Emperor Higashiyama

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Emperor of Japan
Emperor Higashiyama.jpg
Reign 1687–1709
Predecessor Reigen
Successor Nakamikado
Born October 21, 1675
Died January 16, 1710 (aged 34)
Burial Tsukinowa no misasagi (Kyoto)
Spouse Princess Yukiko
Father Reigen
Higashiyama also refers to a ward of Kyoto City.

Emperor Higashiyama (東山天皇 Higashiyama-tennō?, October 21, 1675 – January 16, 1710) was the 113th emperor of Japan,[1] according to the traditional order of succession.[2]

Higashiyama's reign spanned the years from 1687 through 1709[3] of what are generally considered to be the Golden Age of the Edo Period. The previous hundred years of peace and seclusion in Japan had created relative economic stability. The arts and architecture flourished.


Before Higashiyama's ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne, his personal name (imina) was Asahito (朝仁?) or Tomohito[4] and his pre-accession title was Go-no-miya (五宮)

Higasiyama was the fifth son of Emperor Reigen.

Higashiyama's Imperial family lived with him in the Dairi of the Heian Palace. This family included at least 10 children.

  • Empress: Princess Yukiko (幸子女王) (Empress Dowager Shōshū, 承秋門院), daughter of Arisugawa-no-miya Yukihito
    • First daughter: Imperial Princess Akiko (秋子内親王)
  • Lady-in-waiting: Kushige Yoshiko (櫛笥賀子) (Empress Dowager Shin-syuken, 新崇賢門院)
    • First son: Ichi-no-miya (一宮)
    • Second son: Ni-no-miya (二宮)
    • Fourth son: Hisa-no-miya (寿宮)
    • Second daughter: Tomi-no-miya (福宮)
    • Fifth son: Imperial Prince Yasuhito (慶仁親王) (Emperor Nakamikado)
    • Sixth son: Imperial Prince Kan'in-no-miya Naohito (閑院宮直仁親王) – First Kan'in-no-miya
  • Lady-in-waiting: Reizei Tsuneko (冷泉経子) (Buddhist priestess)
    • Third son: Prince Kōkan (公寛法親王) (Buddhist priest)
  • Handmaid (?): Daughter of Takatsuji (Sugawara) Nagakazu (高辻(菅原)長量)
    • Third daughter: Kōmyōjyō'in-no-miya (光明定院宮)
    • Fourth daughter: Princess Syōsyuku (聖祝女王)

Events of Higashiyama's life

Prince Tomohito was the son of a secondary consort, Fujiwara no Muneko; but he was adopted by the Chugu Fusa-ko.[5]

  • 1682 (Tenna 3): Tomohito-shinnō is proclaimed Crown Prince; and a ceremonial investiture is held (after an abeyance of over 300 years).[5]
  • March 26, 1685 (Jōkyō 2, 22nd day of the 2nd month): Former-Emperor Go-Sai died; and a great comet was observed crossing the night sky.[6]

In 1687, he acceded to the throne after the abdication of Emperor Reigen. On the 16th day of the 11th month of that year, he revived the Daijōsai (大嘗祭), the first ceremonial offering of rice by a newly enthroned Emperor.

Initially, Emperor Reigen continued to rule in Higashiyama's name, which caused much friction with the Bakufu. However, Higashiyama's gentle character helped to improve relations with the Bakufu, and imperial property was increased, and repairs were carried out on Imperial mausoleums.

