Daijō Tennō

Daijō Tennō or Dajō Tennō (太上天皇) is a title for an Emperor of Japan who abdicates the Chrysanthemum Throne in favour of a successor.[1]

As defined in the Taihō Code, although retired, a Daijō Tennō could still exert power. The first such example is the Empress Jitō in the 7th century. A retired emperor sometimes entered the Buddhist monastic community, becoming a cloistered emperor. This practice was rather common during the Heian period.

The title Jōkō (上皇) is a shortened form of Daijō Tennō,[1] sometimes used in the past, and currently held by Akihito, who abdicated on 30 April 2019. The official translation of Akihito's title, as designated by the Imperial Household Agency, is "Emperor Emeritus".[2]


A total of 64 Japanese emperors have abdicated. A list follows:

Name Acceded Abdicated Died Successor Notes
Jitō 686 697 703 Monmu Prince Kusabake was named as crown prince to succeed Empress Jitō, but he died aged only 27. Kusabake's son, Prince Karu, was then named as Jitō's successor. He eventually would become known as Emperor Monmu.[3] After Jitō abdicated in Monmu's favor, as a retired sovereign, she took the post-reign title daijō-tennō. After this, her imperial successors who retired took the same title after abdication.[4] Jitō continued to hold power as a cloistered ruler, which became a persistent trend in Japanese politics. She died 4 years later at the age of 58.[5]
Genmei 707 715 721 Genshō Gemmei had initially planned to remain on the throne until her grandson might reach maturity. However, after reigning for 8 years, Gemmei abdicated in favor of Monmu's older sister who then became known as Empress Genshō.
  • 715 (Wadō 8): Gemmei resigned as empress in favor of her daughter, who was then known as Empress Genshō.[6]

After abdicating, Gemmei was known as Daijō-tennō; she was only the second woman after Empress Jitō to claim this title. Gemmei lived in retirement until her death at the age of 61.[7]

Genshō 715 724 748 Shōmu
Shōmu 724 749 756 Kōken
Kōken 749 758 770 (restored 764) Junnin Emperor Shōmu abdicated in favor of his daughter Princess Takano in 749, who became Empress Kōken. Empress Kōken abdicated in 758 for her cousin to reign as Emperor Junnin but returned to rule again in 764 as Empress Shōtoku. Her cousin would die a year later in 765.
Junnin 758 764 765 Shōtoku (Kōken)
Kōnin 770 781 781 Kanmu
Heizei 806 809 824 Saga Emperor Heizei was forced to abdicate due to illness in 809 and lived for 14 years as a monk.
Saga 809 823 842 Junna
Junna 823 833 840 Nimmyō
Seiwa 858 876 881 Yōzei
Yōzei 876 884 (deposed) 949 Kōkō
Uda 887 897 931 Daigo
Daigo 897 930 930 Suzaku Emperor Daigo abdicated in favour of his son, as he fell ill, and died a few months later.
Suzaku 930 946 952 Murakami
Reizei 967 969 1011 En'yū
  • Anna 2 969: Reizei abdicated; and he took the honorific title of Reizei-in Jōkō. His reign lasted for just two years; and he lived another 44 years in retirement.[8]
  • Kankō 8, 24th day of the 10th month (1011): Daijō-tennō Reizei-in Jōkō died at age 62.[9]
En'yū 969 984 991 Kazan
Kazan 984 986 1008 Ichijō
Ichijō 986 1011 1011 Sanjō
Sanjō 1011 1016 1017 Go-Ichijō
Go-Suzaku 1036 1045 1045 Go-Reizei
Go-Sanjō 1068 1073 1073 Shirakawa
  • Kankō 8, on the 13th day of the 6th month (1011): In the 25th year of Emperor Ichijō's reign (一条天皇25年), the emperor abdicated; and the succession (senso) was received by his cousin. Shortly thereafter, Emperor Sanjō is said to have acceded to the throne (sokui) at age 36.[10]
  • Kankō 8, 22nd day of the 6th month (1011): Daijō-tennō Emperor Ichijō died at the age of 32.[11]
Shirakawa 1073 1087 1129 Horikawa
  • Ōtoku 3, on the 26th day of the 11th month (1084): Emperor Shirakawa formally abdicated,[12] and he took the title Daijō Tennō.[13] Shirakawa had personally occupied the throne for 14 years; and for the next 43 years, he would exercise broad powers in what will come to be known as cloistered rule.[14]

Emperor Go-Sanjō had wished for Shirakawa's younger half-brother to succeed him to the throne. In 1085, this half-brother died of an illness; and Shirakawa's own son, Taruhito became Crown Prince. On the same day that Taruhito was proclaimed as his heir, Shirakawa abdicated; and Taruhito became Emperor Horikawa. The now-retired Emperor Shirakawa was the first to attempt what became customary cloistered rule. He exercised power, ruling indirectly from the Shirakawa-in ("White River Mansion/Temple"); nevertheless, nominal sesshō and kampaku offices continued to exist for a long time.

