Emperor Keikō

Emperor Keikō
Artistic depiction of Emperor Keikō.

Emperor Keikō

Emperor Keikō (景行天皇) was the twelfth Emperor of Japan also known as Ōtarashihiko Oshirowake no Mikoto (大足彦忍代別天皇)1235. He ruled from 71-130AD and was said to be 10ft 5 inches tall.5


Emperor Keikō is said to have an extensive family of 80 children consisting of 72 sons and 8 daughters. Most of his sons later became provincial governors or viceroys.15

This Emperor was the son of Emperor Suinin and Hibasuhime.1236

With Yasakairihime he had the future Emperor Seimu,15 as well as, Ihokiirihiko, Oshiwake, Wakayamatoneko, Ōsuwake, Nunoshi, Nunaki, Ihokiirihime, Kakoyorihime, Isakinoirihiko, Kibinoehiko, Takakinoirihime and Otohime.1

With Harima no Inabi no Ōiratsume he had two sons called Ōsu and Osu.15

With Midzuha no Iratsume he had Ihonohime.1

With Ikahahime he had Kamikushi and Inasenoirihiko.1

With Takadahime he had Takekunikoriwake.1

With Ōtanehime of Kaminaga he had Hiuganosotsuhiko.1

With Sotakebime he had Kunichiwake, Kunisewake and Toyotowake.1

Prior to Reign

Prior to his reign in the 30th year of his fathers reign he and his brother Inishikinoiribiko were commanded to state what it is that they want. Inishikinoiribiko says all he wants is a bow and arrow, Emperor Keikō saying he wanted the throne.

Due to this the asked for gifts were given and Emperor Keikō was made heir officially in his 37th year of his ruling.1


Emperor Keikō ascended to the throne in 71AD according to Ponsonby.5 This was after being made heir in the 37th year of fathers reign, aged 21.1

His palace was known as the Hishiro Palace and was located in Makimuku.56

Death of Ōsu

Prince Ōsu had been away from court from quite some time and so the Emperor asked his brother Yamato Takeru to deal with it. His way of dealing it being to tear his brother to pieces.

This was the reason why Yamato Takeru was later sent to deal with the Kumaso later in the Emperors 28th year.5

Rebellion of the Kumaso

Yamato Takeru is sent to deal with the rebellion of the Kumaso56.First in the 12th year of his reign where he goes to Tsukushi, and then again in the 13th year. During time Yamato Takeru resided in the Takaya Palace.6

Lster in the 27th year he is sent again as the Kumaso are plundering tghe border regions.6 Dressed as a girl he infiltrates the camp and kills both of the tribal leaders.5

The Jinnō Shōtōki only gives one leader by the name of Takeruhito Konokamitori Ishikaya. This leader praises the prince for killing him and gives him the name of ‘Yamato Takeru.’6

Time in Kyushu

He is reported as the ruler who gave the North-West district of Kyushu its name of ‘Abundance’ after seeing the abundance of yams that grew here as well as giving Chikanoshima its name ‘Near Isles’ due to its proximity to Kyushu.23

He is also said to have led a campaign to quash a rebellion in Kyushu and so was absent from the capital from the 12th to 18th years of his reign.5 Whilst on board ship his navigator is said to have sailed there using ‘strange lights’ as a guide. These were the phenomenon known as the Shiranui.4

Creating Provincial Leaders

The Emperor makes most of his 72 sons into provincial leaders sending them to live in the places they are to govern over. All of them given the title of wake to denote a branch house.5

Rebellion on Ebisu and death of Yamato Takeru

In the Emperors 40th year Yamato Takeru is sent east to deal with the rebelling Eastern Barbarians (tōi) accompanied by Kibi no Takehiko and Ōtomo no Takehi. Going via the Ise Grand Shrine he is given the sword Kusanagi by his aunt Yamatohime.6

Following these exploits he goes on to kill several kami, however, one kami eventually make him ill and he passes away aged 30. The Emperor orders him buried on the plain of Nobo and also has tombs for him made in Kotohiki no Hara in Yamato and Furuichi in Kawachi as they see the spirit of Yamato Takeru as a bird fly to these places.6

After these were subjugated the Emperor took a tour of these places in the 53rd and 54th years of his reign before moving his palace to Shiga in Ōmi the following year.5 During this time he stayed in the Kambuta Palace in Ise.6

Other events

In the 51st year of his reign he is said to have made Takeuchi no Sukune chief amongst his officials.6


The Emperor died in 130AD at the age of 143 according to Ponsonby.5 The Jinnō Shōtōki says he died age 1406 and the nihongi gives him a much younger age of 106 when he passed away.1

The nihongi additionally says he passed away in the ’60th year, Winter, 11th month, 7th day whilst in the Takaanaho Palace.’1

He was buried in the 2nd year, Winter, 11th month, 10th day of his sons reign in his misasagi in Yamanobe.1


1. Aston. W.G. (1896) “Nihongi Volume 1: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to AD697”. Tuttle Publishing.
2. Yasumaro. O, translated by Gustav Heldt. (2014) “Kojiki. An Account of Ancient Matters”. New York: Columbia University Press.
3. Chamberlain, B. H. (1932) “Translation of the Kojiki.” Kobe: J.L. Thompson & Co.
4. Yoda, H. and Alt, M. (2016) “Japandemonium: Illustrated: The Yokai Encyclopaedia of Toriyama Sekien.”. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
5. Ponsonby, F. (1959) “The Imperial House of Japan.” Kyoto: Ponsonby Memorial Society.
6. Varley, H.P (1980) “A Chronicle of Gods and Sovereigns: Jinnō Shōtōki of Kitabatake Chikafusa.” New York: Columbia University Press.

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