Fujiwara no Otsugu (藤原緒嗣)

FUJIWARA no Otsugu (774 to August 26, 843) was a politician in the Heian period. Otsugu was the first son of FUJIWARA no Momokawa of the Ceremonial House of the FUJIWARA clan. Otsugu's mother was a daughter of ISE no Otsu, a powerful clan in Ise Province. Otsugu was at Shonii (Senior Second Rank) and was Sadaijin (minister of the left).


Personal History
FUJIWARA no Otsugu's father played an important role in supporting two emperors, Emperor Konin and Emperor Kanmu, however, he died of disease while he was acting as a Sangi (royal advisor) when Otsugu was five years old. Though this was originally fatal to Otsugu's promotion, the Emperor Kanmu appreciated the performance of Otsugu's father's achievement and therefore, the emperor always worried about Otsugu. In 788, the ceremony to celebrate Otsugu's coming of age was held under the sponsorship of the Emperor Kanmu and the Emperor himself put on the crown and presented a sword to Otsugu and Otsugu was at this moment appointed to Shorokuinojo (Senior Sixth Rank, Upper Grade) and Udoneri (Ministerial equerry) and received kind treatment including 150 houses as his territory. After three years, he was appointed to Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) and was treated as a noble. After this, Otsugu broke one after another the records of promotion in the past, for example, Otsugu was promoted to Shogoinoge (Senior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) at the age of 24 and, two days later, Otsugu was further promoted by virtually four ranks to Jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade) to be Emonfu (details are separately described) and Otsugu at a young age of 29 was promoted to Sangi which was the same rank as his father's. This was repaying the favor by Emperor Kanmu who could not fully repay the favor to Ostugu's father, Momokawa and concurrently the placement which the Emperor Kanmu executed expecting the future of Otsugu's ability. However, Otsugu responded to the emperor's expectation three years later in a way that the emperor had never imagined.

Tokusei Dispute
On January 4, 806, Otsugu and a coworker of Otsugu's, SUGANO no Mamichi who was also a Sangi were asked for their opinions by the Emperor Kanmu about problems of the politics in those days.
Otsugu said at once, 'What currently troubles the people are the subjugation of Ezo and the construction of Heiankyo and the people will be relieved if these two are stopped.'
Masamichi who was old, had served the emperor for years, and had been exceptionally promoted from a rank of low-ranked scholar made the best effort to object to Otsugu considering the emperor's intention, however, the emperor finally accepted Otsugu's assertion, announced the discontinuation of the subjugation of Ezo and the construction of Heiankyo which should be the lifework of the emperor ('Tokusei Dispute') and died in the next year.

Eras of Emperor Heijo and Emperor Saga
When the period of the Emperor Heijo started, in order to reconstruct the devastated politics in rural areas under the new emperor, Kansatsushi (a visiting observer system) was founded led by Otsugu and FUJIWARA no Sonohito and, thereby, a new system was introduced in which highly ranked officials of the central government directly supervised the operation of politics in each area. The enthusiasm of the emperor and Otsugu was so high that, in 807, they abolished Sangi itself and appointed highly ranked officials at the equivalent class to Sangi to be dedicated visiting observers. However, in the next year, Otsugu was additionally appointed to be Azechi (inspector of the provincial government) for Mutsu Province and Dewa Province and was ordered to leave for the site as a successor of highly reputed warrior, SAKANOUE no Tamuramaro. Though Otsugu was an excellent choice with appreciation of Otsugu's ability, Otsugu submitted a resignation letter three times with the reasons that he had objected the subjugation of Ezo which was the most important task of the position, that he was a genuine nobleman and, therefore, he did not know much about the military strategies and, in addition, that he was physically weak. However, Otsugu's will was not accepted and he left for the site in the next year. However, Otsugu strongly adhered to his personal policy to the last and he never moved his army during his tenure and dedicated himself to the policy to protect the local officials, warriors, and the ordinary people.

