Emperor Nintoku

Hear about Emperor Nintoku on Episode 17B of our Podcast, the Japan Archives.

Emperor Nintoku
Emperor Nintoku.

Emperor Nintoku

Emperor Nintoku (仁徳天皇) is said to have come to the throne after a succession dispute. He is the sixteenth Emperor of Japan. It is believed that Chinese was adopted by Imperial Court in his reign.

Silk was introduced from Korea during his reign, and villages who tilled the land undertook forestry or fishing were heavily taxed, including those who carried out unpaid labour.1

The Kanke Godenki says the great-grandson of Nomi no Sukune, Haji no Mino was granted the title of muraji during the reign of Nintoku. We also see the earliest mention of ‘Haji no Muraji’ in the Nihongi during Nintoku’s reign, however, no name is given to which Haji.3

The Nihongi During the 4th year of his reign states that when from atop a high tower he saw no smoke rising from the houses of the common people, and he realised they had no rice. Due to this, he decreed for the next three years a ruling where forced labour was to be suspended leading to personal consequences in his wealth.

The Nihongi states:

Therefore the palace enclosure fell into ruin and was not rebuilt; the thatch decayed and as not repaired; the wind and rain entered by the chinks and soaked the coverlets; the sunlight filtered through the decayed places and exposed bed-mats. After this, the wind and rain came in due season, the five grains [rice, millet and other crops] produced in abundance. For the space of three autumns, the people had plenty, the praises of his virtue filed the land, and the smoke of the cooking was also thick…

The Emperor from this proclaimed that the people’s poverty was also the prince’s poverty. After the three year period, taxation resumed and so his palace in Naniwa was repaired1. Nintoku is known to have visited the island of Himejima during his reign and it is said the kami Ōyamatsumi made land fall in Japan on the island of Shikoku.2

In his wisdom (much to the complaints of his Empress) he wished to make his half-sister one of his concubines. One day when his Empress was visiting Kii he did so and afterwards his Empress refused to live with him.

He is thought to be buried within a Kofun near Osaka which at more than 480 metres long is the largest in Japan. His tomb was explored in the 1880’s by William Gowland.1


1. Martin, P. (1997) ”The Chrysanthemum Throne”. Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing Limited.
2. Yasumaro. O, translated by Gustav Heldt. (2014) “Kojiki. An Account of Ancient Matters”. New York: Columbia University Press.
3. Borgen, R. (1975) “The Origins of the Sugawara. A History of the Haji Family”. Monumenta Nipponica. Vol.30 No.4 pp.405-422.

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