Emperor Yuryaku (雄略天皇)

Emperor Yuryaku (January 419 – September 9, 479; reign: December 26, 456 – September 9, 479) was the twenty-first emperor of Japan. He was also called Ohatsusewakatakeru no mikoto (大泊瀬幼武尊); and according to the Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters), his name was also expressed as Ohatsusewakatakeru no mikoto (大長谷若建命) and Ohatsuse no miko. He is also described as the Evil Emperor and the Virtuous Emperor. He is identified with Waobu (the last king of ancient Japan) among the 'five kings of Wa,' described in the "Sungshu" (Book of the Sung dynasty) and the "Liangshu" (Book of the Liang dynasty).

In the Johyobun (memorial to the Emperor) of Waobu, there is a description of how the king invaded the nearby countries and became a major power.
Also there is a popular theory to prove his power by deciphering the inscriptions on the iron sword inlaid with silver (excavated from the Eta Funayama Tumulus (Nagomi Town, Tamana County, Kumamoto Prefecture)) and the iron sword with gold inscription (excavated from the Inariyama-kofun Tumulus (Gyoda City, Saitama Prefecture)) as 'Wakatakeru no Okimi (the Great King Wakatakeru).'
According to this theory, he is the oldest emperor whose existence is archaeologically proven.

His governance was not perfect, but we can suppose that ancient people regarded his reign as a historical epoch from the following facts: before and after the Yuryaku period, the calendar of the "Nihon Shoki" (Chronicles of Japan) changes; and the Emperor Yuryaku appears in the beginning parts of "Manyoshu" (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves) and "Nihon genho Zenaku ryoiki" (set of three books of Buddhist stories, written in the late 8th and early 9th century, usually referred to as the Nihon Ryoiki).

Imperial Palace
The Imperial palace was Hatsuse no Asakura no Miya Palace. The inscription 'Shikinomiya Palace' (described as 斯鬼宮or 磯城宮) on the iron sword inlaid with gold from the Inariyama-kofun Tumulus is supposed to indicate Asakura no Miya Palace (yet there is another theory to regard this as Shiki (志紀) in Kawachi region (Yao City, Osaka Prefecture)). Generally the site is considered to be today's Kurozaki (another theory says Iwasaka) in Sakurai City, Nara Prefecture. However, in 1984, a pit of a pillar embedded directly in the ground was found in the Wakimoto ruins located at Wakimoto, Sakurai City, and it was supposed to date back to the late 5th century. It attracted people's attention as it was considered to be the site of the Asakura no Miya Palace. Some say that the Palace was moved to Hatsuse afterwards for a certain period. According to the Nihon genho Zenaku ryoiki, the Emperor was also in the Iware no Miya Palace.

Brief Personal History

The Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki say that the Emperor Anko was assassinated in September 456 by Prince Mayowa, who was still young (seven years old, according to the Kojiki). When Prince Ohatsuse learned this, he suspected his older brothers. He killed Prince Yatsurishirohiko with a sword first, and then planned to kill Prince Sakai no Kurohiko and Prince Mayowa. These two princes talked over how to deal with this, and took sanctuary in the residence of Tsubura no Oomi, a member of the Katsuragi clan. Oomi begged their lives, but Prince Ohatsuse set fire on them and killed all three. In addition, he murdered Prince Ichinohe no Oshihano (father of the Emperor Ninken and the Emperor Kenzo) and his younger brother Prince Mima. Thus he swept all political opponents and became the emperor in December. Even after the accession, he often ordered executions. That is why he was later abused as the Evil Emperor. However, as the Emperor Buretsu is also described as the Evil Emperor, there is a theory that says these two emperors were the same person.

By appointing HEGURI no Matori as an Oomi, and OTOMO no Muroya and MONONOBE no Me as Omuraji (Oomi and Omuraji are high ranking titles), Ohatsuse no Wakatakeru no Okimi (the Emperor Yuryaku) established a tyrannical government with military power. His next aim was to submit the alliance of local states to the Yamato Administration. With good reason of rebellion suppression (KIBI Clan disturbance), he urged the Kibi Province, the largest local state, to submit. To be specific, he weakened the power of the Kibi government by subjugating the "rebellions" of KIBI no Shimotsumichi no Omisakitsuya (463) and of KIBI no Kamitsumichi no omi Tasa (463). In addition, after the Emperor Yuryaku's death, OTOMO no Muroya and others subjugated the rebellion of {Hoshikawa no Wakamiya no miko} (a son of KIBI no Wakahime) in 479 and achieved the dominance of the Yamato Administration. The Nihon Shoki also describes that the Emperor subjugated other rebellions, such as that of AYASHI no Omaro in the Harima Province (469) and ASAKE no Iratsuko in the Ise Province (474).