  • Kanji 1, in the 5th month (1087): Daijō Tennō Shirakawa retired himself to Uji.[15]
Toba 1107 1123 1156 Sutoku
  • Eiji 1, in the 3rd month (1141): The former emperor Toba accepted the tonsure and became a Buddhist monk at the age of 39 years.[16]
  • Kōji 2, in the 1st month (1143): Cloistered Emperor Toba-in, now known by the title Daijō Hōō, visited his mother.[17]
Sutoku 1123 1142 1164 Konoe
  • Eiji 1, on the 7th day of the 12th month (永治元年; 1141): In the 18th year of Sutoku-tennō's reign (崇徳天皇18年), the emperor abdicated; and the succession (senso) was received by a younger brother, the 8th son of former Emperor Toba. Shortly thereafter, Emperor Konoe is said to have acceded to the throne (sokui).[18]

At that time, Fujiwara-no Tadamichi became sesshō (imperial regent). The Cloistered Emperor Toba continued to direct all the affairs of government, while the retired Emperor Sutoku had no powers. This conflict resulted in many controversies during Konoe's reign.[17]

Go-Shirakawa 1155 1158 1192 Nijō
Nijō 1158 1165 1165 Rokujō
Rokujō 1165 1168 1176 Takakura
Takakura 1168 1180 1181 Antoku
Go-Toba 1183 1198 1239 Tsuchimikado
Tsuchimikado 1198 1210 1231 Juntoku
Juntoku 1210 1221 1242 Chūkyō
Chūkyō 1221 1221 1234 Go-Horikawa
Go-Horikawa 1221 1232 1234 Shijō
Go-Saga 1242 1246 1272 Go-Fukakusa
Go-Fukakusa 1246 1259 1304 Kameyama
Kameyama 1259 1274 1305 Go-Uda
Go-Uda 1274 1287 1324 Fushimi
Fushimi 1287 1298 1317 Go-Fushimi
Go-Fushimi 1298 1301 1336 Go-Nijō
Hanazono 1308 1318 1348 Go-Daigo
Kōgon 1331 1333 (deposed) 1364 Go-Daigo
Go-Daigo 1318 1339 1339 Go-Murakami
Kōmyō (North) 1336 1348 1380 Sukō (North)
Sukō (North) 1348 1351 1398 Go-Kōgon (North)
Go-Kōgon (North) 1352 1371 1374 Go-En'yū (North)
Chōkei (South) 1368 1383 1394 Go-Kameyama (South)
Go-En'yū (North) 1371 1382 1393 Go-Komatsu (North)
Go-Kameyama (South) 1383 1392 1424 Go-Komatsu
Go-Komatsu 1382 (N) 1392 (S) 1412 1433 Shōkō
Go-Hanazono 1428 1464 1471 Go-Tsuchimikado Emperor Go-Hanazono abdicated in 1464, but not long afterwards, the Ōnin War (応仁の乱, Ōnin no Ran) broke out; there were no further abdications until 1586, when Emperor Ōgimachi passed the throne to his grandson, Emperor Go-Yōzei. This was due to the disturbed state of the country; and the fact that there was neither a house for an ex-emperor nor money to support him or it.[19]
Ogimachi 1557 1586 1593 Go-Yōzei
Go-Yōzei 1586 1611 1617 Go-Mizunoo
Go-Mizunoo 1611 1629 1680 Meishō
Meishō 1629 1643 1696 Go-Kōmyō
Go-Sai 1655 1663 1685 Reigen
Reigen 1663 1687 1732 Higashiyama
Higashiyama 1687 1709 1710 Nakamikado
Nakamikado 1709 1735 1737 Sakuramachi
Sakuramachi 1735 1747 1750 Momozono
Momozono 1747 1762 1762 Go-Sakuramachi
Go-Sakuramachi 1762 1771 1813 Go-Momozono In the history of Japan, Empress Go-Sakuramachi was the last of eight women to take on the role of empress regnant. The seven female monarchs who reigned before Go-Sakuramachi were Suiko, Kōgyoku (Saimei), Jitō, Genmei, Genshō, Kōken (Shōtoku), and Meishō.

