Prince Nagaya (長屋王)

Prince Nagaya (684? - March 20, 729) was a member of the imperial family and Kugyo (high court noble). He was Shonii (Senior Second Rank) sadaijin (Minister of the left). Prince Nagaya became an authority of the political world as a leader of the imperial family, but committed suicide in the Nagayao no Hen (Conspiracy of Nagayao) which was said to be a conspiracy of the Fujiwara clan.

Place of origin

There is a dominant theory which states that he was born in 684, but there is another theory which states that he was born in 676 based on the articles of Kaifusou (Fond Recollections of Poetry). His father was Takechi no Miko, a prince of Emperor Tenmu, and his mother was Minabe no himemiko, a princess of Emperor Tenchi (older maternal half-sister of Empress Genmei) and he was a Koshin (Emperor's family) very close to the main branch.

Prince Nagaya regime

Prince Nagaya was appointed to Shoshii (Senior Fourth Rank) directly without following the order in 704, Jusani (Junior Third Rank) Kunaisho (Ministry of the Sovereign's Household) in 709, Shikibukyo (Minister of the Ministry of Ceremonial) in 710 and Shosanmi (Senior Third Rank) in 716. After transferring of the national capital to Heijo, udaijin (minister of the right) FUJIWARA no Fuhito played a main role in the political world, and the pro-imperial force, such as Imperial Prince Toneri and Prince Nagaya, rivaled him. However, there is a theory which states that Prince Nagaya was in favor of the Fujiwara clan since his wife was a daughter of Fuhito.

When Sadaijin (Minister of the left) ISONOKAMI no Maro died in 717, Prince Nagaya was assigned to Dainagon (chief councilor of state) from Hisangi (advisor at large) at once, which was the highest ranking position among Daijokan (Grand Council of State) after udaijin (minister of the right) FUJIWARA no Fuhito. When FUJIWARA no Fuhito died in 720, his sons Fujiwara four brothers (FUJIWARA no Muchimaro, FUJIWARA no Fusasaki, FUJIWARA no Umakai, FUJIWARA no Maro) were still young and only FUJIWARA no Maro had the position of Sangi (councilor) as Giseikan (Legislature), so Prince Nagaya became a leader of the political world as a representative of Koshin. Prince Nagaya became Junii (Junior Second Rank) udaijin (minister of the right) in 721, promoted to Shonii (Senior Second Rank) sadaijin (minister of the left) in 724 on the day when the Emperor Shomu ascended the throne, and it is said that Empress Gensho also trusted her sister Imperial Princess Kibi and her husband Prince Nagaya.

The measures taken at the time include Sanze isshin no hou (the law to assure the possession of the reclaimed land for three generation) issued in 723. A grand banquet was held to welcome envoys from Shiragi (ancient Korean kingdom) at the house of Prince Nagaya in 719 and the poems created by Prince Nagaya and men of literature were collected in "Kaifusou". "Kaifusou" contains a total of three Chinese-style poems composed by Prince Nagaya, including the poem created at the banquet.

Nagayao no Hen (Conspiracy of Nagayao)

The reins of power of Prince Nagaya were unpleasant to the four brothers of Fujiwara. Although the relationship between the fathers-in-law and adopted son-in-law was not necessary bad while Fuhito was alive, but after his death, Prince Nagaya conflicted with the four brothers over the title of FUJIWARA no Miyako, who was a daughter of Fuhito and the real mother of Emperor Shomu, and their confrontation heated up.