Outside Japan, the Japanese Mimana Governmental Army defeated Goguryeo in February 464, and invaded Silla in June 465. However, it was said that General KI no Oyumi no Sukune was killed in the battle and the army retreated. (According to the "Samguk Sagi" (History of the Three Kingdoms) Silla History, Wa had 活開城 surrendered in May 464 and invaded again in February 463, but finally Silla beat Wa). Records say that Goguryeo beat Baekje in 476, and that the Emperor gave Mimana to Baekje in order to help its reconstruction in 477 (according to the "Samguk Sagi" History of Goguryeo and History of Baekje, Baekje surrendered the capital to Goguryeo in September 475, had the king killed, and moved its capital to Ungjin during the same year). Emperor Yuryaku is also known for having promoted the sericultural industry by inviting handicraftsmen such as Ayahatori and Kurehartori from Wu (Sung (Southern Dynasty)) and by gathering and controlling scattered people of the Hata clan. In April 479, when the Emperor learned the death of Samgeun of Baekje, he let the hostage Mata O (the second son of Konki O) go home with 500 warriors of Chikushi region, and had him succeed to the throne as Dongseong of Baekje. Achi no Omi and Umakai no Omi led Suigun (warriors who battle in the sea) and defeated Goguryeo.

In 478, the Emperor designated the Prince Shiraka (later the Emperor Seinei) as the Crown Prince. In September 479, the Emperor died of an illness. According to the Liangshu, Wu Di of Liang gave the title of Seito Shogun (great general who subdues the eastern barbarians) to Waobu, who is identified as the Emperor Yuryaku, in 502. From this description, it can be said that the year of death of the Emperor Yuryaku was later than that shown in the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki, although no envoy was dispatched to Liang in 502.

The genealogy of the Emperor Yuryaku through male family does not continue. However, his daughter Kasuga no Oiratsume no Himemiko became the empress to the Emperor Ninken, and her daughter Tashiraka no Himemko became the empress to the Emperor Keitai and gave birth to the Emperor Kinmei. Therefore, the genealogy of the Emperor has been continuing up to now.


The Emperor was buried in Tajihi no Takawashi no Hara Mausoleum. It is identified with the Takawashi Maruyama Tumulus (a round barrow; 76m in diameter; also called the Shimaizumi Maruyama Tumulus) and the Hiratsuka Tumulus (square tumulus; 50m per side) in Shimaizumi, Habikino City, Osaka Prefecture. Recently some archaeologists advocated that the Mausoleum was the Otsukayama Tumulus (a keyhole-shaped mound; 335m in length) stretching over Nishiotsuka, Matsubara City, Osaka Prefecture and Minami-eganoso, Habikino City. This mausoleum is generally supposed to have been constructed as one of the last keyhole-shaped mounds judging from the fact that it does not furnish Haniwa (unglazed terra-cotta cylinders and hollow sculptures arranged on and around the mounded tombs (kofun)), although no detailed investigation has been carried out because this is just a referable mausoleum. If the supposition is true, this Otsukayama theory is not reasonable because the construction period and the death year of Yuryaku have several decades of difference.

According to the Kojiki, Oke no mikoto (later the Emperor Ninken) himself destroyed a part of the tumulus of the Emperor Yuryaku in order to inflict vengeance for the father of the Emperor Kenzo (Prince Ichihe no Oshihano). In the Nihon Shoki, there is a description that Kenzo suggested the destruction of the tumulus, but that the Prince Oke remonstrated and dissuaded him from doing that.


He had the Geku (the outer shrine) of the Ise-jinja Shrine constructed.

Originally, Toyouke no Okami (Grand Divine Toyouke) had been enshrined by the Katsuragi clan. After the downfall of the Katsuragi clan, the ritual had not been conducted very well. Following the movement of worship, the Emperor had the Geku constructed in 478 (one year before his death), also with another aim to enshrine the Divine which had also been enshrined in the Tanba Province, a theory says.

It might have been under this movement that the Emperor Iitoyo, who has a similar name to the Toyouke no Okami, took the governance.

