Fujiwara-kyō (藤原京) was the Imperial capital of Japan for sixteen years, between 694 and 710. It was located in Yamato Province (present-day Kashihara in Nara Prefecture), having been moved from nearby Asuka. However, the name Fujiwara-kyō was never used in the Nihon Shoki. During those times it was recorded as Aramashi-kyō (新益京).

Map of Fujiwara-kyō
1/1000 scale model of Fujiwara-kyō, held by Kashihara-shi Fujiwara-kyō reference room
Remains of Fujiwara-kyō (2012)

As of 2006, ongoing excavations have revealed construction on the site of Fujiwara-kyō as early as 682, near the end of the reign of Emperor Tenmu.[1] With a brief halt upon Emperor Tenmu's death, construction resumed under Empress Jitō, who officially moved the capital in 694. Fujiwara-kyō remained the capital for the reigns of Emperor Monmu and Empress Genmei, but in 710 the Imperial court moved to the Heijō Palace in Nara, beginning the Nara period.


Fujiwara was Japan's first capital built in a grid pattern on the Chinese model (条坊制 jōbō-sei); recent investigation has revealed that the city covered an area of roughly 5 km, much larger than previously thought.[1][2] The palace occupied a plot measuring about 1 km2, and was surrounded by walls roughly 5 m high. Each of the four walls had three gates; Suzakumon, the main gate, stood at the center of the south wall. The Daigokuden (大極殿) and other palace buildings were the first palace structures in Japan to have a tile roof in the Chinese style.

The area had previously been the domain of the Nakatomi clan, who oversaw the observation of Shintō rituals and ceremonies on behalf of the Imperial court. The city burnt down in 711, one year after the move to Nara, and was not rebuilt. Archaeological excavations began in 1934, and some portions of the palace were reconstructed. Close to 10,000 wooden tablets, known as mokkan, have been found, inscribed with Chinese characters.

This waka, written by the Empress Jitō, and describing Fujiwara in the summer, is part of the famous poem anthology, the Hyakunin Isshu:

春すぎて夏来にけらし白妙の衣ほすてふ天の香具山 haru sugite natsu ki ni kerashi shirotae no koromo hosu chō ama no kaguyama

Which translates[3] as Spring has passed, it seems, and now summer has arrived; For this, they say, is when robes of pure white are aired on heavenly Mount Kagu.

Empress Genmei (661–721) moved the capital from Fujiwara-kyō to Nara (then Heijō-kyō) in 710 mainly to carry out the wishes of her son Emperor Monmu (683–707), who was the previous occupant of the throne and had ordered in 697 to search for a new proper capital site. According to Delmer Brown the reason for Monmu to found a new capital may be that he was influenced by the ancient belief that a new Emperor should reign at a new capital and that Nara was intended to be the capical of his son Shōmu.[4]

See alsoEdit


  • Frederic, Louis (2002). "Japan Encyclopedia." Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
  1. ^ a b "Nara". National Research Institute for Cultural Properties. Retrieved 2007-03-10.
  2. ^ 藤原京ルネッサンス (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 2014-02-02. Retrieved 2007-03-10.
  3. ^ "One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets (Ogura Hyakunin Isshu), poems 1-5". Archived from the original on 2011-07-22. Retrieved 2010-08-02.
  4. ^ Brown, Delmer M., ed. (1993). The Cambridge History of Japan: Volume 1: Ancient Japan. The Cambridge History of Japan. Vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 40–41. doi:10.1017/chol9780521223522. ISBN 978-0-521-22352-2.

External linksEdit

Preceded by Capital of Japan
Succeeded by

Coordinates: 34°30′08″N 135°48′26″E / 34.50222°N 135.80722°E / 34.50222; 135.80722