Empress Meishō (明正天皇, Meishō-tennō, January 9, 1624 – December 4, 1696) was the 109th monarch of Japan,[1] according to the traditional order of succession.[2] Her reign lasted from 1629 to 1643.[3]

Empress Meishō
Empress of Japan
ReignDecember 22, 1629 – November 14, 1643
CoronationOctober 17, 1630
ShōgunsTokugawa Iemitsu
BornOkiko (興子)
January 9, 1624
Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Tokugawa shogunate
DiedDecember 4, 1696(1696-12-04) (aged 72)
Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Tokugawa shogunate
Posthumous name
Empress Meishō (明正院 or 明正天皇)
FatherEmperor Go-Mizunoo
MotherTokugawa Masako

In the history of Japan, Meishō was the seventh of eight women to become empress regnant. The six who reigned before her were Suiko, Kōgyoku/Saimei, Jitō, Genmei, Genshō, and Kōken/Shōtoku. Her sole female successor was Go-Sakuramachi.[4]

Genealogy edit

Before Meishō's accession to the Chrysanthemum Throne, her personal name (her imina) was Okiko (興子);[5] and her pre-accession title was Onna-Ichi-no-miya (女一宮). She was the second daughter of Emperor Go-Mizunoo. Her mother was Tokugawa Masako, daughter of the second Tokugawa shōgun, Tokugawa Hidetada and his wife Oeyo.[6][7] Hidetada was the son of Tokugawa Ieyasu and his consort, Oai.[8]

Meishō lived within the Inner Apartments of the Heian Palace, as opposed to the section reserved for the women of the Imperial Court. She had no children of her own, and was succeeded by her younger paternal half-brother, Go-Kōmyō. Her name was derived by combining the names of two previous empresses, Empress Genmei (707–715) and her daughter Empress Genshō (715–724).

Events of Meishō's life edit

Okiko-naishinnō became empress following the abdication of her father. The succession (senso) was considered to have been received by the new monarch; and shortly thereafter, Empress Meishō is said to have acceded (sokui).[9][10] The events during her lifetime shed some light on her reign. The years of Meishō's reign correspond with the development and growth of the Tokugawa shogunate under the leadership of Tokugawa Iemitsu.[citation needed]

  • January 9, 1624: The birth of an Imperial princess who will become known by the posthumous name of Empress Meishō.[11]
  • 1627 (Kan'ei 6): The "Purple Robe Incident" (紫衣事件, shi-e jiken): Emperor Go-Mizunoo was accused of having bestowed honorific purple garments to more than ten priests despite the shogun's edict which banned them for two years (probably in order to break the bond between the Emperor and religious circles). The shogunate intervened and invalidated the bestowal of the garments.[citation needed]
  • December 22, 1629 (Kan'ei 6, 8th day of the 11th month): The emperor renounced the throne in favor of his daughter.[12] The reign of the new empress was understood to have begun.[11] She was aged 5; and she would grow to become the first woman to occupy the throne since Empress Shōtoku, the 48th sovereign who died in 770.[2]
  • 1632 (Kan'ei 9, 24th day of the 1st month): Former shōgun Tokugawa Hidetada died.[12]
  • 1633 (Kan'ei 10, 20th day of the 1st month): Earthquake in Odawara in Sagami Province.[12]
  • 1634 (Kanei 11): Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu visited Miyako;[12] and it is believed that Meishō's father actually ruled in her name until she abdicated in favor of her younger half-brother.[2]
  • 1635 (Kanei 12): An ambassador from King Injo of Korea is received in Miyako.[12]
  • 1637 (Kanei 14): A major rebellion occurs in the Arima and Shimabara with many Christians involved; shogunal forces are sent to quell the disturbance.[12]
  • 1638 (Kanei 15): The Arima and Shimabara revolt is crushed; and 37,000 of the rebels are killed. The Christian religion is banned in Japan under pain of death.[12]
  • 1640 (Kanei 17): A Spanish ship from Macau brought a delegation of 61 people to Nagasaki. They arrived on July 6, 1640; and on August 9, all of them were decapitated and their heads were stuck on poles.[12]
  • 1641 (Kanei 18): Meishō's half brother, Prince Tsuguhito, was named Crown Prince.[2]
  • 1643 (Kanei 20): An ambassador from the King of Korea arrived in Japan.[13]
  • November 14, 1643 (Kanei 20', 29th day of the 9th month): In the 15th year of Meishō - tennō's reign (明正天皇15年), the empress abdicated;[11] and the succession (senso) was received by her brother.[13]
  • 1643 (Kanei 20, 23rd day of the 4th month): Emperor Go-Kōmyō is said to have acceded to the throne (sokui).[13]

Empress Meishō reigned for fifteen years. Although there were seven other reigning empresses, their successors were most often selected from amongst the males of the paternal Imperial bloodline, which is why some conservative scholars argue that the women's reigns were temporary and that male-only succession tradition must be maintained in the 21st century.[14] Empress Gemmei, who was followed on the throne by her daughter, Empress Gensho, remains the sole exception to this conventional argument.[citation needed]

  • December 4, 1696: The former empress died at age 72.[11]

The kami of this empress is venerated in the imperial mausoleum at Tsuki no wa no misasagi, which is located at Sennyū-ji in Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto. Also enshrined is her father, Emperor Go-Mizunoo and her immediate Imperial successors – Go-Kōmyō, Go-Sai, Reigen, Higashiyama, Nakamikado, Sakuramachi, Momozono, Go-Sakuramachi and Go-Momozono.[15]

Kugyō edit

Kugyō (公卿) 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.[citation needed]

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 Meishō's reign, this apex of the Daijō-kan included:

Era of Meishō's reign edit

The years of Meishō's reign are encompassed within one era name or nengō.[12]

Ancestry edit


References edit

  1. ^ Imperial Household Agency (Kunaichō): 明正天皇 (108)
  2. ^ a b c d Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1959). The Imperial House of Japan, p. 115.
  3. ^ Titsingh, pp. 411–412.
  4. ^ Emperors and Empresses Regnant of Japan on Britannica
  5. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, p. 9.
  6. ^ NHK announced that its 2011 Taiga drama would be Gō: Himetachi no Sengoku, based on the life of Oeyo, the mother of Tokugwa Masako.
  7. ^ "Atsuhime" - Autorin für NHKs 2011er Taiga-Drama gewählt Archived 2011-05-06 at the Wayback Machine, j-dorama.de; accessed 13 July 2015.(in German)
  8. ^ Kobayashi and Makino (1994), p. 392.
  9. ^ Titsingh, p. 411; 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 Emperor Go-Murakami
  10. ^ Varley, H. Paul (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki p. 44.
  11. ^ a b c d Meyer, Eva-Maria. (1999). Japans Kaiserhof in der Edo-Zeit p. 186, books.google.com; accessed July 13, 2015.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i Titsingh, p. 411
  13. ^ a b c Titsingh, p. 412; Varley, p. 44.
  14. ^ "Life in the Cloudy Imperial Fishbowl", JapanTimes.co.uk, March 27, 2007.
  15. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, p. 423.
  16. ^ "Genealogy". Reichsarchiv (in Japanese). 30 April 2010. Retrieved 21 January 2018.

Sources edit

Regnal titles
Preceded by Empress of Japan:

Succeeded by