Fujiwara no Korechika (藤原伊周)

FUJIWARA no Korechika (974 - February 14, 1010) was a court official in the mid Heian period. He was commonly called Sochi no Naidaijin (Viceroy Minister of the Center) and Gidosanshi (designation equivalent to Jundaijin, or the three ministers: chancellor, minister of the left, and minister of the right) after his official title.


In 974, during the reign of Emperor Enyu, Korechika was born between Hyoe no suke (the assistant captain of the headquarters of the Middle Palace Guard) FUJIWARA no Michitaka, a legitimate son of Shokei (court noble who work at the Imperial Court in a high-ranking post) Dainagon (chief councilor of state) FUJIWARA no Kaneie from the Sekkan (regents and advisers) family line of the Northern House of the Fujiwara clan and TAKASHINA no Takako, who was a daughter of TAKASHINA no Naritada and served as naishi (lady-in-waiting) at dairi (Imperial Palace). While FUJIWARA no Michiyori, his elder brother of a different mother, had been given the childhood name of 'Ochiyogimi' (big-chiyogimi), he was named 'Kochiyogimi' (small-chiyogimi).
Korechika had siblings of the same mother: empress to Emperor Ichijo, FUJIWARA no Teishi; Chunagon (vice-councilor of state) FUJIWARA no Takaie; Komatsu Sozu Ryuen; nyogo (consort) of Emperor Sanjo from Crown Prince, FUJIWARA no Genshi; the third daughter of Michitaka (wife of Imperial Prince Atsumichi); and the fourth daughter of Michitaka (mikushige-dono (mistress of wardrobe) of Emperor Ichijo (the fourth daughter of FUJIWARA no Michitaka.))


On January 8, 986 (November 20, 985 in old lunar calendar), he celebrated his genpuku (coming of age) ceremony at the age of 12, and on the same day, he was bestowed Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade). On September 3 in the same year, he entered into the Imperial Court on the day of the enthronement ceremony of Emperor Ichijo, and he was appointed jiju (chamberlain) and Sahyoe no suke (Assistant Captain of the Left Division of Middle Palace Guards). On October 4, 987, he was appointed Konoe no shosho (Minor Captain of the Palace Guards), and on February 10, 988, he was allowed to wear kinjiki (forbidden colors; colors like a deep shade of dark red or purple that could be worn only by members of the Imperial family or high court noble). On June 8, 990, his father Michitaka succeeded his grandfather Kaneie as Sessho (Regent), and in October 990, his younger sister of the same mother Teishi became chugu (the second consort of an emperor); accordingly, he was also promoted by leaps and bounds as the legitimate son of the Sekkan family.
In the same year, he was also appointed Konoe no chujo (Middle Captain of the Palace Guards) and Kurodo no to (Head Chamberlain); on February 18, 991, he became Sangi (councilor) and ranked among court nobles; on September 13, 991, he was conferred Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank); on October 22, 991, he was promoted to Chunagon; and on October 2, 992, he was promoted to Shosanmi Dainagon (Senior Third Rank, chief councilor of state.)

On October 10 in the next year 994, Korechika was promoted to Naidaijin (Minister of the Center) jumping ahead of three predecessors including his uncle FUJIWARA no Michinaga who was eight years his senior (another uncle FUJIWARA no Michikane was Udaijin (Minister of the Right), which ranked above Naidaijin). Korechika was 21 years old at that time. As Michitaka raised his son to higher official ranks ignoring the competitors, resentment smoldered among all the people in and out of the Imperial Court, from the biological mother of Emperor Ichijo, FUJIWARA no Senshi (younger sister of Michitaka) on down. The resentment had not surfaced yet in those days, but after the death of Michitaka, it flared into open defiance against Korechika, which perfectly paved the way for Michinaga to seize political power.
People looked upon the downfall of Naka no kanpaku family afterwards with indifference -- as a good example of it, FUJIWARA no Sanesuke derided the family with a phrase 'The family that accumulated evil deeds would suffer misfortune.'

