The Bunpo Compromise (文保の和談)

The Bunpo Compromise is an agreement made in 1317, the late Kamakura period, that succession to the throne would alternate between descendants of Emperor Gofukakusa (Jimyoin-to - imperial lineage from Emperor Gofukakusa to Emperor Gokomatsu) and descendants of Emperor Kameyama (Daikakuji-to - imperial lineage starting with Emperor Kameyama) (both were the sons of Emperor Gosaga). Recently, however, it is generally believed in academic circles that there was no such agreement.


As the cloistered government became established after Emperor Shirakawa, under the concept of the family business that gradually became common in noble society at that time, the imperial throne and the head of the imperial family were separated, by which the head of the family ('chiten no kimi' - the retired Emperor who organizes politics) came to operate the essential imperial authority to designate an heir to the imperial throne.

After the Jokyu War, however, approval of the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) was required for the effective succession of the imperial throne; in fact, because of the demise of Emperor Shijo in 1242, the Kamakura bakufu rejected Prince Iwakuranomiya Tadanari, a promising successor, and instead made Gosaga take over the imperial throne. Accordingly, Gosaga also decided the following heir to the imperial throne with the approval of the Kamakura bakufu.

After abdicating the throne in favor of Imperial Prince Hisahito (Emperor Gofukakusa) in 1246, Gosaga made him abdicate the throne in 1260 in favor of Imperial Prince Tsunehito (Emperor Kameyama), Gofukakusa's brother by the same mother. At the same time, Gosagain made Imperial Prince Yohito, the son of Kameyama, Crown Prince. This resulted in disputes about the succession of chiten no kimi and the private estate owned by the Imperial family after the demise of Gosaga. Despite some objections, Gosaga left the order asking the bakufu to designate the chiten; the bakufu confirmed his will with Omiyain, the mother of Gofukakusa and Kameyama, thus deciding to have direct Imperial rule by Emperor Kameyama. This means that the position of chiten was succeeded to Kameyama over Gofukakusa. In 1274, by abdicating in favor of Crown Prince Yohito (Emperor Gouda), Kameyama began his cloistered government.

However, Gofukakusa was dissatisfied with this and thus declined the title of Daijo-Tenno (retired Emperor) and announced his intention to become a priest in 1275. Accordingly, as a result of negotiations between Sanekane SAIONJI, Kanto moshitsugi (court-appointed liaison with the bakufu) and the regent Tokimune HOJO, Imperial Prince Hirohito (Emperor Fushimi), the son of Gofukakusa, became an adopted child of Kameyama in 1275, and was given the title of Imperial Prince and formally installed as the Imperial Prince. Then in 1286, Imperial Prince Kuniharu (Emperor Gonijo), the son of Emperor Gouda, was given the title of Imperial Prince. Supposedly, it was intended to allow Gonijo succeed the throne after Fushimi who took over the throne in the cloistered government of Kameyama, but the position of chiten was transferred to Gofukakusa with the enthronement of Fushimi in 1287, thereby the rule by retired Emperor Gofukakusa began. Conventionally, it was believed in general that interference in the authority of the imperial court from the bakufu resulted in the above circumstances; but recently it is widely believed that, in addition to the friction between Kameyama and Sanekane SAIONJI, Kameyama's intimacy with Yasumori ADACHI who fell during the Shimotsuki Incident, as well as his ambition for 'Shinsei' (law reconstitution) produced suspiciousness among the Tokuso (the patrimonial head of the main branch of the Hojo clan) family who aimed to control not only the eastern part, but the entire country. Moreover, by Fushimi, Imperial Prince Tanehito (Emperor Gofushimi), the son of Fushimi, was formally installed as the Imperial Prince immediately after his was born. When an assassination attempt on Fushimi by Tameyori ASAHARA occurred in 1290, Kameyama, who was a suspected mastermind, rapidly lost his position. In 1298, Gofushimi took over the throne and rule by the Retired Emperor Fushimi began.

This caused the opposition by Daikakuji-to and recovery strategy against the Kamakura bakufu; Imperial Prince Kuniharu became the Crown Prince and Emperor Gofushimi abdicated in favor of Kuniharu only three years after his enthronement. The rule by the Retired Emperor Gouda began accordingly, but Imperial Prince Tomihito (Emperor Hanazono), the brother of Gofushimi from Jimyoin-to, was formally installed as the Imperial Prince as an adopted child of Gofushimi. Supposedly, it was intended to avoid the split of the imperial lineage again.


In 1308, Gonijo died, seven years after his enthronement; Hanazono took over the throne, according to the resumption of the rules by the Retired Emperor Fushimi. However, it was Imperial Prince Takaharu (Emperor Godaigo), the brother of Gonijo from Daikakuji-to, not Imperial Prince Kuniyoshi, the son of Gonijo, who was installed as the Crown Prince. It was supposedly because Imperial Prince Kuniyoshi was young and weak at the time; the result was that the Crown Prince was nine years older than the Emperor, which was quite unusual. As Imperial Prince Kuniyoshi got older, Gouda became worried about the split of the imperial lineage again, thus announced that Imperial Prince Kuniyoshi would succeed Imperial Prince Takaharu as the next Crown Prince.

After the death of Fushimi in 1317, the dispute about the heir to the throne between the two imperial lineages became intense; accordingly, the bakufu, who was expected to reconcile the two, proposed the following three points, for the purpose of setting criteria for the heir to the throne. Hanazono would abdicate in favor of Imperial Prince Takaharu. The period of reign would be made ten years and the succession to the throne would alternate between the two imperial lineages. Imperial Prince Kuniyoshi would be the next Crown Prince, succeeded by Imperial Prince Kazuhito (Emperor Kogon), the son of Gofushimi. A settlement was reached by the alternative succession of emperors of Daikakuji-to line and Jimyoin-to line after Emperor Kogon.

This agreement was called the Bunpo Compromise.

Recent theory

According to the recent study, however, the conventional understanding for this comprise was far from what the practical comprise was, and it is a prevailing opinion that an agreement was not reached in the Bunpo Compromise and it was just a meeting. According to this opinion, although the bakufu in fact made the above proposals, an agreement was not reached concerning the Crown Prince and the successive Crown Prince. In addition, in details, some believe that the Compromise itself did not exist, and others believe that an agreement was not reached on the next heir to the throne despite negotiations. Furthermore, since only "Baishoron" (Historical tale compiled in 1349) shows that the period of reign was made ten years, some believe that only the decision on the heir to the throne was made as a Compromise.

In fact, under Retired Emperor Gouda's rule, Godaigo took over the throne in 1318 by the offer from Gouda. Accordingly, Imperial Prince Kuniyoshi was formally installed as the Imperial Prince, succeeded by Imperial Prince Kazuhito after the demise of Kuniyoshi. The above proposal was achieved, but the enthronement of Godaigo, who was in the collateral line of Daikakuji-to, without a definite agreement on alternate succession led to the concurrent succession in the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan), where Godaigo attempted to make his descendant succeed to the throne irrespective of the wishes of his father Gouda.

[Original Japanese]