Imperial Prince Morinaga (護良親王)

Imperial Prince Morinaga/Moriyoshi (1308 - August 20, 1335) lived from the latter half of the Kamakura period to the Kenmu Restoration period. He was the prince of Emperor Godaigo, and his mother was MINAMOTO no Shinshi (Chikako), a daughter of MINAMOTO no Morochika. His wife was the daughter of Chikafusa KITABATAKE. His other wife was Minami no kata, the daughter of FUJIWARA no Yasufuji, a court noble. He was referred to as Otonomiya. He was a Tendai-zasu (a head priest of the Tendai sect).

Refer to the section of readings for the name of the prince of Emperor Godaigo regarding the background of his name with two ways of reading.


He entered Kajii Monzeki Manzen-in Temple, one of three monzeki (temple formerly led by founder of sect, temple in which resided a member of nobility or imperial family members) of the Tendai sect as Cloistered Imperial Prince Sonun at the age of around six. The name of Otonomiya originated from the fact that Monshitsu was placed around Kujunoto; Nine-story Pagoda (Oto; big tower) of Hosho-ji Temple in Higashiyama Okazaki. In 1325, he succeeded Monzeki and became a chief priest. He served as Tendai-zasu twice; during the period from January 1328 to March 1329 and the period from December 1329 to April 1330, with Emperor Godaigo's intention. According to "Taiheiki" (The Record of the Great Peace), he favored military art, and kept himself trained as a usual behavior, which was rare for a Tendai-zasu.

When Godaigo initiated the Genko Incident which was the second movement to topple the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) in 1331, he quit the priesthood and joined the war. Thereafter, he issued an order to recruit an anti-bakufu force, and moved from the Totsu-kawa River, Yoshino, Mt. Koya fighting against the bakufu army with Norisuke AKAMATSU, Yoshiteru MURAKAMI, and others for two years. They destroyed Rokuhara Tandai (an administrative and judicial agency in Rokuhara, Kyoto). However, he disagreed with Takauji ASHIKAGA (the Ko clan) who contributed to toppling the Kamakura bakufu, and he continued to supervise him based in Mt. Shigi (Heguri-cho, Ikoma-gun, Nara Prefecture) without going to Kyoto.

In the Kenmu Restoration started by Emperor Godaigo after the bakufu was overthrown, Morinaga was assigned to seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians") and Hyobusho (ministry of military) and went to Kyoto. Takauji became a Chinju-fu shogun (Commander-in-Chief in Defense of the North). It was said that he still remained vigilant about Takauji after the Kenmu Government was established. He and Akiie KITABATAKE, his relative, advised the emperor on the establishment of Mutsu Shogunfu (local institution of the Kenmu government) with Imperial Prince Norinaga (later Emperor Gomurakami) as a head assigning Akiie KITABATAKE, a child of Chikafusa to Mutsu Province to assist Norinaga with the intention of ruling the Tohoku region. However, on top of Takauji, he conflicted with his father, Godaigo and his father's concubine, Renshi ANO, and recruited solders to assassinate Takauji committing Tsujigiri (Killing in the street to test a new sword). For this reason, he was dismissed from seii taishogun, and was captured by Nagatoshi NAWA and Chikamitsu YUKI in the winter of 1334, for his plot to deprive the imperial throne along with the intentions of Emperor Godaigo. After that, he was taken in by the ASHIKAGA side and was transferred to Kamakura, and placed under the supervision of Tadayoshi ASHIKAGA, Takauji's younger brother. The dispute with Godaigo was said to have been originated from the order issued by Morinaga ignoring Godaigo who also had issued a rinji (the Emperor's command) to topple the bakufu in the anti-shogunate war, therefore, the plot to deprive the imperial throne was not true. The force of Norimura AKAMATSU from Morinaga party was substantially reduced before Morinaga's downfall, which was considered as a sign of his downfall.

In the following year, the Nakasendai War by Tokiyuki HOJO took place, and Kamakura was regained by the HOJO army. Imperial Prince Morinaga who was confined in Toko-ji Temple of Nikaidogayatsu (二階堂ガ谷) was killed by Tadayoshi who was afraid that Morinaga might follow Tokiyuki.

According to one of the Japanese classics, "Taiheiki," Morinaga was confined in prison with mud walls in Toko-ji Temple (the prison with mud walls were restored and still exists on the site of Kamakura palace). It is said that Minami no kata, the daughter of FUJIWARA no Yasufuji, a court noble, had a memorial service for Imperial Prince Morinaga who was killed by Yoshihiro FUCHINOBE, a vassal of Tadayoshi. Nichiei shonin who was born to Minami no kata and Imperial Prince Morinaga later opened Myoho-ji Temple in Kamakura and prayed to Buddha for the happiness of his dead parents. Besides, under orders of Emperor Godaigo, the younger sister of Imperial Prince Morinaga entered Tokei-ji Temple in Northern Kamakura as the fifth priest and was called Yodoni (用堂尼). In Tokei-ji Temple, a Buddhist mortuary tablet with the childhood name of the Imperial Prince Morinaga, 'Cloistered Imperial Prince Sonun' written on it was enshrined.

His grave is at the Richiko-ji Temple ruins in Nikaido, Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture.

After Meiji Restoration, the Kamakura palace was built in the Toko-ji Temple ruins to pray for the dead soul of the Imperial Prince. It was commonly called 'Otonomiya' in the local area.

[Original Japanese]