Rebellion of FUJIWARA no Nakamaro (藤原仲麻呂の乱)

The Rebellion of FUJIWARA no Nakamaro is a domestic conflict which occurred in the Nara period. It is also called the Rebellion of Emi no Oshikatsu. Daijo-daijin (grand minister of state) FUJIWARA no Nakamaro (also called EMI no Oshikatsu) conflicted with Empress Koken and Dokyo, rebelled against them, but was eventually defeated.

Sequence of events

FUJIWARA no Nakamaro, winning the confidence of Empress Komyo, was appointed to Shibi-rei (director general of Shibi institution) and gradually gained political power. After the enthronement of Empress Koken, Nakamaro completely took the reins of government, backed by the authority of Empress Koken and Empress Dowager Komyo. In 758, Nakamaro was appointed to Taiho, or Udaijin (minister of the right), and also given the name of EMI no Oshikatsu by Emperor Junnin, to whom Nakamaro strongly supported to become Emperor. In 760, Nakamaro finally won the position of Taishi, orDaijo-daijin.

Once reaching the prosperity, the fate of Nakamaro turned for the worse after the death of Empress Dowager Komyo and the Retired Empress Koken began to make a favorite of YUGE no Dokyo. Nakamaro, by way of Emperor Junnin, remonstrated Retired Empress Koken for her patronage of Dokyo, which angered Koken. Getting so furious, the Retired Empress Koken entered into priesthood and declared that emperor should conduct minor matters while she should determine important decisions and be in charge of reward and punishment. The Retired Empress Koken gave even deeper love for Dokyo, while she furiously hated Nakamaro.

Being fretted by the situation, Nakamaro decided to confront the Retired Empress Koken and Dokyo by resorting to military power, and in October 764, he was appointed by Emperor Junnin to Totoku governor general of Shikinai (four provinces close to the Capital) and sangen (three major barrier stations) as well as military chief of Omi, Tanba and Harima provinces. The position was prescribed to gather 20 soldiers from various districts to the capital for training, but Nakamaro ordered daigeki (senior secretary) TAKAOKA no Hiramaro to mobilize 600. Nakamaro intended to gather troops in the capital and to rebel.

On October 14, Hiramaro reported to the Retired Empress Koken about the mobilization order of Nakamaro. The Retired Empress Koken dispatched Shonagon (minor councilor of state) Yamamura-O to Chuguin Palace, the residence of Emperor Junnin, and recovered Imperial Seal and ekirei (a bell), both needed for the exercise of imperial power.
(According to another story, Emperor Junnin was placed in confinement at the Chugu-in Palace.)
Upon learning the plan, Nakamaro let his son FUJIWARA no Kusumaro to raid Yamamura-O on his way back, and tried to recapture Imperial Seal and ekirei (a bell). However, Shojo (junior lieutenant) SAKANOUE no Karitamaro, who was imperial guard Ryoge no kan, and Shoso (secretary of the headquarters of the inner palace guards) OSHIKA no Shimatari both were sent and shot Kusumaro to death.

The Retired Empress Koken sent imperial messenger KI no Funamori to the residence of Nakamaro and informed that he should be divested of official court rank as well as the kabane (hereditary title) of Fujiwara. On the night, Nakamaro led his family and escaped from Heijo-kyo (the ancient capital of Japan in current Nara) and entered Uji City, heading for provincial capital of the Province of Omi where he had been kokushi (provincial governor) for many years. The Retired Empress Koken recalled KIBI no Makibi, gave the official rank of Jusanmi (junior third rank), and ordered to kill Nakamaro.

Makibi speculated Nakamaro's action, and sent a government army led by KUSAKABE no Komaro from the Yamashiro Province and Emon shojo (junior lieutenant) SAEKI no Itaji and had them burn the Seta-bashi Bridge, effectively blocking the route to Tosan-do Road. Nakamaro was forced to head north along the west coast of Lake Biwa for the Echizen Province, where his son FUJIWARA no Shikachi was kokushi, and prepared for a comeback. Having failed to take Emperor Junnin with him, Nakamaro raised Prince Shioyaki as fake emperor, and sent orders to local governments with daijokanpu (the official documents of the Daijokan). Thus, there rose two Imperial Courts at that time.

SAEKI no Itaji of the Imperial army rushed to the Echizen Province and killed Shikaji who did not know about the rebellion, and made MONONOBE no Hironari close Arachi no-seki checking station (on the border of Omi and Echizen provinces). Nakamaro's advance party of some tens of soldiers were defeated at Arachi no-seki checking station. Without knowing the death of Shikaji, Nakamaro tried to avoid Arachi no-seki checking station and cross the Lake Biwa by boat to the east coast, but failed eventually due to the against wind, and proceeded land route from Shiozu to go through Arachi no-seki. SAEKI no Itaji defended the Arachi no-seki, and defeated the army of Nakamaro.

Nakamaro's army retreated to an old castle in Sanbi of Takashima County, Omi Province. Imperial army attacked Sanbi, while Nakamaro's army desperately fought back. On October 21, Imperial army was joined by the troops led by Tozoku shogun (literally, shogun who subdues rebels) FUJIWARA no Kurajimaro, and attacked Nakamaro's army from both lake and land, and finally Nakamaro was defeated. Nakamaro tried to escape by boat with his wife and children, but was captured by an imperial soldier ISHIMURA no Iwatate and was killed. Prince Shioyaki was also killed at a Lake Biwa coast.

Nakamaro's family was extinguished, and Emperor Junnin was stripped of position and sent to Awaji Province. Instead, the Retired Empress Koken came back to the position of Empress (Empress Shotoku). After the Nakamaro's rebellion, Empress Shotoku and Dokyo took the control of the government.

[Original Japanese]