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Emperor Kōkaku

Emperor Kōkaku

Kōkaku Tennō (光格天皇) (September 23, 1771 - December 11, 1840) was the 119th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession. He reigned from 1779 to 1817.

His name was originally Morohito (師仁), but was later changed to Tomohito (兼仁). His princely title before ascending the throne was Sachi-no-miya (祐宮).

Emperor Kōkaku Genealogy

He was the sixth son of Prince Kan'in-no-miya Sukehito (閑院宮典仁), grandson of Higashiyama Tennō. The day before his enthronement, the dying Emperor Go-Momozono, his second cousin, officially adopted him as his son.

Facts about Emperor Kōkaku's life

He, as the youngest son of a collateral imperial branch, the house of Kan'in, was expected to dedicate himself to the priesthood at the temple of Shuugoin.

However, in 1779, the dying Emperor Go-Momozono hastily adopted him on his deathbed, even though he was not a shinnō (imperial prince).

Genealogically, he is the founder of the imperial dynastic branch currently on the throne. Emperor Kōkaku is thus a direct ancestor of all successive Emperors of Japan, up to the current monarch, Naruhito.

Emperor Kōkaku's Reign

During Kōkaku's reign, the Imperial Court regained authority through proposing a program of aid to the bakufu at the time of the Great Tenmei Famine (1782-1788) and receiving information about negotiations with Russia over disputes in the north, and so on.

The bakufu gave his father the honorary title of Enclaved Emperor (Daijō Tennō, 太上天皇). Kōkaku attempted to reassert some of the imperial authority over the Shōgun (or bakufu).

He undertook this by first implementing a relief program during the great Tenmei famine, which not only undermines the effectiveness of the bakufu in caring for its subjects, but also focuses the attention of the subjects on the imperial household.

He also took an active interest in foreign affairs; keeping informed about the border dispute with Russia to the north, as well as keeping abreast of knowledge about foreign currencies, both Chinese and European.

The new era name of Tenmei (meaning "Dawn") was created to mark the enthronement of the new Emperor. The previous era ended and the new era began on An'ei 11, the second day of the fourth month.

In his first year of reign, Kōkaku was instrumental in reviving ancient ceremonies associated with the old Imperial Court, as well as those held at the shrines of Iwashimizu and Kamono.

Kutsuki Masatsuna (1750-1802), also known as Kutsuki Oki-no kami Minamoto-no Masatsuna, hereditary, presented to the emperor in 1782 an analysis of silver coinage in China and Japan "Sin sen sen pou (Sin tchuan phou)." daimyōs of Oki and Ōmi with holdings in Tanba and Fukuchiyama.

Masatsuna published Seiyō senpu (Notes on Western Coins) five years later, with plates showing European and colonial currency. Monetary reforms throughout the country occurred after the Meiji Restoration when a new system was adopted around the Japanese yen.

In 1786, the former Empress Go-Sakuramachi betrothed Go-Momozono's only daughter, Princess Yoshiko, to the new emperor. Yoshiko formally became consort empress to Emperor Kōkaku at the age of 15.

Kansei Reforms

The Kansei Reforms (寛 政 の 改革, Kansei no kaikaku) were a series of reactionary policy changes and edicts intended to cure a number of perceived problems that had developed in the mid-18th century in the Tokugawa shogunate.

Kansei refers to the name of one of the Kokaku eras, spanning the years from 1789 to 1801. In the end, the shogunate's interventions were only partially successful.

Intervening factors such as famine, floods, and other disasters exacerbated some of the conditions the shōgun intended to improve.

Matsudaira Sadanobu (1759-1829) was appointed chief shōgun councilor (rōjū) in the summer of 1787; and early the following year, he became regent to the eleventh shōgun, Tokugawa Ienari.

As the chief administrative decision-maker in the bakufu hierarchy, he was in a position to bring about radical change; and his initial actions represented an aggressive break with the recent past.

Sadanobu's efforts focused on strengthening the government by reversing many of the policies and practices that had become commonplace under the regime of the previous shōgun, Tokugawa Ieharu.

These reform policies could be interpreted as a reactionary response to the excesses of his predecessor rōjū, Tanuma Okitsugu (1719-1788).

The result was that the liberalizing reforms initiated by Tanuma within the bakufu and the relaxation of sakoku (Japan's "closed door" policy of strict control of foreign merchants) were reversed or blocked.

Educational policy was changed through the Kansei Edict (寛 政 異 学 の 禁 kansei igaku no kin) of 1790 that imposed the teaching of Zhu Xi's Neo-Confucianism as the official Confucian philosophy of Japan.

The decree banned certain publications and mandated strict observance of Neo-Confucian doctrine, especially with respect to the official Hayashi school curriculum.

This reform movement was accompanied by three others during the Edo period: the Kyōhō reforms (1716-1736), the Tenpō reforms of the 1830s, and the Keiō Reforms (1866-1867).

Abdication and Death of Emperor Kōkaku

He had much talent and enthusiasm for scholarship, reestablishing festivals at the shrines of Iwashimizu and Kamono. He worked hard to re-establish the ceremonies surrounding the Imperial Court. In 1817 he abdicated in favor of his son, Emperor Ninkō.

Because his reign followed an era in which most emperors died young or were forced to abdicate, Kōkaku was the first Japanese monarch to remain on the throne beyond the age of 40 since the abdication of Emperor Ōgimachi in 1586.

After Kōkaku's death in 1840, he was enshrined in the imperial mausoleum, Nochi no Tsukinowa no Higashiyama no misasagi (後 月 輪 東山 陵), which is located at Sennyū-ji in Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto.

Also enshrined in Tsuki no wa no misasagi, at Sennyū-ji are the immediate imperial predecessors of this Emperor, from Emperor Go-Mizunoo, Meishō, Go-Kōmyō, Go-Sai, Reigen, Higashiyama, Nakamikado, Sakuramachi, Momozono, Go-Sakuramachi and Go -Momozono.

This mausoleum complex also includes misasagi for Kōkaku's immediate successors Ninkō and Kōmei. Empress Dowager Yoshikō is also buried in this imperial mausoleum complex.

Eras of Emperor Kōkaku's reign

He reigned during the following eras:

  • An'ei (1772-1781)
  • Tenmei (1781-1789)
  • Kansei (1789-1801)
  • Kyōwa (1801-1804)
  • Bunka (1804-1818)