According to the April A.D. 459 part of the History of Emperor Yuryaku, Takuhatahime no Himemiko (also called Wakatarashihime no Himemiko; a daughter of the Emperor Yuryaku; Saigu (Imperial Princess appointed to serve the deities of the Ise-jingu Shrine)) got slandered by Ahe no omi, saying that she got pregnant by a yue (a bathing servant to princes and princesses), Iokibe no Muraji Takehiko, and she killed herself to prove her innocence. According to this article, this incident happened three years after the princess's mother KATSURAGI no Karahime was offered as a wife to the Emperor Yuryaku (before enthronement) by her father Katsuragi no tsubura no oomi. This means that Karahime should have given birth to the princess before getting married to the Emperor. It is more reasonable to suppose that the incident happened around the time of the construction of the Geku. After the slander was proven to be false, Ahe no omi fled into the Isonokami-jingu Shrine, not the Ise-jingu Shrine. The Isonokami-jungu Shrine might have been a kind of an asyl (sanctuary).

The predecessor the Emperor Anko ordered Imperial Prince Okusaka (a son of the Emperor Nintoku) to offer his younger sister, Kusaka no Hatabi no Himemiko to the Emperor Yuryaku (before enthronement; younger maternal half-brother of the Emperor Anko) (Imperial Prince Okusaka and Kusaka no Hatabi no Himemiko are Yuryaku's paternal uncle and aunt, respectively). The agent Ne no Omi (the ancestor of Sakamoto no Omi) made a false remark to the Emperor, saying that the Imperial Prince Okusaka refused the order, in order to pocket the Oshiki no Tamakatsura Crown (made of gold and copper?) that the Imperial Prince Okusaka had trusted to Ne no Omi to show his acceptance. The Emperor Anko murdered the Imperial Prince Okusaka and took away the Imperial Prince's wife, Princess Nakashi (Nagata no O Iratsume) as his empress. The Princess Nakashi brought with her Prince Mayowa, a child between her and the Imperial Prince Okusaka. Later, Prince Mayowa murdered the Emperor Anko. The Emperor Yuryaku, on his way to propose to Kusaka no Hatabi no Himemiko, found a scene to cavil about at the house of Shiki no Agatanushi (Shikiagatanushi-jinja Shrine), saying that it looked like the Imperial Palace with Katsuogi (ornamental logs arranged orthogonal to the ridge of a Shinto shrine) on the top, and obtained a white dog with a cloth on it. Using the dog as a gift for marriage, he got Kusaka no Hatabi no Himemiko as his empress. As shown above, the Emperor Yuryaku often obtained his empress and wives after their parents' homes had been abolished. His aim was to abolish masters of powerful imperial families and local ruling families and subdue the remnants so as to strengthen the imperial power; then to get married to women in those families to integrate the fortune to his own. It seems that the Emperor Yuryaku extended what his older brother Emperor Anko did to powerful local ruling families (considered as powerful as imperial families?) as well as imperial families.

In the Kojiki, the Emperor Yuryaku before enthronement is often referred to as Ohatsuse no miko. This is quite unusual; in the Kojiki, an emperor before enthronement is usually called mikoto.

The Nihon Shoki introduces the following episode.

When the Emperor went hunting, he saw a timid toneri (a servant) who could not shoot an arrow at a boar and decided to kill him. However, the Emperor was dissuaded from doing so by the empress, who said, "If you kill this toneri as you want to eat the boar now, there is no distinction between you and a wolf."

The expression of a wolf as a symbol of cruelty is seen in "Gokanjo" (Historical records of the Later Han Dynasty). Therefore, this episode might be a fiction made by the posterity. At any rate, this episode shows the temper of the Emperor Yuryaku very well.


Komoyo mikomochi fukushimoyo mibukushimochi konookani natsumasuko iekikan nanorasane soramitsu Yamatonokuni wa oshinabete warekoso ore shikinabete warekoso mase warekoso wa norame iewomo nawomo ("Manyoshu," Volume One)

You the beautiful young woman harvesting vegetable on this hill with a beautiful basket and a beautiful pallet, where are you from?
What is your name?
I myself will tell you who I am, where I am from, although I govern this Yamato Province and the whole of this world.

Yusareba Ogurano yamani nakushika wa koyoiwa nakazu nenenikerashimo ("Manyoshu," Volume Nine)

Every evening, deer in Mt. Ogura cry, but tonight, they do not cry. They seem to have gone asleep already. Some records say that this poem was made by the Emperor Jomei.

[Original Japanese]