Fujiwara no Muneko (Ikushi) (藤原育子)

Born in 1146, and passed away on September 23, 1173, "FUJIWARA no Muneko (Ikushi)" was the empress in the last days of the Heian period. She was "chugu" (the second consort) of Emperor Nijo & the adoptive mother of Emperor Rokujo.

Her family name was Fujiwara, and her given name at first was Koshi. There are two theories about who was her real father, and one holds that Saneyoshi TOKUDAIJI (Kanin lineage within the Fujiwara family) who reached the Court position of Sadaijin (Minister of the Left) was her father while the other speculates that FUJIWARA no Tadamichi (called Hosshoji) of Sekkan-ke (the families which produced Sessho [Regent] & Kanpaku [the Chief Adviser to the Emperor]), who himself became Kanpaku was her father. The former says Muneko was the real daughter of Saneyoshi & the adopted child of Tadamichi & the adopted child of Motozane KONOE, her brother-in-law, and the latter says that Muneko was Tadamichi's Otohime gimi (Tadamichi's second daughter next to Kokamon-in) and that she became the adopted child of Motozane, her elder half brother. The latter seems to be more reliable than the former, because the former was recorded in a historical source written in the Muromachi period while the latter was recorded in "Gukansho" (Jottings of a Fool) written by Jien, who was not only the almost contemporary person with Muneko but also the son of Tadamichi, in other words, Muneko's relative. And so, the description below is based on the assumption that Muneko was the real daughter of Tadamichi.

Her real mother was MINAMOTO no Toshiko who was "Kodono" (the most responsible person of all parishioners of Hatidai-jinja Shrine) & Tadamichi's wife & a person of Murakami-Genji (Minamoto clan) & the daughter of MINAMOTO no Akitoshi, a local "Zuryo" (the head of the provincial governors). On January 11, 1162, Muneko did judai (an imperial consort's bridal entry into Court), and she received the investiture of Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank) on the same day. Ten days later, she was appointed to "nyogo" (a high-ranking lady in Court & a consort of the emperor), and she was given a chamber (called "Fujitsubo") in Higyosha. On March 13, 1162, she underwent the imperial formal ceremony and became chugu; her younger half brother Kanezane KUJO was appointed to "Chugu daibu" (Master of the Consort's Household). She did judai as the daughter of Tadamichi, the former Kanpaku, and also as the adopted child of her elder half brother Motozane, the then Kanpaku. So Sekkan-ke succeeded in connecting with Emperor Nijo, and Tadamichi and Motozane supported the emperor's direct rule as "Otono" (former Kanpaku) and as Kanpaku respectively. Muneko resided with the emperor in "Satodairi" (a temporary palace) and "Oshikoji Higashi no Toin den" (Oshikoji Higashi no Toin Palace), and in April (or May) of the year when she became chugu, she hosted "utaawase" (a contest of Japanese poetry) and "kaiawase" (a game of pairing the two parts of clamshells), both supported by the emperor and Sekkan-ke.

However, Muneko lost Emperor Nijo in less than 4 years after their marriage; she lost her father Tadamichi the year before. Emperor Nijo was ill in bed from June 1165, and his condition became serious despite prayers for his cure, and so on August 10, he transferred the throne to his son Imperial Prince Nobuhito (later, Emperor Rokujo). Nobuhito had an enthronement ceremony on September 11, and it was held the next day when Emperor Nijo passed away at the early age of 23.

Emperor Rokujo was born from the daughter of the lower-ranking noble IKI no Muneto (Yoshimori), and the emperor's maternal relatives were so low in their social position that they could never look after the emperor. Therefore, Muneko was actually involved in raising the emperor, and was not just a mother in name only. Muneko accompanied the emperor no matter where he visited as the empress dowager, and she ascended to "Takamikura" (the imperial throne) with the emperor in her arms at his enthronement, when the emperor was just eight months old (in his first year) from his birth on January 4, 1165. And Muneko's older brother Motozane transferred from Kanpaku to Sessho for assisting the little emperor.

However, in 1166, Motozane also passed away just after the demise of Emperor Nijo, and in addition, ministers on the side of Motozane died or changed sides, so the actual power in Court moved in the hands of Goshirakawa-in, who conflicted with the late Emperor Nijo. Goshirakawa-in dominated the Court politics as "Chiten no kimi" (the retired emperor in power), and he pushed Imperial Prince Norihito (later, Emperor Takakura), who was the birth child of his favorite consort TAIRA no Shigeko, into the Crown Prince. The official investiture ceremony of the Crown Prince on November 11, 1166, was said quite exceptional, because the ceremony meant that the three-year-old emperor greeted his six-year-old heir, who was his own uncle.

On April 6, 1168, Goshirakawa-in & TAIRA no Kiyomori cooperatively made Emperor Rokujo transfer the throne to Emperor Takakura. After that, Rokujo passed away at the age of 13 on August 30, 1176, when he was extraordinarily the look-like-a-child Retired Emperor, because he did not undergo "genpuku" (coming-of-age ceremony for boys) yet.

Muneko, the adoptive mother of Emperor Rokujo, became a Buddhist priest on November 17, 1168, after Rokujo descended the throne in the same year. On March 13, 1172, TAIRA no Tokuko, the consort of Emperor Takakura, newly got "Sakuryu" (imperial investiture) of chugu, so Muneko's title was changed to empress. Muneko passed away at the age of 28 on September 30, 1173, three years before the demise of Emperor Rokujo.