Fujiwara no Mototsune (藤原基経)

FUJIWARA no Mototsune (born in 836 and died on February 28 in 891) was a court noble in the early Heian period. He was the third son of FUJIWARA no Nagara of the Northern Branch of the Fujiwara clan (Fujiwara Hokke). His mother was FUJIWARA no Fusatsugu's daughter, FUJIWARA no Otoharu. His foster father was FUJIWARA no Yoshifusa. His children include FUJIWARA no Tokihira and FUJIWARA no Tadahira. His childhood name was Teko. He was called Horikawa no Otodo.

His became the foster child of his uncle Yoshifusa, who was the Sessho (regent). After the death of Yoshifusa, he succeeded him in wielding the real power at the Imperial Court. He accused Emperor Yozei of being tyrannic, disposed him, and installed Emperor Koko in his place. During the reign of the next emperor, Emperor Uda, he caused the Ako Incident, making a public display of his power. The Emperor entrusted the governance of the country to him, and he became the first Kanpaku (Chief Advisor to the Emperor) in Japanese history.

Biography

Because his uncle, FUJIWARA no Yoshifusa, who occupied a powerful position in the government, had no sons of his own, Mototsune became Yoshifusa's adoptive heir.

In 851, when he underwent the ceremony of attaining manhood at Togun-den, he was treated very kindly, as the Emperor Montoku himself had placed the court headgear on Mototsune's head, and he was also promoted to the court rank of Shorokuijo (Senior Sixth Rank, Upper Grade). During 854-857 and 857-859, he held the positions of Sahyoe no jo (third-ranked officer of Sahyoe-fu, the Left Division of Middle Palace Guards), Shonagon (Lesser counselor), and Sakone no shosho (Minor Captain of the Left Division of Inner Palace Guards), eventually becoming Kurodo no To (Head Chamberlain). In 859-877, he became Sakone no chujo (Middle Captain of the Left Division of Inner Palace Guards), was named Sangi (councilor), and became a member of Kugyo (the top court officials).

In 866, at the time of the fire at the Otenmon Gate, TOMO no Yoshio, Dainagon (chief councilor of state) falsely accused MINAMOTO no Makoto (Kugyo) who held the position of Sadaijin (Minister of the Left), whereupon FUJIWARA no Yoshimi, who held the position of Udaijin (Minister of the Right) ordered Mototsune, who was Sakone no chujo, to arrest MINAMOTO no Makoto; however, Mototsune was suspicious of the charges, and notified his foster father Yoshifusa, whose efforts helped to prove MINAMOTO no Makoto's innocence. Subsequently, there was an anonymous tip that led to the discover that TOMO no Yoshio was the true culprit, whereupon he was banished, while members of the Otomo and Ki clans, which had also been implicated in the crime, were punished in great numbers, which was big blow for these ancient great clans (Otenmon Incident). In the same year, he was promoted to the court rank of Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank) and appointed to the post of Chunagon (vice-councilor of state).

Subsequently, he also assumed the post of Sakone no chujo and was promoted to the even higher post of Sakone no daisho (Great General of the Left), while at the same time holding the post of Azechi (Inspector) for Mutsu and Dewa Provinces. He was appointed to the post of Dainagon in 870. He was named Udaijin in 872. In the same year, his foster father, Yoshihisa, died and Mototsune succeeded him in wielding real power at the Imperial Court. Mototsune's sister, FUJIWARA no Takaiko was a court lady of Emperor Seiwa and gave birth to the Emperor's first child, who later became Emperor Yozei. The next year, he was promoted to the court rank of Junii (Junior Second Rank).

In 876, the Emperor Seiwa abdicated, passing his title to Imperial Prince Sadaakira (Emperor Yozei). As the Emperor was only 9 years old at the time, Mototsune was named Sessho (regent), following the precedent set by Yoshifusa. In 878, Ezo (northern part of Japan) Fushu prisoners caused a revolt in Dewa Province, andofficials such as FUJIWARA no Yasunori, ONO no Harukaze, who were known for their resourcefulness, were assigned the task of restoring the peace; by the following year they had succeeded in putting down the revolt (Gangyo War).

