, also known as Empress Genmyō, was the 43rd monarch of Japan
[Imperial Household Agency (''Kunaichō'')]
according to the traditional order of succession
. Genmei's reign spanned the years 707 through 715 CE.
In the history of Japan
, Genmei was the fourth of eight women to take on the role of empress regnant
. The three female monarchs before Genmei were Suiko
, and Jitō
. The four women sovereigns reigning after Genmei were Genshō
, and Go-Sakuramachi
Before her ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne
, her personal name (''imina
'') was Abe''-hime''.
[Brown, p. 271.]
Empress Genmei was the fourth daughter of Emperor Tenji
and she was a younger sister of Empress Jitō
by a different mother. Her mother, Mei-no-Iratsume (also known as Soga''-hime''), was a daughter of ''Udaijin
'' Soga-no-Kura-no-Yamada-no-Ishikawa-no-Maro (also known as Soga Yamada-no Ō-omi).
Events of Genmei's life
Genmei became the consort (''nyōgo'') of Crown Prince Kusakabe no Miko
, who was the son of Emperor Tenmu
and Empress Jitō
After the death of their son Emperor Monmu
in 707, she acceded to the throne.
[Ponsonby-Fane, p. 56.]
At least one account suggests that she accepted the role of empress because Emperor Mommu felt his young son, her grandson, was still too young to withstand the pressures which attend becoming emperor.
[Titsingh, p. 63.]
* July 18, 707 (''Keiun
4, 15th day of the 6th month''): In the 11th year of Mommu''-tennō'' 's reign (文武天皇十一年), the emperor died; and the succession (''senso'') was received by the emperor's mother, who held the throne in trust for her young grandson. Shortly thereafter, Empress Genmei is said to have acceded to the throne (''sokui'').
* 707 (''Keiun 4''): Deposits of copper were reported to have been found in Chichibu
in Musashi Province
in the region which includes modern day Tokyo;
* 708 (''Keiun 5''):, The era name was about to be changed to mark the accession of Empress Genmei; but the choice of ''Wadō'' as the new ''nengō
'' for this new reign became a way to mark the welcome discovery of copper.
The Japanese word for copper is ''dō'' (銅); and since this was indigenous copper, the ''"wa"'' (the ancient Chinese term for Japan) could be combined with the ''"dō"'' (copper) to create a new composite term – ''"wadō"'' – meaning "Japanese copper."
* May 5, 708 (''Wadō
1, 11th day of the 4th month''): A sample of the newly discovered Musashi copper from was presented in Genmei's Court where it was formally acknowledged as "Japanese" copper; and a mint
was established in Ōmi Province
* 708 (''Wadō 1, 3rd month''): Fuijwara no Fuhito was named Minister of the Right (''Udaijin'') . Isonokami no Maro was Minister of the Left (''Sadaijin
[Titsingh, p. 64.]
* 709 (''Wadō 2, 3rd month''): There was an uprising against governmental authority in Mutsu Province
and in Echigo Province
. Troops were promptly dispatched to subdue the revolt.
* 709 (''Wadō 2, 5th month''): Ambassadors arrived from Silla
, bringing an offer of tribute. He visited Fujiwara no Fuhito
to prepare the way for further visits.
* 710 (''Wadō 3, 3rd month''): Empress Genmei established her official residence in Nara
In the last years of the Mommu's reign, the extensive preparations for this projected move had begun; but the work could not be completed before the late-emperor's death.
Shortly after the ''nengō'' was changed to ''Wadō'', an Imperial Rescript was issued concerning the establishment of a new capital at the Heijō-kyō
at Nara in Yamato Province
. It had been customary since ancient times for the capital to be moved with the beginning of each new reign. However, Emperor Mommu decided not to move the capital, preferring instead to stay at the Fujiwara Palace which had been established by Empress Jitō.
[Varley, p. 140.]
Empress Genmei's palace was named Nara-no-miya.
* 711 (''Wadō 4, 3rd month''): The Kojiki
was published in three volumes. This work presented a history of Japan from a mythological period of god-rulers up through the 28th day of the 1st month of the fifth year of Empress Suiko
's reign (597).
failed to bring the work to completion before his death in 686. Empress Genmei, along with other court officials, deserve credit for continuing to patronize and encourage the mammoth project.
