Go-Daigo Tennō (後醍醐天皇 November 26, 1288 - September 19, 1339) was the 96th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession. Post-Meiji historians consider his reign to span the years 1318 and 1339;
however, pre-Meiji historical records consider him to have reigned between 1318 and 1332, as he had been deposed by the Kamakura shogunate.
Pre-Meiji historians consider Emperor Go-Daigo to have ruled as Northern Pretender between the years 1336 and 1339.
Before he was ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne, his personal name (imina) was Imperial Prince Takeharu (尊治親王 Takeharu-shinnō)
He was the second son of Go-Uda Tennō, belonged to the Daikakuji-tō branch of the Imperial Family.
Go-Daigo Tennō assumed the throne at the age of 29, following the abdication of Hanazono Tennō, his third cousin; in 1318.
In 1324, the Shōchū Incident occurs, a failed plot to overthrow the Kamakura Shogunate that was planned by Emperor Go-Daigo himself, but was discovered in time by the Rokuhara Tandai group.
Again in 1331, the Genkō Incident occurs, another plot by Emperor Go-Daigo that was discovered after the betrayal of a close ally, Yoshisa Sadafusa. Emperor Go-Daigo fled with the Sacred Treasures and took refuge in Kasagiyama Castle (in the present-day town of Kasagi, Kyoto Prefecture) and raised an army, but the castle fell to the shogunate army in 1332.
The shogunate put Emperor Kōgon on the throne, and exiled Emperor Go-Daigo to Oki Province (in present-day Shimane Prefecture), the same place where Emperor Go-Toba was exiled in 1221.
In 1333, Go-Daigo Tennō escapes from the Oki Islands with the help of Nawa Nagatoshi and his family, raised an army on Funagami Mountain in Hōki Province (in the present-day town of Kotoura, Tottori Prefecture).
Ashikaga Takauji, who works for the shogunate, allied with the Emperor and captured the Rokuhara Tandai group. Also, Nitta Yoshisada, who had created an army in the east, manages to defeat the Hōjō clan and in the process destroy the shogunate.
Emperor Go-Daigo returns to Kyoto and resumes the throne from Emperor Kōgon. This event begins the Kenmu Restoration.
The Restoration was characterized by a return to the old form of government prior to the shoguanto, the emperor decided to put in place a series of dictatorial measures, similar to the Emperor of China.
He wanted to imitate the Chinese style of government in all its forms, instituting reforms, litigation over land rights, bounties, and the exclusion of the samurai class from the political order; however, these measures began to wear thin.
In 1335, Ashikaga Takauji, who had traveled to eastern Japan to suppress a rebellion without an imperial order, came out against the Restoration. Emperor Go-Daigo ordered Nitta Yoshisada to stop Ashikaga, but Ashikaga defeated him at the Battle of Takenoshita. Subsequently, Kusunoki Masashige and Kitabake Akiie, who were loyal to the emperor, destroy Ashikaga's army.
However, in 1336, Ashikaga Takauji travels to Kyoto with his restructured army and threatens to take the city.
Kusunoki proposed a reconciliation between Ashikaga and Emperor Go-Daigo, but the emperor opposed the move; instead, he sent Kusunoki and Nitta with the aim of destroying Ashikaga.
The imperial forces were defeated at the Battle of Minatogawa.
When Ashikaga entered Kyoto, the emperor resisted and then fled to Mount Hiei, in view of a reconciliation he sent the Sacred Treasures to Ashikaga.
Takauji decided to put Emperor Kōmyō, of the Jimyōin-tō branch, to the throne, and ends the Kenmu Restoration and initiates the Ashikaga shogunate.
Go-Daigo Tennō escaped from Kyoto and took with him the real Sacred Treasures, as those delivered to Ashikaga were forgeries.
The Southern Court was established in the mountains of Yoshino, and the Period of the Northern and Southern Courts began, where the Northern Dynasty established in Kyoto and the Southern Dynasty in Yoshino, would dispute for the power of the country.
Subsequently, Go-Daigo Tennō would order his sons and Nitta Yoshisada to the Hokuriku region in order to repel the power of the Northern Court. In 1339, Go-Daigo Tennō abdicates at the age of 51 in favor of his son, Go-Murakami Tennō.
Shortly thereafter, in the same year, he dies of an unknown illness. His Imperial Tomb is located in Yoshino.
Emperor Go-Daigo appears in Sophia McDougall's alternate history novel Romanitas.