Gonancho (Second Southern Court) (後南朝)

Gonancho (Second Southern Court) is a general term that refers to descendants of the Southern dynasty (Japan) lineage and their former retainers and their attempts to revive the Southern Court after the two Courts were unified in 1392, and to the political administrations and the members of the Imperial household who were involved.

This name was coined by the Confucian scholar Setsudo SAITO in the final days of the Edo period; until that time, there was no established term for such activities and groups. Moreover, the term "Gonancho (Second Southern Court)" didn't come into common use until after World War II, so up until then the term was not firmly established.


Under the 'Meitoku Compromise,' an agreement reached when the Northern and Southern Courts were unified, the Imperial throne would alternate between candidates from the (Japanese) Northern dynasty (of the Gofukakusa lineage) and the Southern dynasty (of the Kameyama lineage), but in 1412 Emperor Gokomatsu of the Northern lineage broke precedent by enthroning his son Prince (Emperor) Shoko as his successor, in a bid to monopolize the Imperial throne for the Northern dynasty lineage, which provoked hostility among former Southern Court supporters.

In 1414 (Oei 21), the provincial governor of Ise province, Mitsumasa KITABATAKE - financial backer of the last Southern Court Emperor, Gokameyama, who had fled from Kyoto four years earlier and traveled incognito to Yoshino, as well as his son Prince Oguranomiya - raised an army in response, but after receiving an order from Gokameyama to subjugate the Muromachi Shogunate, a peace settlement was reached, and the Retired Emperor Gokameyama returned to Kyoto two years later.

In 1428, four years after Retired Emperor Gokameyama died, Emperor Shoko died without an heir, and consequently the principal Northern lineage came to an end. Retired Emperor Gokomatsu took this opportunity to select Prince Hikohito (Emperor Gohanazono) of the Fushiminomiya branch of the Northern lineage to be the successor; in response, the Gonancho faction, which now with the Northern dynasty's Imperial line extinct, he had expected that the Northern lineage would have lost its authority over matters of Imperial succession, vehemently opposed this decision. Once again, Mitsumasa KITABATAKE, who was supporting Prince Oguranomiya Seisho (the son of Tsuneatsu, himself Gokameyama's son and Imperial Prince), raised an army in Ise Province, but he was defeated in a battle with shogunal forces and died.

From the time of this incident onward, until the time of the Onin War, the descendants of the Southern Court and dynasty, taken in by various powerful anti-shogunate forces, continued acting intermittently against the Northern dynasty and the shogunate. In 1443 (the third year of Kakitsu), Arimitsu HINO, from a branch of the Hino family, who was constantly talking of reviving the Southern Court, sent a force that was planning to assassinate Emperor Gohanazono to enter the Imperial Palace (the assassination attempt failed), where they stole two of the Three Imperial Regalia of Japan, the Ama no Murakumo no Tsurugi (the heavenly cloud gathering sword) and the Yasakani no Magatama (the Grand Jewels) before fleeing to Mt. Hiei accompanied by Tsuzoshu and Gonzoshu, brothers of the Southern dynasty lineage (the grandchildren of Gokameyama's younger brother) in what became known as the Kinketsu Incident (or the Incident at the Forbidden Palace). Shogunal forces hunted down and executed the ringleaders of the Incident and recaptured the sword, but the Grand Jewels remained with the Gonancho forces who fled in 1457, the surviving retainers of the Akamatsu clan - which had been crushed in the Kakitsu Rebellion of 1441 - including Taro ISHIMI, Tatewaki NIUNOYA, and Mitsuyoshi KOZUKI, wishing to restore the Akamatsu clan's fortunes, went to the Gonancho headquarters at Kitayama near the provincial borders of Yamato and Kii Provinces (possibly referring to modern-day Kamikitayama village in Yoshino district, Nara Pref.), or perhaps at Sannoko (in Kawakami village of Yoshino district, Nara Pref.), and pretended to become vassals of the Gonancho before turning on them and striking down many of their forces, murdering Princes Jitenno and Tadayoshiten who were brothers and Imperial descendants of the Southern Court bloodline, before recapturing the Grand Jewels (in what became known as the Choroku Incident). Both princes are listed in later genealogies as being descendants of Oguranomiya, but there is no evidence for this in historical records of the day.

The Gonancho forces gradually lost their power, and during the Onin War were labeled in historical records as descendants of Oguranomiya (in the "Daijoin temple and shrine records of miscellaneous matters" they are listed as offspring of Oguranomiya), while the son of Zenmonshu (Gatekeeper) OKAZAKI being welcomed in the capital's western district (this son was called "The Southern Emperor of the western district") by Sozen YAMANA is the last historical mention of them; after this point, they no longer appear in historical records. Yet even after this point, legends and folklore about the Gonanch forces remained in existence among the common people, and Seijiro TAKIKAWA pointed out that one of the tales of wandering aristocrats among the Sanka (mountain folk of Japan) may have made use of the Gonancho stories. In the liberal atmosphere after the end of the World War II, when figures like Hiromichi KUMAZAWA, the so-called 'Emperor Kumazawa,' appeared and each claimed that only he himself was the legitimate successor to the Emperor, most of these self-styled Emperors were reacting to the fact that in 1911 Emperor Meiji had decided that the Southern lineage was the legitimate one, and came forward claiming to be descendants of the Southern dynasty.

[Original Japanese]