Empress Meishō

Empress Meishō
Emperor of Japan
Reign December 22, 1629-November 14, 1643
Born January 9, 1624
Died December 4, 1696 (aged 72)
Buried Tsukinowa no misasagi (Kyoto)
Predecessor Go-Mizunoo
Successor Kōmyō

Empress Meishō (明正天皇 Meishō-tennō?, January 9, 1624 – December 4, 1696) was the 109th emperor of Japan,[1] according to the traditional order of succession.[2]

Meishō's reign spanned the years from 1629 to 1643.[3]

In the history of Japan, Meishō was the seventh of eight women to become empress regnant. The six female monarchs who reigned before Meishō-tennō were (a) Suiko, (b) Kōgyoku/Saimei, (c) Jitō, (d)Gemmei, (e) Genshō, and (f) Kōken/Shōtoku. The sole woman sovereign to reign after Meishō was (g) Go-Sakuramachi.



Before Meishō's accession to the Chrysanthemum Throne, her personal name (her imina) was Oki-ko (興子?);[4] 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.[5]

Meishō lived with in the Dairi of the Heian Palace. She had no children of her own.

Her name was derived by combining the names of two previous empresses, Empress Gemmei (707–715) and her daughter Empress Genshō (715–724).

Events of Meishō's life

Okiko-naishinnō became empress following the abdication of her emperor-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).[6] 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.

  • January 9, 1624: The birth of an Imperial princess who will become known by the posthumous name of Meishō-tennō.[7]
  • 1627 (Kan'ei 6): The "Purple Clothes Incident" (紫衣事件 shi-e jiken?): The Emperor 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 making the bestowing of the garments invalid.
  • December 22, 1629 (Kan'ei 6, 8th day of the 11th month): The emperor renounced the throne in favor of his daughter.[8] The reign of the new empress was understood to have begun.[7] She was aged 7; and she would grow to become the first woman to occupy the throne since Empress Shōtoku, the 48th sovereign who died in 770.[2]
  • 1633 (Kan'ei 10, 20th day of the 1st month): There was an earthquake in Odawara in Sagami province.[8]
  • 1634 (Kanei 11): Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu visited Miyako;[8] 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 the King of Korea is received in Miyako.[8]
  • 1637 (Kanei 14): There is a major Christian rebellion in Arima and Shimabara; and shogunal forces are sent to quell the disturbance.[8]
  • 1638 (Kanei 15): The Arima and Shimabara revolt is crushed; and 37,000 of the rebels are killed. The Christian religion is extirpated in Japan.[8]
  • 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.[8]
  • 1641 (Kanei 18): Meisho's half brother, Prince Tsuguhito, was named Crown Prince.[2]
  • 1643 (Kanei 203): An ambassador from the King of Korea arrived in Japan.[9]
  • 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;[7] and the succession (senso) was received by her brother.[10]
  • 1643 (Kanei 20, 23rd day of the 4th month): Emperor Go-Komyō is said to have acceded to the throne (sokui).[10]

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.[11] Empress Gemmei, who was followed on the throne by her daughter, Empress Gensho, remains the sole exception to this conventional argument.

  • December 4, 1696: The former empress died at age 74.[7]

The kami of this empress is venerated in the imperial mausoleum at Tsukinowa 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.[12]


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.

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

The years of Meishō's reign are encompassed within one era name or nengō.[8]


  1. ^ Imperial Household Agency (Kunaichō): 明正天皇 (108)
  2. ^ a b c d Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1959). The Imperial House of Japan, pp. 115.
  3. ^ Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Annales des empereurs du japon, pp. 411-412.
  4. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, p. 9.
  5. ^ NHK has announced that its 2011 Taiga drama will be named Gō: Himetachi no Sengoku; and it will be based on the life of Oeyo, who was the mother of Tokugwa Masako -- see 大河ドラマ 第50 作 江(ごう) 姫たちの戦国; "Atsuhime"-Autorin für NHKs 2011er Taiga-Drama gewählt (citing Tokyograph), J-Dorama.
  6. ^ 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 -- see Varley, H. Paul. (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki, p. 44.
  7. ^ a b c d Meyer, Eva-Maria. (1999). Japans Kaiserhof in der Edo-Zeit, p. 186.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i Titsingh, p. 411.
  9. ^ Titsingh, p. 412.
  10. ^ a b Titsingh, p. 412; Varley, p. 44.
  11. ^ "Life in the Cloudy Imperial Fishbowl," Japan Times. March 27, 2007.
  12. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, p. 423.


See also

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Emperor Go-Mizunoo
Empress of Japan:

Succeeded by
Emperor Go-Kōmyō

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