Emperor K%C5%8Dkaku
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Emperor K%C5%8Dkaku
Emperor K?kaku.jpg
Emperor of Japan
Enthronement29 December 1780
Daij? Tenn?
Reign7 May 1817 - 11 December 1840
BornMorohito ()
(1771-09-23)23 September 1771
Died11 December 1840(1840-12-11) (aged 69)
Sakuramachi-den () of the Kyoto
SpousePrincess Yoshiko
Among others...
Emperor Nink?
FatherPrince Kan'in Sukehito
Mother?e Iwashiro

Emperor K?kaku (?, K?kaku-tenn?, 23 September 1771 - 11 December 1840) was the 119th Emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.[1][2] K?kaku reigned from 16 December 1780 until his abdication on 7 May 1817 in favor of his son, Emperor Nink?. After his abdication, he ruled as Daij? Tenn? (?, Abdicated Emperor) also known as a J?k? () until his death in 1840. The next emperor to resign of his own accord was Akihito, the Emperor of the Heisei Era, in 2019, 202 years later.

Major events in K?kaku's life included an ongoing famine that affected Japan early into his rule. The response he gave during the time was welcomed by the people, and helped to undermine the sh?gun's authority. The Kansei Reforms came afterwards as a way for the sh?gun to cure a range of perceived problems which had developed in mid-18th century but was met with partial success.

A member of a cadet branch of the Imperial Family, K?kaku is the founder of the dynastic imperial branch which currently sits on the throne. K?kaku had one spouse during his lifetime, and six concubines who gave birth to sixteen children. Only one son survived into adulthood and eventually became the next Emperor. Genealogically, K?kaku is the lineal ancestor of all the succeeding Emperors up to the current Emperor, Naruhito.

Events of K?kaku's life

Early life

Before K?kaku's accession to the Chrysanthemum Throne, his personal name (imina) was Morohito (). He was the sixth son of Imperial Prince Kan'in Sukehito (, 1733-1794) the second Prince Kan'in of the Kan'in-no-miya imperial collateral branch. As a younger son of a cadet branch, the Kan'in house, it was originally expected that Morohito would go into the priesthood at the Shugoin Temple. The situation changed in 1779 in the form of a problem as Emperor Go-Momozono was dying without an heir to the throne. In order to avoid a dynastic interregnum, the now-retired Empress Go-Sakuramachi and the Emperor's chief adviser encouraged Go-Momozono to hastily adopt Prince Morohito. The adopted prince was the Emperor's second cousin once removed in the biological male line. Go-Momozono died on 16 December 1779, and a year later Morohito acceded to the throne at age eight.

As Emperor

Coinage of Emperor K?kaku

During his reign, K?kaku attempted to re-assert some of the Imperial authority over the Sh?gun (or bakufu). He undertook this by first implementing a relief program during the Great Tenmei famine, which not only undermined the effectiveness of the bakufu to look after their subjects, but also focused the subjects' attention back to the Imperial household. He also took an active interest in foreign affairs; keeping himself informed about the border dispute with Russia to the north, as well as keeping himself abreast of knowledge regarding foreign currency, both Chinese and European. The new era name of Tenmei (meaning "Dawn") was created to mark the enthronement of new Emperor. The previous era ended and the new one commenced in An'ei 11, on the 2nd day of the 4th month. In his first year of reign, K?kaku was instrumental in reviving old ceremonies involving the old Imperial Court, as well as those performed at the Iwashimizu and Kamono shrines.

An analysis of silver currency in China and Japan "Sin sen sen pou (Sin tchuan phou)" was presented to the Emperor in 1782 by Kutsuki Masatsuna (1750-1802), also known as Kutsuki Oki-no kami Minamoto-no Masatsuna, hereditary daimy?s of Oki and ?mi with holdings in Tanba and Fukuchiyama.[3] Masatsuna published Seiy? senpu (Notes on Western Coinage) five years later, with plates showing European and colonial currency.[4] Countrywide currency reforms later came after the Meiji Restoration when a new system was adopted around the Japanese yen. In 1786, former Empress Go-Sakuramachi engaged Go-Momozono's only child (Princess Yoshiko) to the new Emperor. Yoshiko formally became Empress consort to Emperor K?kaku at age 15.

