Empress Suiko (推古天皇, Suiko-tennō) (554 – 15 April 628) was
the 33rd monarch of Japan, according to the traditional order of
Suiko reigned from 593 until her death in 628.
In the history of Japan, Suiko was the first of eight women to take on
the role of empress regnant. The seven women sovereigns reigning after
Suiko were Kōgyoku/Saimei, Jitō, Genmei, Genshō, Kōken/Shōtoku,
Meishō and Go-Sakuramachi.
1 Traditional narrative
3 See also
Before her ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne, her personal name
(her imina) was Mikekashiya-hime-no-mikoto, also called Toyomike
Kashikiya hime no Mikoto.
Empress Suiko had several names including Princess Nukatabe and
(possibly posthumous) Toyomike Kashikiya. She was the third daughter
of Emperor Kinmei. Her mother was Soga no Iname's daughter, Soga no
Kitashihime. Suiko was the younger sister of Emperor Yōmei. They had
the same mother.
Empress Suiko was a consort to her half-brother, Emperor Bidatsu, but
after Bidatsu's first wife died she became his official consort and
was given the title Ōkisaki (official consort of the emperor). She
bore seven children.
After Bidatsu's death, Suiko's brother, Emperor Yōmei, came to power
for about two years before dying of illness. Upon Yōmei's death,
another power struggle arose between the
Soga clan and the Mononobe
clan, with the Sogas supporting Prince Hatsusebe and the Mononobes
supporting Prince Anahobe. The Sogas prevailed once again and Prince
Hatsusebe acceded to the throne as
Emperor Sushun in 587. However,
Sushun began to resent the power of Soga no Umako, the head of the
Soga clan, and Umako, perhaps out of fear that Sushun might strike
first, had him assassinated by Yamatoaya no Ataikoma (東漢直駒) in
592. When asked to accede to the throne to fill the power vacuum that
subsequently developed, Suiko became the first of what would be
several examples in Japanese history where a woman was chosen to
accede to the throne to avert a power struggle.
593 : In the 2nd year of Sushun-tennō 's reign (崇峻天皇二年),
he died; and contemporary scholars then construed that the succession
(senso) was received by the consort of former Emperor Bidatsu.
Empress Suiko is said to have ascended to the
Suiko's contemporary title would not have been tennō, as most
historians believe this title was not introduced until the reigns of
Emperor Tenmu and Empress Jitō. Rather, it was presumably
Sumeramikoto or Amenoshita Shiroshimesu Ōkimi (治天下大王),
meaning "the great Queen who rules all under heaven". Alternatively,
Suiko might have been referred to as (ヤマト大王/大君) or the
"Great Queen of Yamato".
Prince Shōtoku was appointed regent the following year. Although
political power during Suiko's reign is widely viewed as having been
Prince Shōtoku and Soga no Umako, Suiko was far from
powerless. The mere fact that she survived and her reign endured
suggests she had significant political skills.
In 599, an earthquake destroyed buildings throughout Yamato Province
in what is now Nara Prefecture.
Suiko's refusal to grant Soga no Umako's request that he be granted
the imperial territory known as Kazuraki no Agata in 624 is cited as
evidence of her independence from his influence. Some of the many
achievements under Empress Suiko's reign include the official
Buddhism by the issuance of the Flourishing Three
Treasures Edict in 594. Suiko was also one of the first Buddhist
Japan and had taken the vows of a nun shortly before
The reign of this empress was marked by the opening of relations with
the Sui court in 600, the adoption of the Twelve Level Cap and Rank
System in 603 and the adoption of the Seventeen-article constitution
The adoption of the
Sexagenary cycle calendar (Jikkan Jūnishi) in
Japan is attributed to
Empress Suiko in 604.
At a time when imperial succession was generally determined by clan
leaders, rather than the emperor, Suiko left only vague indications of
succession to two candidates while on her deathbed. One, Prince
Tamura, was a grandson of
Emperor Bidatsu and was supported by the
main line of Sogas, including Soga no Emishi. The other, Prince
Yamashiro, was a son of
Prince Shōtoku and had the support of some
lesser members of the Soga clan. After a brief struggle within the
Soga clan in which one of Prince Yamashiro's main supporters was
killed, Prince Tamura was chosen and he acceded to the throne as
Emperor Jomei in 629.
Empress Suiko ruled for 35 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, Empress Genshō, remains the sole exception to
this conventional argument.
Shinto shrine and mausoleum honoring Empress Suiko
The actual site of Suiko's grave is known. This empress is
traditionally venerated at a memorial
Shinto shrine (misasagi) at
Imperial Household Agency
Imperial Household Agency designates this location as Suiko's
mausoleum. It's formally named Shinaga no Yamada no misasagi.
Ancestors of Empress Suiko
Emperor Keitai (dates for Emperor Keitai's lifespan and reign
Emperor Kinmei (509–571)
5. Princess Tashiraka (d. 5??)
1. Empress Suiko
Soga no Iname (506–570)
3. Soga no Kitashihime
Empress Jingū, semi-legendary, rule preceded Empress Suiko
Emperor of Japan
List of Emperors of Japan
^ a b
Imperial Household Agency
Imperial Household Agency (Kunaichō): 推古天皇 (33)
^ Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1959). The Imperial House of Japan, p. 48.
^ Brown, Delmer et al. (1979). Gukanshō, pp. 263–264; Varley, H.
Paul. (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki, pp. 126–129; Titsingh, Isaac.
(1834). Annales des empereurs du Japon, pp. 39–42., p. 39, at Google
^ Brown, pp. 264; prior to Emperor Jomei, the personal names of the
emperors (their iminia) were very long and people did not generally
use them. The number of characters in each name diminished after
^ Varley, p. 126.
^ Ashton, William. (2005). Nihongi, p. 95 n.2.
^ Varley, p. 44; a distinct act of senso is unrecognized prior to
Emperor Tenji; and all sovereigns except Jitō, Yōzei, Go-Toba and
Fushimi have senso and sokui in the same year until the reign of
^ Titsingh, p. 39; Brown, pp. 263–264; Varley, pp. 126–127.
^ Hammer, Joshua. (2006). Yokohama Burning: The Deadly 1923 Earthquake
and Fire that Helped Forge the Path to World War II, pp. 62–63.
^ Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric. (2005). "Jikkan Jūnishi" in Japan
Encyclopedia, p. 420, p. 420, at Google Books; n.b., Louis-Frédéric
is pseudonym of Louis-Frédéric Nussbaum, see Deutsche
Nationalbibliothek Authority File
^ "Life in the Cloudy Imperial Fishbowl",
Japan Times. 27 March 2007.
^ Ponsonby-Fane, p. 420.
^ "Genealogy". Reichsarchiv. Retrieved 25 January 2018. (in
Aston, William George. (1896). Nihongi: Chronicles of
Japan from the
Earliest Times to A.D. 697. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner.
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Future and the Past. Berkeley: University of California Press.
ISBN 978-0-520-03460-0; OCLC 251325323
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and Fire that Helped Forge the Path to World War II. New York: Simon
& Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7432-6465-5
Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric and Käthe Roth. (2005). Japan
encyclopedia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
ISBN 978-0-674-01753-5; OCLC 58053128
Ponsonby-Fane, Richard Arthur Brabazon. (1959). The Imperial House of
Japan. Kyoto: Ponsonby
Memorial Society. OCLC 194887
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empereurs du Japon. Paris: Royal Asiatic Society, Oriental Translation
Fund of Great Britain and Ireland. OCLC 5850691
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Shōtōki of Kitabatake Chikafusa. New York: Columbia University
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Empress of Japan:
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