In 879, along with SUGAWARA no Koreyoshi and others, he completed work on the ten volume Nihon Montoku Tenno Jitsuroku (the fifth national history, covering years 850-858 (reign of Montoku)).

He was named Daijo daikan (Grand minister of state) in 880, (The accounts provided in the "Kugyo bunin" (directory of court nobles) and other sources maintain that his title of Sessho was renewed, and that he became Kanpaku, however, those occurrences are not collaborated by the official history the "Nihon Sandai Jitsuroku" (sixth of the six classical Japanese history texts), and the "Dainihonshi" (Great history of Japan), which was compiled in the Edo period, contains no record of an Imperial proclamation appointing him as Kanpaku at that time). In the following year, he was promoted to the court rank of Juichii (Junior First Rank).

In 882, Emperor Yozei reached adulthood and from that time onward their relationship worsened. Mototsune offered his resignation, but it was not accepted. It is thought that this was not the usual type of ceremonial resignation that is often recounted in the records for this period, but that it was a gesture having a political meaning. After submitting his resignation, Mototsune ceased to attend the Imperial Court.

In Devember 883, an incident occurred in which the child of the wet nurse KI no Matako (KI no Zenshi), MINAMOTO no Masaru, was killed on the premises of the Imperial Court. It is unknown, whether this was actually a murder or an accidental death, and the murderer was also said to be unknown, but at Court there were rumors that the Emperor Yozei had beaten him to death.

Immediately after the occurrence of that incident, the fact that the Emperor Yozei, who was very fond of horses, had built a stable in his own palace (Kinchu), and was having low-ranking folk tend to the horses he kept there came to light. Mototsune went to Court, and had the Emperor's followers and the horses of the Emperor removed. Emperor Yozei is described as a tyrant in later records, which recount that he was said to have enjoyed catching frogs and snakes, having dogs and monkeys fight with each other, and ordering people to climb trees so he could watch them fall to their deaths.

In 884, Mototsune was trying to find a way to remove the Emperor, so he approached Prince Tsunesada, who had been made Haitaishi (defunct Prince) at the time of Emperor Nimmyo presumably to sound him out as to whether he would be interested in acceding to the throne, but the Prince had already taken the tonsure to become a monk, and refused. At this juncture, Mototsune decided to have the third son of the Emperor Nimmyo, who was of a modest and generous character, installed on the throne as Emperor Koko. Prince Tokiyasu's mother was FUJIWARA no Takushi, a daughter of FUJIWARA no Futatsugu, and she was also a sister of Mototsune's mother, Otoharu, making Mototsune a cousin of the Prince Tokiyasu.

When he assembled the court nobles to discuss deposing the emperor and replacing him with Prince Tokiyasu, the Minister of the Left, MINAMOTO no Toru (the twelfth son of Emperor Saga) asserted that he himself also had the pedigree, and was therefore qualified to become emperor. Mototsune rejected this claim, maintaining that there was no precedent for a descendant of an emperor who had been given a family name (e.g., Taira, Minamoto) to become emperor, and then FUJIWARA no Morofuji, a sangi councilor, threatened to have anyone who did not follow Mototsune's plan killed, and the deliberations were thereby brought to an end. Having secured the decision of the assembly of the court nobles, Mototsune urged the Emperor Yozei to abdicate. The isolated young emperor did not have the capacity to resist.

Mototsune then had Prince Tokiyasu (Emperor Koko) enthroned. To repay Mototsune for installing him on the throne, Emperor Koko issued an imperial decree delegating all power to the Daijo daijin Mototsune. The Emperor was already 55 years old, and he intentionally did not name an heir, so as to leave the decision to Mototsune.