Nuribe no miya tsukokimitari and Nakatomi no miya konomuraji azumahito got secret information that 'Prince Nagaya was led into the wrong course and wished to subvert the state', so the troops of rokuefu (six guard divisions) led by FUJIWARA no Umakai besieged the residence of Prince Nagaya and, as a result of inquiries by Imperial Prince Toneri and others, Prince Nagaya ordered to strangle his empress Imperial Princess Kibi and his son Kashiwade no Okimi to death and killed himself with poison. This is called the Nagayao no Hen (Conspiracy of Nagayao). There is a theory which states that it was a false charge. Emperor Shomu was poor in health and had the only son Prince Asaka of the non-Fujiwara clan at the time of the incident. Apart from the political confrontation, one of the reasons noteworthy for the 'exclusion of Prince Nagaya' was that the three princes, including Kashiwade no Okimi, who were given birth by Imperial Princess Kibi, an aunt of the emperor, (and of course the sons of Prince Nagaya) would have been the most promising successors to the Imperial Throne if something happened to the emperor and Prince Asaka.

After the death of the prince, the Fujiwara four brothers put up Empress Komyo, who was their sister and the wife of Emperor Shomu, as empress and established the administration by four brothers of the Fujiwara clan. The four brothers died of smallpox in 737 and there was a rumor that it was a punishment for driving the prince to suicide. According to "Shoku Nihongi" (Chronicle of Japan Continued), Nagatomi no miyako no azumabito who was one of the persons who accused Prince Nagaya falsely was killed with a sword by OTOMO no Komushi on July 10, 738. It is said that Komushi was one of the persons treated very well by Prince Nagaya and when Nagatomi no miyako no azumabito spoke ill of Prince Nagaya in a game of Igo (board game of capturing territory), Komushi got angry and killed him. OTOMO no Komushi was not accused of this incident. Since the words 'false accusation' appeared in "Shoku Nihongi", it is considered that it was an open secret in the imperial court in the early Heian period in which the chronicle was composed, that Prince Nagaya was falsely charged.

Residence of Prince Nagaya

Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties carried out excavation and research at a planned construction site of a Sogo department store at Nijo-oji Street Minami, Nara City, in 1986 to 1989, and found the ruins of a residence of a noble in Nara period, which was proved to be the residence of Prince Nagaya, together with a lot of mokkan (long and narrow wood plates written with a brush) (mokkan of the Prince Nagaya family) in 1988. The residence of Prince Nagaya was located in a high-class residential area adjacent to the southeast corner of Heijo-kyu Palace, and had an area of about 30,000m2. The relics, such as excavated mokkan, are precious legacy for understanding life in Nara period, but most of the ancient structural remnants were destroyed by construction works regardless of the oppositions of the local residents and researchers. At present, there is a monument in the premises of the Nara store of Ito Yokado.

Imperial Prince Nagaya theory

The characters '長屋親王宮鮑大贄十編' (Ten abalone were contributed to the Imperial Prince Nagaya) were printed on a mokkan excavated from the site of the residence of Prince Nagaya and he was called 'Imperial Prince Nagaya' in an episode regarding Nagayao no Hen in "Nihon Genho Zen-aku Ryoiki" (set of three books of Buddhist stories, written in the late 8th and early 9th century, usually referred to as the Nihon Ryouiki), so there is a theory which states that he was called Imperial Prince Nagaya when he was alive. Since the children between Prince Nagaya and Imperial Princess Kibi were specially treated as the second princes (originally the third princes of Emperor Tenmu) by Empress Genmei, a maternal grandmother, there is also a possibility that Prince Nagaya was also specially treated. According to an ordinary interpretation of the Ritsuryo codes, a son or grandson of an emperor could not call himself Imperial Prince unless the emperor 'gave the title of Imperial Prince' to him directly.

Anyway, the words 'Imperial Prince Nagaya' and 'imperial command' on the about 50,000 excavated mokkan are considered useful to make clear the facts of life and management of the royal family and mysteries of Prince Nagaya as a member of Koshin, and are awaited to be analyzed.


He was depicted as an arrogant person who hit low-ranking monks with a tusk scepter in "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 Ryouiki), and it is said that he was perished by Butsubachi (Buddha's punishment).

It became clear from the mokkan excavated from the site of the residence of Prince Nagaya that he had a himuro (ice chamber) and ate ice in summer.

[Original Japanese]