Fujiwara no Fusasaki (藤原房前)

FUJIWARA no Fusasaki (681 – May 25, 737) was an aristocrat who lived between the Asuka period and the early Nara period. He was a second son of FUJIWARA no Fuhito. He was Shosanmi (Senior Third Rank) and Sangi (councilor). He was posthumously promoted to Shoichii (Senior First Rank) and Daijodaijin (Grand Minister).

He was the founder of the Northern House of the Fujiwara clan and he is referred to as FUJIWARA no Kitanomaetsukimi in Manyoshu (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves), which includes the poems that he exchanged with OTOMO no Tabito. He was the most politically influential among the sons of FUJIWARA no Fuhito, and in 703 when he was still in his early 20s, he carried out the administrative supervision of Tokai-do Road as the first Junsatsushi (circuit inspector) appointed after the Taiho Code was issued. Since then, he was steadily promoted together with his older brother FUJIWARA no Muchimaro, and in 717 he became Sangi (councilor) before the promotion of Muchimaro to the post when high-ranking officers (Imperial Prince Hozumi, OTOMO no Yasumaro, ISONOKAMI no Maro, and FUJIWARA no Kosemaro) died between the late period of Empress Genmei's rule and the early period of Empress Gensho's rule. This was a promotion which went against the practice at that time to nominate only one legislator of the rank above the councilor from each of the aristocratic families (with the promotion of Fusasaki, it meant that there were two court officials from the Fujiwara clan, as Fuhito was already serving the post of Udaijin [the Minister of the Right]). At the death bed of Empress Genmei, Fusasaki was appointed to Uchitsuomi (an important governmental post presiding over state affairs while assisting the Emperor), which was the post occupied by his grandfather FUJIWARA no Kamatari, as a guardian of Emperor Shomu, who was the Crown Prince at that time, as the Empress credited his talent. However, it is also said that Uchitsuomi was not an official post, and as such, he was released of the role when Empress Gensho was succeeded by Prince Obito (Emperor Shomu).

When his nephew, Emperor Shomu was enthroned, Fusasaki ousted Nagaya no Okimi who held power as an imperial family member and was also his political rival (Incident of Prince Nagaya), and he took charge of the administration as the pivot of the Fujiwara Four Brothers (also called Fujiwara Four Sons) regime. His final official rank and post stayed Shosanmi and Sangi, as the power relationship with his older brother Muchimaro (Shonii [Senior Second Rank], Sadaijin [Minister of the Left]) was taken into consideration, until his death from smallpox, which was death earlier than any of his brothers.

The Northern House of the Fujiwara clan, which was his descendants, became the most prosperous family among the four houses of the descendants of the Four Fujiwara Brothers.

Brief Personal History
703: He became junsatsushi of Tokai-do Road. 705: He was appointed to Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade). 709: He inspected Tokai-do Road and Nakasen-do Road. 711: He was appointed to Jugoinojo (Junior Fifth Rank, Upper Grade). 715: He was appointed to Jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade). 717: He was appointed as Sangi. 719: He was appointed to Jushiinojo (Junior Fourth Rank, Upper Grade). 721: He was appointed to Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank) and Jutogashira (a chief of the imperial guard office). November 22, 721: He was appointed as Uchitsuomi of Empress Gensho. 724: He was appointed to Shosanmi. 728: He was appointed as Chuefu daisho (commander of the middle inner palace guard division). 729: He was appointed as Nakatsukasa-kyo (Minister of the Ministry of Central Affairs). 732: He was appointed as Tokaido-Tosando setsudoshi (a military governor of the Tokai-do and Tosan-do Roads). May 25, 737: He died of smallpox. November 737: He was given the rank of Shoichii, Sadaijin posthumously. 760: He was given the post of Daijodaijin posthumously.

Fusasaki as Depicted in Noh Theater

Fusasaki is also known as a character from the Noh play "Ama." According to this Noh story, Minister Fusasaki traveled to Shido no ura Bay in Sanuki Province to visit his deceased mother. There he hears a story of his father Fuhito and an ama (female pearl diver).

The story goes as follows: '13 years ago, Tankaiko (Fuhito) came to this place with a purpose. There he met an ama and begot a child. Tankaiko told this ama that the reason why he came to this place was because he needed to find a treasure called "Menko huhai no tama" (a gem that is beautiful from any angle), given by Emperor Gaozong of the Tang Dynasty, which was lost on the way to Kofuku-ji Temple in Shido Bay during a storm. The ama asked him whether her child will be officially acknowledged as his son if she finds the treasure from the Palace of the Dragon King even though she is a woman of low birth; and when Tankaiko gave her a positive answer, she jumped into the sea. Upon reaching the Palace of the Dragon King, she found the gem and struggled back to the surface after cutting into the underside of her breast and hiding the gem within. Although the gem was finally returned to Tankaiko, the ama died because of the wound.
Tankaiko took Fusasaki back to the capital as his official son as he had promised her.'

Upon hearing the story, Fusasaki prayed to Buddha for the peace of his dead mother, and his mother's soul entered Nirvana with the grace of the Hokke-kyo Sutra.

[Original Japanese]