Go-Toba Tennō (後鳥羽天皇 Go-Toba-tennō, August 6, 1180 - March 28, 1239) was the 82nd emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.
He reigned between the years 1183 and 1198. Before his ascension to the "Chrysanthemum Throne," his personal name (imina) was Imperial Prince Takahira (尊成親王 Takahira-shinnō).
He was also known as Imperial Prince Takanari.
He was the fourth son of Takakura Tennō and grandson of Go-Shirakawa Tennō.
His mother was Bōmon Shōkushi (坊門稙子) (Empress Dowager Shichijō-in), daughter of Bōmon Nobutaka, of the Fujiwara clan.
In 1183, during the Genpei Wars, Emperor Antoku, who was backed by the Taira clan, flees the imperial capital after the advance of the Minamoto clan, rivals of the Taira.
In the absence of Emperor Antoku, the Enclaved Emperor Go-Shirakawa performed the rite of succession to Emperor Go-Toba, who was three years old.
The Minamoto clan recognized the succession to the throne, but the imperial royalty was held by Emperor Antoku; the first time in history that the transmission of the imperial treasures from one monarch to his successor was omitted.
In fact, until the end of the war in 1185, two reigning emperors existed at the same time: Emperor Antoku (recognized by the Taira) and Emperor Go-Toba (recognized by the Minamoto).
This conflict ended with the suicide of Emperor Antoku in that year.
In 1192 Emperor Go-Shirakawa died and the first shogunate (samurai government) was established by Minamoto no Yoritomo, displacing the emperor as a puppet ruler.
Despite his limitations in political power, Emperor Go-Toba excelled as a calligrapher, painter, musician, poet, and publisher.
In 1198 the shōgun Yoritomo forces the emperor to abdicate the throne, when he was barely eighteen years old.
Two of the emperor's sons, Emperor Tsuchimikado and Emperor Juntoku succeeded him to the throne, but they ruled as children and were also forced to abdicate in their maturity.
Even so, Emperor Go-Toba retained power as a cloistered emperor between 1198 and 1221, albeit with more limitations than his Heian-era predecessors.
During this period he decreed that followers of the Jodo Shu sect of Kyoto, led by Honen, would be expelled and in some cases executed.
This stemmed from criticism from the clergy who were fearful of the popularity of the new sect, but the cloistered Emperor Go-Toba personally ordered the decree after learning that two of his ladies-in-waiting had converted to the sect without his consent.
In 1221, the Kamakura Shogunate placed Emperor Go-Toba's grandson, Emperor Chūkyō, on the throne at only three years of age; but Emperor Go-Toba raised a rebellion that sought the overthrow of the shogunate and the restoration of imperial power.
This conflict, known as the Jōkyū War, where the samurai of Kyoto, who were against the shogunate, supported the emperor;
but the samurai of the Kanto region supported the shogunate, with the backing of Hōjō Masako, Yoritomo's widow, who persuaded the warriors, that if they were defeated they would lose their privileges and that the Imperial Court and the kuge would retake those privileges.
The rebellion was put down and the cloistered Emperor Go-Toba is exiled to the Oki Islands, some of his sons were also exiled elsewhere, and Emperor Chūkyō was dethroned within months of assuming the throne, in favor of Emperor Go-Horikawa, Emperor Go-Toba's nephew.
He spent his last eighteen years in exile and was buried on those islands; although part of his body was later buried in Ohara, Kyoto.
His major contribution was the Shinkokinshū (The New Anthology of Ancient and Modern Waka), which is one of the three most important anthologies of Japanese poetry, along with the Man'yoshu and the Kokinshu.
He ordered its creation and served on the research committee as editor. He reinstated the Waka Office and compiled the edition there, the first version was compiled in 1204 although new editions were made until 1216.
He held several utakai (歌会, "waka parties") and utaawase (歌合わせ, "waka contests"); he was also a critic of the waka poets of his time.
During his exile, he continued to compile hundreds of waka, new anthologies and a personal edition of the Shinkokinshū during the eighteen years of exile; adding some 400 new waka over the previous edition.
Although he stated that his personal edition would be the authentic one, today the 1216 edition is considered the authentic one and the others as variants. The personal edition he produced in exile is called Oki-bon Shinkokinshū.
One of his 31-syllable poems was chosen by Fujiwara no Teika as number 99 in the poetic anthology Hyakunin Isshu.
Kugyō (公卿) is the collective term for the most powerful personages directly linked to the service of the emperor in pre-Meiji Restoration Japan.
They were hereditary courtiers whose experience and prestige had brought them to the top of the courtly ladder