  • May 2, 1687 (Jōkyō 4, 21st day of the 3rd month): Emperor Reigen abdicated, which meant that his son received the succession (senso). Shortly thereafter, Emperor Higashiyama formally acceded to the throne (sokui).[7] After abdication, Reigen's new home was called the Sentō-gosho (the palace for an ex-Emperor).[8]
  • December 20, 1688 (Jōkyō 4, on the 16th day of the 11th month): The esoteric Daijō-sai ceremony, having been in abeyance since the time of Emperor Go-Kashiwabara, a period spanning the reigns of nine emperors, was revived because of the shogunate's insistence.[9] This Shinto ritual is performed only once by the emperor in the period of the enthronement ceremonies.[10]
  • September 16, 1689 (Genroku 2): German physician Engelbert Kaempfer arrives at Dejima for the first time. Bakufu policy in this era was designed to marginalize the influence of foreigners; and Kaempfer had to present himself as "Dutch" in dealings with the Japanese. Regardless of this minor subterfuge, an unintended and opposite consequence of sakoku was to enhance the value and significance of a very small number of thoughtful observers like Kaempfer, whose writings document what he learned or discovered first-hand. Kaempfer's published accounts and unpublished writings provided a unique and useful perspective for Orientalists and Japanologists in the 19th century; and his work continues to be rigorously examined by modern researchers today.[12]
  • 1695 (Genroku 8, 8th month): Minting begun of Genroku coinage. The shogunate placed the Japanese character gen (元) on the obverse of copper coins, the same character used today in China for the yuan. There is no connection between those uses, however.[6]
  • 1695 (Genroku 8, 11th month): First kennel is established for stray dogs in Edo. In this context, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi comes to be nicknamed the "Dog Shogun" (いぬくぼう 犬公方 Inu-kubō?).
  • 1697 (Genroku 10): The fourth official map of Japan was made in this year, but it was considered to be inferior to the previous one—which had been ordered in 1605 (Shōhō 1) and completed in 1639 (Kan'ei 16). This Genroku map was corrected in 1719 (Kyōhō 4) by the mathematician Tatebe Katahiro (1644–1739), using high mountain peaks as points of reference, and was drawn to a scale of 1:21,600.[13]
  • 1697 (Genroku 10): Great fire in Edo.[6]
  • 1697 (Genroku 11): Another great fire in Edo. A new hall is constructed inside the enclosure of the Edo temple of Kan'ei-ji (which is also known as Tōeizan Kan’ei-ji or "Hiei-san of the east" after the principal temple of the Tendai Buddhist sect—that is to say, after the temple of Enryaku-ji at Mount Hiei near to Heian-kyo).[6]
  • 1701 (Genroku 13): when the Akō Incident took place, due to the bloodshed by Matsuno Ōroku, Emperor Higashiyama nearly withdrew the imperial will.
  • 1703 (Genroku 16, 28th day of the 11th month): The Great Genroku earthquake shook Edo and parts of the shogun's castle collapsed.[14] The following day, a vast fire spread throughout the city.[6] Parts of Honshū's coast were battered by tsunami, and 200,000 people were either killed or injured.[14]
  • October 28, 1707 (Hōei 4, 14th day of the 10th month): 1707 Hōei earthquake. The city of Osaka suffers tremendously because of a very violent earthquake.[6]
  • 1708 (Hōei 5): The shogunate introduces new copper coins into circulation; and each coin is marked with the Hōei nengō name (Hōei Tsubo).[15]
  • 1708 (Hōei 5, 8th day of the 3rd month): There was a great fire in Heian-kyō.[15]
  • 1709 (Hōei 6): Shogun Tsunayoshi appoints commission to repair and restore Imperial mausoleums.[16]
  • 1709 (Hōei 6, 10th day of the 1st month): The wife of Shogun Tsunayoshi killed him with a knife, and then she stabbed herself in the heart. Tsunayoshi's homosexual interests were aroused by the son of the daimyo of Kai; and his plans to adopt this Tokugawa youth as his successor were known by a few inside Edo castle. The shogun's wife, who was also a daughter of the emperor, foresaw that this choice of a successor would be very poorly received by many; and she feared that it might result in a disastrous civil war. The shogun's wife did everything she could to dissuade Tsunayoshi from continuing with such potentially divisive and dangerous plans; and when it became clear that her persuasive arguments were in vain, she resolutely sacrificed herself for the good of the country—she killed her husband and then killed herself.[15]
  • July 27, 1709 (Hōei 6, 21st day of the 6th month): Emperor Higashiyama abdicated and the throne passed to his son.[17]
  • January 16, 1710 (Hōei 6, 17th day of the 12th month): Higashiyama died.[15]

Higashiyama is among those enshrined in the Imperial mausoleum, Tsukinowa no misasagi, at Sennyū-ji in Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto. Also enshrined in this location are this emperor's immediate Imperial predecessors since Emperor Go-MizunooMeishō, Go-Kōmyō, Go-Sai and Reigen. Higashiyama's immediate Imperial successors, including Nakamikado, Sakuramachi, Momozono, Go-Sakuramachi and Go-Momozono, are enshrined here as well.[18]


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

Eras of Higashiyama's reign

The years of Higashiyama's reign are more specifically identified by more than one era name or nengō.[6]

Fictional Portrayals

  • Higashiyama appears under the name of Tomohito in the novel "The Samurai's Wife" by author Laura Joh Rowland. In the novel, detective Sano Ichiro is sent to investigate the murder of an important official in the Imperial Court. Tomohito is labelled as a suspect, and is portrayed as a childish oaf at the start of the novel. He is later revealed to be the instigator behind a coming revolution against the Tokugawa regime, so he can seize control of Japan himself. However, his plan fails, and he is once again placed in the Imperial Palace, where he seems to have accepted his fate to never leave the palace.


Japanese Imperial kamon — a stylized chrysanthemum blossom
  1. Imperial Household Agency (Kunaichō): 東山天皇 (113)
  2. Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1959). The Imperial House of Japan, pp. 117–118.
  3. Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Annales des empereurs du japon, pp. 415–416.
  4. Ponsonby-Fane, Imperial House, p. 10.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Ponsonby-Fane, Imperial House, p. 117.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 Titsingh, p. 415.
  7. Titsingh, p. 415; Varley, H. Paul. (1959). A Chronicle of Gods and Sovereigns: Jinnō Shōtōki, p. 44; n.b., 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.
  8. Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1956). Kyoto: The Old Capital of Japan, 794–1869, p. 342.
  9. Ponsonby-Fane, Old Capital, p. 318.
  10. Bock, Felicia G. (1990). "The Great Feast of the Enthronement". Monumenta Nipponica. 45 (1): 27–38.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Smith, Robert et al. (2004). Japanese Culture: Its Development And Characteristics, p. 28.
  12. Screech, T. (2006). Secret Memoirs of the Shoguns, p. 73.
  13. Traganeou, Jilly. (2004). The Tokaido Road: Traveling and Representation in Edo and Meiji Japan, p. 230.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Hammer, Joshua. (2006). Yokohama Burning, p. 63.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 15.5 Titsingh, p. 416.
  16. Ponsonby-Fane, Imperial House, p. 118.
  17. Meyer, Eva-Maria. (1999). Japans Kaiserhof in der Edo-Zeit, pp. 45–46.
  18. Ponsonby-Fane, Imperial House, p. 423.


See also

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Emperor Reigen
Emperor of Japan:

Succeeded by
Emperor Nakamikado