Fujiwara no Yoshichika (藤原義懐)

FUJIWARA no Yoshichika (957 - AUGUST 26, 1008) was a noble who lived in the Middle Heian period. He was born as the fifth son of FUJIWARA no Koretada, who was sessho (regent), of the Northern House of the Fujiwara clan. His mother was Keishi Joo (Mistress Keishi), who was a daughter of the Imperial Prince Shiroakira (Emperor Daigo). He worked actively as a guardian (chunagon (middle counselor) of the Emperor Kazan, who was his nephew.


His life was fraught with misfortune: when he was sixteen years old, his father, Koretada, died suddenly and, two years later, two elder brothers of his died from a disease on the same day. On the other hand, there was the Crown Prince, the Emperor Kazan, who was born by FUJIWARA no Kaishi, who was his elder sister and a nyogo (empress) of the Emperor Reizei and he, as being a rare maternal relative to the emperor, assumed the position of togu no suke (assistant master in the Crown Prince's palace).

In 984, when the Crown Prince ascended the throne as the Emperor Kazan, he was selected for the kurodo no to (chief official of the emperor's secretaries). Within the same year, he was promoted to Shosanmi (Senior Third Rank) and, the following year, he was promoted to Junii (Junior Second Rank) and assumed the position of sangi (royal advisor) and chunagon leaping into the political center all of a sudden. The position of Gon Chunagon (a provisional vice-councilor of state) itself was low status and it could not be expected to directly connect to sessho or kanpaku (regent), but Yoshichika became a promising candidate for the next daijin or kanpaku, because of a precedent whereby FUJIWARA no Kanemichi (younger brother of Yoshichika's father, Koretada) was promoted from gon-chunagon to nairan naidaijin (minister of the center in the imperial palace) as an uncle of the emperor.

However, innovative policies such as promulgation of a new system including shoen seiri rei (Manor Regulation Acts) and vitalization of currency circulation that were promoted mainly by the emperor, Yoshichika and FUJIWARA no Koreshige, who was close to the emperor since the age of his father and a foster brother of the emperor caused conflicts with FUJIWARA no Yoritada, who was the kanpaku, etc. In addition, FUJIWARA no Kaneie, who was the maternal grandfather of the Crown Prince, Emperor Ichijo, and the udaijin, wanted early abdication of the Emperor Kazan and demonstrated confrontation stance against the Emperor Kazan and Yoshichika. Under the circumstances, politics came to a standstill as the Imperial Palace experienced a three-sided conflict between Yoshichika, Yoritada and Kaneie.

Confusion was further accelerated by Emperor's problem with a woman. The Emperor was charmed by FUJIWARA no Shishi, who was a daughter of FUJIWARA no Tamemitsu, wanted to have Shishi as his nyogo. Luckily or unluckily, Yoshichika's lawful wife was a real elder system of Shishi and the Emperor immediately ordered Yoshichika to persuade the father-in-law, Tamemitsu. Due to desperate pleas by the son-in-law, Tamemitsu passed judgment on Shishi's judai (Imperial Consort's bridal entry into court). However, excessive attention given by the Emperor placed on enormous stress on Shishi resulting in death by illness. The Emperor, who was shocked with this, began to say that he wanted to become a priest to mourn Shishi. Yoshichika looked through judging from the Emperor's innate character that the Emperor's wish to become a priest was just temporary one and, together with Koreshige and Yoritada, who was the kanpaku, convinced the Emperor to change his mind.

On the fatal day, August 6, 986, however, the Emperor Kazan left the Imperial Court at midnight at the urge of FUJIWARA no Michikane. Later, the Three Sacred Treasures of the Imperial Family were carried to the Crown Prince by FUJIRWARA no Michitsuna, who was a younger brother from another mother of Michikane. It was passed down that all actions were based on tricks by Kaneie, who was the father of Michikane and his brothers. Only after that, did Yoshichika find out about the 'disappearance' of the Emperor Kazan. Yoshichika and Koreshige desperately searched for whereabouts of the Emperor. When Yoshichika found the Emperor in Gankei-ji Temple (Kazan-ji Temple), however, the Emperor had become a priest. Knowing that he was politically defeated, Yoshichika, together with Koreshige, became priests on the spot.

Yoshichika, as a priest, shut himself up in Iimuro in the outskirts of Kyoto. Contrary to the Cloistered Emperor with whom it was passed down that he was with woman only after several years, Yoshichika spent almost all of his remaining life training in Buddhism after becoming a priest, while keeping in contact with old friends including FUJIWARA no Michinaga.
Hearing about his death, reportedly, people talked among them saying 'Yoshichika must have died an easy death.'

[Original Japanese]