The Emperor and his court were forced to flee from a fire that consumed the city of Kyoto in 1788, the Imperial Palace was destroyed as a result. No other re-construction was permitted until a new palace was completed. The Dutch VOC Opperhoofd in Dejima noted in his official record book that "people are considering it to be a great and extraordinary heavenly portent."[5] The new era name of Kansei (meaning "Tolerant Government" or "Broad-minded Government") was created in 1789 to mark a number of calamities including the devastating fire at the Imperial Palace. The previous era ended and a new one commenced in Tenmei 9, on the 25th day of the 1st month. During the same year, the Emperor came into dispute with the Tokugawa shogunate about his intention to give the title of Abdicated Emperor ((Daij? Tenn?, ?) to his father, Prince Sukehito. This dispute was later called the "Songo incident" (the "respectful title incident"), and was resolved when the Bakufu gave his father the honorary title of "Retired Emperor".[6]

Two more eras would follow during K?kaku's reign, on 5 February 1801 a new era name (Ky?wa) was created because of the belief that the 58th year of every cycle of the Chinese zodiac brings great changes. Three years later the new era name of Bunka (meaning "Culture" or "Civilization") was created to mark the start of a new 60-year cycle of the Heavenly Stem and Earthly Branch system of the Chinese calendar which was on New Year's Day. During this year, Daigaku-no-kami Hayashi Jussai (1768-1841) explained the shogunate foreign policy to Emperor K?kaku in Kyoto.[7] The rest of K?kaku's reign was quiet aside from two 6.6m earthquakes which struck Honsh? in the years 1810 and 1812.[8] The effects on the population from these earthquakes (if any) is unknown.

Kansei Reforms

The Kansei Reforms (, Kansei no kaikaku) were a series of reactionary policy changes and edicts which were intended to cure a range of perceived problems which had developed in mid-18th-century Tokugawa Japan. Kansei refers to the neng? (or Japanese era name) that spanned the years from 1789 through 1801 (after "Tenmei" and before "Ky?wa"); the reforms occurred during Kansei. In the end, the shogunate's interventions were only partly successful. Intervening factors like famine, floods and other disasters exacerbated some of the conditions which the sh?gun intended to ameliorate.

Matsudaira Sadanobu (1759-1829) was named the sh?guns chief councilor (r?j?) in the summer of 1787; and early in the next year, he became the regent for the 11th sh?gun, Tokugawa Ienari.[9] As the chief administrative decision-maker in the bakufu hierarchy, he was in a position to effect radical change; and his initial actions represented an aggressive break with the recent past. Sadanobu's efforts were focused on strengthening the government by reversing many of the policies and practices which had become commonplace under the regime of the previous sh?gun, Tokugawa Ieharu.

These reform policies could be interpreted as a reactionary response to the excesses of his r?j? predecessor, Tanuma Okitsugu (1719-1788).[10] The result was that the Tanuma-initiated, liberalizing reforms within the bakufu and the relaxation of sakoku (Japan's "closed-door" policy of strict control of foreign merchants) were reversed or blocked.[11] Education policy was changed through the Kansei Edict ( kansei igaku no kin) of 1790 which enforced teaching of the Neo-Confucianism of Zhu Xi as the official Confucian philosophy of Japan.[12] The decree banned certain publications and enjoined strict observance of Neo-Confucian doctrine, especially with regard to the curriculum of the official Hayashi school.[13]

This reform movement was accompanied by three others during the Edo period: the Ky?h? reforms (1716-1736), the Tenp? reforms of the 1830s and the Kei? Reforms (1866-1867).[14]

Abdication and death

Emperor K?kaku leaving for Sent? Imperial Palace after abdicating in 1817

In 1817, K?kaku abdicated in favor of his son, Emperor Nink?. In the two centuries before K?kaku's reign most Emperors died young or were forced to abdicate. K?kaku was the first Japanese monarch to remain on the throne past the age of 40 since the abdication of Emperor ?gimachi in 1586.[] Until the abdication of Emperor Akihito in 2019, he was the last Emperor to rule as a J?k? (), an Emperor who abdicated in favor of a successor. K?kaku travelled in procession to Sento Imperial Palace, a palace of an abdicated Emperor. The Sento Palace at that time was called Sakura Machi Palace. It had been built by the Tokugawa shogunate for former-Emperor Go-Mizunoo.[15]