At the beginning of March in 995, upon falling seriously ill, Michitaka strongly recommended Korechika to succeed him as shippei (regent); on April 15, in response to that recommendation, Emperor Ichijo ordered Kanpaku (chief advisor to the emperor) Michitaka to assume the title of Nairan (the honorary title of imperial document examiner) first and then have Naidaijin Korechika succeed to the tile. Korechika opposed the order by alleging that the senji (imperial command) conflicted with what Kanpaku said to him to entrust the duty of Nairan to him, Naidaijin Korechika. As a result, Korechika succeeded in receiving senji to assume the title of document Nairan anew on the next day.
It is said that Korechika was quite displeased with a senmyo (imperial edict) issued at that time because it included the phrase 'during the Kanpaku's illness' while Korechika had wanted the phrase 'taking over Kanpaku because of Kanpaku's illness.'
Sashoben (third-ranked officer of the left) TAKASHINA no Nobuyori (Korechika's maternal uncle) saw this and pressed Daigeki (Senior Secretary) NAKAHARA no Munetoki who had drawn up the senji to correct that but rejected. That was interpreted as arrogance of Korechika, and in time, Korechika fell under the displeasure of Emperor Ichijo, which gave his political opponents openings. As Nairan, Korechika promulgated sumptuary laws, which strictly regulated every detail, including the length of the train of kimono; this was severely criticized by the court nobles, and people cast doubt on Korechika's capability. On May 12 in the same year, Korechika was bestowed Zuijin (Imperial Guards) and Hyojo (armed soldiers) which was a privilege equivalent to Kanpaku, but on May 17, he lost his father, his strongest supporter.

After a long interregnum (17 days) from that time, on June 3, Michikane, Michitaka's immediate younger brother of the same mother, assumed the offices of Kanpaku and Toshi choja (head of the Fujiwara clan). Michikane, having contracted an epidemic just at that time, suddenly died only seven days after the official celebration of the appointment. Then Michinaga and Korechika fiercely struggled against each other to succeed to the seat of Kanpaku; eventually on June 16, a senji to assume the title of document Nairan was issued to Michinaga, and on July 24, Michinaga rose to Udaijin, thrusting aside Korechika, and received a senji to assume the titles of Uji no choja (chieftain of family) and Tenka shikko (to administer the country). According to "Okagami" (literally, the Great Mirror; a historical tale), the circumstances behind that is as follows; Korechika had had audiences with Emperor Ichijo through his younger sister, the Emperor's favorite chugu, with which Higashi Sanjoin (FUJIWARA no Akiko) had been displeased, and finally forced her way into the Emperor's residence at night and begged the hesitating Emperor in tears to give a senji to Michinaga. Also, before that, there was another story that Korechika approached the palanquin of Nyoin (the Empress) on the way to Ishiyama-dera Temple and implored help, but Michinaga, who attended Nyoin, scolded Korechika and turned him away; those stories told how Korechika felt miserable when he was given such cold receptions by his aunt.

The struggle that started between Michinaga and Korechika did not seem to cool down, rather, it heated up from the summer of the year. On August 27, Michinaga and Korechika started a quarrel over the possession of the land ledger of Uji no choja in Joza (the headquarters of the inner palace guard inside the palace where court councils took place), which was so loud that their angry voices could be heard even outside the room and startled the whole company. Three days later, retainers of Takaie, Korechika's younger brother of the same mother, clashed with retainers of Michinaga on main street in Kyoto, which culminated in the incident on September 4 in which Michinaga's escort HATA no Hisatada was killed by Takaie's followers. In that period, it was rumored that Junii (Junior Second Rank) TAKASHINA no Naritada, a maternal relative of Michitaka's family, was cursing Michinaga. The youthful brothers Korechika and Takaie grew impatient and moved toward self-destruction; meanwhile, seasoned Michinaga took his time and started to concoct an elaborate plan to oust them.

