Emperor Shomu (聖武天皇)

The Emperor Shomu (701 - June 8, 756, reign: March 7, 724 - August 23, 749) was the 45th Emperor in Nara Period. His name before the enthronement was Prince Obito. His honorary title, shi, (a posthumous name) was Ameshirushikuni Oshiharakitoyosakurahiko no Sumeramikoto, Shohokanjinshomukotei or Shamishoman. He was the first prince of Emperor Monmu. His mother was FUJIWARA no Miyako, a daughter of FUJIWARA no Fuhito.


He was born as the first Prince of the Emperor Monmu, but his father died when he was seven years old and his mother Miyako developed mental illness and thereafter she did not see the Prince for a long time (the Emperor was thirty-seven years old when the Emperor met Miyako who had recovered from mental illness after the Emperor began to understand things). Therefore, the Empress Genmei (Princess of the Emperor Tenchi), who was mother of the Emperor Monmu, ascended the throne as an interim emperor. In 714, genpuku (a ceremony held to celebrate one's coming of age) was held for Prince Obito, and he was invested as crown prince, but due to his poor health and a conflict between pro-imperial forces and the Fujiwara clan, who were maternally related to the Imperial family, his enthronement was postponed and the Empress Gensho, younger sister of the Emperor Monmu, succeeded to the Imperial Throne as "an interim empress for the interim emperor". When he was twenty-four years old, the Empress Gensho ceded the Imperial Throne to him and he ascended the throne.

In the beginning of the reign of the Emperor Shomu, Nagayao, representing pro-imperial force, came to power. At that time, the Fujiwara clan wanted Komyoshi, who was from the same family, to be installed as the Empress. However, in those days it was a practice to install a member of the Imperial Family as the Empress because the Empress could ascend the throne as an interim emperor after the death of the Emperor (her husband) and therefore Nagayao opposed the installation of Komyoshi as the Empress. However, Nagayao no Hen (Conspiracy of Nagayao) happened in 729 and Nagayao killed himself. As the opposition forces disappeared, Komyoshi was installed as the Empress from the non-imperial family for the first time. It was said that Nagayao no Hen (Conspiracy of Nagayao) was planned by Fujiwara four brothers who were sons of Fuhito and brothers of Komyoshi in order to eliminate Nagayao and make Komyoshi the Empress.

However, plagues were prevalent in 737 and most of high officials in the government including Fujiwara four brothers died, then to respond to such catastrophe, Suzuka no Okimi, who was Nagayao's real younger brother, was hastily appointed to Daijo-daijin (Grand minister of state) to barely keep up the appearance of the government. Moreover, the Rebellion of FUJIWARA no Hirotsugu happened in 740.

Because disasters and plagues (smallpox) occurred frequently during Tenpyo era, Emperor Shomu became a devout believer of Buddhism and he issued the Imperial Edict to erect Kokubun-ji Temple in 741, the Imperial Edict to erect the statue of Birushana Buddha in Todai-ji Temple in 743. In addition, Emperor Shomu tried to escape from disasters by transferring the capital several times, but due to strong rejection by public and private sectors, he finally transferred the capital back to Heijo-kyo (the ancient capital of Japan in current Nara). Additionally, since grand persons of the Fujiwara clan died one after another, national administration was managed by TACHIBANA no Moroe (maternal half-brother of the Empress Komyo). In 743, Konden einen shizai Law (the Law Permitting Permanent Ownership of Newly Cultivated Land) was established because there were many uncultivated wastes. This resulted in partial collapse of the foundation of the ritsuryo system (a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo code). On March 7, 744, Prince Asaka died suddenly of beriberi. There is a theory that he was poisoned to death by FUJIWARA no Nakamaro.

On August 23, 749, he ceded the Imperial Throne to his daughter, Imperial Princess Abe (Empress Koken), (according to a theory, the Emperor who called himself "Sanpo no Yakko" (a servant to Sanpo, three treasures of Buddhism: Buddha, sutras and priesthood) entered priesthood at his own discretion and in response to this, the Imperial Court hastily took the procedure of abdication of the Emperor). He became the first male Daijo Tenno (the Retired Emperor).

On May 30, 752, the ceremony in which Rushana Statue in Todai-ji Temple was given eyes, a ritual believed to invest the figure with sacred spirit, was held. In 754, a priest of Tang, Jianzhen, came to Japan and met the Empress and the Emperor and around the same time, the Emperor lost her mother Miyako who had suffered from the disease for a long time. In 756, he passed away leaving his will to make Prince Funado, who was a grandchild prince of Emperor Tenmu, the Crown Prince. His kaimyo (posthumous Buddhist name) was Shoman.

Gengo (era name) during Emperor Shomu's rein

Jinki was from February 4 (old lunar calendar) (March 7, 724) to August 5 (old lunar calendar) (September 6, 729).

Tenpyo was from August 5 (old lunar calendar) (September 6, 729) to April 14 (old lunar calendar) (May 8, 749).

Tenpyo-Shoho was from April 14 (old lunar calendar) (May 8, 749) to July, 2 (old lunar calendar) (August 23, 749).

Imperial mausoleum

The imperial tomb is Sahoyama no minamino misasagi (the southern imperial tomb in Saho-yama mountain) in Horen-cho, Nara City.

Empress Komyo was buried in Sahoyama no higashi no misasagi (the eastern imperial tomb in Saho-yama mountain).

[Original Japanese]