The Ako Incident (阿衡事件)

The Ako Incident was a political incident that occurred in the early Heian period. It is also called the Ako Controversy.

On November 21, 887 when he was inaugurated, the Emperor Uda, who had become the Crown Prince from the status of a subject thanks to the recommendation of Fujiwara no Mototsune, issued shochoku (the Imperial decree) appointing Mototsune to Kanpaku (the chief adviser to the Emperor). Mototsune once declined according to precedent. The Emperor ordered Sadaiben (major controller of the left) TACHIBANA no Hiromi to issue the second shochoku. In this shochoku, there was a phrase saying "his position should be Ako." Ako was the position to which Koretada, a wise vassal in the Yin period of China, was appointed and TACHBANA no Hiromi cited this historical fact. As Monjo hakase (professor of literature) FUJIWARA no Sukeyo told Mototsune that "Ako was a high-ranking position with no jobs," this phrase developed into a big problem. Mototsune abandoned all state affairs in anger and national administration was delayed. It is said that Mototsune expressed his anger by kicking out all horses from the stable. Although the Emperor, who was in agony, politely asked for Mototsune's understanding, the dispute couldn't be resolved.

In April 884 the next year, the Emperor ordered Sadaijin (minister of the left) MINAMOTO no Toru to get hakase etc. to study whether or not Ako was a position with no jobs. In fear of Mototsune's power, hakase etc. submitted the same view as Sukeyo. Hiromi refuted their view.

In June, the Emperor annulled the shochoku issued earlier and dismissed Hiromi. The Emperor expressed his regret in his diary.

Mototsune persistently requested Hiromi's banishment. The Emperor, who was aware that Hiromi was not wrong, was driven into a corner. The incident was finally resolved when Sanuki no kami (the governor of Sanuki Province) SUGAWARA no Michizane persuaded Mototsune by sending a letter saying it was not beneficial for the Fujiwara clan to persist further and Motsune allayed his anger.

Taking advantage of this incident, Mototsune made people realize the strong power of the Fujiwara clan.


However, Fujiwara no Mototsune himself used the controversial term "Ako." According to the description of July 8, 884 in "Nihon Sandai Jitsuroku," when Mototsune was requested on June 7 of the same year by the Emperor Koko to assume state affairs (although this request is generally believed to have been the beginning of his tenure of Kanpaku (chief adviser to the Emperor), it could have been the request to continue to serve as Dajodaijin (grand minister) or Sessho (regent) since the word "Kanpaku" was used for the first time in the shochoku issued by Emperor Uda in 887), he once declined and used in his reply the phrase of "I wonder whether I can fulfill Ako's responsibilities even though I work hard regardless of heat and cold." In view of the above, it is questionable whether Mototsune really didn't know the meaning of the original term. According to the description of June 2, 886 in "Uda Tenno Gyoki" compiled in volume 30 of "Seiji Yoryaku," the Emperor was disappointed and got angry with Mototsune because when the Emperor asked Mototsune by saying "you have served as acting Sessho so far, but please assume the position of Sessho since we are like father and son," Mototsune replied by saying "I was told your order." Muneo SASAKI pays attention to the fact that the Japanese word indicating the full delegation of state affairs (authority to act as the Emperor's deputy), to which Mototsune was entitled during the Era of Emperor Koko, was not explicitly used in these two shochokus, and asserts that Mototsune felt antipathy toward the Emperor because he suspected the Emperor might be trying to reduce his political authority, rather than because the term "Ako" had been used, leading Mototsune to request that he be given the same level of authority as he had held during the era of Emperor Koko.

[Original Japanese]