After K?kaku's death in 1840, he was enshrined in the Imperial mausoleum, Nochi no Tsukinowa no Higashiyama no misasagi (), which is at Senny?-ji in Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto. Also enshrined in Tsuki no wa no misasagi, at Senny?-ji are this Emperor's immediate Imperial predecessors since Emperor Go-Mizunoo - Meish?, Go-K?my?, Go-Sai, Reigen, Higashiyama, Nakamikado, Sakuramachi, Momozono, Go-Sakuramachi and Go-Momozono. This mausoleum complex also includes misasagi for K?kaku's immediate successors - Nink? and K?mei.[16]Empress Dowager Yoshik? is also entombed at this Imperial mausoleum complex.[17]

Eras and Kugy?

The following years of K?kaku's reign are more specifically identified by more than one era name or neng?.[3]

Kugy? () is a collective term for the very few most powerful men attached to the court of the Emperor of Japan in pre-Meiji eras. Even during those years in which the court's actual influence outside the palace walls was minimal, the hierarchic organization persisted. In general, this elite group included only three to four men at a time. These were hereditary courtiers whose experience and background would have brought them to the pinnacle of a life's career. During K?kaku's reign, this apex of the Daij?-kan included:



Position Name Birth Death Father Issue
Ch?g? Imperial Princess Yoshiko () 11 March 1779 11 August 1846 Emperor Go-Momozono  • Third Son: Imperial Prince Masuhito
 • Seventh Son: Imperial Prince Toshihito

Yoshiko was the only child of former Emperor Go-Momozono. She formally became Empress consort (ch?g?) to Emperor K?kaku at age 15 after she was engaged to the new Emperor by former empress Go-Sakuramachi. The couple had two sons but both died before reaching adulthood. Yoshiko eventually functioned as an official mother to the heir who would become Emperor Nink?.[18] In 1816, Emperor Nink? granted Empress Yoshiko the title of Empress Dowager after Emperor K?kaku abdicated.[19] She later became a Buddhist nun after her husband died, and changed her name to Shin-Seiwa-In (?, Shin-seiwa-in) in 1841.[19]


Name Birth Death Father Issue
Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown  • Daughter: Kaijin'in-miya
Hamuro Yoriko (?) 1773 1846 Hamuro Yorihiro  • First Son: Imperial Prince Ayahito
 • First Daughter: Princess Noto
 • Second Son: Prince Toshi
Kajy?ji Tadako () 1780 1843 Kajy?ji Tsunehaya  • Fourth Son: Imperial Prince Ayahito
(later Emperor Nink?)
 • Second Daughter: Princess Tashi
 • Fourth Daughter: Princess Nori
Takano Masako (?) 1774 1846 Takano Yasuka  • Sixth Son: Prince Ishi
Anekouji Toshiko () 1794 1888 Anekouji K?s?  • Fifth Daughter: Princess Eijun
 • Eighth Daughter: Princess Seisho
 • Eighth Son: Prince Kana
Higashiboujo Kazuko () 1782 1811 Higashiboujo Masunaga  • Fifth Son: Imperial Prince Katsura-no-miya Takehito
 • Third Daughter: Princess Reimyoshin'in
Tominok?ji Akiko () Unknown 1828 Tominok?ji Sadanao  • Sixth Daughter: Princess Haru
 • Seventh Daughter: Imperial Princess Shinko
 • Ninth Daughter: Princess Katsu
Nagahashi-no-tsubone (Title) Unknown Unknown Unknown  • Daughter: Princess Juraku'in-


Emperor K?kaku fathered a total of 16 children (8 sons and 8 daughters) but only one of them survived into adulthood. The sole surviving child (Prince Ayahito) later became Emperor Nink? when K?kaku abdicated the throne.

