Fujiwara no Shoshi (藤原彰子)

Empress FUJIWARA no Akiko (her given name can also be pronounced "Shoshi") (988 - October 25, 1074) was the chugu (a court title given to a consort of the Emperor) of the sixty-sixth Emperor, Ichijio, and the mother of the sixty-eighth Emperor, Goichijo, and the sixty-ninth Emperor, Gosuzaku (she also held the title Kokumo, meaning empress dowager, and Nyoin). Her honorific title was Jotomonin and she was also known by such titles as Dainyoin as a mark of respect. She had several literary ladies-in-waiting, including "The Tale of Genji" author, Murasaki Shikibu; the greatest poet of her time, Izumi Shikibu; the poet Akazome Emon (who is the possible author of "Eiga Monogatari"); and the poet Ise no Taifu.

Shoshi was the eldest daughter of FUJIWARA no Michinaga and MINAMOTO no Rinshi (964-1053), the daughter of MINAMOTO no Masanobu, who held the office of Sadaijin (Minister of the Left). Maternal siblings included Kanpaku Dajo Daijin (Regent and Chancellor of the Realm) FUJIWARA no Yorimichi (992-1074), Kanpaku Dajo Daijin FUJIWARA no Norimichi (996-1075), Emperor Sanjo's Chugu FUJIWARA no Kenshi (994-1027), Emperor Goichijo's Chugu FUJIWARA no Ishi (999-1036), and Emperor Gosuzaku's Empress FUJIWARA no Kishi (1007-1025). Her paternal younger brothers were Udaijin (Minister of the Rght) FUJIWARA no Yorimune, Gon dainagon (Great Councillor) FUJIWARA no Yoshinobu, and Gon dainagon Fujiwara no Nagaie.

Judai (Entry into the Imperial Court)
After her father Michinaga had ignored an imperial order and seized power in 995, when Shoshi was 8 years old, she was raised as the daughter of the court administrator, closely supervised by her attendants. On February 9, 999, the same day as her Mogi (Coming of Age) ceremony, she was given the title of Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank). On November 1 of the same year, she entered the court of her cousin, Emperor Ichijo, who was 8 years her senior and declared a Nyogo on November 7 (the same day that Chugu FUJIWARA no Teishi gave birth to first crown prince, Imperial Prince Atsuyasu). On February 25 of the following year, she was officially made empress and called herself Chugu. Described as 'Kakayaku Higyosha (Shining Higyosha)' in "Eiga Monogatari," her beauty far surpassed that of the preceding Empress Teishi. She became the sole empress, in both name and in reality, when Teishi died during labor in the same year. However, she had a difficulty conceiving due to her extremely young age and raised Teishi's son, Imperial Prince Atsuyasu.

On September 11, 1008, she gave birth to the second crown prince, Imperial Prince Atsuhira (Emperor Goichijo), in Tsuchimikado dono. Her father's joy at the long-awaited birth of the prince was described in detail in the "Murasaki Shikibu Dairy." The following year, Shoshi gave birth to Prince Atsunaga (Emperor Gosuzaku). These two princes laid the foundations for the prosperity of Michinaga family.

While on his death bed on June 13, 1011, Emperor Ichijo handed power over to his cousin, Imperial Prince Okisada (Emperor Sanjo), and Shoshi's son, Imperial Prince Atsuhira, was designated as the crown prince. Shoshi is said to have borne a grudge against her father who supported Imperial Prince Atsuhira to be the crown prince while she knew that Emperor Ichijo's true intention was to promote his eldest son ("Gonki," "Eiga Monogatari," etc.).
Whether this rumor was true or not, Shoshi seemed to be a rational and wise woman, whom even her father's enemy, FUJIWARA no Sanesuke, called 'Kenko (Honorable Empress)'

Becoming Kokumo (Mother of the Emperor)
On February 14, 1012, she gained the title of Empress Dowager and became Grand Empress Dowager on January 7, 1018. Meanwhile, Shoshi's son, Emperor Goichijo, ascended the throne on January 29, 1016, and Michinaga gained the position of regent, something he had long desired. The following year, he passed the regent and family head position to his eldest son, Yorimichi, and retired from the political world by entering a Buddhist monastery. Over the next few years, by replacing younger brothers lacking leadership skills, Shoshi assumed leadership of the family and, with the support of Yorimichi and others, helped sustain the system of regents.

On becoming a Buddhist priest on January 19, 1026, she shaved off her hair and took the Buddhist name Shojogaku. On the same day, she was honored with the title Jotomonin following in the footsteps of her aunt and mother in law, Emperor Ichijo's mother, FUJIWARA no Senshi. Because she later built and spent her final years in Tohokuin within Hojo-ji Temple, which had been founded by her father Michinaga, she was also known as Tohokuin.

Emperor Goichijo passed away on April 17, 1036 and Emperor Gosuzaku on January 18, 1045. She lost her two children within the space of a decade. There is an episode where, while her lady-in-waiting was combing her hair, she was asked by Yorimichi to appoint his son FUJIWARA no Morozane as the Kanpaku (chief advisor) to her newly enthroned grandson, Emperor Goreizei. Her mood darkened instantly and she sent written instructions to the emperor stating, 'do not approve for it opposes my father Michinaga's will,' forcing Yorimichi to pass the position to his younger brother Norimichi. She outlived two of her grandchildren, Goreizei and Emperor Gosanjo, who contributed to the demise of the Regent system built up by her father. She left a relatively large number of waka (Japanese poems), many of which mourned the death of her husband and children such as 'Hitokoe mo Kimini tsugenan hototogisu kono samidare wa yamini madofuto (Please just tell my late son this, hototogisu (lesser cuckoo), that this summer rain shrouds me in darkness)' composed after the death of Emperor Goichijo.

She passed away during the reign of her great-grandson, Emperor Shirakawa, on October 3, 1074 at the age of 87. Her death came 8 months after the death of her younger brother Yorimichi on February 2 of the same year. Her next younger brother Norimichi's death the following year eventually led to the period of cloistered rule.

[Original Japanese]