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April 2018


About the Fujiwara family’s political power in the 8th century

In the 8th century, a wealthy family, Fujiwara, obtained strong political power. In particular, Fuhito Fujiwara was the most prominent politician in those days. He was a son of Kamatari Fujiwara, who was a supreme adviser of the Tenji Emperor.

Fuhito made his daughter, Miyako, marry the Monmu Emperor in 697. And then their son, Prince Obito married Fuhito's other daughter, Komyoshi, in 716. Prince Obito became the Shomu Emperor in 724. By these political marriages, the Fujiwara family built a close relationship with the Imperial family and became very influential in politics.

In 720, Fuhito Fujiwara died.

When the Shomu Emperor came to the throne in 724, he was 23 years old. Since the Emperor was young, Nagaya-o held the real political power in the Court. Nagaya-o was a cousin-uncle of the Shomu Emperor and a grandson of the Tenmu Emperor. Nagaya-o was not only a member of the royal family but also a good politician. Therefore Nagaya-o was the toughest obstacle for the Fujiwara family, who wanted to have a preponderant influence on the Court.

Fuhito Fujiwara's four sons wanted their sister Komyoshi, a wife of the Shomu Emperor, to be elevated to Empress, but Nagaya-o strongly opposed it because only a member of the royal family could become empress in those days.

In 727, a prince was born between the Shomu Emperor and Komyoshi, his name was Motoi-o. He became the crown prince soon, because the Fujiwara family intensely promoted it. However, the prince died before he became 1 year old. It was a hard blow for the Fujiwara family, but they used the incident to ruin Nagaya-o. In 729, the Fujiwara family circulated a rumor that Nagaya-o killed the prince by curse. As a result, Nagaya-o was forced to commit suicide.

By having eliminated their opponent, the Fujiwara family could elevate Komyoshi to Empress in 729.

In 737, however, the four Fujiwara sons died of smallpox and the family's political influence temporarily declined. People rumored that Nagaya-o had become a vengeful ghost and killed them all.

Instead of the Fujiwara family, one of the members of royalty, Moroe Tachibana held the real political power and Kibi-no-makibi and Genbo, who used to be envoys to Tang China, obtained strong influence in the Court.

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