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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

And Fujiwara Yoshifusa was appointed minister of the Right


the year 851, the Emperor Montoku ascended the throne, and Fujiwara Yoshifusa was appointed minister of the Right. Yoshifusa married Princess Kiyo, daughter of the Emperor Saga. She had been given the uji of Minamoto in order to legalize this union, and she bore to Yoshifusa a daughter who became Montoku's Empress under the name of Somedono. By her, Montoku had a son, Prince Korehito, whose chance of succeeding to the crown should have been very slender since he had three half-brothers, the oldest of whom, Prince Koretaka, had already attained his fourth year at the time of Korehito's birth, and was his father's favourite. In fact, Montoku would certainly have nominated Koretaka to be Prince Imperial had he not feared to offend the Fujiwara. These let it be seen very plainly what they designed. The baby, Korehito, was taken from the palace into Yoshifusa's mansion, and when only nine months old was nominated Crown Prince. The event enriched Japanese literature. For Montoku's first born, Prince Koretaka, seeing himself deprived of his birthright, went into seclusion in Ono at the foot of Mount Hiei, and there, in the shadow of the great Tendai monastery, devoted his days to composing verselets. In that pastime he was frequently joined by Ariwara no Narihira, who, as a grandson of the Emperor Heijo, possessed a title to the succession more valid than even that of the disappointed Koretaka. In the celebrated Japanese anthology, the Kokin-shu, compiled at the beginning of the tenth
century, there are found several couplets from the pens of Koretaka and Narihira.


It was in the days of Fujiwara Yoshifusa that the descendants of Kamatari first assumed the role of kingmakers. Yoshifusa obtained the position of minister of the Right on the accession of Montoku (851), and, six years later, he was appointed chancellor of the empire (dajo daijin) in the sequel of the intrigues which had procured for his own grandson (Korehito) the nomination of Prince Imperial. The latter, known in history as the Emperor Seiwa, ascended the throne in the year 859. He was then a child of nine, and naturally the whole duty of administration devolved upon the chancellor. This situation fell short of the Fujiwara leader's ideal in nomenclature only. There had been many "chancellors" but few "regents" (sessho). In fact, the office of regent had always been practically confined to princes of the Blood, and the qualifications for holding it were prescribed in very high terms by the Daiho statutes. Yoshifusa did not possess any of the qualifications, but he wielded power sufficient to dispense with them, and, in the year 866, he celebrated the Emperor's attainment of his majority by having himself named sessho. The appointment carried with it a sustenance fief of three thousand houses; the privilege of being constantly attended by squadrons of the Right and Left Imperial guards, and the honour of receiving the allowances and the treatment of the Sangu, that is to say, of an Empress, a Dowager Empress, or a Grand Dowager Empress. Husband of an Empress, father of an Empress Dowager, grandfather of a reigning Emperor, chancellor of the empire, and a regent--a subject could climb no higher. Yoshifusa died in 872 at the age of sixty-eight. Having no son of his own, he adopted his nephew, Mototsune, son of Fujiwara Nagara.


Seiwa abdicated in 876, at the age of twenty-seven. Some historians ascribe his abdication to a sentiment of remorse. He had ascended the throne in despite of the superior claims of his elder brother, Koretaka, and the usurpation weighed heavily on his conscience. It is at least credible that since, in taking the sceptre he obeyed the dictates of the Fujiwara, so in laying it down he followed the same guidance. We cannot be sure as to the exact date when the great family's policy of boy-sovereigns first took definite shape, but the annals seem to show that Yoshifusa conceived the programme and that his adopted son, Mototsune, carried it out. A halo rests on Seiwa's head for the sake of his memorable descendants, the Minamoto chiefs, Yoritomo, Takauji, and Ieyasu. Heaven is supposed to have compensated the brevity of his own tenure of power by the overwhelming share that his posterity enjoyed in the administration of the empire.

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