In 887, Emperor Koko was on his deathbed, and Mototsune proposed to make the Emperor's seventh son, Prince Sadami (who subsequently became Emperor Uda) heir to the throne. Sadami was the Emperor's favorite son, and the emperor was so happy that he grasped Mototsune's hands in thanks. As there had existed no precedent for someone who had been given a family name (a practice which had the effect of stripping a son of an emperor of his title as Prince, and removing him from the line of candidates eligible to inherit the throne) to become Emperor, Emperor Koko reinstated Sadami as Prince from his deathbed, and passed away on that same day. Sadami was enthroned at once as Emperor Uda.

Emperor Uda followed the example of the preceding emperor and delegated all power to Mototsune, requesting that TACHIBANA no Hiromi, the Sadaiben (major controller of the left), write a draft and issue an Imperial Rescript declaring, "The decisions on all political matters shall be entrusted (kanpakusuru) to the Daijo daijin (Grand minister of state), and so be it." The title of Kanpaku (the Chief Adviser to the Emperor) appeared for the first time. Mototsune initially put forth a polite expression of his desire to decline the appointment and resign; however, the emperor again asked Hiromi again to draft an Imperial Rescript declaring, "Mototsune should be appointed as Ako, and assume the post of a state minister." Ako is a term derived from classical Chinese texts, and because FUJIWARA no Sukeyo, Monjo hakase (professor of literature), had described the scenario to Mototsune as one in which, "he would receive the high position of Ako, but it would be merely ceremonious, and would have no official duties"; therefore, Mototsune was able to abandoned all his political duties.

Because this issue became protracted and had not been resolved after more than half a year, it became troublesome for Emperor Uda, who made an attempt to convey his true intentions on the matter to Mototsune in an effort to try to appease him, but Mototsune would not accept. Hiromi had some scholars examine what the official duties of the Ako were, and protested that Mototsune was reproaching him without grounds; however, the scholars all sided with Mototsune. In the end, Mototsune had Hiromi dismissed, and the whole issue was resolved when the Emperor himself issued an Imperial Rescript admitting his mistake (the Ako incident). This event served as a clear reminder to the public that the Fujiwara clan was in actuality more powerful than the Emperor. Mototsune was still demanding that Hiromi be banished; however, calm was restored when SUGAWARA no Michizane sent a letter to Mototsune, admonishing him. This incident was very humiliating for Emperor Uda, who therefore promoted SUGAWARA no Michizane to an important position as a trusted and close advisor after Mototsune's death.

The relationship between the Emperor Uda and Mototsune had been restored for the time being, and Mototsune took charge of political affairs. In 888, Mototsune's daughter, FUJIWARA no Onshi became a court lady.

In 891, he fell ill and died. He was posthumously awarded the court rank of Shoiichi (Senior First Rank) and received the name Mototsune (with different Chinese characters).

Record of office and rank

January 852: He was appointed as Kurodo (Chamberlain) (and seemed to became the foster son of Yoshifusa around this time).

In 854

February: He became Sahyoe no shojo (Third-ranked Assistant Officer of Sahyoe-fu, the Left Division of Middle Palace Guards).

November 8: He was awarded the court rank of Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) and became Jiju (chamberlain). (According to an alternative account, he was named Jiju on November 29).

In 855

February 10: He was appointed to the post of Sahyoe no suke (Assistant Captain of the Left Division of Middle Palace Guards), held concurrently with his other posts.

May 13: He was also made Kurodo.

April 857: He was appointed to the post of Shonagon, held concurrently with his other posts.

In 858

On February 6, he was appointed to the post of Sahyoe no suke, held concurrently with his other post. He remained in the positions of Kurodo, Shonagon and Jiju.

On October 28, he was transferred to the post of Sakone no shosho. He retained the position of Shonagon.

In Novemberber, he also became Kurodo no to.

On January 6, 859, he was appointed to the post of Harima no suke (assistant governor of Harima Province), held concurrently with his other posts.

On January 5, 861, he was promoted to the court rank of Shogoinoge (Senior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) and retained the positions of Kurodo no to and Sakone no shosho.

