Emperor Temmu

name = Emperor Temmu
title =40th Emperor of Japan

caption =
reign =The 27th Day of the 2nd Month of Temmu's era 1 (673) - The 9th Day of the 9th Month of Syuchō 1 (October 1, 686)
coronation =
predecessor =Emperor Kōbun
successor =Empress Jitō
suc-type =
heir =
consort =Princess Uno-no-sarara (Empress Jitō)
issue =Princess Tōchi by Princess Nukata
Prince Takechi by Amako-no-iratsume
Prince Kusakabe by Empress Jitō
Princess Oku and Prince Ōtsu by Princess Ōta
Prince Naga and Prince Yuge by Princess Ōe
Prince Toneri by Princess Niitabe
Princess Tajima by Higami-no-iratsume
Prince Niitabe by Ioe-no-iratsume
Prince Osakabe, Prince Shigi, Princess Hatsusebe and Princess Taki by Kajihime-no-iratsume
Prince Hozumi, Princess Ki and Princess Takata by Ōnu-no-iratsume
royal house =Asuka Kiyomihara Palace
royal anthem =
father =Emperor Jomei
mother =Empress Kōgyoku
date of birth =?
place of birth =
date of death =The 9th Day of the 9th Month of Syuchō 1 (October 1, 686)
place of death =
place of burial=Hinokuma-no-ōuchi no "Misasagi"|

nihongo|Emperor Temmu|天武天皇|"Tenmu-tennō" (c. 631 - October 1, 686) was the 40th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession. He ruled from 672 until his death in 686. [Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). "Annales des empereurs du japon," pp. 55-58; Brown, Delmer "et al." (1979). "Gukanshō," pp. 268-269.]


He was the youngest son of Emperor Jomei and Empress Saimei, and the younger brother of the Emperor Tenji. His name at birth was Prince Ōama (大海人皇子:Ōama no ōji). He was succeeded by Empress Jitō, who was both his niece and his wife.During the reign of his elder brother, Emperor Tenji, Temmu was forced to marry several of Tenji's daughters because Tenji thought those marriages would help to strengthen political ties between the two brothers. The nieces he married included Princess Unonosarara, today known as the Empress Jitō, and Princess Ōta. Temmu also had other consorts whose fathers were influential courtiers.

Temmu had many children, including his crown prince Kusakabe by Princess Unonosarara; Princess Tōchi; Prince Ōtsu and Princess Ōku by Princess Ōta (whose father also was Tenji); and Prince Toneri, the editor of "Nihonshoki" and father of Emperor Junnin. Through Prince Kusakabe, Temmu had two emperors and two empresses among his descendents. Empress Shōtoku was the last of these imperial rulers from his lineage.

Events of Temmu's life

Emperor Temmu is the first monarch of Japan, to whom the title "tenno" was assigned contemporaneously -- not only by later generations.

The first and only document on his life was "Nihonshoki". However, it was edited by his son, Prince Toneri, and the work was written during the reigns of his wife and children, causing one to suspect its accuracy and impartiality.

Temmu's father died while he was young, and he grew up mainly under the guidance of Empress Saimei. He was not expected to gain the throne, because his brother Tenji was the crown prince, being the older son of their mother, the reigning empress.

After Tenji ascended to the throne, Temmu was appointed crown prince. This was because Tenji had no appropriate heir among his sons at that time, as none of their mothers was of a rank high enough to give the necessary political support. Tenji was suspicious that Temmu might be so ambitious as to attempt to take the throne, and felt the necessity to strengthen his position through politically advantageous marriages.

Tenji was particularly active in improving the military institutions which had been established during the Taika reforms. [Asakawa, Kan'ichi. (1903). "The Early Institutional Life of Japan," p. 313.]

In his old age, Tenji had a son, Prince Ōtomo, by a low-ranking consort. Since Ōtomo had weak political support from his maternal relatives, the general wisdom of the time held that it was not a good idea for him to ascend to the throne, yet Tenji was obsessed with the idea.

In 671 Temmu felt himself to be in danger and volunteered to resign the office of crown prince to become a monk. He moved to the mountains in Yoshino, Yamato province (now in Yoshino, Nara), officially for reasons of seclusion. He took with him his sons and one of his wives, Princess Unonosarara, a daughter of Tenji. However, he left all his other consorts at the capital, Omikyō in Ōmi Province (today in Otsu, Shiga).

A year later, (in 672) Tenji died and Prince Ōtomo ascended to the throne as Emperor Kōbun. Temmu assembled an army and marched from Yoshino to the east, to attack Omikyō in a counterclockwise movement. They marched through Yamato, Iga and Mino provinces to threaten Omikyō in the adjacent province. The army of Temmu and the army of the young Emperor Kōbun fought in the northwestern part of Mino (nowadays Sekigahara, Gifu). Temmu's army won and Kōbun committed suicide (Jinshin incident).

