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Emperor Kimmei
29th Emperor of Japan
Born legendary
Died legendary
Buried Hinokuma no saki Ai no Misasagi (Nara)
Predecessor Emperor Senka
Successor Emperor Bidatsu

Emperor Kimmei (欽明天皇 Kinmei-tennō) (509-571 CE) was the 29th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.[1] His reign is said to have spanned the years from 539 through 571. This reign is the first for which contemporary historiography are able to assign verifiable dates.[2]

His 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 king who rules all under heaven." Alternatively, Kimmei might have been referred to as (ヤマト大王/大君) or the "Great King of Yamato."



Emperor Kimmei's father was Emperor Keitai and his mother was Emperor Ninken's daughter, Princess Tashiraka (手白香皇女 Tashiraka Ōjo ?).[3] In his lifetime, he was known by the name Amekuni Oshiharaki Hironiwa (天国排開広庭 ?).

Kimmei had six Empresses and 25 Imperial children (16 sons and 9 daughters).[3] According to Nihongi, he had six wives; but Kojiki only gives five wives, identifying the third consort to the sixth one. The first three were his nieces, daughters of his half brother Senka; two others were sisters, daughters of the Omi Soga no Iname

  • Princess Ishi-Hime (or Iwa-hime), daughter of Emperor Senka by his Empress Tachibana no Nakatsu; Empress 540 ; Grand Empress 572; 3 imperial children :
    • Imperial Prince Yata no Tamakatsu no Oe (eldest son)
    • Imperial Prince Nunakura Futotama-Shiki (Emperor Bidatsu); born 538 (second son)
    • Imperial Princess Kasanui (also named Princess Satake)
  • Princess Kura Wayaka-Hime, daughter of Emperor Senka by his Empress Tachibana no Nakatsu; second consort; 1 imperial Prince :
    • Imperial Prince Iso no Kami, born 539/540
  • Princess Hikage, daughter of Emperor Senka probably by a concubine; third consort; 1 imperial Prince:
    • Imperial Prince Kura (Prince Soga no Kura)
  • Soga no Kitashi Hime, daughter of Soga no Iname ; fourth consort; died before 612; 13 imperial children :
    • Imperial Prince Oe or Ikebe (Emperor YOMEI); born 540 (fourth son)
    • Imperial Princess Ihane-hime or Ihakumo, Ise Virgin; had to resign her charge being convicted of intrigue with her half brother Imperial Prince Mubaragi
    • Imperial Prince Atori
    • Imperial Princess Nukatabe (Empress SUIKO), born 553, died 626
    • Imperial Prince Maroko
    • Imperial Princess Ohoyake
    • Imperial Prince Iso no Kami Be (Imigako)
    • Imperial Prince Yamashiro
    • Imperial Princess Ohotomo or Ohomata; born about 560; married to her nephew Prince Oshisako no Hikohito no Oe, son of Emperor Bidatsu
    • Imperial Prince Sakurawi
    • Imperial Princess Katano
    • Imperial Prince Tachibana Moto no Wakugo
    • Imperial Princess Toneri, born about 565; died 603; married to her nephew Prince Tame Toyora, son of Emperor Yomei
  • Soga no Oane hime, daughter of Soga no Iname ; fifth consort ; 5 imperial children:
    • Imperial Prince Mubaragi
    • Imperial Prince Katsuraki
    • Imperial Princess Hasetsukabe no Anahobe no Hashihito, born about 560; died 621; married (A) to her half brother Emperor Yomei; married (B) to her nephew and stepson Prince Tame Toyora, son of Emperor Yomei
    • Imperial Prince Amatsukabe Anahobe (Prince Sume-Irodo), killed 7 VI 587
    • Imperial Prince Hatsusebe (Emperor SUSHUN)
  • Nukako no Iratsume, daughter of Kasuga no Hifuri no Omi ;sixth consort; 2 imperial children:
    • Imperial Princess Kasuga no Yamada no Iratsume
    • Imperial Prince Tachibana no Maro

Events of Kimmei's life

Because of several chronological discrepancies in the account of Emperor Kimmei in the Nihon Shoki, some believe that his was actually a rival court to that of Emperors Ankan and Senka. Nevertheless, according to the traditional account, it was not until the death of Emperor Kimmei's older brother Emperor Senka that he gained the throne.

According to this account, Emperor Senka died in 539 at the age of 73;[4] and succession to the throne 践祚 (senso ?) was received by the third son of Emperor Keitai, who was the next youngest brother of Emperor Senka. Shortly thereafter, Emperor Kimmei is said to have acceded to the throne 即位 (sokui ?).[5]

Emperor Kimmei established his court at Shikishima no Kanazashi Palace (磯城嶋金刺宮) in Yamato.[3]

The emperor's chief counselors were:

  • Ōomi (Great Imperial chieftan): Soga no Iname no Sukune, also known as Soga no Iname.[3]
  • Ōmuraji (Great Deity chieftan): Monotobe Okoshi no Muraji, also known as Mononobe no Okoshi.[3]
  • Ōmuraji (Great Deity chieftan): Ōtomo Kanamura Maro, also known as Nakatomi no Kanamura.[3]

Although the imperial court was not moved to the Asuka region of Japan until 592, Emperor Kimmei's rule is considered by some to be the beginning of the Asuka period of Yamato Japan, particularly by those who associate the Asuka period primarily with the introduction of Buddhism to Japan from Korea.

According to the Nihon Shoki, Emperor Kimmei received a bronze statue of Buddha as a gift from the king of Paekche King Song Myong(聖明王, Seimei Ō) along with a significant envoy of artisans, monks, and other artifacts in 552. (However, according to the Jōgū Shōtoku Hōō Teisetsu, Buddhism was introduced in 538.) This episode is widely regarded as the official introduction of Buddhism to the country.

With the introduction of a new religion to the court, a deep rift developed between the Mononobe clan, who supported the worship of Japan's traditional deities, and the Soga clan, who supported the adoption of Buddhism. According to one famous episode, shortly after the Soga's began worshipping the new Buddha statue, a plague broke out, which the Mononobe's promptly attributed to a curse by Japan's traditional deities as punishment for worshipping the foreign god. Mononobe no Okoshi and his men promptly threw the statue into a river in Naniwa and burned the temple that the Soga's had built to hold it.

According to the Nihon Shoki, Emperor Kimmei ruled until his death in 571 and was buried in the Hinokuma no Sakai Burial Mound (桧隈坂合陵) but a stronger theory holds that he was actually buried in the Misemaruyama Tumulus (見瀬丸山古墳) located in Kashihara City (橿原市).

See also


  1. ^ Spelling note: A modified Hepburn romanization system for Japanese words is used throughout Western publications in a range of languages including English. Unlike the standard system, the "n" is maintained even when followed by "homorganic consonants" (e.g., shinbun, not shimbun). In the same way that Wikipedia has not yet adopted a consensus policy to address spelling variations in English (e.g., humour, not humor), variant spellings based on place of articulation are unresolved, perhaps unresolvable -- as in Emperor Kimmei vs. Emperor Kinmei, which are each construed as technically correct.
  2. ^ Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Annales des empereurs du Japon, pp. 34-36; Brown, Delmer et al. (1979). Gukanshō, pp. 261-262; Varley, H. Paul. (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki. pp. 123-124.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Brown, p. 262.
  4. ^ Varley, p. 121.
  5. ^ Varley, p. 44; n.b.,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.


Regnal titles
Preceded by
Emperor Senka
Emperor of Japan:

Succeeded by
Emperor Bidatsu


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