996 was not only the fateful year for Korechika and his brother but also marked the decisive turning point in the late sekkan period (regency period.)
The so-called Chotoku Incident was provoked by an event: Korechika mistakenly believed that Emperor Kazan had trysts with Korechika's beloved third daughter of the late Daijo-daijin (grand minister of state) Kotokuko FUJIWARA no Tamemitsu, whereas in fact the emperor had trysts with the fourth daughter, plotted with his brother Takaie to hide along the emperor's way, and their attendants shot arrows, one of which pierced the emperor's sleeve (according to "Shoyuki" (Diary of FUJIWARA no Sanesuke), two attendants of the retired emperor (Kazan) died). Although such incidents between nobles were not uncommon in those days, the unprecedented event of shooting an arrow at the emperor -- even though he had been retired -- could not avoid controversy.

Michinaga immediately reacted to the incident, which occurred on February 12, 996. Michinaga ordered that Korechika be removed from membership in Agatameshi no jimoku (the ceremony of announcing the appointment of officials) which was to be held on February 21, and when the incident sparked controversy, he appealed to the Emperor to take action. On March 2, Emperor Ichijo ordered Kebiishi no betto (Superintendent of the imperial Police) FUJIWARA no Sanesuke to raid Korechika's residence. Further, on March 8, at Jin no sadame (Cabinet Council), the Emperor ordered To no chujo (the first secretary's captain) FUJIWARA no Tadanobu to send the order to submit a kanjin (a report requested from specialists concerning precedents for court rituals or other issues) on accusations against Naidaijin Korechika and Chunagon Takaie to court officials, and the order was brought to Michinaga. According to "Shoyuki," even Michinaga, Nairan, had not heard of the order until he was notified by Tadanobu; thereafter, the Emperor took initiative in investigating the incident, and the decisions made by Michinaga and the others followed suit. On April 26, a monk in Horin-ji Temple reported to the Emperor that Korechika privately practiced Daigensuiho (the rite of prayer of Shingon esoteric Buddhism for protection of the country and the submission of enemies), which was forbidden to all but the state. On May 19, a Jimoku (ceremony for appointing officials) took place based on three charges -- lese-majeste for shooting an arrow at Emperor Kazan, having cast a curse on Higashi Sanjoin, and having carried out privately Daigensuiho -- thereby a senji was issued to demote Naidaijin Korechika to Dazai gon no sochi (Provisional Governor-General of the Dazai-fu officer) and Chunagon Takaie to Gon no kami (vice-protector) of Izumo Province, and imperial reprimands were delivered to all of their half brothers by different mothers, the maternal relative Takashina family, and a chugu's wet nurse's child MINAMOTO no Katamasa such that they were exiled or punished by salary reduction.

At that time, pregnant chugu Teishi had moved into her private residence called Nijo-Kitamiya (or Nijo no miya) at the beginning of the previous month, and Korechika was staying at the western annex to her residence, where Emon no suke (Assistant Captain of Outer Palace Guards) KOREMUNE no Masasuke (or Tadasuke) delivered the senmyo into Hairu (exile) to Korechika; Korechika refused to leave, under the pretext of being seriously ill. Korechika and his younger sister Teishi clung closely together and resisted the repeated imperial orders; the situation ended in several days of stalemate, but eventually in the early morning of May 25, the Imperial Court issued a senji to raid the chugu gosho (empress's palace; Nijo-Kitamiya). When many samurai (warriors) smashed the doors and broke into the imperial palace under the command of Kebiishi (police and judicial chief), chugu was so humiliated and abased that she cut off her hair to become a nun and those around her wailed so piteously and loudly as to cause heartrending grief in the hearts of the onlookers. Only Takaie was arrested and Korechika was not found in the palace at that time, but "Eiga Monogatari" (A Tale of Flowering Fortunes; historical tales), the volume 'Uraura no wakare' (leaving shores) gave the details of the incident as follows: Korechika visited Kasuga-taisha shrine and his father's tomb in Kohata, and three days after the raid, returned with his head shaven and attired as a monk. Several days later, he left for haisho (the place where a criminal is sent) (on June 8, imperial orders were issued to confine Korechika in Harima Province and Takaie in Tajima Province). Korechika's mother Takako implored for permission to go with her son, clinging to the departing palanquin, but in vain; shortly afterwards, she fell ill and was confined to bed. In the middle of November, Korechika, being anxious about his ill mother, returned to Kyoto stealthily and harbored in the chugu gosho, but TAIRA no Takayoshi and others laid information on that matter, and on November 29, Korechika was captured and sent back to Dazai-fu under guard (arrived there at the end of the year). Around the middle of December, Takako died.