On February 25, 861, he was promoted to the court rank of Jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade), and retained the positions of Kurodo no to and Sakone no shosho.

On March 7, 863, he was transferred to the post of Sakone no chujo (Middle Captain of the Left Division of Inner Palace Guards) and retained his position of Kurodo no to.

On March 1, 864, he was appointed as Sangi, and retained the position of Sakone no chujo.

In 865

On March 2, he was appointed to the post of Awa no Gon no kami (Provisional Governor of Awa Province), held concurrently with his other posts.

On May 1, he was appointed to the post of governor of Iyo no Kami (Governor of Iyo Province), and resigned from the post of the Awa no Gon no kami.

In 866

On January 31, he was promoted to the court rank of Jushiijo, (Junior Fourth Rank, Upper Grade), and retained the positions of Sangi, Sakone no chujo, and Iyo no kami.

On April 16, he was promoted to the court rank of Shoshiinoge (Lower Fourth Court Rank), and retained the positions of Sangi, Sakone no chujo, and Iyo no kami.

On January 21, 867, he was transferred to the post of Chunagon, and was promoted to the court rank of Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank).

On February 26, 867, he was appointed to the post of Sakone no chujo, held concurrently with his other posts.

On June 24, 868, he left the position of Sakone no chujo, and was appointed to the post of Sakone no taisho (Western Commander), held concurrently with his other posts.

On March 3, 869, he was appointed to the position of Mutsu-Dewa Azechi (local inspector of Mutsu and Dewa Provinces), held concurrently with his other posts.

In 870

On February 21, he was transferred to the post of Dainagon.

On March 8, he retained the position of Sakone no taisho.

In March, he retained the position of Mutsu-Dewa Azechi.

In 872

On October 5, he was promoted to the court rank of Shosanmi (Senior Third Rank), and transferred to the post of Udaijin.

On October 9, he retained the position of Sakone no taisho.

On January 5, 873, he was appointed as Sessho (regent). He retained the positions of Udaijin, and Sakone no taisho.

On February 12, 873, he was promoted to the court rank of Junii, (Junior Second Rank), and retained the positions of Sessho, Udaijin, and Sakone no taisho..

In February, 877, he resigned from the position of Sakone no taisho.

In 880

On December 17, he also assumed the position of Kanpaku. He retained the position of Udaijin.

On January 11, he was appointed as Daijo daijin (Grand minister of state). He retained the position of Kanpaku.

On February 21, 881, he was promoted to the court rank of Juichii (Junior First Rank), and retained the posts of Kanpaku and Daijo daijin.

In 887

On December 13, he was appointed as Kanpaku (the day the official imperial rescript was issued).

On December 18, he resigned from the position of Kanpaku, but was asked to accept a position as Ako.

On July 18, 888, he resigned as Ako, and returned to the position of Kanpaku.

In 890

On March 17, he was promoted to the court rank of Jusangu (honorary rank next to the three Empresses: Great Empress Dowager, Empress Dowager, and Empress).

On January 31, 891, he resigned from the post of Kanpaku.

On February 28, 891, he died. He died at the age of 56. He was posthumously awarded the court rank of Shoichii, (Senior First Rank). His posthumous name was Shosenko. He was buried in Echizen Province.

After he died
The northern branch of the Fujiwara clan (Fujiwara Hokke), of which Mototsune was an important progenitor (Nakaso), and the Murakami-Genji (Minamoto clan), which had a close relationship with the Fujiwara Hokke continued to hold sway over the Imperial Court, and before modern times, those putting forward the argument that Mototsune was similar to Huo Guang of the Former Han Dynasty, in that he was a "model vassal" who had toppled the tyrannical Emperor Yozei, were mainly scholars of Confucianism. Chikafusa KITABATAKE (a member of the Murakami-Genji clan) praised the toppling of Emperor Yozei in the Jinno shotoki, writing that due to the "by virtue of his good deeds" Mototsune's descendents were able to monopolize the positions of Sessho and Kanpaku.