* 712 (''Wadō 5''): The Mutsu Province
was separated from Dewa Province
* 713 (''Wadō 6, 3rd month''): Tanba Province
was separated from Tango Province
; Mimasaka Province
was divided from Bizen Province
; and Hyūga Province
was divided from Ōsumi Province
* 713 (''Wadō 6''): The compilation of ''Fudoki
'' was begun with the imprimatur of an Imperial decree; and copies of the census of the provinces of Izumo
and two other provinces still exist.
This work was intended to describe all provinces, cities, mountains, rivers, valleys and plains. It is intended to become a catalog of the plants, trees, birds, and mammals of Japan. It also intended to contain information about all of the remarkable events which, from ancient times to the present, have happened in the country.
* 713 (''Wadō 6''): The road which traverses Mino Province
and Shinano Province
was widened to accommodate travelers; and the road was widened in the Kiso District
of modern Nagano Prefecture
After Empress Genmei transferred the seat of her government to Nara, this mountain location remained the capital throughout the succeeding seven reigns.
In a sense, the years of the Nara period
developed into one of the more significant consequences of her comparatively short reign.
Genmei had initially planned to remain on the throne until her grandson might reach maturity. However, in 715, Genmei did abdicate in favor of Mommu's older sister who then became known as Empress Genshō
. Genshō was eventually succeeded by her nephew, who then became known as Emperor Shōmu
* 715 (''Wadō 8''): Genmei resigns as empress in favor of her daughter, who will be known as Empress Genshō.
The Empress reigned for eight years.
Although there were seven other reigning empresses, their successors were most often selected from amongst the males of the paternal Imperial bloodline, which is why some conservative scholars argue that the women's reigns were temporary and that male-only succession tradition must be maintained in the 21st century. Empress Genmei, who was followed on the throne by her daughter, remains the sole exception to this conventional argument.
After abdicating, she was known as ''Daijō-tennō
''; and she was only the second woman after Empress Jitō to claim this title. Genmei lived in retirement for seven years until her death at the age of 61 in December 721.
The actual site of Genmei's grave
This empress is traditionally venerated at a memorial Shinto shrine
(''misasagi'') in Narazaka-cho, Nara City
which has been designated by the Imperial Household Agency
as Genmei's mausoleum
. The "mountain shape" ''misasagi'' was named ''Nahoyama-no-higashi no misasagi.''
[Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1959). ''The Imperial House of Japan,'' p. 420.]
'' includes a poem written said to be composed by Empress Genmei in 708 (''Wadō 1'') – and this anthology also includes a reply created by one of the ladies of her court::
:::Listen to the sounds of the warriors' elbow-guards;
::::Our captain must be ranging the shields to drill the troops.
:::::: – Genmei''-tennō''
[''Nippon Gakujutsu Shinkokai'', p. 81.]
:::Be not concerned, O my Sovereign;
::::Am I not here,
:::I, whom the ancestral gods endowed with life,
:::Next of kin to yourself?
:::::: – Minabe-''hime''
'' (公卿) is a collective term for the very few most powerful men attached to the court of the Emperor of Japan
In general, this elite group included only three to four men at a time. These were hereditary courtiers whose experience and background would have brought them to the pinnacle of a life's career. During Genmei's reign, this apex of the ''Daijō-kan
'', Prince Hozumi
'', Isonokami no Maro
'', Fujiwara no Fuhito
Spouse and children
* Husband: Prince Kusakabe
(草壁皇子), Emperor Tenmu
** First Daughter: Princess Hidaka (氷高皇女) later Empress Gensho
** First Son: Prince Karu (珂瑠/軽) later Emperor Monmu
** Second Daughter: Imperial Princess Kibi (吉備内親王, 686-729) married Prince Nagaya
Eras of Genmei's reign
The years of Genmei's reign are more specifically identified by more than one era name
* Empress of Japan
* Emperor of Japan
* List of Emperors of Japan
* Imperial cult
* Brown, Delmer M.
and Ichirō Ishida, eds. (1979) ''Gukanshō: The Future and the Past''.
Berkeley: University of California Press. OCLC 251325323
* Ponsonby-Fane, Richard Arthur Brabazon
. (1959) ''The Imperial House of Japan''.
Kyoto: Ponsonby Memorial SocietyOCLC 194887
* Titsingh, Isaac.
(1834). ''Nihon Ōdai Ichiran
''; ou ''Annales des empereurs du Japon''.
Paris: Royal Asiatic Society, Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland OCLC 5850691
* Varley, H. Paul.
(1980)''Jinnō Shōtōki: A Chronicle of Gods and Sovereigns''.
New York: Columbia University Press. OCLC 59145842
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