Imperial Prince Sawara (Sawara Shinno) (早良親王)

Imperial Prince Sawara (750? - November 8, 785) is one of the Imperial family members of the late Nara period. He was the imperial prince of Emperor Konin. His mother was TAKANO no Niigasa. He was the younger maternal half-brother of Emperor Kanmu and Imperial Princess Noto.

Since his maternal family was lower-ranking nobles, no one wanted him to be the investiture of the Crown Prince. Because of this, he entered into priesthood in 761, living in Kensakuin in the Todai-ji Temple and in the east building of Daian-ji Temple, and was called Imperial Prince Zenji. In 781, when his older brother Emperor Kanmu ascended the throne, he returned to secular life following Emperor Konin's advice becoming the investiture of the Crown Prince. However, in 785, he was uncrowned because he was alleged to have been implicated in the assassination of Zonagaokagushi (the administrator in charge of building the new capital called Nagaoka-kyo) FUJIWARA no Tanetsugu. He fasted to plead his innocence, but he ended up dying in a fit of anger or indignation around Takase-bashi Bridge, Kawachi Province, on the way to be exiled to Awaji Province.

It is unclear whether Imperial Prince Sawara was involved in the assassination of FUJIWARA no Tanetsugu. However, it is said that Roben, who was the founder and the first chief priest of the Todai-ji Temple, asked Imperial Prince Zenji (Imperial Prince Sawara) to take care of affairs in the future ("Todai-ji Kegon no Bekkyo Engi"), and that the priests in Todai-ji Temple were sure to consult Imperial Prince Sawara about important affairs of the temple even after he returned to the secular life (Jitchu "Todai-ji Associated Grand Abbot Jitchu Twenty Nine Articles"). One of the purposes in the construction of Nagaoka-kyo led by Tanetsugu was to eliminate all influences by Nara Temples, including the Todai-ji Temple and the Daian-ji Temple. This is why some people think that Imperial Prince Sawara, who was close with Nanto-jiin (temples in Nara Prefecture), was alleged to have assassinated FUJIWARA no Tanetsugu in order to stop transferring the capital.

After Imperial Prince Sawara's death, terrible incidents came one after another, for example: Emperor Heizei, the oldest son of Emperor Kanmu, fell ill, and FUJIWARA no Otomuro, the wife of Emperor Kanmu, died with sickness. Since people believed the curse of Imperial Prince Sawara caused these unfortunate events, several ceremonies were held for the repose of his soul. In 800, he was given the posthumous name "Emperor Sudo," and his body was transferred to Yamato Province and was buried there. That place is identified with "Sudo Tenno Ryo" (the mausoleum of Emperor Sudo) in Yashima Town, Nara City. Moreover, Yashima shrine, which enshrines Imperial Prince Sawara, is near there, and he is also enshrined as a deity in Emperor Sudo Shrine and Goryo Shrine in Nara town, several kilometers north of Yashima town. Some temples and shrines enshrining Imperial Prince Sawara are dotted around there.

[Original Japanese]