- Reign: 690-697AD
- Period: Asuka Period
- Family: Emperor Tenmu (husband) Prince Kusakabe (son) Empress Genmei (half-sister) Emperor Monmu (grand-son) Emperor Tenji (father)
- Burial Place: –
- Order of Succession: Predecessor Emperor Tenmu * Successor Emperor Monmu
Table of Contents
Empress Jitō (持統天皇) was the 41st Emperor of Japan, living from 645-702, and ruling from 686-6973. Originally her name was Princess Uno with her husband being the previous Emperor Tenmu. She was the mother of Prince Kusakabe with her half-sister being Empress Genmei. She was the grandmother of Emperor Monmu.1 Her father was Emperor Tenji3.
During her husbands Reign
Whilst her husband Tenmu reigned, Jitō was a political activist, the Nihongi stating she ‘followed the Emperor in pacifying the Empire.’
In the first year of Tenmu’s reign she ‘followed the Emperor when he took refuge in the Eastern provinces. She addressed the troops and mingled in the throng, until at length they together formed a plan by which several tens of thousands of fearless men were separately ordered to take up their posts in all the most defensible positions.’
In 681 he decrees an edict for a creation of law-codes, the Asuka no Kyomihara Ritsuryō. During this he and his wife sat in the same seats befitting those of equal status.
Reign of Empress Jitō
Sadly, Prince Kusakabe dies in 689 and so she finishes the Asuka Kyomihara Ryō and is formally enthroned in 690 as Empress Jitō. She rules for several years and abdicates for her grandson Emperor Monmu wishing to see her grand-son ascend to the throne.
Jitō remained important in political affairs after her abdication and was the first to receive the title, Daijō Tennō (Great Abdicating Emperor). She helped to keep Monmu in power until her death six years later.1
Many poems found in the man’yōshū were created during her reign and it is thought that perhaps the idea of compiling waka together in what would later become the man’yōshū was thought up during her reign.3
One poem of hers can be found in the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (No.2) and goes as follows:
koromo hosu chō
ama no Kaguyama
|Spring has passed,
and the white robes of summer
are being aired
on fragrant Mount Kagu -
beloved of the gods.
1. Tsurumi, P. (1981) “Early Female Emperors” Historical Reflections Vol.8 No.1 pp.41-49.
2. Martin, P. (1997) ”The Chrysanthemum Throne”. Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing Limited.
3. MacMillan, P. (2018) ”One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each: A Treasury of Classical Japanese Verse”. St. Ives: Penguin Classics.
4. Suzuki, H. et al. (1997) ”Genshoku: Ogura Hyakunin Isshu”. Tokyo: Bun’eidō.
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