Fujiwara no Kamatari (藤原鎌足)

FUJIWARA no Kamatari (614 - November 17, 669) was a statesman who lived in the Asuka period and the earliest ancestor of the Fujiwara clan. He worked as a devoted assistant of Naka-no-Oe-no-Oji, later Emperor Tenchi, since the Taika Reforms and laid the foundation for the prosperity of the Fujiwara clan. He is recorded as a 'great person, very distinguished in appearance' in "Toshi Kaden" (Biographies of the Fujiwara clan). He had the nickname Tsugio.


Originally he was a member of the Nakatomi clan and took the name NAKATOMI no Kamako (NAKATOMI no Kamako who took part in the abolishment of Buddhism with MONONOBE no Okoshi in Emperor Kinmei's era was the other person.). Later he changed his name to NAKATOMI no Kamatari. Then in his deathbed, he was granted the family name of Fujiwara along with the court rank of the Grand Crown.
In other words, 'NAKATOMI no Kamatari' is used to refer to Kamatari when he was alive, but 'FUJIWARA no Kamatari' is used to refer to him as the 'founder of the Fujiwara clan.'


His place of birth is recorded as Fujiwara, Takaichi County, Yamato Province (present-day Kashihara City) according "Toshi Kaden", but there is also a theory holding that it was Ohara (present-day Asuka-mura) or Kashima, Hitachi Province (according to "Okagami").

He showed interest in Chinese history books from childhood and memorized an ancient Chinese strategy book "Rikuto". When MINABUCHI no Shoan, who had studied in China (Sui and Tang dynasties) started a school, Kamatari learned Confucianism there, and he was regarded as being brilliant as well as SOGA no Iruka. According to "Nihonshoki", in 644 he was sought to take on the post of an official who arranges festivals and rites, which was the family business of Nakatomi clan, but he refused flatly and retired to his second residence in Mishima, Settsu Province.

He secretly strengthened his intention to bring down the Soga clan's powers and searched for an imperial prince to enthrone for this purpose. First he became close to Prince Karu (Emperor Kotoku), and then approached Naka no Oe no Oji. Furthermore, he took advantage of antagonism within the Soga clan and won SOGANOKURA-YAMADA no Ishikawamaro over to his side.

In 645, he conspired with Naka no Oe no Oji and Ishikawamaro and assassinated SOGA no Iruka, who was in power at that time, at Asuka no Itabuki no Miya Palace; Iruka's father, SOGA no Emishi, was driven to commit suicide (Isshi Incident). As a result of this achievement, he was appointed a political adviser to the crown prince and gained control of military affairs. However, the position of political adviser was a court favorite or an adviser and not a formal job..

Later, Kamatari worked as the close advisor of Naka no Oe no Oji, who was promoting the Taika Reforms, and conflicted with conservative ABE no Uchimaro, Minister of the Left, and SOGA (KURAYAMADA) no Ishikawamaro, Minister of the Right. He was awarded Daikinkan rank in 647 under the new system of indicating court ranks by headgear colors. After ABE no Kurahashi no Maro and Ishikawamaro died and fell from power in 649, Kamatari extended power and was promoted to Daishikan rank around 654. In 669, when Emperor Tenchi visited Kamatari just before Kamatari's death, Kamatari said: 'I could not carry out my duty in the military while I was alive.'.
That means he lamented over 'not having contributed in strategic skills.'
He was granted the rank of Daishokkan, the Grand Crown, by Emperor Tenchi, was appointed Minister of the Interior, and was given the hereditary title of 'Fujiwara.'

Kamatari's accomplishments are not clear. He might have been ordered to compile the Omi Administrative Code according to the Toshi Kaden, but many researchers find this questionable.

Grave and shrine

After his death, he was enshrined in Tanzanjinja Shrine in Tonomine, Sakurai City, Nara Prefecture.

According to a description in the illustrated scrolls "Tonomine Engi Emaki", when Kamatari was born, a white fox with a sickle in its mouth appeared from somewhere and left the sickle at the foot of the newborn baby, thus the baby was named Kamako (kama meaning a sickle). Based on this anecdote, an amulet of a white fox with a sickle in its mouth is sold in Tanzanjinja Shrine.

Although his graveyard is not known exactly, according to the section on the second year of the Tenan era (858) in "Nihon Sandai Jitsuroku", there is mention that 'Tonomine's grave shall be made the grave of FUJIWARA no Kamatari, as one of Four Graves of Ten Imperial Mausoleums,' and according to "Tonomine Ryakuki" (Brief Records of Tonomine), there is a theory that he was buried in Ai, Settsu Province (present-day Ibaraki City, Osaka Prefecture) at first, but reburied later in Tonomine, Yamato Province.

There is also a hypothesis that the buried bones, discovered during the excavation of Abuyama Tumulus in Oaza Ai, Ibaraki City, Osaka Prefecture in 1934 are those of FUJIWARA no Kamatari himself. On the contrary, there is another hypothesis that Kamatari's grave exists somewhere in Yamashina Ward, Kyoto City based on that mentioned in "Toshi Kaden".

Waka (A Traditional Japanese Poem of Thirty-One Syllables)

His two poems are included in "Manyoshu". One poem is included in A Formulary for Verse Based on the Canons of Poetry, "Kakyo Hyoshiki". One of the poems in the Manyoshu was intended for the lawful wife, Kagami no Okimi, and the other poem expressed his joy of winning the affections of Yasumiko, who was a maid-in-waiting at the court.

Warehamoya Yasumiko Etari Minahitono Ekatenisutofu Yasumiko Etari
(I won the affections of Yasumiko--the same Yasumiko whom anyone said was unreachable.)

Umene referred to beautiful women who were presented to the emperor by local ruling families of various provinces. Although there was a large number of umene, since umene were also qualified to be an emperor's wife, fancying an umene was considered taboo at that time. In the case of Kamatari, he received an umene as a special case probably because he had won Emperor Tenchi's favor.

The above poem is characteristic of Manyo poems in that Kamatari's twofold happiness is expressed in a straightforward manner. That means he had the joy of succeeding in love and the honor of having been granted exceptional permission by the emperor.

[Original Japanese]