Emperor Kammu (桓武天皇)

Emperor Kammu (737 - April 3, 806) was the 50th Japanese Emperor.
Imperial Prince Yamabe no Miko

Brief Personal History

Emperor Kammu was born in 737 as the first prince of Shirakabe no Okimi (later called Emperor Konin). According to the Shoku-Nihongi (the second in a series of chronicles about Japan), his mother, TAKANO no Nigasa, was a descendant of the Baekje Royal Family, whose ancestors were the Baekje Muryeong-wang. The mother of Ate (who would later become Emperor Heizei) and Kamino (or Kaminu, who would later become Emperor Saga) was FUJIWARA no Otomuro, and the mother of Otomo (who would later become Emperor Junna) was FUJIWARA no Tabiko. Emperor Kammu's original name, that is his name prior to ascending the throne, was Yamabe no Okimi. Due to the mother's humble background of the naturalized clansmen Yamatouji, there was no hope for the Emperor to become a crown prince even after his father, Shirakabe no Okimi's enthronement; but he aimed to succeed as a government bureaucrat and held the position like a palace staff person (jiju), the manager of Daigaku (Daigaku no Kami) and Nakatsukasakyo. However, Imperial Prince Osabe, the former crown prince and his half brother with the same father, and his mother, Imperial Princess Inoe, were gotten rid of due to the political fight, and the Emperor Kammu had a ceremony of the formal investiture of the Crown Prince on February 2, 773. He took over the throne on May 16, 781. TheHeijo-Kyo capital was relocated to the province of Yamashiro in order to prevent the Nara Buddhist temples from having too much political power.

First, Nagaoka-kyo was built in 784, and Heian-kyo was rebuilt in 794. The troops of SAKANOUE no Tamuramaro, being Seii Taishogun (great general who subdues the barbarians) were sent to the Tohoku area to defeat Ezo (Emishi). However, in Emperor Kammu's last years, FUJIWARA no Otsugu of the the Ceremonial House of the Fujiwara clan criticized the Emperor for undertaking this kind of military action and said that the policy subjected farmers to great hardship. In the cultural aspect it is said that the Emperor suggested the editing of "Shoku-Nihongi (The Chronicles of Japan II)." It was during Emperor Kammu's administration that Saicho and Kukai came back from Tang and had new influence on the Japanese Buddhist culture.

There is a sad aspect that Imperial Princess Inoe and Imperial Prince Osabe had an unnatural death, or that his brother, Imperial Prince Sawara, who was the first prince when the Kammu government started, was accused of assassinating FUJIWARA no Tanetsugu; he was sentenced to deportation in 785 and died. As the Emperor was concerned about a grudge, he gave a tsuigo, Emperor Sudo, to Imperial Prince Sawara on August 16, 800, renamed Imperial Princess Inoe's mausoleum as Misasagi and recouped the lack of an Empress.

While the Emperor is known as a guardian of Saicho and Kukai, the existing Buddhism had too much relation to (and power in) politics; Nanto Rokushu (Rikushu) (The Six Sects of the Southern Capital) were forced to lose their official rank or their rewards. There was no strict morals in the palace, and this caused the emergence of hotbeds such as "the Kusuko Incident." The Emperor died on April 13, 806.

Posthumous name, Tsuigo, different name

The Emperor was posthumously given the Japanese name Yamatoneko amatsu hitsugiiyaderi. He was also posthumously given the Hun-style name Emperor Kammu. He was also known as Emperor Kashiwabara and Amekunioshiharukiamenoshitashiroshimesu.

Eras during his reign


The Imperial Mausoleum

The Imperial Mausoleum is known as Kashiwabara no Misasagi, located in Momoyama-cho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto City. Emperor Kammu expressed a strong desire to be buried in Utano when he died; however, on the advice of a fortune teller, he was buried in Kashiwabara no Misasagi, which is located in Fushimi.

He was enshrined at Heian-jingu Shrine during the Meiji period as the first Emperor of Heian-kyo. All the past Emperors are enshrined in Kyuchu-sanden (Three Shrines of the Imperial Court).

The present Emperor's remark

On December 18, 2001, Akihito mentioned in the annual interview before his birthday, for the comment of mutual relief on the FIFA World Cup of Soccer in the following year, "I feel a certain kinship with Korea after knowing Emperor Kammu's mother's descendant is related to Baekje Muryeong-wang, according to Shoku-Nihongi (The Chronicles of Japan II)." This comment was a popular topic in Korean mass media, although it was not a significant issue in Japan. From a certain news report there was an exaggerated comment stating that the Royal Family is descended from ethnic Koreans or that the Royal Family's origin started from Paekche and so on.

It is apparent that the Royal Family has no relationship with ethnic Koreans, as in Paekche there was a big difference in terms of ethnics between the Fuyo royal family and the common people of Kan-zoku; they did not even share the common language, and the common belief is that there is no blood line between the Paekche people and the ethnic Koreans who live on the Korean Peninsula.

Since TAKANO no Nigasa's ancestor, Yamatouji, who came from abroad a long time ago, many generations had passed when Emperor Kammu's government started (the fourth generation from Baekje Muryeong-wang, with Yamatouji as the sixth generation); therefore, it is not accurate to say that Takano no Nigasa's ancestor is Korean. The name "Korean" started being used when the Yi Dynasty/Joseon Dynasty changed the name of the country to "Empire of Korea."

There is some doubt academically whether Yamatouji is Baekje Muryeong-wang's descendant or not; it was an actual example that the Emperor's remark has a strong political message, knowing that the Korea mass media paid great attention to such words from the Emperor, referring to the history more than a thousand years ago, and even the former President Dae-jung [Daejung, Dae jung] Kim mentioned this in the interview.