Rebellion of TACHIBANA no Naramaro (橘奈良麻呂の乱)

The Rebellion of TACHIBANA no Naramaro was a coup that occurred during the Nara period. TACHIBANA no Naramaro planned to overpower FUJIWARA no Nakamaro and to enthrone and dethrone the emperor; however, the coup did not succeed due to its exposure by a force of betrayal.

History prior to the rebellion

Father of TACHIBANA no Naramaro, Sadaijin (Minister of the Left) TACHIBANA no Moroe, was in charge of a political affair during the period of the Emperor Shomu.

In 743, Naramaro leaked his conspiracy, which was planned with ONO no Azumahito, of enthroning Prince Kibumi as the next emperor to SAEKI no Matanari after Emperor Shomu became ill during the imperial visit to Nanba.

In 749, FUJIWARA no Nakamaro who was trusted by Empress Komyo, the emperor's mother, was appointed to be Kami (a director) of Shibi Chudai (the office that handled the Empress Komyo's affairs) which was established for Empress's dowager after Emperor Shomu abdicated his throne to Imperial Princess Abe (Empress Koken). Nakamaro was strongly favored by Empress Koken and rapidly gained power. On the other hand, the power of TACHIBANA no Moroe and his father, who were considered to be critical to the succession of Imperial Princess Abe to the Emperor, declined gradually. Naramaro, who felt threatened by the empowerment of the Fujiwara clan, talked to SAEKI no Matanari again about his plan of rebellion during the Daijo-sai festival (a festival that celebrated the succession of an emperor) to enthrone Empress Koken in December. However, Naramaro could not execute the rebellion because Matanari refused to join his rebellion.

In 755, SAMI no Miyamori, a servant of Moroe, leaked information that Moroe had slandered against the Imperial Court during a party. The Retired Emperor Shomu was not concerned with this information; however, Moroe, ashamed of his actions, resigned from his position in March, 756.
(Moroe died with disappointment two years later at the age of 75.)

In May of 756, Naramaro talked to SAEKI no Matanari, who was visiting the capital from the Mutsu Province with a monetary gold during Emperor Shomu's sickness, about the rebellion for the third time. Naramaro asked OTOMO no Komaro to enthrone Prince Kibumi together with the Saeki clan; however, both SAEKI and OTOMO refused the proposal.

On June 8, 756, the Retired Emperor Shomu died. According to his will, Funado no Okimi (Prince Funado) became the Crown Prince. In April of 757, Funado no Okimi was dethroned due to Empress Koken's displeasure and, instead, Emperor Junnin who was recommended by Nakamaro became Crowned Prince.

Scheme and disclosure of the conspiracy

Naramaro, the son of Moroe, felt dissatisfaction towards Nakamaro's arbitrary behavior. Naramaro schemed to gather people who felt similarly in order to eliminate Nakamaro. On July 22, 757, Yamashiro-O (Prince Yamashiro) informed Empress Koken of the scheme that Naramaro was planning to surround Nakamaro's residence with soldiers. On July 26, both Empress Koken and Empress Dowager Komyo informed their retainers that they should not act with treachery and obey the Imperial Court regardless of any rumors of the conspiracy.

However, on the same evening, Nakamaro was informed by KAMITSUMICHI no Hitatsu, a toneri (a palace servant) of Chuefu (guard), that ONO no Azumahito, an ex-Kokushi (a provincial governor) of Bizen Province, asked him to join the rebellion. Nakamaro immediately informed Empress Koken and sent soldiers from Chuefu to surround the residence of ex-Crown Prince Funado no Okimi. People, including ONO no Azumahito, were arrested and put into the jail in Saejifu (Left Division of Guards). On the following day, July 27, Udaijin (Minister of the Right) FUJIWARA no Toyonari, Chunagon (a vive-councilor of state) FUJIWARA no Nagate, and others visited ONO no Azumahito and had a hearing. Azumahito insisted his innocence. After receiving the report from the hearing, Empress Koken, with Nakamaro beside him, read an imperial edict in front of Prince Shioyaki, Prince Asukabe, Prince Kibumi, TACHIBANA no Naramaro and OTOMO no Komaro that established her disbelief in the conspiracy even though there was a report that confirmed the ensuing rebellion.

