Imperial Princess Asuka (明日香皇女)

The Imperial Prince Asuka (year of birth unknown - April 27, 700) was a princess of the Emperor Tenchi. Her name is sometimes written as 飛鳥皇女 in Chinese characters instead of 明日香皇女. Her mother was TACHIBANA no Iratsume (a daughter of ABE no Uchimaro). She had a younger sister, the Princess Niitabe, born from the same mother. She might have been the wife of Osakabe no Miko (the Prince Osakabe).


On October 5, 692, the Empress Jito visited the manor of the Imperial Princess Asuka. On September 14, 694, the Empress Jito encouraged 108 people to enter the Buddhist priesthood, praying for the Imperial Princess Asuka's recovery from her illness.

She died in the rank of Jokoshi (Jugoinoge, or Junior Fifth Rank, Lower) on May 1, 700. At her funeral, KAKINOMOTO no Hitomaro presented an elegy about the happily marriage of the two, the Imperial Princess Asuka and her husband. The Imperial Princess Asuka, despite of the fact that her mother was a daughter of a merely local ruling family, was given an unusual treatment, as she was visited by the Empress Jito, who also persuaded 108 people to become priests, praying for the recovery of the princess from her illness.

Poems dedicated to the Imperial Princess Asuka

The Manyoshu (the oldest anthology of tanka) includes the elegies, KAKINOMOTO no Hitomaro composed for her.

An elegy KAKINOMOTO no Hitomaro composed at the funeral of the Imperial Princess Asuka, accompanied by two tanka
Birds are on the wing, Over the Asuka River, Whose upper rapids Were spanned with a stone bridge, Whose lower rapids Were spanned with a wooden bridge; Towards the stone bridge, Fine and green water-weeds grow, And then withering, Soon prosper exuberantly; Toward the wooden bridge River-weeds grow up waving, And then withering, Soon prosper exuberantly; Like those water-weeds As soon as the Prince arose, The Princess rose, too, Waving like the water-weeds; When the Prince lay, The Princess after him lay, Toward him waving; Why could she forget the Prince By whose side she stood, In the Palace where he passed His mornings and evenings? Why did she leave it vacant? When she was alive, when she was well and happy, In the springtide She decked her hair with flowers, And in the autumn Adorned it with yellow leaves; She intermingled Her sleeves with the Prince's sleeves, And she watched the moon Full and clear as a mirror With admiration, With love and deep affection, Standing by his side; On another occasion She went out with him To the Palace of Kinoe, Where delicacies Were graciously offered to them; This part of Kinoe As her everlasting place, The Princess departed; And we can't see nor speak with her; Be that as it may (or Yet, nevertheless,) Swollen with the deep sorrow, Like the fairy bird, Longing for the departed, Line the morning bird, The Prince did come and go, Like the summer grass Pining and withering away, Like the evening star Going and sinking in grief; Like a swaying ship, The Prince's heart kept wavering; As this I know not How to comfort his sorrow; So I know no way And simply wish to retain The tone of her voice, Only to remember her name For ever and ever, As long as heaven and earth, Her beloved name Committing to memory, And love on her name By the Asuka River For generations As the precious memento Of the dear, deceased Princess (Manyoshu, Volume 2 -196).
Two accompanying tanka
Were I to preventThe rapids of AsukaBy setting a weir,The water would be flowingVery gently and leisurely (Manyoshu, Volume 2-197)
Maybe I desire To see the Asuka RiverTomorrow againPrincess Asuka, therefore,Her name I never forget (Manyoshu, Volume 2 - 198)

[Original Japanese]