Emperor Tenji

Hear about Emperor Tenji on Episode 70 of our Podcast, the Japan Archives.

Emperor Tenji
Emperor Tenji depicted in the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu.

Emperor Tenji

Emperor Tenji (天智天皇) was the thirty-eighth Emperor of Japan and ruled from 668-71AD. His son would become the later Emperor Kōbun and his brother was Emperor Tenmu. He and his brother are noted as two of the most powerful sovereigns in the line of succession.He was the son of Empress Kōgyoku.2

Prior to Reign

Prior to being crowned Emperor, he was known as ”’Prince Naka no Ōe ”'(中大兄皇子). During this time as Prince he was recruited by Nakatomi no Kamatari to aid in the downfall of the soga. Together they killed Soga no Iruka in front of his mother the Empress leading finally to the destruction of Soga House. He declined the throne after Empress Kōgyoku abdicated, convinced to turn it down by Kamatari.

He was then made Crown Prince by Emperor Kōtoku and with the help of Kamatari created the Taika Reforms.1

His mother as Empress Saimei comes to throne a second time after Emperor Kōtoku to ensure her sons succession and Prince Naka is said to have held the real power during her second reign.2

His mother as Empress joined him in giving aid to the leader of Paekche (Korea) who had appealed to them for help to fight against Silla.2


As Emperor as a sign of gratitude to Kamatari for everything he had helped him with so far he gave him the new family name of Fujiwara.1

In 663 Abe no Hirafu led a force to Paekche to help protect them from the invasions of Silla. His naval forces were eventually routed at the Battle of Hakusuhinoe.3


1. Martin, P. (1997) ”The Chrysanthemum Throne”. Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing Limited.
2. Tsurumi, P. (1981) “Early Female Emperors” Historical Reflections Vol.8 No.1 pp.41-49.
3. Kodansha. (1993) ”Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia”. Tokyo: Kodansha Ltd.

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Emperor Tenji