Empress Suiko (推古天皇)

Prior to her ascending the throne, her name was Nukatabe no Himemiko (Imperial Princess Nukatabe). She was the first monarch of Japan to use the title of "tenno," which has now become established as the general title for the emperor of Japan. However, after a wooden tablet with the letters, Tenno, was found in the Asukaike Ruins in 1998, a theory that says Emperor Temmu was the first to use the title Tenno has become predominant. "Kojiki" includes issues down to the era of this Emperor.

Empress Suiko (554 - April 15, 628), the thirty-third emperor of Japan, reigned for 36 years from January 15, 593 to April 15, 628, or for 37 years according to the "Kojiki" (Records of Ancient Matters). She was the first empress of Japan, and the first female monarch in east Asia.

Although there are various theories as to when the Asuka period in the history of Japan began but it is general to regard enthronement of Emperor Suiko as the beginning. It was a period when the Buddhist culture that was introduced to Japan blossomed fully and this culture is referred to as the Asuka culture.

She, Toyomikekashigiyahime (the Emperor Suiko's name in Kojiki), resided in the Imperial Palace of Owarida and ruled the country for 37 years. (Note: she passed away on April 15, 628). The Misasagi (Imperial mausoleum) was on the hill of Ono, which was later moved to Oki no Misasagi in Shinaga.
The Imperial Palace of Owarida was located in Takaichi-gun, Nara Prefecture.

Japanese Posthumous Title

"Nihonshoki"(Chronicles of Japan):
Toyomikekashikiyahime no mikoto.

She was the princess of the twenty-ninth Emperor Kinmei, her mother being SOGA no Kitashihime, a daughter of the minister, SOGA no Iname. The thirty-first Emperor Yomei was her elder brother and the thirty-second Emperor Sushun was her younger paternal half-brother. SOGA no Umako was her maternal uncle.
In "Nihonshoki," it is described that 'she was fair of face and figure, and was well-mannered and polite.'

In 571, she became the wife of Prince NUNAKAKURA no Futomashiki (the thirtieth Emperor Bidatsu), her elder paternal half-brother. In 576, upon the death of Empress Hirohime, she was named the empress and, on September 15, 585 when she was 35 years old, the Emperor Bidatsu passed away. However, according to the chronicle of Suiko in "Nihonshoki," she was named the empress at the age of 18 and, when this theory is adopted, she became the empress in 571, the year of enthronement of Emperor Bidatsu, contradicting an article on investiture of Hirohime as the empress and suggesting a possible mistake either in the article on investiture of Hirohime as the empress or the age of Suiko at the time of her investiture as the empress.

She gave birth to two sons and five daughters including Princess Ujinokaitako (the wife of Prince Shotoku), Prince Takeda, Princess Oharida (the wife of OSHISAKA no Hikohito no Oenomiko), Prince Owari (the father of TACHIBANA no Oiratsume, the wife of Prince Shotoku), Princess Tame (the wife of Prince Tamura-later Emperor Jomei), etc.

In May 586, Prince Anahobe broke in hinkyu (the funeral parlor) and the Empress was saved by her favorite retainer, MIWA no Sakau, who found himself being killed.


Thereafter, Emperor Yomei held the Imperial Throne for about 2 years but, after he died of illness on May 21, 587, MONONOBE no Moriya, who endorsed Prince Anahobe, fought with SOGA no Umako, who supported Prince Hatsusebe, ending in the victory of the Soga clan. It is said that Empress Dowager Bidatsu therefore issued an imperial edict ordering Prince Hatsusebe (Emperor Sushun) to be enthroned. However, after five years, on December 12, 592, Emperor Sushun was assassinated by instruction of Umako and next month, on January 15, 593, Princess Nukatabe, the empress-before-last, was begged by Umako to be enthroned at the Imperial Palace of Toyoura. At that time, she was 39 years old and became the first female monarch in history (however, this is the case when Empress Jingu and Crown Princess Iitoyo are excluded).

Behind this, there is a story that the Empress Dowager hoped for enthronement of her biological son Prince Takeda, but because an opinion for enthronement of OSHISAKA no Hikohito no Oenomiko became stronger, centering around the opponents of the Soga clan and, in order to suppress that movement, Umako and the Empress Dowager decided that she be enthroned (however, before long, Prince Takeda passed away).

