Ogura Incident (小倉事件)

The Ogura Incident was a dispute over succession of the imperial throne in which Emperor Reigen forced Ichinomiya (later Cloistered Imperial Prince Saishin), his oldest son, to become a Buddhist priest in 1681, and purged the greater imperial household of the Ogura family, Ichinomiya's maternal relatives.

Nyogo (a rank of imperial consort) Fusako TAKATSUKASA (later promoted to Chugu rank), legitimate spouse of Emperor Reigen, had no son. There had been an agreement between Cloistered Emperor Gomizunoo, then taking the virtual reins of the court, and the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a nominally emperor-appointed Shogun) that, if Emperor Reigen died before Fusako TAKATSUKASA delivered a son, the Emperor's oldest son Ichinomiya born to a daughter (an unidentified Chunagon Naishi (a maid of honor to the Vice-Councilor of State)) of Saneoki OGURA would inherit the throne, and this agreement had won consent of the Emperor and influential noble families including Sekkanke (families qualified for appointment as Prince Regent or Chief Advisor to the Emperor).

However, when Gonomiya, the Emperor's fourth son (later Imperial Prince Asahito and still later Emperor Higashiyama) was born in 1674, the Emperor began to think of having Gonomiya, rather than four years old Ichinomiya, succeed his throne. The Emperor was also dissatisfied with the absence of Chunagon Naishi, Ichinomiya's real mother, who had returned to her native home after the birth of the prince and remained there. In 1677, the Emperor sent an envoy to Edo to know what the Bakufu's intention was, but Ietsuna TOKUGAWA, then Seii Taishogun (literally "great general who subdues the barbarians") objected to this proposal, which had not been approved by the Cloistered Emperor and his legitimate consort Tofukumonin (Ietsuna's aunt).

However, as Tofukumonin died in that year followed by the successive deaths of Cloistered Emperor Gomizunoo and Shogun Ietsuna from illness three years later, the Emperor sent imperial messengers to Cloistered Imperial Prince Shoshin, a younger brother of the Cloistered Emperor who was at the Daikaku-ji Temple then and to the new Shogun Tsunayoshi TOKUGAWA to obtain the former's acceptance of Ichinomiya as a disciple and the latter's consent to Gonomiya's proposed inheritance of the throne. The Cloistered Imperial Prince, at first against the proposal, was eventually persuaded and Tsunayoshi, wishing to avoid worsening relations with the Imperial Court in the early days of his new position, also consented. And in May and June 1670, it was formally decided to let Ichinomiya enter Daikaku-ji. However, Saneoki OGURA, maternal grandfather of Ichinomiya, sheltered the prince in his residence. After that, the Emperor urged the Ogura family to honor the decision, but they refused to do so.

On October 27, imperial messenger Toshinobu ANO visited Ogura's residence, and conveyed the imperial command to the effect that Ichinomiya should immediately visit the Imperial Palace and report his entrance into priesthood to the Emperor, only to be met by an outright refusal by Saneoki OGURA; on his revisit on October 28, Ano tried to take Ichinomiya with him, but his attempt failed as the prince sensed the abnormality of the situation. Furious at this outcome, the Emperor ordered Ano under house arrest, sent warriors guarding the Imperial Place to Ogura's residence, which was occupied by the warriors, confined Ichinomiya in the residence of Masatoyo ASUKAI, and requested the Bakufu to punish Saneoki OGURA. Taking Ogura's failure to obey the imperial command seriously, Tsunayoshi ordered to banish Saneoki OGURA, his legitimate son Kintsura OGURA and Kintsura's younger brother Kiken TAKEBUCHI to Sado Province, and relatives of Ogura including the Yabu and Nakazono families under house arrest (incidentally, immediately before these punishments, the imperial era name had been changed to Tenwa as scheduled beforehand).

However, this situation invited strong protests to the Emperor by Sadaijin (Minister of the Left) Motohiro KONOE and Gondainagon (Junior Chief of the Councilor of State) Michishige NAKANOIN, both close aides to Cloistered Emperor Gomizunoo. Especially Nakanoin, who had been involved in the imperial throne succession as a Buke Tenso (liaison officer between the Imperial Court and the Bakufu), abused the Emperor and Tsunayoshi, openly in the presence of the Emperor himself, for reversing the intention of Cloistered Emperor Gomizunoo and former Shogun Ietsuna in only a little over one year after the deaths of both. Furthermore, surprised by this development, Cloistered Imperial Prince Shoshin himself refused to become an apprentice priest.

After the turn of the year to 1682, however, Emperor Reigen took the offensive. On March 22, he filled the vacant position of Kanpaku (Chief Adviser to the Emperor) with, instead of Sadaijin Motohiro KONOE, Udaijin (Minister of the Right) Fuyutsune ICHIJO, lower in rank than Konoe. Then on May 2, the nomination of Gonomiya as Chokun (heir to the Imperial Throne) and of Fusako TAKATSUKASA as Chugu was announced, while Ichinomiya was forced to become a priest at the Kaju-ji Temple, instead of Daikaku-ji Temple, on September 17. On December 30, an imperial proclamation to nominate Shinomiya was issued, renaming him Imperial Prince Asahito, who was officially invested in crown princedom in the ceremony of investiture of the Crown Prince next year, on March 7, 1683, the first such rite after a long interval since the (Japanese) Medieval Age. It was the first such ceremony in well over 300 years since Emperor Suko's heir Imperial Prince Naohito had been invested in crown princedom (although this prince was arrested by the Yoshino Court on the occasion of Shohei Itto (temporal unification of the Northern and Southern Courts) and dethroned).

In 1684, Saneoki and Kintsura OGURA, father and son, successively died of illness in Sado, a sad enough circumstance to tempt Emperor Reigen to remit Kiken TAKEBUCHI and had him change the name to Hirosue OGURA, who was permitted to restore the Ogura family.

However, in 1687, Michishige NAKANOIN was expelled for his abusive remark earlier in the year and was suspected of ill intentions toward the Crown Prince (although he was remitted afterwards and his salaries from the Bakufu were increased at the recommendation of the Retired Emperor Reigen and Emperor Higashiyama), and immediately after that the incumbent emperor declared the abdication of his throne in favor or Imperial Prince Asahito (now Emperor Higashiyama) and the start of his assumption of the virtual reins of the court as retired emperor. This development made Motohiro KONOE and the Bakufu in Edo realize that the true motive underlying Emperor Reigen's insistence on succession by Shinomiya had not only been love of his own son but part of his long-cherished scheme to assume the virtual reins of the court as retired emperor and exercising ruling authority without allowing interference by the Sekkanke or the Bakufu, to whom handing over the imperial throne to the older Ichinomiya, who would soon become of age, would have been a disadvantage.

There ensued a prolonged feud between the Retired Emperor Reigen, attempting to exercising virtual ruling authority as retired emperor, on one hand and Motohiro KONOE and the Bakufu in Edo trying to obstruct the retired Emperor's intention on the other.

[Original Japanese]