In January 997, Teishi gave birth to Imperial Princess Shushi (or Nagako), the first Princess of Emperor Ichijo, and the Emperor yearned to have Teishi back in the Imperial Court as the Empress; on the other hand, Higashi Sanjo Nyoin (or Higashi Sanjoin) was hardly recovered yet from her illness; at last on May 18, 997, the Imperial Court decided to pardon the brothers Dazai gon no sochi Korechika and Izumo gon no kami Takaie under the general amnesty on Nyoin gono (illness of Nyoin) to send them back by Daijokanpu (official documents issued by Daijokan, Grand Council of State). Thus, Korechika came back to Kyoto in January 998.

Later, on December 22, 999, Teishi gave birth to Imperial Prince Atsuyasu, the first Prince, with whom Korechika, in a rapture of delight, put his hope of restoring the family; but on the same day, ironically enough, a senji to become Nyogo was issued to FUJIWARA no Akiko, the first daughter of Michinaga, which was the sixth day after Akiko entered into the Imperial Court. Michinaga appealed to Nyoin and Emperor Ichijo for support, through Kurodo no to FUJIWARA no Yukinari, and on April 8, 1000, succeeded in having Akiko installed as the Empress and making her chugu (Teishi became an Empress (one rank higher than chugu)), which was the unprecedented situation of having one emperor and two empresses. Under emotional stress, Teishi delivered Imperial Princess Bishi, the second Princess, on the night of January 18, 1001; however, before dawn of the next day, the afterbirth was delayed and Teishi died. It is said that Korechika, who was present during the delivery, gathered his younger sister's dead body and wailed without restraint. In "Shokukokin Wakashu" (Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poetry, Continued) there is a poem allegedly composed by Korechika while making his way through heavy snowfall on the day of the Empress's funeral.

On February 7, 1002, Higashi Sanjoin Senshi, so seriously ill that she died six days later, asked Emperor Ichijo to restore her nephew Korechika his original title (Shosanmi (Senior Third Rank)). It was very likely for Nyoin -- who favored the youngest brother so much that she treated the elder brother's family harshly -- to make such a request at her last moment, and she might have gathered that Michinaga had become indifferent to Korechika who was no more competent ("Gonki" (FUJIWARA no Yukinari's diary) recorded that Michinaga requested the Emperor to restore Korechika his original title on July 5, 1000, the year before, only to infuriate the Emperor and gave up the request). On October 26, 1003, Korechika was invested with Junii (Junior Second Rank); on April 12, 1005, his precedence was officially decided to be lower than Daijin (Ministers) and higher than Dainagon (chief councilors of state); on May 13, 1005, he was permitted to enter into the Imperial Court again; and on December 22, 1005, he attended a Court Council. There was a story about a little friendship between them in this period: In the autumn of 1004, Michinaga joined the chorus of a poem composed by Korechika -- 'Priest Jakusho who went to Song dynasty finally returned to his old house' -- and requested the Emperor to bestow him a poem composed by the Emperor and received one.