The Crown Prince-Prince Shotoku

On May 15, 593, she appointed her nephew, Prince Umayado (Prince Shotoku), as the Crown Prince and let him administer the critical affairs of state as a proxy. This is thought to be because of a relationship that the father of Umayado was her elder brother, Emperor Yomei, and also his mother was her younger paternal half-sister (and their biological mothers were sisters), and thus Umayado was her most trustworthy relative. Joan R. Piggott, a scholar of Asian studies at Cornell University, describes this combination of a female Emperor and a male regent as a complimentary type condominium based on a contrapuntal relationship between a responsibility of a religious service and a responsibility of public administration. Joseph M. Kitagawa, a professor emeritus and a historian of religion at University of Chicago, describes that she resembles Himiko of Yamatai-Koku Kingdom in that she had a shamanistic ability and was the highest authority holder who was passive and female, and governed the country for a long time through a consanguine man.

Emperor Suiko was a bright person who balanced the influences of the Crown Prince and the minister Umako, so as not to provoke antipathy of Gozoku (local ruling families), and labored skillfully for the endurance of sovereignty. During her reign, when the Soga clan was at the height of its prosperity, the Emperor did not go as far as to damage the interest of the country by compromising even with Umako, her maternal relative and a senior vassal. It is said that, long afterward in 624, when Umako hoped for the right to rule Katsuragi-ken Prefecture (which is said to be Umako's birthplace), she refused this demand by saying that "even though you are my uncle, if I donate a public land to a private person, the future generation will call me a foolish woman and, on the other hand, they will criticize you as being disloyal."

Japanese Envoy to Sui Dynasty in China

As described above, under fair reign of the Empress, Prince Shotoku fully exhibited his ability and enacted Kan I junikai (twelve grades of cap rank) (in 603) and Seventeen-Article Constitution (in 604) one after another to carry out improvement of laws and organizations. In 607, ONO no Imoko was sent to Sui. (In fact, Wakoku sent an envoy to Sui in 600.
In addition, this date has an error of 12 years and, thus, this might have been an envoy to Tang in China.)

For the purpose of having orthodoxy granted by an emperor of China, there had often been envoys sent in the past but, for the first time, they were sent as an envoy in order to emphasize independence of Japan. From the next year, the envoy to Sui was accompanied by scholars and trainee monks. Also, as the imperial decree issued in 594 which says that Sanbo (three treasures of Buddhism; Buddha, sutras and priesthood) should be respected shows, the Empress, together with the Prince and Umako, tried to make Buddhism flourish and let Horyu-ji Temple to be built in Ikaruga (a town in Ikoma-gun, Nara Prefecture). In 620, Prince Shotoku and Umako compiled "Tennoki" (a Record of Emperors) and "a National Record "and donated them to the Empress but, two years later, the Prince passed away at the age of 49 and after 4 years, SOGA no Umako also died.

The mind-set of the Empress, who lost her senior vassals one after another, whom she let handle the affairs of state, must have been lonely as she grew older. On April 15, 628, she passed away at the Imperial residence of Oharida at the age of 75.

A day before her death, the Empress summoned Prince Tamura, the legitimate grandchild of Emperor Bidatsu, to her bedside and admonished him to see things through respectfully and also rebuked Prince YAMASHIRO no Oe to listen to opinions of other people, apparently avoiding appointment of her successor.
Imperial Mausoleum
According to "Kojiki," a Japanese history book, 'the funeral rites were conducted on October 23, 628 and, according to the posthumous order, her remains were buried in the tomb where her son, Prince Tamura, slept.

Its whereabouts is said to be at the Ueyama Tumulus located at Gojono, Kashihara City, Nara Prefecture.
In later years, though not known when, she was reburied in Shinaga no Yamada no Misasagi (the Yamada Imperial tomb in Shinaga; by an archeological term, Yamada Takatsuka Tumulus) located at Yamada, Taishi-cho, Minami Kawachi-gun, Osaka Prefecture.'

[Original Japanese]