Emperor Monmu (文武天皇)

Emperor Monmu (683 - July 18, 707) was the forty-second Emperor (who reigned from September 7, 697, to July 18, 707). He was born Prince Karu which was written as either "珂瑠" or "軽" in Kanji. He had two Japanese-style posthumous names: 'Yamato neko toyo oji no sumeramikoto' (the term 'yamato' means Japan and 'sumeramikoto' an emperor) appearing in an entry from "Shoku Nihongi" (Chronicles of Japan Continued) dated the year 707 and 'Ama mo mamune toyo oji no sumeramikoto' in an entry from the "Shoku Nihongi" dated the year 797.

He was the firstborn child of Prince Kusakabe no miko (the second son of Emperor Tenmu). His mother was Princess Ahe no himemiko (Empress Genmei). Since his father, Kusakabe, had died as crown prince before enthronement, Karu should have normally been addressed "王" (referring to male imperial family members) rather than "皇子" (referring to emperor's legitimate sons or emperor's blood brothers), but it may have been due to his grandmother Empress Jito's guardianship that he had supposedly been treated as the latter before he truly became the crown prince.

His father, Prince Kusakabe, died in 689 and his uncle, PrinceTakechi (Takechi no miko), also died in 696, and therefore Karu became the Crown Prince in February, 697. In August of the same year (697), his grandmother, Empress Jito, decided to pass the emperorship to him, and Karu thus became Emperor Monmu. Since he was only 15 years old at his enthronement ceremony, Jito resumed power as the Retired Empress to guard the young emperor. The Taiho Code was established in 701, and proclaimed in the following year. The confusing Kani juni-kai (twelve grades of cap rank) system was revised and a new official ranking system was established. It was during the Taiho era (701-704) when the era system, which had only been recorded sporadically until that point, was put into place.

The Imperial Mausoleum

Emperor Monmu was entombed in the Hi-no kuma-no akonoue-no misasagi Mausoleum.

At present, Kurihara tsukaana-kofun Tumulus in Kurihara, Asuka-mura Village, Nara Prefecture is designated as his mausoleum by the Imperial Household Agency, but a leading hypothesis today claims that Nakaoyama-kofun Tumulus at Hirata in the same village, which is an octagonal tumulus including a stone chamber with a side entrance, as the Emperor Monmu's genuine mausoleum.