Fujiwara no Michinori (藤原通憲)

FUJIWARA no Michinori (1106 - January 23, 1160) was a noble and scholar living at the end of the Heian period. He is better known by his posthumous Buddhist name Shinzei.

Michinori is said be from the Southern House of the Fujiwara clan, and the son of FUJIWARA no Sanekane, who held the tile of Kurodo (he keeper of imperial archives). There is some debate about whether his mother was the daughter of MINAMOTO no Ariei or the daughter of MINAMOTO no Arifusa. Michinori was temporarily adopted by TAKASHINA no Tsunetoshi and used the Takashina name; however, he returned to the Fujiwara family when the government of Retired Emperor Toba was reinstated. His first wife was the daughter of TAKASHINA no Shigenaka, and he later married FUJIWARA no Asako (Kii no Tsubone), who was a wet nurse to Emperor Goshirakawa. He had three children with Takashina's daughter, FUJIWARA no Toshinori, Sadanori, and Korenori, and a son, Shigenori, with Kii no Tsubone.

Michinori came from a line of scholars that started with his great-grandfather, FUJIWARA no Sanenori, and his grandfather, FUJIWARA no Suetsuna, who was head of Daigaku no kami (Director of the Bureau of Education). In 1112, his father died suddenly in the Kurodo dokoro (the Chamberlain's Office); being a young boy, he was adopted by TAKASHINA no Tsunetoshi, one of his relatives. Later, he served FUJIWARA no Shoshi (Empress Dowager Taiken) and in 1125, he was awarded the rank of Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade). A recommendation from the Empress Dowager Taiken placed Michinori in the service of Retired Emperor Toba, under whom he studied hard and became famous as a person of intelligence and extensive knowledge. He was then appointed governor of Hyuga Province, and published 'Honcho seiki' (Chronicle of Imperial Reigns)' and 'Hosoruirin' (law book established in the late Heian period).

His desire was to follow in the footsteps of his great-grandfather and grandfather by serving at Daigaku-ryo (Bureau of Education under the ritsuryo system) and bringing a scholarly reputation back to his family. However, in an age when nepotistic succession was common among the nobility, Michinori, who joined the Takashina family, was stripped of his right to succeed Sanenori and Suetsuna, and could not be appointed an official of Daigaku-ryo. Disappointed with his fate, he considered joining the priesthood. In an attempt to persuade him to reconsider, Emperor Toba awarded him the rank of Shogoinoge (Senior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) in 1143, and in 1144, approved his return to the Fujiwara family and appointed him Shonagon (lesser councilor of state). Furthermore, he issued a proclamation authorizing Michinori's son, Toshinori, to take the examination for the certification required for appointment as Monjo hakase (professor of literature) and Daigaku no kami; however Michinori's decision was firm and he joined the priesthood on August 29, 1144, taking the name Shinzei.

Thereafter, he served the Cloistered Emperor Toba, and being the husband of Emperor Goshirakawa's wet nurse, made efforts for Goshirakawa's return to power. He also recruited samurai, including TAIRA no Kiyomori, and after arranging for memorial services for Retired Emperor Toba when he passed away in July 1156, he fought in the Hogen War, actively adopting MINAMOTO no Yoshitomo's plan for a night raid. Emperor Goshirakawa, Shinzei, and Kiyomori achieved victory. The death penalty was resumed and MINAMOTO no Tameyoshi was executed. Michinori moved forward to weaken the power of Sekkan-ke (families of regents and advisers) and to promoted the direct rule by the emperor; he exerted power to establish Shinsei Nana Kajo (newly established seven rules) and restore Kirokushoenkenkeisho (Research office of manor) to a reorganized manor. The restoration of Daidairi (The Heian Palace) and the revival of Sumai no Sechie (an annual event of the period) were made possible by Shinzei's outstanding abilities. Thereafter, when Emperor Nijo was enthroned and the government of Retired Emperor Goshirakawa took power, the opposing powers, FUJIWARA no Nobuyori and MINAMOTO no Yoshitomo, collected their forces and staged a coup (the Heiji War) in 1159 while TAIRA no Kiyomori was visiting Kumano Shrine. Shinzei was pursued by Yoshitomo and Nobuyori's army, captured in the mountains of Iga Province by MINAMOTO no Mitsuyasu and beheaded (The coup was put down by Kiyomori, and the foundation for Taira government to come in later years was established).

Shinzei was a learned individual, known as one of the top scholars of the period, an equal of FUJIWARA no Yorinaga. His outstanding intellect was highly praised in "Imakagami" (a collection of historical stories); on the other hand, he is said to have brought disaster by studying astronomy even though he was not from the family of Onmyodo, the way of Yin and Yang.

Works in which he makes an appearance

Yumiharizuki (Half/quarter moon)" (1955, Director: Santaro MARUNE, portrayed by Nao MOMOKI)
Shin Heike Monogatari (NHK Taiga drama series)" (1972: NHK Taiga drama series, portrayed by Eitaro OZAWA)
TAIRA no Kiyomori (TBS Drama)" (1992: portrayed by Takeshi HARAGUCHI)