From the Choho era to the first year of the Kanko era (from 999 to 1004), Korechika had gradually returned in Byodo (Imperial Court), which was deeply concerned with behind-the-scene circumstances like this: Emperor Ichijo made chugu Akiko, who had yet to give birth to a prince or princess, bring up Imperial Prince Atsuyasu, and Michinaga kept serving the Imperial Prince in case the Imperial Prince succeeded to the throne. According to "Kojidan" (Talks of the Past) written in the Kamakura period, people kept visiting Korechika's residence secretly by night, while serving Michinaga by day, as Korechika was a maternal uncle of Imperial Prince Atsuyasu, who was the first prince in the line of succession to the imperial throne, but once Imperial Prince Atsuhira (later, Emperor Goichijo) was born, nobody visited Korechika's residence. The birth of Imperial Prince Atsuhira, the second Imperial Prince of Emperor Ichijo by Akiko on October 18, 1008 dealt a death blow to Korechika who had strongly desired his nephew to ascend the throne. On March 2, 1008, Korechika was raised to a rank equivalent to Daijin (Minister) and granted salary (Korechika called himself Gidosanshi after he received senji to assume Jundaijin (Vice Minister)), and it was then that he finally began to have a voice in the Court Council. Discouraged Korechika attended the Momoka no gi (first meal ceremony) of Imperial Prince Atsuhira, and wrote a wakajo (poem preface; very important poetic genre) even though he was not asked to, which surprised the whole company. Although the wakajo written at that time was so splendid that it was selected for "Shinsen Roei Shu" (New Selection of Sung Poems), Korechika's behavior was criticized by his contemporaries. On February 10, 1009, Korechika was invested with Shonii (Senior Second Rank); however, on March 25, a scandal of curses put on chugu and the newly-born Imperial Prince erupted, and Korechika's aunt TAKASHINA no Mitsuko was imprisoned and Korechika was forbidden to visit the Imperial Court. The case was closed on July 13, less than four months later, and Korechika was permitted to visit the Imperial Court and also treated so favorably as to be permitted to wear a sword. Judging from such extremely generous treatment, Michinaga supposedly had schemed to make a further attack on the weakened maternal family of Imperial Prince Atsuyasu immediately before Michinaga's grandson's Investiture of the Crown Prince. On the other hand, from the Imperial rescript on the incident contained in "Seiji yoryaku" (examples of the politics in the Heian period) in which Emperor Ichijo reprimanded Korechika by mentioning his name, Emperor Ichijo might have had mixed feelings about Korechika, while expecting Imperial Prince Atsuyasu to succeed the throne as Korechika had done, because Emperor Ichijo had had suspicions against Korechika since the Chotoku Incident.

On February 20, 1010, Korechika died in despair in the prime of life at the age of 37.
In his last moments, Korechika said in his will to his two daughters whom he had brought up as candidates for empress, 'Be sure not to do anything to humiliate your father in the Imperial Court when you marry the emperor.' and to his son FUJIWARA no Michimasa, 'It is better to become a priest than to suck around others.'
After Korechika died, his residence Muromachi-dai remained unoccupied, and robbers entered there. Korechika's legitimate son Michimasa (992 - 1054) was called 'Ara Sanmi' (brutal third rank) because, after Michimasa was forcibly separated from his beloved Imperial Princess Toshi, an Imperial Princess of Sanjoin, he was not able to enter the government service and indulged in all sorts of violence. It was some slight consolation to know that Korechika's eldest daughter married Michinaga's son FUJIWARA no Yorimune and was respected as his legal wife, and gave birth to many children, including Udaijin FUJIWARA no Toshiie and Dainagon FUJIWARA no Yoshinaga (adopted into the family of Dainagon FUJIWARA no Yoshinobu, a younger brother of Yorimune), and Korechika's line has continued ever since.

Korechika inherited his literature talent from his mother Takako, who was famous for her talent, and with his greatest talent of Sinology in the court of Emperor Ichijo having been officially approved as Shokubun no keisho (court nobles and state ministers who write the Chinese literature), he gave lectures on Kanseki (Chinese books) in the presence of the Emperor Ichijo from an early period. Korechika left many superb Kanshi and Kanbun (Chinese poem and literature) in "Honcho Reiso", "Honcho Monzui" (anthology of waka poems and prose written in classical Chinese), and "Wakan Roeishu" (Collection of Sung Japanese and Chinese poems), the sentimental literary style of which had moved people to tears every now and then. Although the collection of his poems "Gidosanshishu" (Collection of Gidosanshi) had been dispersed and lost, Korechika had been Chokusen kajin (poet selected by the emperor) after "Goshui Wakashu" (Later Collection of Gleanings of Japanese Poetry). Documents including "Makura no soshi" (literally, the Pillow Book; collection of essays) and "Eiga Monogatari" described Korechika as a good-looking man. According to "Okagami," his misfortune stemmed from his lack of capability, but also evaluates his academic ability too high for such a small country as Japan.

Some clans, including the Omori clan in Suruga Province, claimed to be descendants of Korechika.

[Original Japanese]