- Reign: 642-645 (Kōgyoku) 655-661 (Saimei)
- Period: Asuka Period
- Family: Emperor Jomei (husband) Prince Naka (son) Emperor Kotoku (brother)
- Burial Place: –
- Order of Succession:
Empress Kōgyoku (皇極天皇) was the thirty-fifth Emperor of Japan. She was the wife of Emperor Jomei and mother to Prince Naka who would later become Emperor Tenji.12 She would rule again as the Empress Saimei (斉明天皇) and be the thirty-seventh Emperor of Japan.1
Prior to her Reign
Before her reign began she held a reputation for being a Shaman and as such communicated with Deities. She was not politically active prior to her rule.2
Reign as Kōgyoku
She came to the throne aged 492 and during her reign, hatred for the Soga Clan reached it’s peak leading to a coup d`etat ending with Iruka being killed in front of the Empress. This in turn led to the subsequent destruction of the Soga House and Clan.1
Reign as Saimei
The Empress came back to rule aged 60 from 655-661, renaming herself as Saimei to ‘alleviate tension’ created during her brother’s reigns, and to ensure her son; Crown Prince Naka could succeed. He appears to have been the one to hold power during her second reign and she was more a political puppet.2
She joins the Crown Prince on an expedition to aid the leader of Paekche (Korea) who requested help to fight against Silla. During this she fell ill and died on active service in Chikuzen Province aged 67.2
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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