Shirakawa Betsugyo (白河別業)

Shirakawa betsugyo was a villa used by the head of the Regents' House of the Fujiwara clan for generations from the ninth century to about the eleventh century. The villa was also referred to as Shirakawa dono or Shirakawa dai.


Shirakawa (Kyoto City), opposite the Heiankyo (the Heian Palace) across the Kamo-gawa River (Yodo-gawa River system), was an important center of transportation with the Tokaido Highway passing through.

FUJIWARA no Yoshifusa, who assumed the office of sessho (regent) as the first subject, built a villa on the land of Shirakawa, which was the beginning of Shirakawa betsugyo. After Yoshifusa died, Shirakawa betsugyo had been inherited through the lineage of the eldest son of the Regents' House of the Fujiwara clan, such as FUJIWARA no Mototsune and FUJIWARA no Tadahira.

At the turn of the eleventh century, FUJIWARA no Michinaga owned the villa, and after Michinaga died, his legitimate son FUJIWARA no Yorimichi inherited the villa and FUJIWARA no Shoshi, a daughter of Michinaga (an elder sister of Yorimichi), lived there after became a nun.
In the days of Michinaga, FUJIWARA no Naritoki and FUJIWARA no Kinto of the collateral line also built villas in Shirakawa, so that the Shirakawa betsugyo was called 'O Shirakawa' (Big Shirakawa) to distinguish it from their villas ('Ko Shirakawa' - Small Shirakawa.)

In Shirakawa, which was also famous for its cherry blossoms, the head of the Regents' House held various events such as cherry blossom viewing parties, poetry parties, kemari (a ball kicking game), and horse races, some of which were attended by the Emperors.
In 1004, the Emperor Kazan (also referred to as Emperor Hanayama) visited there for cherry blossom viewing ("Mido kanpaku ki" - the diary of FUJIWARA no Michinaga); in 1032, the Emperor Goichijo visited there for flower viewing ("Nihongi ryaku" - Abbreviated History of Japan); and in 1060, the Emperor Goreizei visited a partly for cherry blossom viewing and partly for inquiring after his grandmother Jotomon in's health ("Nihongi ryaku".)

In 1074, FUJIWARA no Yorimichi and Jotomon in died one after another; and during the next year, FUJIWARA no Morozane who inherited Yorimichi, presented the Shirakawa betsugyo to the then Emperor Shirakawa (great grandson of Jotomon in). The Emperor Shirakawa made it into a temple (Hossho-ji Temple) under Morozane's biological elder brother Kakuen. Hossho-ji Temple, which was known as one of the Rokusho-ji Temples (also referred to as Rikusho-ji Temples; six temples built in the area by retired emperors by the mid-twelfth century) later, but was ruined at the end of the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States).

The area around the present Okazaki Park (Kyoto City) and Kyoto Municipal Zoo was considered to be the sight of the temple, i.e., the Shirakawa betsugyo.

[Original Japanese]