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Emperor Kōbun
39th Emperor of Japan
Reign 672(8 months)
Born 648
Died the 23rd Day of the 7th Month of the 1st Year of Kōbun's reign (August 21 672)[aged 24]
Place of death Yamasaki(Shiga)
Buried Nagara-no-Yamasaki no Misasagi (Shiga)
Predecessor Emperor Tenji
Successor Emperor Temmu
Consort Princess Tōchi (648?-678), a daughter of Emperor Temmu
Offspring Prince Kadono, Princess Ichishihime, Prince Yota
Father Emperor Tenji
Mother Yakako-no-iratsume, a lower court lady from Iga (Iga no Uneme)

Emperor Kōbun (弘文天皇 kōbun tennō ?), also known as Prince Ōtomo (大友皇子, Ōtomo no ōji) (648 - August 21 672 (the 23rd Day of the 7th Month of the 1st Year of Kōbun's reign)) was the 39th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession. His reign lasted only a few months in 671-672.[1]


Events of Kōbun's life

Emperor Kōbun was recognized as the 39th emperor by the Meiji government in 1870; and since the late 19th century, he is known by the posthumous name accorded to him by Meiji scholars.[2] Prince Ōtomo (Ōtomo-shinnō) was the favorite son of Emperor Tenji; and he was also the first to have been accorded the title of Daijō-daijin.[3]

Post-Meiji chronology
  • In the 10th year of Tenji, in the 11th month (671): Emperor Tenji, in the 10th year of his reign (天智天皇10年), designated his son as his heir; and modern scholars construe this as meaning that the son would have received the succession (senso) after his father's death. Shortly thereafter, Emperor Kōbun is said to have acceded to the throne (sokui).[4] If this understanding were valid, then it would it would follow:
  • In the 1st year of Kōbun (672): Emperor Kōbun, in the 1st year of his reign (弘文天皇1年), died; and his uncle Ōaomi-shinnō received the succession (senso) after the death of his nephew. Shortly thereafter, Emperor Temmu could be said to have acceded to the throne (sokui).[5]
Pre-Meiji chronology
Prior to the 19th century, Otomo was understood to have been a mere interloper, a pretender, an anomaly; and therefore, if that commonly-accepted understanding were to have been valid, then it would have followed:
  • In the 10th year of Tenji, in the 11th month (671): Emperor Tenji, in the 10th year of his reign (天智天皇10年), died; and despite any military confrontations which ensued, the brother of the dead sovereign would have received the succession (senso); and after a time, it would have been understood that Emperor Temmu rightfully acceded to the throne (sokui).

For centuries, the hapless Ō-tomo-shinnō was not considered to have been a part of the traditional order of succession. The kami of Emperor Kōbun is venerated at Goryō jinja in Ishiyama, Ōmi province.[6]

Non-nengō period

The years of Kōbun's reign are not linked by scholars to any era or nengō.[7] The Taika era innovation of naming time periods -- nengō -- languished until Mommu reasserted an imperial right by proclaiming the commencement of Taihō in 701.

In this context, Brown and Ishida's translation of Gukanshō offers an explanation about the years of Empress Jitō's reign which muddies a sense of easy clarity in the pre-Taiho time-frame:

"The eras that fell in this reign were: (1) the remaining seven years of Shuchō [(686+7=692?)]; and (2) Taika, which was four years long [695-698]. (The first year of this era was kinoto-hitsuji [695].) ...In the third year of the Taka era [697], Empress Jitō yielded the throne to the Crown Prince."[8]


The top court officials (公卿 Kugyō ?) during Emperor Kōbun's reign included:

  • Sadaijin, Soga no Akae(蘇我赤兄) (?-?), 672 (7 months)
  • Udaijin, Nakatomi no Kane(中臣金) (?-672), 672 (7 months)

Consorts and Children

Empress Consort: Princess Tōchi (十市皇女) (648?-678), a daughter of Emperor Temmu

  • Prince Kadono (葛野王) (669-706)

Hi: Fujiwara no Mimimotoji (藤原耳面刀自), a daughter of Fujiwara no Kamatari

  • Princess Ichishi-hime (壱志姫王)

Emperor Kōbun had another son named Prince Yota(興多王), whose mother is unknown.

See also


  1. ^ Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Annales des empereurs du japon, pp. 55-58.
  2. ^ Brown, Delmer. (1979). Gukanshō, p. 268 n.39; Varley, H. Paul. (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki, p. 136; n.b., Contemporary historians now place the reign of Emperor Kōbun between the reigns of Emperor Tenji and Emperor Temmu; but the Nihongi, the Gukanshō, and the Jinnō Shōtōki do not recognize this reign. Ō-tomo-shinnō was only given his posthumous title and name in 1870.
  3. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1959). The Imperial House of Japan, p. 53.
  4. ^ Brown, pp. 268-269; Varley, H. Paul. (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki, p. 44; n.b, 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 Emperor Go-Murakami.
  5. ^ Titsingh, pp. 55-58; Varley, p. 44.
  6. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, p. 128.
  7. ^ Titsingh, p. 56.
  8. ^ Brown, p. 270.


Regnal titles
Preceded by
Emperor Tenji
Emperor of Japan:

Succeeded by
Emperor Temmu


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