Emperor Ninkō

Ninkō Tennō (仁孝天皇) (March 16, 1800 - February 21, 1846) was the one hundred and twentieth (no. 120) emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.

He reigned from October 31, 1817 to February 21, 1846. His personal name was Ayahito (恵仁).

Disasters, which included famine, combined with corruption and increasing Western interference helped erode public confidence in the bakufu government. Emperor Ninkō attempted to revive certain court rituals and practices according to his father's wishes.

However, it is unknown what role, if any, the Emperor played in the turmoil that occurred during his reign. His family included fifteen children by various concubines, but only three of them lived to adulthood.

His fourth son, Imperial Prince Osahito, became the next emperor after his death in 1846. While political power at that time still resided with the Shōgun, the beginnings of Bakumatsu (end of feudal military rule) were at hand.

Biography of Emperor Ninkō

Sixth son of Emperor Kōkaku and his wife (chūgū), Imperial Princess Yoshiko (欣子内親王), also known as Shinkiyowa-in (新清和院).

Appointed as crown prince in 1809 he was crowned Emperor in 1817 after his father retired from the throne. Following the wishes of the retired emperor, he attempted to revive some court rituals.

He established the Gakushūsho (ancestor of the Gakushūin) for the Noble Court, outside the Imperial Palace.

In his reign he observed the beginning of the deterioration of the power of the bakufu, which would have more problems in the reign of Emperor Kōmei, his son and successor.

Emperor Ninkō's Reign

Prince Ayahito was enthroned as emperor on October 31, 1817, after his father retired from the throne. Following the wishes of his father, Retired Emperor Kokaku, he attempted to revive certain court rituals and practices.

These included, among other things, restoring the title tennō, which identified the Emperor. Among Ninkō's innovations was the establishment of Gakushūsho (the predecessor of Gakushūin) for the court nobility outside the Imperial Palace.

A major event during his reign was the Tenpō famine, which lasted from 1833 to 1837. The famine was most severe in northern Honshū and was caused by floods and cold weather. 

The Ninkō reign also saw some deterioration of Shōgun power. The Tenpō famine and other concurrent natural disasters hit hard and shook people's faith in the ruling Shōgun.

In 1837, Oshio Heihachiro led a revolt in Osaka against corrupt officials who refused to help feed the city's impoverished residents. That same year also saw the Morrison Incident, in which a U.S. merchant ship was driven off by coastal artillery.

While order was eventually restored, long-term resentment resonated with the commoners against the ruling government. However, it is unclear what role, if any, the Emperor played during this period of unrest.

Emperor Ninkō died on February 21, 1846 and 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 this Emperor's immediate imperial predecessors from Emperor Go-Mizunoo - Meishō, Go-Kōmyō, Go-Sai, Reigen, Higashiyama, Nakamikado, Sakuramachi, Momozono, Go-Sakuramachi, Go-Momozono and Kōkaku.

The shrine complex also encompasses the misasagi of Ninkō's immediate successor, Kōmei. Empress Dowager Yoshikō is also buried in this imperial mausoleum complex.

Eras of Emperor Ninkō reign

  • Bunka (1804-1818)
  • Bunsei (1818-1830)
  • Tenpō (1830-1844)
  • Kōka (1844-1848)

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

  • Kampaku, Ichijō Tadayoshi, 1814-1823.
  • Kampaku, Takatsukasa Masamichi, 1823-1856
  • Sadaijin
  • Udaijin
  • Naidaijin
  • Dainagon

Emperor Ninkō Genealogy

Emperor Ninkō's family included 7 sons and 8 daughters by various concubines, but only the future emperor Komei (Komei-tennō), Princess Sumiko (Sumiko-naishinnō) and Princess Chikako (Chikako-naishinnō) survived beyond infancy.