after the Emperor's enthronement, and a year later (810) there was "the Revolt of Kusuko," when Emperor Heizei attempted to regain the throne. After this incident, Prince Takaoka lost power, and the Emperor felt guilty for having set his biological son up as the crown prince; Prince Otomo, his half-brother, became the second prince who was willing to descend and leave the royal family (which was an indirect cause of the Showa Incident).

Apart from anything else, the culture within the Imperial Palace became very popular (the Konin culture), and seemingly the time passed in peace. The death penalty was abolished following the issuance of the Konin Kyaku in 818. The abolishment of the death penalty in the national political arena continued for 347 years, up to the Hogen (civil) War. However, agricultural production was in a slump at that time (according to "Nihon Koki" there were seven consecutive years of draught damage, beginning in 817), and due to this situation there was the problem of serious financial difficulty. In 820, four key personalities from the Fujiwara clan of the Imperial Palace (FUJIWARA no Uchimaro, FUJIWARA no Huyutsugu, FUJIWARA no Otsugu and FUJIWARA no Sonondo) sent Fuko (a vassal household allotted to a courtier feudal estate) back (15,000 units of land in total) (furthermore, FUJIWARA no Otsugu sent 2,000 units of land back in 825, while Emperor Junna was in power). At the end of this government, the restriction toward latifundism was tempered and the wild fields were developed, while government-own fields (kueiden) and the fields directly owned by the Emperor (chokushi den) were established.

In 823 Emperor Saga stepped down from the throne and passed the position to Prince Otomo, although FUJIWARA no Otsugu opposed this with respect to the financial problems (there was too great a financial burden to have two retired emperors). After the retirement, not only did he order the construction of Reizen In and Saga In, which made the financial situation worse for the Imperial Palace, but he also interfered in politics as the top of the palace after his biological son, Prince Masara (Emperor Ninmyo), became Emperor; moreover, despite the opposition of the emperors Junna and Ninmyo, he set Prince Tsunesada up as the crown prince, who was his grandchild and Emperor Junna's prince, so in subsequent years his autocratic style caused many problems.

He enjoyed doing calligraphy and making Chinese-style poems, and is considered to be one of the three great calligraphers. There are many princes and princesses. He organized the royal family and gave many surnames to the descendent family members. It is called the Saga-Genji (Minamoto clan), having received the Genji name, and those who were children or descendents of Emperor Saga. Kawara no Sadaijin (Minister of the Left), MINAMOTO no Toru was one of Emperor SAGA's children.

The Emperor was entombed at Sagano-yamanoeno-misasagi in Kyoto.

There was a story in regard to the Emperor's past life, according to "Nihon Gempo(ho) Zen-aku Ryoiki." There used to be a monk called Jakusen on Mt. Ishizuchi-san, Iyo Province.
In 758, just before Jakusen passed away, he said, 'I will be reborn in 28 years as a prince of the Emperor, and will be called Shinno.'
Twenty-eight years later in 786, Emperor Kammu had a prince and named him Prince Kamino. In another words, Emperor Saga was reincarnated in the person of Jakusen.

[Original Japanese]