She reigned from 15 September 1762 to 9 January 1771 and died on 24 December 1813.

Kōkaku 1780 1817 1840 Ninkō Prior to the start of the third millennium the last emperor to become a jōkō was Kōkaku in 1817. He later created an incident called the "Songo incident" (the "respectful title incident"). The jōkō disputed with the Tokugawa Shogunate about his intention to give a title of Abdicated Emperor (Daijō-tennō) to his father, who was Imperial Prince Sukehito.[20]

He died on 11 December 1840.

Akihito 1989 2019 Living Naruhito

The special law authorizing the abdication of Emperor Akihito on 30 April 2019 provides that the title of Jōkō will be revived for him. As there was no official English translation of the title of Jōkō previously, the Imperial Household Agency decided to define it as "Emperor Emeritus".[2]

Abdication during the Empire of JapanEdit

Emperor Kōmei and the ShōgunEdit

Commodore Matthew C. Perry and his squadron of what the Japanese dubbed "the Black Ships", sailed into the harbor at Edo (now known as Tokyo) in July 1853. Perry sought to open Japan to trade, and warned the Japanese of military consequences if they did not agree.[21] During the crisis brought on by Perry's arrival, the Tokugawa shogunate took, for the first time in at least 250 years, the highly unusual step of consulting with the Imperial Court, and Emperor Kōmei's officials advised that they felt the Americans should be allowed to trade and asked that they be informed in advance of any steps to be taken upon Perry's return.[22] Feeling at a disadvantage against Western powers, the Japanese government allowed trade and submitted to the "Unequal Treaties", giving up tariff authority and the right to try foreigners in its own courts.[21] The shogunate's willingness to consult with the Imperial Court was short-lived: in 1858, word of a treaty arrived with a letter stating that due to shortness of time, it had not been possible to consult. Emperor Kōmei was so incensed that he threatened to abdicate—though even this action would have required the consent of the shōgun.[23]

Meiji constitution on abdicationEdit

Emperor Meiji wished to allow a clause codifying the right to abdicate and the formal institution of Daijō Tennō in the new Meiji Constitution. The Prime Minister refused, stating that the Emperor should be above politics, and that in the past, the role of Daijō Tennō had most definitely been employed in the opposite fashion.

Emperor Taishō and regencyEdit

In 1921, it became clear that Emperor Yoshihito (later known by his reign name, Taishō, after death) was mentally incapacitated. In pre-modern Japan, he would have been forced to abdicate, but he was left in place and Crown Prince Hirohito (later Emperor Hirohito) was made Sesshō (regent).

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ a b Miner, Earl Roy; Morrell, Robert E.; 小田桐弘子 (21 September 1988). The Princeton Companion to Classical Japanese Literature. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691008257 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ a b "Emperor Akihito to Be Called Emperor Emeritus after Abdication". Nippon.com. 25 February 2019. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  3. ^ Varley, H. Paul . (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki, p. 137.
  4. ^ Varley, p. 137.
  5. ^ Varley, p. 137; Brown, Delmer et al. (1979). Gukanshō, p. 270.
  6. ^ Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Annales des empereurs du japon, pp. 64-65.
  7. ^ Varley, p. 140.
  8. ^ Brown, p. 298.
  9. ^ Titsingh, p. 155; Brown, p. 306; Varley, p. 190.
  10. ^ Titsingh, p. 154; Brown, p. 307; Varley, p. 44. [A distinct act of senso is unrecognized prior to Emperor Tenji; and all sovereigns except Jitō, Yōzei, Go-Toba, and Fushimi have senso and sokui in the same year until the reign of Go-Murakami.]
  11. ^ Brown, p. 306.
  12. ^ Brown, p. 316.
  13. ^ Titsingh, p. 171.
  14. ^ Varley, p. 202
  15. ^ Titsingh, p. 172.
  16. ^ Titsingh, p. 185.
  17. ^ a b Titsingh, p. 186.
  18. ^ Titsingh, p. 186; Brown, p. 324; Varley, p. 44.
  19. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1956). Kyoto: the Old Capital, 794-1869, pp. 340-341.
  20. ^ ...Sakuramachiden Gyokozu: information in caption text Archived 2008-01-19 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ a b Gordon 2009, pp. 50–51.
  22. ^ Keene 2002, p. 18.
  23. ^ Keene 2002, pp. 39–41.


External linksEdit