Empress Kōgyoku

Empress Kōgyoku
Artisitc renderring of Empress Kōgyoku

Empress Kōgyoku

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 kami. She was not politically active prior to her rule.2

Her son Prince Naka should have come to the throne instead of Kōgyoku, however Soga no Emishi and his son Soga no Iruka placed instead Kōgyoku on the throne.

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

After this due to pressure from political figures she abdicated for her brother Emperor Kōtoku.2

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

Between the years of 658 and 660 Abe no Hirafu was sent north three times to subdue the Ezo People.3

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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Empress Kōgyoku