:Post-Meiji chronology:* "In the 10th year of Tenji", in the 11th month (671): Emperor Tenji, in the 10th year of his reign (天智天皇10年), designated his son as his heir; and modern scholars construe this as meaning that the son would have received the succession (‘‘senso’’) after his father's death. Shortly thereafter, Emperor Kōbun is said to have acceded to the throne (‘‘sokui’’). [Brown, pp. 268-269; Varley, H. Paul. (1980). "Jinnō Shōtōki," 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.] ] If this understanding were valid, then it would it would follow:::* "In the 1st year of Kōbun" (672): Emperor Kōbun, in the 1st year of his reign (弘文天皇1年), died; and his uncle Ōaomi"-shinnō" received the succession (‘‘senso’’) after the death of his nephew. Shortly thereafter, Emperor Temmu could be said to have acceded to the throne (‘‘sokui’’). [Titsingh, pp. 55-58; Varley, p. 44.]

:Pre-Meiji chronology:Prior to the 19th century, Otomo was understood to have been a mere interloper, a pretender, an anomaly; and therefore, if that commonly-accepted understanding were to have been valid, then it would have followed::* "In the 10th year of Tenji", in the 11th month (671): Emperor Tenji, in the 10th year of his reign (天智天皇10年), died; and despite any military confrontations which ensued, the brother of the dead sovereign would have received the succession (‘‘senso’’); and after a time, it would have been understood that Emperor Temmu rightfully acceded to the throne (‘‘sokui’’).

As might be expected, Emperor Temmu was no less active than former-Emperor Tenji in improving the Taika military institutions. Temmu's reign brought many changes, such as: (1) a centralized war department was organized; (2) the defenses of the Inner Country near the Capital were strengthened; (3) forts and castles were built near Capital and in the western parts of Honshū-- and in Kyushu; (4) troops were reviewed; and all provincial governors were ordered to complete the collection of arms and to study tactics. [Asakawa, pp. 313-314.]

includes a poem written after the Jinshin conflict of 672 has ended::::Our Sovereign, a god,::: Has made his Imperial City [Emperor Temmu's capital was build on the plain of Kiymihara at Asuka.] :::Out of the stretch of swamps,:::Where chestnut horses snak:::To their bellies.:::::: -- Ōtomo Miyuki [Nippon Gakujutsu Shinkokai. (1969). "The Man'yōshū," p. 60.]

At Asuka, Emperor Temmu was enthroned. He elevated Unonosarara to be his empress. He reigned from this capital until his death in 686.


In "Nihonshoki" Temmu is described as a great innovator, but the neutrality of this description is doubtful, since the work was written under the control of his descendants. It seems clear, however, that Temmu strengthened the power of the emperor and appointed his sons to the highest offices of his government, reducing the traditional influence of powerful clans such as the Ōtomo and Soga. He renewed the system of "kabane", the hereditary titles of duty and rank, but with alterations, including the abolition of some titles. Omi and Muraji, the highest kabane in the earlier period, were reduced in value in the new hierarchy, which consisted of eight kinds of kabane. Each clan received a new kabane according to its closeness to the imperial bloodline and its loyalty to Temmu.

Temmu attempted to keep a balance of power among his sons. Once he traveled to Yoshino together with his sons, and there had them swear to cooperate and not to make war on each other. This turned out to be ineffective: one of his sons, Prince Ōtsu, was later executed for treason after the death of Temmu.

Temmu's foreign policy favored the Korean kingdom Silla, which took over the entire Korean peninsula in 676. After the unification of Korea by Silla, Temmu decided to break diplomatic relations with the Tang dynasty of China, evidently in order to keep on good terms with Silla.

Temmu used religious structures to increase the authority of the imperial throne. During his reign there was increased emphasis on the tie between the imperial household and the Grand Shrine of Ise (dedicated to the ancestor goddess of the emperors, Amaterasu) by sending his daughter Princess Oku as the newly established Saiō of the shrine, and several festivals were financed from the national budget. He also showed favor to Buddhism, and built several large temples and monasteries. On the other hand, all Buddhist priests, monks and nuns were controlled by the state, and no one was allowed to become a monk without the state's permission. This was aimed at preventing cults and stopping farmers from turning into priests.


"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.

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 Temmu's reign, this apex of the "Daijō-kan" included:
* "Sadaijin", Soga no Akae no Omi Brown, p. 269.]
* "Udaijin", Nakatomi no Kane no Muraji [see above] ]
* "Naidaijin"

Era of Temmu's reign

The years of Temmu's reign were marked by only one era name or "nengō" which was proclaimed in the final months of the emperor's life; and "Shuchō" ended with Temmu's death.Titsingh, p. 55-58.]
* "Shuchō" (686)

Non"-nengō" period

The early years of Temmu's reign are not linked by scholars to any era or "nengō". [see above] ] The Taika era innovation of naming time periods -- "nengō" -- was discontinued during these years, but it was reestablished briefly in 686. The use of "nengō" languished yet again after Temmu's death until Emperor Mommu reasserted an imperial right by proclaiming the commencement of Taihō in 701.
* See Japanese era name -- "Non-nengo periods"
* See Temmu (period) (673-686).