However, the situation suddenly changed on the same day. Udaijin Toyonari was removed from the hearing and Nagate and others were re-sent to Saejifu to torture people including ONO no Azumahito and TAHO no Chusetsu. Azumahito and others changed their attitude and confessed about the rebellion. The content of the plot revealed that TACHIBANA no Naramaro, OTOMO no Komaro, Prince Asukabe, Prince Kibumi, and others planned to gather troops and attack Nakamaro's residence and assassinate him. Furthermore, they planned to remove Crown Prince, then surround Empress Dowager's palace to steal Ekirei (a bell needed for the exercise of Imperial power) and the Imperial Seal. Moreover, the plan involved Udaijin Toyonari to present an announcement to the society, then to dethrone the Emperor, and to chose one of Prince Shioyaki, Funado no Okimi, Prince Asukabe, and the Prince Kibumi as the emperor.

Severe punishment

By Azumahito's confession, people, including Naramaro, Funado no Okimi, Prince Kibumi, OTOMO no Komaro, TAJIHI no Koshikai, and KAMO no Tsunotari, who were considered to be members of the rebellion were immediately arrested and tortured by Nagate and others. As the torturing progressed, all of them confessed about the rebellion. Naramaro confessed that he planned the rebellion because the government had no mercy and its people were suffering from hardship caused by the construction of the Todai-ji Temple and other factors.

Soon after the confession, he was transferred to a jail and tortured by repeated beating with a stick under the supervision of Nagate, Kyofuku KUDARANOKONIKISHI, Prince Fune, and others. Funado no Okimi (changed his name to Madohi), Prince Kibumi (changed his name to Kunatabure), Komaro, Azumahito, Koshikai, Tsunotari (changed his name to Noroshi) died one after another on the same day because of the severe torture. Furthermore, even though Naramaro's name did not appear in "Shoku Nihongi" (Chronicle of Japan Continued), he was considered to be dead in jail like other members.

Prince Asukabe was sent to Sadoga-shima Island and OTOMO no Kojihi (a husband of FUJIWARA no Fuhito's daughter) was sent to Tosa Province (they were remitted later). Prince Shioyaki was not punished because there was no evidence indicating his direct involvement in the rebellion; however, his position as a member of the Imperial family was revoked, demoting him from nobility to a subject (changed his name to 'HIKAMI no Shioyaki'). Although Matanari was not directly involved in the planning of the rebellion, he was arrested and confessed, revealing the plans for the rebellion established by Naramaro; he later committed suicide. 443 people were implicated in the plot and were punished by deportation, imprisonment, and were revoked of their status.
Furthermore, Udaijin FUJIWARA no Toyonari was considered to be involved in the plot with his son, FUJIWARA no Ototada, and was demoted to Dazainoingenosochi (Provisional Governor-General of the Dazai-fu offices, which was a position for demotion)
Moreover, there is a theory that Chunagon FUJIWARA no Nagate was politically isolated in the Imperial Court, where the Nakamaro faction was empowered, and forced to fall into obscurity. Ironically, people such as Toyonari and Nagate were members of the anti-Nakamaro party as well as close advisors to Empress Koken, a target of Naramaro. They were the people who performed the intense interrogation and torture against Nakamaro and others who planned the enthronement and dethronement of the Emperor.


Nakamaro succeeded to clean away all political enemies who held dissatisfaction towards him as a result of this event. In 758, Prince Oi was enthroned (Emperor Junnin) and Nakamaro was appointed Taiho (Udaijin) gaining the name of EMI no Oshikatsu. Moreover, in 760, Nakamaro became the Taishi (Daijo-daijin [Grand Minister of State]) and lived luxuriously and prosperously. However, his fall came quickly after Empress Koken's love moved to Dokyo. In 764, Nakamaro lost a coup (the Rebellion of FUJIWARA no Nakamaro) that he started and his clan perished.

[Original Japanese]