Emperor Kōmei: Wikis


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Emperor Kōmei
121st Emperor of Japan
Reign 10 March 1846 – 30 January 1867 (&0000000000000020.00000020 years, &0000000000000326.000000326 days)
Enthronement 10 March 1846
Predecessor Emperor Ninkō
Successor Emperor Meiji
Tokugawa shogunate Tokugawa Ieyoshi
Tokugawa Iesada
Tokugawa Iemochi
Tokugawa Yoshinobu
Father Emperor Ninkō
Born 22 July 1831(1831-07-22)
Died 30 January 1867 (aged 35)

Emperor Kōmei (孝明天皇 Kōmei-tennō ?) (22 July 1831 – 30 January 1867) was the 121st emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession. He reigned from 10 March 1846 to 30 January 1867. His personal name was Osahito (統仁 ?) and his pre-accession title was Hiro-no-miya (煕宮 ?).



Emperor Kōmei was the fourth son of Emperor Ninkō. His principal consort was Asako Kujo (九条夙子).[1] After Kōmei's death in 1867, Asako was given the title Empress Eishō (英照皇后) by Emperor Meiji.[2] Emperor Meiji was Komei's second son, by Nakayama Yoshiko (中山慶子). Kōmei had six children, four daughters and two sons; but the future Emperor Meiji was the only one to survive past the age of two.

Events of Kōmei's life

The Emperor's younger sister, Imperial princess Kazu-no-Miya Chikako (和宮親子内親王) was set to marry the Tokugawa shogun Tokugawa Iemochi as part of the Movement to Unite Court and Bakufu, but the shogun's death ended negotiations. Both the Emperor and his sister were against the marriage, even though he realized the gains to be had from such familial connections with the true ruler of Japan. Emperor Kōmei did not care much for anything foreign, and he opposed opening Japan to Western powers, even as the shogun continued to accept foreign demands.

  • Ansei 4, on the 28th day of the 12th month (22 January 1858): Daigaku-no kami Hayashi Akira headed the bakufu delegation which sought advice from Emperor Komei in deciding how to deal with newly assertive foreign powers.[3] This would have been the first time the Emperor's counsel was actively sought since the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate. The most easily identified consequence of this transitional overture would be the increased numbers of messengers streaming back and forth between Edo and Kyoto during the next decade.[4] Concerning these difficult Imperial audiences in Kyoto, there is no small irony in the fact that the shogun and his bakufu were represented by a 19th century neo-Confucian scholar/bureaucrat who would have been somewhat surprised to find himself at a crucial nexus of managing political change—moving arguably "by the book" through uncharted waters with well-settled theories and history as the only reliable guide.[5]
  • Ansei 4 (October 1858): Hayashi Akira is dispatched from Edo to Kyoto to explain the terms of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce (日米修好通商条約, Nichibei Shūkō Tsūshō Jōyaku ?), also known as the Harris Treaty). Hayashi's two-fold task was to both explain the terms to a sceptical Emperor and gain the sovereign's assent to it. Komei did ultimately acquiesce in February 1859 when he came to understand that there was no alternative.[6]

Emperor Komei was infuriated with nearly every development during his reign as emperor. In his lifetime he never saw any foreigners and he knew little about them. During his reign he started to gain more power as the Tokugawa Shogunate declined, though this was limited to consultation and other forms of deference according to protocol.

Emperor Kōmei generally agreed with anti-Western sentiments, and, breaking with centuries of imperial tradition, began to take an active role in matters of state: as opportunities arose, he fulminated against the treaties and attempted to interfere in the shogunal succession. His efforts culminated in 1863 with his "Order to expel barbarians." Although the Shogunate had no intention of enforcing the order, it nevertheless inspired attacks against the Shogunate itself and against foreigners in Japan: the most famous incident was that of the English trader Charles Lennox Richardson, for whose death the Tokugawa government had to pay an indemnity of one hundred thousand British pounds.[7] Other attacks included the shelling of foreign shipping in Shimonoseki.

In January 1867 the emperor was diagnosed with smallpox. This caused surprise because it was said that Kōmei had never been ill before. On 30 January 1867 he suffered a fatally violent bout of vomiting and diarrhea. He had purple spots on his face caused by smallpox.

After Kōmei's death in 1867, he was enshrined in the Imperial mausoleum, Nochi no Tsukinowa no Higashiyama no misasagi ( 後月輪東山陵 ?), which is at Sennyū-ji in Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto.[8] Empress Dowager Eishō is also entombed at this Imperial mausoleum complex.[9]

Emperor Kōmei was the last emperor to be given a posthumous name chosen after his death. Beginning with Emperor Meiji, posthumous names were chosen in advance, being the same as their reign names.


Kugyō (公卿) is a collective term for the very few most powerful men attached to the court of the Emperor of Japan in pre-Meiji eras. Even during those years in which the court's actual influence outside the palace walls was minimal, the hierarchic organization persisted.

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 Kōmei's reign, this apex of the Daijō-kan included:

Eras of Kōmei's reign

Emperor Kōmei was the last Japanese Emperor who had more than one era name (nengō) during a single ruling term. Beginning with his successor Meiji, a single era name (identical to the Emperor's official title) was selected and did not change until his death.


  1. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1859). The Imperial House of Japan, p. 334.
  2. ^ Keene, Donald. (2002). Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852-1912, p. 531;
  3. ^ Cullen, L.M. (2003). A History of Japan, 1582-1941: Internal and External Worlds, p. 178.
  4. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1956). Kyoto: the Old Capital, 794-1869, p. 324.
  5. ^ Cullen, pp. 173-185.
  6. ^ Cullen, p. 184.
  7. ^ Jansen, pp. 314-315.
  8. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1959). The Imperial House of Japan, p. 423.
  9. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Imperial House, pp. 335.


See also

Emperor Kōmei
Born: 22 July 1831 Died: 30 January 1867
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Emperor Ninkō
Emperor of Japan
10 March 1846 – 30 January 1867
Succeeded by
Emperor Meiji


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