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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Murakami has a high position among Japan's model sovereigns


THE

SIXTY-SECOND SOVEREIGN, THE EMPEROR MURAKAMI (A.D. 947-967)

Murakami, son of Daigo by the daughter of the regent, Fujiwara Mototsune, ascended the throne in succession to Shujaku, and Fujiwara Tadahira held the post of regent, as he had done in Shujaku's time, his three sons, Saneyori, Morosuke, and Morotada, giving their daughters; one, Morosuke's offspring, to be Empress, the other two to be consorts of the sovereign. Moreover, Morosuke's second daughter was married to the Emperor's younger brother, Prince Takaaki, who afterwards descended from princely rank to take the family name of Minamoto. Saneyori, Morosuke, and Takaaki took a prominent part in the administration of State affairs, and thus indirectly by female influence at Court, or by their own direct activity, the Fujiwara held a supreme place. Murakami has a high position among Japan's model sovereigns. He showed keen and intelligent interest in politics; he sought to employ able officials; he endeavoured to check luxury, and he solicited frank guidance from his elders. Thus later generations learned to indicate Engi (901-923), when Daigo reigned, and Tenryaku (947-957), when Murakami reigned, as essentially eras of benevolent administration. But whatever may have been the personal qualities of Murakami, however conspicuous his poetical ability and however sincere his solicitude for the welfare of his subjects, he failed signally to correct the effeminate tendency of Kyoto society

or to protect the lives and property of his people. Bandits raided the capital, broke into the palace itself, set fire to it, and committed frequent depredations unrestrained. An age when the machinery for preserving law and order was practically paralyzed scarcely deserves the eulogies of posterity.

THE SUCCESSION

The lady with whom Murakami first consorted was a daughter of Fujiwara Motokata, who represented a comparatively obscure branch of the great family, and had attained the office of chief councillor of State (dainagori) only. She bore to his Majesty a son, Hirohira, and the boy's grandfather confidently looked to see him named Prince Imperial. But presently the daughter of Fujiwara Morosuke, minister of the Right, entered the palace, and although her Court rank was not at first superior to that of the dainagon's daughter, her child had barely reached its third month when, through Morosuke's irresistible influence, it was nominated heir to the throne. Motokata's disappointment proved so keen that his health became impaired and he finally died--of chagrin, the people said. In those days men believed in the power of disembodied spirits for evil or for good. The spirit of the ill-fated Sugawara Michizane was appeased by building shrines to his memory, and a similar resource exorcised the angry ghost of the rebel, Masakado; but no such prevention having been adopted in the case of Motokata, his spirit was supposed to have compassed the early deaths of his grandson's supplanter, Reizei, and of the latter's successors, Kwazan and Sanjo, whose three united reigns totalled only five years.

A more substantial calamity resulted, however, from the habit of ignoring the right of primogeniture in favour of arbitrary selection. Murakami, seeing that the Crown Prince (Reizei) had an exceedingly feeble physique, deemed it expedient to transfer the succession to his younger brother, Tamehira. But the latter, having married into the Minamoto family, had thus become ineligible for the throne in Fujiwara eyes. The Emperor hesitated, therefore, to give open expression to his views, and while he waited, he himself fell mortally ill. On his death-bed he issued the necessary instruction, but the Fujiwara deliberately ignored it, being determined that a consort of their own blood must be the leading lady in every Imperial household. Then the indignation of the other great families, the Minamoto and the Taira, blazed out. Mitsunaka, representing the former, and Shigenobu the latter, entered into a conspiracy to collect an army in the Kwanto and march against Kyoto with the sole object of compelling obedience to Murakami's dying behest. The plot was divulged by Minamoto Mitsunaka in the sequel of a quarrel with Taira no Shigenobu; the plotters were all exiled, and Takaaki, youngest son of the Emperor Daigo, though wholly ignorant of the conspiracy, was falsely accused to the Throne by Fujiwara Morotada, deprived of his post of minister of the Left, to which his accuser was nominated, and sent to that retreat for disgraced officials, the Dazai-fu. Another instance is here furnished of the readiness with which political rivals slandered one another in old Japan, and another instance, also, of the sway exercised over the sovereign by his Fujiwara ministers.


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