Fujiwara no Nakamaro (藤原仲麻呂)

FUJIWARA no Nakamaro (706 - October 21, 764) was a kugyo (a high court noble) of the Nara Period. His father was FUJIWARA no Muchimaro. He was also called EMI no Oshikatsu (FUJIWARA Emi no Ason Oshikatsu).

In the "Kugyobunin" (a directory of court nobles) and the "Sonpi Bunmyaku" (records of the lineages of the aristocracy), Nakamaro (仲麻呂) is also referred to as "仲麿" (Nakamaro) or "仲丸" (Nakamaro).

The Era of the Emperor Shomu
In 'Shoku Nihongi' (Chronicle of Japan Continued), Nakamaro is viewed as 'clever and 略書記にわたる'
At a young age, Nakamaro learned arithmetic from ABE no Sukunamaro, Dainagon (the chief councilor of the state), and showed excellent academic ability. He was first appointed as Daigaku no shojo (a junior secretary) and promoted to Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) in 734.

In 737, a smallpox epidemic killed his father, Muchimaro, and his four brothers one after another, which greatly reduced the power of the FUJIWARA clan. On the contrary, TACHIBANA no Moroe rose and took charge of affairs of the state.

In 741, Nakamaro joined the Minbu-sho (Ministry of Popular Affairs). In 743, he was promoted to Sangi (a councilor). In 746, he was transferred to the Shikibu-sho (Ministry of Ceremonial). It is believed that Nakamaro enjoyed the deep trust of the Empress Komyo, his aunt, and had a good relationship with her Crown Princess, the Empress Koken, at that time.

There is a speculation that Nakamaro poisoned Prince Asaka in the ancient capital of Kuni-kyo (present-day Kyoto Prefecture) and led him to a sudden death in February 5, 744, but some doubted the theory.

The Era of the Empress Koken
In 749 when the Emperor Shomu abdicated the throne to Imperial Princess Abe and she ascended to the Imperial Throne (the Empress Koken), Nakamaro was promoted to Dainagon (the chief councilor of the state). Later, he doubled as a director of the Shibi chudai (the office handling the Empress Komyo's affairs) which was built for the Empress Komyo. He was also appointed as an official to the Nakatsukasa-sho (Ministry of Central Affairs) and Goefu, Five Royal Guards, at the same time. With the trust of the Empress Komyo and the Empress Koken, Nakamaro seized power both in the government and military, and started to compete against TACHIBANA no Moroe, Sadaijin (Minister of the left), to gain ultimate power in the Imperial Court.

In 755, however, Moroe resigned his post in shame when it was revealed that he defamed the Imperial Court, and died in despair two years later.

In 756, Shomu Daijo Tenno (the retired Emperor Shomu) died and Funado no Okimi became the Crown Prince according to the will of Shomu Daijo Tenno. However, in March 757, Prince Funado was deposed from the Crown Prince for his unethical demeanor during the mourning period of the deceased Shomu Daijo Tenno. As a replacement, the Emperor Junnin, who was married to the widow (AWATA no Morone) of Nakamaro's first son, FUJIWARA no Mayori, was formally installed as the Crown Prince. In May, the Yoro Ritsuryo Code (a code promulgated in the Yoro period) which was first undertaken by his grandfather, FUJIWARA no Fuhito, was enforced. In the same month, Nakamaro was promoted to Shibinaiso (with the same treatment as Daijin [Minister]).

However, TACHIBANA no Naramaro, the son of TACHIBANA no Moroe, was not happy with the rise of Nakamaro. Naramaro conspired with OTOMO no Komaro to kill Nakamaro and back up Prince Kibumi, but it was revealed by Kamitsumichi no Hitatsu in June of the same year. This assassination plot grew to be a major incident in which the Naramaro faction was arrested and 443 people were punished. Naramaro, Prince Funado and OTOMO no Komaro were killed by torture, and the older brother of Nakamaro, FUJIWARA no Toyonari (Udaijin [Minister of the right]), was also relegated to a lower position for his involvement in the plot.

