Emperor Shirakawa

Hear about Emperor Shirakawa on Episode 2 of our Podcast, the Japan Archives.

Emperor Shirakawa
Artisitic drawing of Emperor Shirakawa.

Emperor Shirakawa

Emperor Shirakawa (白河天皇) was the 72nd Emperor of Japan.


He was married to the daughter of Morozane, Fujiwara no Kenshi.3


His wet nurse, also raised the poet Fujiwara no Akisue, and due to this they grew close, allowing Aiksue to gain a lot of power.1


During his reign he is known to have to approached the Buddhist monk Raigō to ask him to pray for the safe birth of his son, promising to expand his temple of Mii-dera if he did so. However, the Emperor later reneged on his pledge due to political manoeuvring on the part of Raigō’s rivals. This tale is related in the Taiheiki. This did lead to a plague of rats infesting the temple libraries of Kyoto as Raigō went on a hunger strike and then died, reborn as the plague of rats known as Tesso.2


1. MacMillan, P. (2018) ”One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each: A Treasury of Classical Japanese Verse”. St. Ives: Penguin Classics.
2. Yoda, H. and Alt, M. (2016) “Japandemonium: Illustrated: The Yokai Encyclopaedia of Toriyama Sekien.”. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
3. Louis Frederic, translated by Kathe Roth (2002) “Japan Encyclopedia”. London: Harvard University Press.

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