Status Name Birth Death Mother Marriage Issue
00 Daughter Princess Kaijin'in (?) (stillborn daughter) 1789 1789 Unknown N/A N/A
01 First Son Imperial Prince Ayahito (?) 1790 1791 Hamuro Yoriko N/A N/A
00 Daughter Princess Juraku'in (?) (stillborn daughter) 1792 1792 Nagahashi-no-tsubone N/A N/A
01 First Daughter Princess Noto () 1792 1793 Hamuro Yoriko N/A N/A
02 Second Son Prince Toshi () 1793 1794 Hamuro Yoriko N/A N/A
03 Third Son Imperial Prince Masuhito (?) (stillborn son) 1800 1800 Imperial Princess Yoshiko N/A N/A
04 Fourth Son Imperial Prince Ayahito (2nd) (?), the future Emperor Ninko 1800 1846 Kajy?ji Tadako Fujiwara no Tsunako Princess Sumiko
Emperor K?mei
Princess Kazu
02 Second Daughter Princess Tashi () (stillborn daughter) 1808 1808 Kajy?ji Tadako N/A N/A
05 Fifth Son Imperial Prince Katsura-no-Miya Takehito () 1810 1811 Higashiboujo Kazuko N/A N/A
03 Third Daughter Princess Reimyoshin'in () (stillborn daughter) 1811 1811 Higashiboujo Kazuko N/A N/A
06 Sixth Son Prince Ishi () 1815 1819 Takano Masako N/A N/A
07 Seventh Son Imperial Prince Toshihito (?) 1816 1821 Imperial Princess Yoshiko N/A N/A
04 Fourth Daughter Princess Nori () 1817 1819 Kajy?ji Tadako N/A N/A
05 Fifth Daughter Princess Eijun (?) 1820 1830 Anekouji Toshiko N/A N/A
06 Sixth Daughter Princess Haru () 1822 1822 Tominok?ji Akiko N/A N/A
07 Seventh Daughter Imperial Princess Shinko () 1824 1842 Tominok?ji Akiko N/A N/A
08 Eighth Daughter Princess Seisho (?) 1826 1827 Anekouji Toshiko N/A N/A
09 Ninth Daughter Princess Katsu () 1826 1827 Tominok?ji Akiko N/A N/A
08 Eighth Son Prince Kana () 1833 1835 Anekouji Toshiko N/A N/A


See also


  1. ^ Imperial Household Agency (Kunaich?): ? (119)
  2. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1959). The Imperial House of Japan, pp. 120-122.
  3. ^ a b Titsingh, p. 420.
  4. ^ Screech, T. (2000). Shogun's Painted Culture: Fear and Creativity in the Japanese States, 1760-1829, pp. 123, 125.
  5. ^ Screech, Secret Memoirs, pp. 152-154, 249-250
  6. ^ National Archives of Japan ...Sakuramachiden Gyokozu: see caption text Archived 2008-01-19 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Cullen, L.M. (2003). A History of Japan, 1582-1941: Internal and External Worlds, pp. 117, 163.
  8. ^ NOAA/Japan "Significant Earthquake Database" -- U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC)
  9. ^ Totman, Conrad. Politics in the Tokugawa Bakufu. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988, p. 224
  10. ^ Hall, J. (1955). Tanuma Okitsugu: Forerunner of Modern Japan, 1719-1788. pp. 131-142.
  11. ^ Screech, T. (2006). Secret Memoirs of the Shoguns: Isaac Titsingh and Japan, 1779-1822, pp. 148-151, 163-170, 248.
  12. ^ Nosco, Peter. (1997). Confucianism and Tokugawa Culture, p. 20.
  13. ^ Bodart-Bailey, Beatrice. (2002). "Confucianism in Japan", in Companion Encyclopedia of Asian Philosophy, p. 668, at Google Books; excerpt, "Scholars vary in their opinion on how far this heterodoxy was enforced and whether this first official insistence on heterodoxy constituted the high point of Confucianism in government affairs or signalled its decline."
  14. ^ Traugott, Mark. (1995). Repertoires and Cycles of Collective Action, p. 147.
  15. ^ National Ditigial Archives of Japan, ...see caption describing image of scroll Archived 2008-01-19 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, p. 423.
  17. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, pp. 333-334.
  18. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1859). The Imperial House of Japan, p. 333.
  19. ^ a b Ponsonby-Fane, p. 334.
  20. ^ "Genealogy". Reichsarchiv (in Japanese). Retrieved 2018.


External links

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Emperor Go-Momozono
Emperor of Japan:

Succeeded by
Emperor Nink?

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