Fujiwara no Munesuke (藤原宗輔)

FUJIWARA no Munesuke (1077 -February 22, 1162) was a noble (Juichii (Junior First Rank), Daijodaijin (Grand Minister of State)) who lived in the late Heian period. His father was FUJIWARA no Munetoshi, who was Gon Dainagon (provisional chief councilor of state) and his mother was a daughter of MINAMOTO no Toshifusa. FUJIWARA no Munetada, who was Udaijin (minister of the right) and the author of 'Chuyuki' (Munetada's diary), was his elder brother. His popular name was Kyogoku Daijodaijin. He is well known as his nickname 'Hachikai no Otodo' (Beekeeper Minister of State) was recorded in "Imakagami" (The Mirror of the Present). He was the father of FUJIWARA no Toshimichi.

Reportedly, Munesuke was a honest person who was well versed in kanseki (books in classical Chinese) and yosoku kojitsu (well-versed in usages or practices of the court or military households (practices)), but, at the same time, he was carefree and hasty. When his father died young in 1096 at the age of fifty-two, his rank was as low as goi kurodo (chamberlain with the fifth rank) and partly due to bad luck on his part, the Emperor Horikawa, to whom he served as a close aide and who was his friend through flute, died young, he was only able to join the Sangi (Royal Advisor) at the age of forty-six. Reportedly, on the occasion of jimoku (ceremony for appointment of court officials) in 1129, he made a document in which the position to which MINAMOTO no Moroyori was appointed was erroneously transcribed and the jimoku was held again (Moroyori was Munesuke's maternal uncle).

Under such situations, Munesuke carried out his job seriously and became deeply engaged in his hobbies.
With respect to music, he was good at playing a flute and a koto (zither-like Japanese musical instrument) and, reportedly, he himself told 'I am not afraid of my death, but it is a problem that I cannot play a flute.'
His daughter, who was called Wakagozen (reportedly the name 'Wakagozen' was derived from the fact that, in order to hear her koto play, the Cloistered Emperor Toba made her enter the imperial court wearing a male costume), had a gift that was even better than Munesuke's and, reportedly, FUJIWARA no Moronaga (FUJIWARA no Yorinaga's son, later Daijodaijin), who was called the greatest musician of the day leaned koto play from Munesuke and his daughter.

His other hobby was in expressing his affection towards nature. It was not conceivable in the aristocratic society at that time for any noble to grow flowers with own hands, but Munesuke grew chrysanthemum and tree peony, donating them to close friends such as FUJIWARA no Yorinaga and the Cloistered Emperor Toba. Among others, he astonished people by taming bees. Although beekeeping had already been transmitted to Japan, there was no noble other than Munesuke who kept bees. According to "Kojidan" (Talks of the Past) it had been laughed at by people as 'useless matter,' but when there was an abnormal infestation by bees in the imperial court, Munesuke coolly held out a loquat, which bees like very much, drinking its nectar and thus he calmed them down. According to "Jikkinsho" (Miscellany of Ten Maxims), he gave a name to each bee and tamed them and he ordered and the bees to sting each person he did not like. Although all of those episodes may be not true, we can imagine that his interest in and knowledge of the nature surpassed the ordinary.

At the age of fifty-six, when Munesuke had reached the position of Gon Chunagon (provisional vice-councilor of state), he encountered a special person. He encountered FUJIWARA no Yorinaga, who reached Gon Chunagon at the tender age of thirteen years old and was a son of FUJIWARA no Tadazane, who was Kanpaku (chief adviser to the emperor). Although the difference in their ages was 43 years, a difference greater than that between a parent and child, Munesuke contacted Yorinaga, who was wonderfully gifted and had many enemies, as a person who was much older and more experienced than Yorinaga, Yorinaga gradually came to pay respect to Munesuke. It continued even after Yorinaga was promoted to Daijin (minister) and Yorinaga deepened their relationship by often consulting political matters with Munesuke and requesting him to educate his son Moronaga in matters of music. Reportedly, Yorinaga often reported to the Cloistered Emperor Toba, and on this front Munesuke was an exemplary person who diligently carried out his job and it was unreasonable not to promote him to a Daijin. Ironically enough, however, Yorinaga's wish to promote Munesuke to Daijin was realized only by the death of Yorinaga, who was Sadaijin (minister of the left) and died in battle in the Hogen War.

In 1156, after Yorinaga was killed in the Hogen War, nobles, who had been close to Yorinaga, were purged from the imperial court. However, Munesuke, who was Dainagon (chief councilor of state) and at the top of such nobles, was not punished. At that time, Munesuke was already eighty years old, and, therefore, it was said that the Emperor Goshirakawa believed that such an old person could not take part in revolt. A few months later, he was appointed to Udaijin by the personnel change because of Yorinaga's death (This was the record of highest age for appointment to a daijin throughout the Heian period). Then, the next year, he was promoted to the highest ranking Daijodaijin.

During Munesuke's service as Daijodaijin, the situation drastically changed, with quarrel occuring between the Retired Emperor Goshirakawa and the Emperor Nijo, and a confrontation springing up between the Cloistered Governments which fostered the Heiji War. For all that, Munesuke freely used his robust body, that was built through various hobbies (According to "Imakagami" and "Sankaiki" (diary by Tadachika NAKAYAMA), he showed that he was a good walker until he reached very old age) and he weathered the crisis and had a long political life until retiring at the age of eighty-four.

Reportedly, the models for 'Mushi Mezuru Himegimi' (The Lady Who Admired Vermin) in "Tsutsumi Chunagon Monogatari" (The Riverside Counselor's Tales), were Munesuke and Wakagozen.

[Original Japanese]