Imperial Prince Kuninomiya Asahiko (久邇宮朝彦親王)

Imperial Prince Kuninomiya Asahiko (March 27, 1824 to October 25, 1891) was a member of the Imperial family who lived in the closing days of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the early part of the Meiji period. He was the fourth son of Imperial Prince Fushiminomiya Kuniie. His name Asahiko is also read as Tomoyoshi. He was commonly called Nakagawanomiya.

Closing Days of the Tokugawa Shogunate
He was adopted by Emperor Ninko in 1836 and given the title of Imperial Prince with the name Narinori in 1837. In 1838, he entered the Buddhist priesthood, was given the name Sono, and assigned as the Head Priest of Ichijoin, a subtemple of Kofuku-ji Temple in Nara. In 1852, he assumed the position of the Head Priest of Shorenin Monzeki Temple and changed his "hoi" (Buddhist name) to Sonyu. As Shorenin was a temple headed by Imperial Princes and located at Awataguchi, he was known by the traditional names Shoreninnomiya and Awatanomiya. Later he also served as the Head Priest of Enryaku-ji Temple.

In 1859, during the Ansei Purge that resulted from the question of who should succeed Shogun Iesada TOKUGAWA, Tairo (chief minister) Naosuke II condemned Cloistered Imperial Prince Sonyu (Asahiko), who opposed the Court's sanctioning of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the United States and Japan and supported Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA, to perpetual confinement (Inkyo eichikkyo). Since this treatment disqualified him from the title Shorenin no miya, Prince Sonyu lived in seclusion at Keihoken, a subtemple of Shokoku-ji Temple and adopted the name Shishioinnomiya.

In 1862, Cloistered Imperial Prince Sonyu was pardoned and regained his former title, and in the same year he became involved in politics as Kokuji Goyogakari (state affairs official). On October 9 in 1863, he left the priesthood and adopted the "miya-go," a name granted for an independent Imperial family, Nakagawanomiya. He is generally better known by this name.

In the first half of 1863, court nobles with ties to the Choshu clan, who were known as the Tobaku Sonjo-ha (lit. anti-shogunate, pro-Emperor, pro-foreigner-expulsion faction), were the dominant group in the Imperial Court. As they engaged in lobbying the Imperial Court, anti-shogunate samurai were focusing their attention to how to make the Imperial Court manipulate the Tokugawa Shogunate. This resulted in the Imperial edict, Yamato Gyoko (the Imperial Trip to the Yamato Province). The plan was that Emperor Komei, during the Imperial visit to Yamato, would hold a meeting on military actions for the purpose of expulsion of foreigners, thereby gaining control of the military and the government from the Tokugawa Shogunate. At the same time, their strategy was to make sure that the Shogunate forces led by Seii Taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians") would be the very ones responsible for expelling foreigners and to take the consequences.

Imperial Prince Sonyu, who was the leader of the Kobu-gattai-ha (lit. court and shogunate unification faction), was avoided by pro-Choshu nobles and anti-Shogunate samurai and was about to be forced to stay away from Kyoto as the Envoy to Pacify the Western Regions, a scheme designed by Yasuomi MAKI. Aware of the true intention behind the scheme, he refused to serve as the Envoy and handed the role to his political opponent, Imperial Prince Arisugawanomiya Taruhito, a powerful leader of pro-Choshu nobles and the Dazai no sochi (Governor-General of Dazaifu, the local government office in Kyushu).

Imperial Prince Sonyu also joined forces with the Aizu clan, which served as Kyoto Shugoshoku (Military Commissioner of Kyoto), and the Satsuma clan, which was on friendly terms with the Aizu clan at that time and, with the unofficial approval of Emperor Komei, staged the August 18 Deportation, which expelled from Kyoto pro-Choshu court nobles and the Choshu clan, who advocated the destruction of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the expulsion of foreign forces. In the same year, he was given the name Asahiko and assigned to Nihon Danjoin (President of the Board of Censors with the Second Order court rank) after his coming of age ceremony. Due to thit, he came to be called Innomiya, a popular name for Danjoin (as Danjoin was customarily served by Imperial Princes).

Following the removal of pro-Choshu court nobles and the Choshu clan from the Imperial government in the August 18 Deportation, Imperial Prince Asahiko and Military Commissioner of Kyoto Katamori MATSUDAIRA gained the trust of Emperor Komei, but this created a strong sense of bitterness and rancor in the Choshu clan samurai and anti-Shogunate samurai, who stepped down from office.

In 1864, some anti-Shogunate samurai, planning to set fire to the residence of Imperial Prince Asahiko and murder Katamori, had Shuntaro FURUTAKA, an arms dealer who also served as a liaison between the Choshu clan and pro-Choshu nobles, procure a large number of weapons. But immediately before the implementation of the plan, Furutaka was arrested by the Shinsengumi (a group who guarded Kyoto during the end of Tokugawa Shogunate), and many of the people involved in the scheme were killed or arrested in what was known as the Ikedaya Incident.

In this year, Imperial Prince Asahiko changed his Imperial family name from Nakagawanomiya to Kayanomiya. In the same year, the Kinmon Rebellion took place and the shogunate government twice attempted to attack the Choshu clan in retribution for the rebellion, but was defeated following the loss of their leader, Shogun Iemochi TOKUGAWA, through illness. Almost immediately after the defeat, Emperor Komei passed away. As a result, pro-Shogunate nobles, including Imperial Prince Asahiko, failed to rapidly close ranks in the Imperial Court.

On January 3, 1868, the Lords of the Choshu clan (father Takachika MORI and son Hiroatsu MORI) and all pro-Choshu court nobles (anti-shogunate nobles) were reinstated at the Kogosho Conference. Anti-shogunate court nobles including Imperial Prince Arisugawanomiya Taruhito, Tadayasu NAKAYAMA, Sanetomi SANJO, and Tomomi IWAKURA decided to put Imperial Prince Asahiko under custody of the Hiroshima clan in 1868.

Imperial Prince Asahiko was reinstated with the Imperial family name Fushiminomiya in February 1872.

The Meiji Period
Imperial Prince Asahiko established a new Imperial family, the Kuninomiya family, in 1875. He maintained a behind-the-scenes influence amongst the court nobles and held important positions such as Head Priest of Ise-jingu Shrine.

Like his father, Imperial Prince Kuniie, he had a high sex drive and according to one typical story, fathered a child with a shrine maiden in his youth. After he left the priesthood, he had many children, including Prince Kayanomiya Kuninori, Prince Kuninomiya Kuniyoshi (father of Empress Kojun), Prince Nashimotonomiya Morimasa, Prince Kuninomiya Taka, Prince Asakanomiya Yasuhiko, and Prince Higashikuninomiya Naruhiko (who served as Prime Minister of Japan). Akihito, the current Emperor of Japan, and his children all come from the Kuninomiya family through Empress Kojun and are direct descendants of Imperial Prince Asahiko.

He is also known as the founder of Kogakkan University, one of a few educational institutes that train Shinto priests, and his "Diaries of Imperial Prince Asahiko" are valuable historical materials on the closing days of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the Meiji Restoration.

[Original Japanese]