Emperor Buretsu

Emperor Buretsu

Buretsu (Buretsu Tennō (武烈天皇), who reigned under the name Ohatsuse no Wakasazaki no Mikoto (小泊瀬稚鷦鷯尊); 489 - Sakurai, January 7, 507) was the 25th emperor of Japan according to the traditional succession list.

No certain date can be assigned to his reign, but it is believed that he ruled in the years between the 5th and 6th centuries.


Events and dates about him are recorded in the Annals of Japan (Nihongi or Nihonshoki 日本紀) and the Chronicles of Ancient Events (Kojiki 古事記), texts that were compiled in the early 8th century.

According to some historiographers, he can be considered the last emperor of the first dynasty that ruled Japan.

He died without having had any children, and his successor, Keitai, although having among his ancestors the emperor Ōjin, had become the ruler of another kingdom and was considered the progenitor of the new dynasty.

Emperor Buretsu's Biography

He was the only son of Emperor Ninken and Kasuga no Ōiratsume no Kōgō (春日大郎皇后). His name was Ohatsuse no Wakasazaki no Mikoto (小泊瀬稚鷦鷯尊). He was named heir to the throne in the seventh year of his father's reign.

He distinguished himself by countless acts of heinous cruelty and, before ascending to the throne, he used to preside over court trials, imposing punishments of unprecedented ferocity, which he often carried out personally.

In the Nihonshoki, Buratsu is compared to the fierce Chinese emperor Di Xin of the Shang dynasty, but the Kojiki does not mention this.

There are several theories about this difference, some claiming that attributing insane gestures to him was done to praise his successor, Emperor Keitai, and justify the circumstances by which the latter seized the throne.

In school history books published before and during World War II, some of the information about Buretsu was intentionally omitted.

In 498, at the death of his father, Emperor Ninken, the "great minister" (Omi) Heguri no Matori no Omi tried to seize the throne, and it was thanks to the militia of the court dignitary Otomo no Kanamura no Muraji that the usurpation was foiled.

Heguri was burned alive in his home, and Buretsu was able to ascend the throne in the twelfth month of the eleventh year of his father's reign.

He did not reign with the current imperial title of "heavenly ruler" (tennō 天皇), which according to much of historiography was introduced for the reign of Emperor Tenmu.

His title was "great king who rules all that is under the sky" (Sumeramikoto or Amenoshita Shiroshimesu Ōkimi 治天下大王), or even "great king of Yamato" (ヤマト大王/大君).

The clans of the ancient province of Yamato, which corresponds to the current prefecture of Nara, formed the kingdom that, in the Kofun period (250-538), expanded and conquered most of the territories of the islands of Honshū, Kyūshū and Shikoku.

Following these conquests, the rulers of Yamato were given the title of "great king" (Ōkimi 大王) of Yamato. It was not until the 7th century that the "great kingdom" was called an empire, and the title of emperor was extended to all previous rulers of the dynasty.

When he ascended the throne, Buretsu moved the court to the new palace Hatsuse no Namiki in Sakurai, a few kilometers from the previous imperial palace, which was located in Tenri, according to the tradition that saw it as a bad omen for a Japanese emperor to reside in the same palace as his deceased predecessor.

In 499, a few months after settling on the throne of Yamato, Buretsu married Kasuga no Iratsume, who became empress consort but failed to give him any heirs.

According to the Nihongi, the only events to remember during his reign are related to his episodes of madness and misrule. At court he promoted frequent collective drunkenness and loved to surround himself with every luxury, but his people suffered from cold and starvation.

Buretsu died in his imperial palace on the eighth day of the twelfth month of the eighth year of his reign, in 507.

He is still revered in the Kataoka no Iwatsuki no oka no kita no misasagi mausoleum dedicated to him, which is located in Nara.