The Era of the Emperor Junnin
In 758, the Emperor Koken abdicated the throne to Prince Oi and the Prince ascended to the Imperial Throne as the Emperor Junnin. Nakamaro, who backed up the Emperor Junnin, started unique politics by promoting Tokuji policies (ruling a nation by virtue of a sovereign), which included raising the age of chunan (men between 17 to 20 years of age) and seitei (men between 21 and 60 years of age) and halving the amount of zoyo (irregular corvee), and also by adopting more Chinese-style systems such as renaming of the government posts in a Chinese style, (i.e. Daijokan [Grand Council of State] was changed into Kenseikan, and Daijo-daijin [Grand Minister] into Taishi. For detailed information on the renaming of government posts, refer to the corresponding section. Nakamaro was appointed Taiho (Udaijin) and given the name of EMI no Oshikatsu in October 5, the same year.

In the same year, upon receiving information on the outbreak of Anshi Rebellion in Tang China, Nakamaro ordered to reinforce the defenses in various provinces including Dazai-fu (a local government office in Kyushu region). In 759, in the wake of the report that Shiragi (an ancient Korean kingdom) took a rude attitude to a Japanese missionary, Nakamaro ordered to be prepared for the conquest of Shiragi. A full-scale expeditionary army was formed with 394 warships and 47,000 soldiers. This mission, however, was not put into place due to the feud between the retired Empress Koken and Nakamaro.

In 760, Nakamaro was made the first Taishi (Daijo-daijin [Grand Minister]) not from the imperial family. In the same year, the Empress Dowager Komyo died. It was a huge setback for Nakamaro who enjoyed the deep confidence of the Empress Dowager Komyo.

In 761, the Emperor Junnin and the retired Empress Koken were sent to Hora no Miya Palace (a detached palace) of Omi Province. Hora no Miya Palace and Naniwa no Miya Palace were renamed 'Kita no Miya' Palace and 'Nishi no Miya' Palace respectively based on the Tang system of China.

In 762, Nakamaro promoted his three sons, FUJIWARA no Masaki, FUJIWARA no Kusumaro and FUJIWARA no Asakari to Sangi (councilor).

Around that time Dokyo, who took care of sick retired Empress Koken, started to be favored by her. Nakamaro told the Emperor Junnin to persuade the retired Empress Koken to refrain from favoring Dokyo. This enraged the retired Empress, who then announced that she would enter a nunnery and strip the Emperor Junnin of his sovereign authority to handle major political matters and to award honors and punishment. However, researchers are divided whether or not her decisions materialized. The retired Empress Koken deepened her love to Dokyo even further and promoted him to Shosozu (a junior prelate).

Rebellion of Fujiwara no Nakamaro
Amid a deepened confrontation between 'the retired Empress Koken and Dokyo' and 'the Emperor Junnin and Nakamaro', Nakamaro felt his position was threatened and had himself appointed as Totoku (a governor general) to obtain more military power. However, this attempt was disclosed as a rebellion against the retired Empress Koken, and the Emperor Junnin was stripped of the gyoji (imperial seal) and the ekirei (a bell needed for the exercise of the imperial power) by the retired Empress, forcing Nakamaro to flee the Heijo-kyo (the ancient capital of Japan in current Nara). He moved to Echizen Province where his son, FUJIWARA no Shikachi, served as Kokushi (provincial governor), to regain power, but failed due to interference by the government army. Although Nakamaro made a final stand in Sanbi, Takashima County, Omi Province, the government army defeated him in the end. Nakamaro tried to run away with his wife and sons to Biwa-ko Lake by boat, but was caught by an army personnel, IWARE no Iwatate, to be beheaded.

Every member of the Nakamaro family was killed except his sixth son, FUJIWARA no Yoshio, who was spared his life and sent to Oki Province and later appointed as Daigaku no kami (a director of the Bureau of Education) and as Onmyo no kami (a director of Onmyoryo, or Bureau of Divination) one after another in the era of the Emperor Kanmu. Also, his purported 11th son, Tokuitsu, was not killed either, but sent to Todai-ji Temple to enter into priesthood, and later became the founder of Chisoku-in Chuzen-ji Temple on Mt. Tsukuba.

Among the policies Nakamaro promoted, many of them including Yoro Ritsuryo Code, were passed on to the subsequent governments after some amendments were made, except the renaming of the governmental posts which were returned to the originals soon afterward.

[Original Japanese]