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Seinei (寧天皇, Seinei Tennō, or in his time Shiraka no Ōkimi; Sakurai, c. 457 - Sakurai, c. 484) was the twenty-second 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 towards the end of the fifth century.
Events and dates about him are recorded in the Annals of Japan (Nihongi 日本紀) and the Chronicles of Ancient Events (Kojiki 古事記), texts that were compiled in the early 8th century.
Emperor Seinei at birth had the name of Prince Shiraka (白髪皇子 - white hair), for a possible case of albinism. He was the third son of his predecessor, Yūryaku, and his mother was one of the emperor's consorts, Kazuraki no Kara.
He was named heir to the throne in 478. A few months after his father's death, after the imperial generals had suppressed a revolt aimed at usurping the throne by his half-brother, Prince Hoshikawa, Shiraka became the new ruler. He did not reign with his father.
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 also "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.
According to the Kojiki, Seinei ruled from the fifteenth day of the first month of 480 until his death in the first month of 484.
He reigned under the title of great king (Ōkimi) Shiraka. Seinei was the name assigned to him posthumously in a later era.
When he ascended the throne, he moved the court to the new palace Iware no Mikakuri, which he had built in Sakurai, the same city where the palace of Yūryaku had been located, 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. He was not able to do so.
After a few months, he realized that he could not have children and, worried about his succession, had the emperor Richū's two nephews, Princes Oke and Woke, who had fled the court after their father was had killed by Yūryaku many years earlier, tracked down.
The two nobles, who had taken refuge in Akashi, in the province of Harima, were found by Seinei's emissaries in 482, brought to court, and adopted as heirs. The emperor's emissaries found the two nobles in 482.
In 484 the emperor died, and his designated heir to the throne, Prince Oke, absented himself from the capital, leaving the regency of the state to his sister Iidoyo no Ao no Mikoto.
This died after about a year, and Oke returned to the capital to ascend the throne, but when he arrived at court declared to renounce the throne in favor of his brother Woke, distinguished in the period spent in Akashi. Woke was then Seinei's successor and became Emperor Kenzō.
According to the Nihongi, Emperor Seinei was buried in the Kawachi no Sakato no Hara mausoleum, dedicated to him, which is still located in today's eastern part of Ōsaka Prefecture.