In this context, Brown and Ishida's translation of "Gukanshō" offers an explanation about the years of Empress Jitō's reign which muddies a sense of easy clarity in the pre-Taihō time-frame: ::"The eras that fell in this reign were: (1) the remaining seven years of Shuchō [(686+7=692?)] ; and (2) Taika, which was four years long [695-698] . (The first year of this era was "kinoto-hitsuji" [695] .) ...In the third year of the Taika era [697] , Empress Jitō yielded the throne to the Crown Prince." [Brown, p. 270.]

Wives and Children

Empress: Princess Uno-no-sarara (鸕野讃良皇女)(Empress Jitō) (645-703)
*Prince Kusakabe (草壁皇子) (662-689), Father of Emperor Mommu and Empress Genshō

"Hi": Princess Ōta (大田皇女) (644-667), daughter of Emperor Tenji
*Princess Ōku (大伯皇女) (661-701), Saiō in Ise Shrine(673-686)
*Prince Ōtsu (大津皇子) (663-686)

"Hi": Princess Ōe (大江皇女) (?-699)), daughter of Emperor Tenji
*Prince Naga (長皇子) (?-715)
*Prince Yuge (弓削皇子) (?-699)

"Hi": Princess Niitabe (新田部皇女) (?-699), daughter of Emperor Tenji
*Prince Toneri (舎人皇子) (676-735), Father of Emperor Junnin

"Bunin": Fujiwara no Hikami-no-iratsume (藤原氷上娘) (?-682), daughter of Fujiwara no Kamatari
*Princess Tajima (但馬皇女) (?-708), married to Prince Takechi

"Bunin": Soga no Ōnu-no-iratsume (蘇我大蕤娘) (?-724), daughter of Soga no Akae
*Prince Hozumi (穂積皇子) (?-715)
*Princess Ki (紀皇女) (?-?)
*Princess Takata (田形皇女) (?-728), Saiō in Ise Shrine(706-707), and married to Prince Mutobe later

"Bunin": Fujiwara no Ioe-no-iratsume (藤原五百重娘), daughter of Fujiwara no Kamatari
*Prince Niitabe (新田部皇子) (?-735)

Court lady: Nukata no Ōkimi (額田王)
*Princess Tōchi (十市皇女) (648?-678), married to Emperor Kōbun

Court lady: Munakata no Amako-no-iratsume (胸形尼子娘), daughter of Munakata-no-Kimi Tokuzen
*Prince Takechi (高市皇子) (654-696)

Court lady: Shishihito no Kajihime-no-iratsume (宍人梶媛娘), daughter of Shishihito-no-Omi Ōmaro
*Prince Osakabe (刑部皇子/忍壁皇子) (?-705)
*Princess Hatsusebe (泊瀬部皇女) (?-741), married to Prince Kawashima (son of Emperor Tenji) –
*Princess Taki (託基皇女/多紀皇女) (?-751), Saiō in Ise Shrine(698-before701), and married to Prince Shiki(son of Emperor Tenji) later
*Prince Shiki (磯城皇子) (?-?)


* Asakawa, Kan'ichi. (1903). "The Early Institutional Life of Japan." Tokyo: Shueisha [New York: Paragon Book Reprint Corp., 1963] .
* Brown, Delmer M. and Ichirō Ishida, eds. (1979). [Jien, c. 1220] , "Gukanshō (The Future and the Past, a translation and study of the Gukanshō, an interpretative history of Japan written in 1219)." Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-03460-0
* Nippon Gakujutsu Shinkokai (1969). "The Man'yōshū: The Nippon Gakujutsu Shinkokai Translation of One Thousand Poems." New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-08620-2
* Titsingh, Isaac, ed. (1834). [Siyun-sai Rin-siyo/Hayashi Gahō, 1652] , "Nipon o daï itsi ran; ou, Annales des empereurs du Japon, tr. par M. Isaac Titsingh avec l'aide de plusieurs interprètes attachés au comptoir hollandais de Nangasaki; ouvrage re., complété et cor. sur l'original japonais-chinois, accompagné de notes et précédé d'un Aperçu d'histoire mythologique du Japon, par M. J. Klaproth." Paris: Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland. [http://books.google.com/books?id=18oNAAAAIAAJ&dq=nipon+o+dai+itsi+ran ...Click link for digitized, full-text copy of this book (in French)]
* Varley, H. Paul , ed. (1980). [Kitabatake Chikafusa, 1359] , "Jinnō Shōtōki ("A Chronicle of Gods and Sovereigns: Jinnō Shōtōki of Kitabatake Chikafusa" translated by H. Paul Varley)." New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-04940-4

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