Prince Otsu (大津皇子)

Prince Otsu (663 - October 28, 686) was a prince of Emperor Tenmu. His mother was Ota no Himemiko, a princess of Emperor Tenchi. Oku no Himemiko was his older maternal half-brother. His wife was Princess Yamanobe no Himemiko, a daughter of Emperor Tenchi.

Life and Personal Profile

In 663, born in Nanootsu in the Kyushu region. "Kaifuso" (Fond Recollections of Poetry) described Prince Otsu as follows.
He had a good physique and was broad-minded, and since his early days, he liked to study, read books very well, obtained deep knowledge, and wrote in a splendid way.'
After he grew up to be a man, he was fond of martial arts, being skilled at handling a sword.'
He acted freely, not worrying about rules; even though he was a prince, he behaved with modesty and treated people politely.'
That is why Prince Otsu gained the confidence of many people, who liked him very much.'
(He had a good physique and was broad-minded.)
(Since his early days, he liked to study, read books very well, obtained deep knowledge, and wrote in a splendid way.)
(After he grew up to be a man, he was fond of martial arts, being skilled at handling a sword.)
(He acted freely, not worrying about rules; even though he was a prince, he behaved with modesty and treated people politely.)
(That is why Prince Otsu gained the confidence of many people, who liked him very much.)
"Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan) also contains similar praise, so he seems to have been recognized as an extraordinary man.

"Kaifuso" states that he was the oldest son of Emperor Tenmu, though "Nihonshoki" said that he was the third child. There is no denying that the author had sympathy for Prince Otsu's miserable end (details will be mentioned later). However, even thinking about it, we could tell that he was a talented and popular man. His mother, Ota no Himemiko, was the princess of Emperor Tenchi, and also older sister of Empress Uno no Sarara (later known as Empress Jito), so if she had been alive when her husband, Emperor Tenmu, had ascended the throne, it was almost certain that she would have become an Empress. However, she died young when Otsu was about four years old, and his older sister, Oku no Himemiko, was made itsukime (a girl serving Shinto ritual). Though he did not have good supporters, his older paternal half-brother, Prince Kusakabe, became a crown prince in 681, meanwhile, Otsu came to join court politics in March, 683. There are various views about the expression, 'beginning to listen to the Imperial politics,' which suggests Otsu's political participation. Considering that "Shoku Nihongi" (Chronicle of Japan Continued) contain the same term for describing the entry into politics of Imperial Prince Obito (also known as Emperor Shomu), who was a crown prince, it seems to be appropriate to understand that he stood on an equal footing with Kusakabe (Ken SHINOKAWA).

However, Otsu was equal with Kusakabe in line of descent, excluding Naga no miko and Imperial Prince Toneri, and his political participation meant that Kusakabe's right of succession to the Imperial Throne, which had been tentatively certain, was almost lost. In September 686, when Emperor Tenmu passed away, his friend, Prince Kawashima, informed on him on October 27, within a month of Emperor's death, so he was captured on a charge of treason, and killed at his residence at Osada in Iware the following day. According to "Nihonshoki," Princess Yamanobe no Himemiko followed her husband to the grave. An epigraph in "Manyoshu" (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves) states that right before his death, he left for Ise-jingu Shrine, where his older sister, Oku no Himemiko, served as Saio (Imperial Princess appointed to serve the deities of the shrine). Died at the age of 24.

Some scholars, such as Yoshitaka TOKURA, claim that the part of Prince Kawashima's betrayal in this treason would be fiction. Atsumu WADA considers that he might have criticized Crown Prince at mogari (a site where the coffin of the deceased Emperor is placed before being buried); while Seiji OKADA thinks that his visit to the Ise-jingu Shrine might have violated a taboo. However, there is no reliable historical material except "Manyoshu" concerning his visit to Ise, so some people claim that the visit was a made-up story in the first place. There is no historical material that tells us definitively what had really happened in the revolt.

"Manyoshu" and "Kaifuso" contain his death poem, but Noriyuki KOJIMA and Susumu NAKANISHI advocated an opinion that it was created not by the prince, but by posterity, which had compassion on him. There are almost no death poems left in Jodai Literature (Early Japanese literature), and the poems collected in "Kaifuso" are similar to the Chinese poetry in Later Zhou; therefore, this view is often advocated in the academic society.

The opinion that Empress Uno no Sarara pulled the wire is dominant (Kojiro NAOKI).

Poems related to Prince Otsu

Nos. 105 to 106, Volume 2 of Manyoshu (the poems composed by Oku no Himemiko when he went down to Ise-jingu Shrine to see his older sister, Oku no Himemiko)
To see my brother off for Yamato, I stood outside in sorrow at midnight until I was drenched with early morning dew.
It is difficult for even two people to go over the autumn mountain; how can you cross it alone?

Nos. 107 to 109, Volume 2 of Manyoshu (love poems exchanged with ISHIKAWA no Uchimyobu)
I keep waiting for you upon the hill till late, but you do not come; my clothes are wet with chilly dew. You tell me you waited for me being wet and chilly; then I wish I could have been the dew so lucky as to be with you. I knew that the fortune of Tsumori (a port manager) would reveal it, but we slept together.

Nos. 163 to 164, Volume 2 of Manyoshu (poems composed by Oku no Himemiko when she retired and returned to the capital after he was executed)
It was much better to stay in Ise Province; why did I come here? My darling brother has been killed, leaving me behind. My brother whom I wanted to see is dead now; why did I come here? I have just gotten my horse tired.

Nos. 165 to 166, Volume 2 of Manyoshu (the poems composed by Oku no Himemiko when his grave was moved to Mt. Nijo)
Now you are dead, and still I live; from tomorrow I will see Mt. Futakami (also known as Mt. Nijo) as my brother. Even though I try to break off the flowering ashibi branch on the rock, nobody tells me that you are still here to be shown the branch by me.

Waka (a traditional Japanese poems)

It would be the last day for me to see a wild duck on the pond of Iware; Would I die today?

Chinese poems

The golden sun has already declined in the west. A drum sounds, urging my short life to end. On my last journey to the land of the dead, there is no difference between a host and a guest. This evening I have to leave my house, heading for the land of the dead.

After his death

His grave is near the top of Odake top of Mt. nijo (at the border between Nara and Osaka Prefectures) (the Imperial Household Agency calls it as 'The grave of Prince Otsu at Mt. Nijo.')
However, there is an opinion that Toritaniguchi-kofun Tumulus, which is in the Katsuragi City side, at the foot of the mountain, is the real grave.

The seated statue of Prince Otsu (a deposit in Nara National Museum) (Important Cultural Property) has been handed down in Yakushi-ji Temple in Nara.

Relatives

Father: Emperor Tenmu
Mother: Ota no Himemiko (Father: Emperor Tenchi)
Older maternal half-sister: Oku no Himemiko

Wife: Yamanobe no Himemiko
Child: Awazuo (Prince Awazu)

This Awazuo is considered the founder of the Toyohara clan, but the genealogy contains many conflicts and is not reliable.