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

Family

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 viceroys15 aside from Yamato Takeru, Ihokiirihiko and Emperor Seimu.1

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 Hiuga no Sotsuhiko.1

With Sotakebime he had Kunichiwake, Kunisewake and Toyotowake.1

With Mihakashihime he had a son called Toyokuniwake.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

Reign

Emperor Keikō ascended to the throne in 71AD according to Ponsonby,5 more specifically 1st Year, Autumn, 7th Month, 11th day according to the nihongi. 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 Makimuku56 and he took as his Empress Ōiratsume in the ‘2nd Year, Spring, 3rd Month, 3rd Day.’1

Early Divination

In the 4rd Year, Spring, 2nd Month, 1st day of his reign a divination is undertaken to see if the Emperor should go to Kii to make a sacrifice to all the kami. The divination prooved to be unlucky and so the Emperor didn’t go sending instead Yanushioshihodakewogoro where he then stayed for nine years and married.5

Marriage to Yasakaiirihime

The Emperor ventured to Mino Province in the 4th Year, Spring, 2nd Month, 11th Day. Whilst here he is told about a woman called Otohime. The Emperor wanted her but she hid from him in a bamboo grove and so he provisonally made her live in the Kuguri Palace where he let lose a carp in the pond to watch them.

Otohime was interested and came to watch and so the Emperor detained her and had sex with her. Otohime says after she was ugly and unworthy of the Emperor and that a marriage together would not be convenient.

And so she mentions her older sister Yasakairihime and the Emperor agree to marry her and togther they have seven sons and six daughters. And he finally returns to the Hishiro Palace at Makimuku.5

Prince Ōsu

The Emperor later heard of the daughters of Kambone by the names of Anetohoko and Ototohoko and so sends his son Ōsu to collect them. However, his son decides he wants to marry them himself and has sex with them. The Emperor finds out and is furious.1

Later on, 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

1st Rebellion of the Kumaso and Tsuchigumo

For more information see: Kumaso Rebellions

A mentioning of the Kumaso Rebellion for the first time in the text of the nihongi does not include Yamato Takeru as the one who manages to defeat them.

It states that in the 12th Year, Autumn, 7th Month the Kumaso rebel giving no tribute and so in the 8th Month the Emperor goes to Tsukushi.

Arriving on the 5th day of the 9th Month in Saha he address his ministers and sends Takemorogi, Unade and Natsubana to see what is happening.

A female chief by the name of Kamunashihime is found and she submits herself and her people to the Emperor saying they are not the ones causing problems and so gives information on those who are. There names being Hanatari, Mimitari, Asahagi and Tsuchiworiwiwori all encamped in various places.

Eventually they are all defeated through various means by the 13th Year, Summer, 5th Month with the Emperor remaining in the Takaya Palace for six years where he takes Mihakashihime as a concubine having a son called Toyokuniwake.

Other source states it was instead Yamato Takeru who deals 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

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

Touring Kyushu

In his 17th year of reign he vsited the Koyu District in Hyuga visiting the moors of Nimo there. Missing the capital during the visit he composed a poem.

The following year (year 18) he tours Tsukushi and sees a group of men on the banks of the rive Ihase. He sends Hinamori the Younger and Hinamori the Elder to ask and the younger returns saying it is Idzumihime the kimi of Murokata. They banquet together.

In the summer of that year he arrives in Kuma summoning Kumatsuhiko the Younger and Kumatsuhiko the Elder. Only the Elder comes and so the Younger is put to death.

In Ashikata, he asks Wohidari for water, but there is none, so he prays and a spring comes forth from the cliffs.

Later, in the 5th month, he sails to Hi but there were lost at night and end up following a fire they see, and upon arriving in Toyomura he is told the fires were not man made.

The next month he kills a Tsuchigumo called Tsudzura in the Tamakina District  and on the 16th day of that month he arrives in Aso asking who lives here to which to kami called Asotsuhiko and Asotsuhime say this is where they dwell.

In the 7th month he constructs a palace at Takaya. here was a tree once so tall it covered the Hill of Kishima in shade in the morning and Mount Aso in the evening, and so the Emperor composed a song about it.

Arriving in Yame he asks if a kami dwells here. Saruohomi tells him that Yametsuhime dwells here which is where the area got the name from.

In the 25th year of his reign he tasks Takeuchi to enquire about the geography of the Northern and Eastern Provinces for the well being of the people.

He returns to the Emperor saying in the East is a place called Hitakami where the Yemishi live and that they should be attacked due to having fertile land.1

2nd Rebellion of the Kumaso

In the 27th year Yamato Takeru is sent to Tsukushi as the Kumaso are plundering the 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

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

Death

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

Footnotes

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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