When he handed down his position to FUNYA no Watamaro and retruned to Kyoto one and a half years later, the situation there had completely changed because of the resignation of the Emperor Heijo and the Kusuko Incident, which occurred following the resignation led mainly by FUJIWARA no Kusuko who was from the the Ceremonial House of the FUJIWARA clan similarly to Otsugu. This incident had nothing to do with Otsugu and he joined the suppressing side, however, the whole Ceremonial House which was Otsugu's political base was led to its political decline because Kusuko who was a daughter of FUJIWARA no Tanetsugu and who was also the wife of FUJIWARA no Tadanushi (both Tanetsugu and Tadanushi were Otsugu' cousins) was the leader of the Incident. Furthermore, in this confusion, the Kansatsushi system was abolished and the Sangi position revived (Otsugu came back to the position of Sangi) and, therefore, the reforming policy led by Otsugu virtually collapsed. Then, FUJIWARA no Fuyutsugu who was one-year younger than Otsugu and who was from the Northern House of the Fujiwara clan was appointed by the Emperor Saga as Kurodo no to (Head Chamberlain) which was newly placed and played the central role of the politics and, as a result, Fuyutsugu passed Otsugu's political rank four years after the Kusuko Incident and the Northern House raised its head. After that, the promotion of Otsugu was left behind that of Fuyutsugu and Otsugu often offered his resignation due to his discouragement and sickness, however, his resignation was not permitted. However, on the other hand, Otsugu participated in the compilation of "Shinsenseishiroku" (Newly Selected Family Names) and "Nihon Koki" (Latter History of Japan). It is said that Otsugu was engaged in the whole steps of compilation of especially the latter (aside from the actual writing) and, therefore, this book was a historical book produced by the people who had talents for writing and spirits for criticism and who were gathered under Otsugu. Otsugu also proposed to limit the messengers from Bo Hai (a country) whose diplomatic mission became weaker and became almost commercial and who only troubled the residents of the areas where the messengers passed through.

Later Life
When Fuyutsugu died in 828, Otsugu who was udaijin (minister of the right) helped Emperor Junna who was born from FUJIWARA no Tabiko, an older sister of Otsugu's and Otsugu played a central role in politics, however, he was often sick and could not satisfactorily conduct any political work for days.
Furthermore, Otsugu's first son, FUJIWARA no Ieo whom Otsugu expected to play an important role in the future died while his father was still alive
The sons of Fuyutsugu, FUJIWARA no Nagayoshi and FUJIWARA no Yoshifusa brothers had already started to raise their heads in the political society and Fuyutsugu further had an advantage over Otsugu even after his death.

So politically stable periods succeeded from the reign of Emperor Saga to the reign of Emperor Ninmyo that they were adored as Subun no chi (the peaceful era of Subun), however, the Emperor Saga did not quickly abdicate the thrown in favor of his son, Imperial Prince Masara (Emperor Ninmyo) while he abdicated the thrown in favor of a younger brother of the prince, Imperial Prince Otomo (Emperor Junna) and this incident produced a faction on the side of each prince. Therefore, due to the Jowa Incident that occurred in 842 after the Retired Emperor Saga died, FUJIWARA no Yoshino (a child of a cousin of Otsugu's) who was Chunagon (vice-councilor of state) was exiled, and this was a big damage to the Ceremonial House. In the next year, although Otsugu was promoted to Shonii (Senior Second Rank) and to a minister of the left, he died of a disease not having fully fulfilled his will. In old age, Otsugu was engaged in improvement of Kannon-ji Temple (Imakumano) which is famous for Kukai and the foundation of Horin-ji Temple (later, Sennyu-ji Temple) and these temples were completed in the generation of Otsugu's second son, FUJIWARA no Harutsu. Though it is also said that Otsugu's grave is located in Kannon-ji Temple, its location is not known.

Otsugu was a wise and conscientious politician who was adored and it was said 'Otsugu always thinks of the country and its people and always discussed all the political problems,' however, on the other hand, Otsugu was sometimes stubborn and therefore was politically lonely and was often deeply troubled by Fuyutsugu and his sons. Harutsu who was the second son of Otsugu and who had grown seeing his father in such a situation retired at an early stage after his father died and the Ceremonial House never played a central role in politics again after Otsugu died.

Year 788


Year 791

Jiju (Chamberlain) and Chue no shosho (Minor Captain of the Imperial Guard)

(During the above, he also worked as Assistant Governor of Hitachi Province and internal stable chief)

August 797

Shogoinoge and in the same month Jushiinoge. In the same month, Otsugu was promoted to Emon no kami (Captain of the Outer Palace Guards) and, in the next month, was appointed to the Governor of Izumo Province.

Year 798

Zosaidaiji chokan (Leader of building Saidai-ji Temple) as an additional post

Year 801

Otsugu was promoted to Ueji no kami (Captain of the Right Division of Outer Palace Guards).

Year 802


June 806

Otsugu was also appointed to Kansatsushi for Sanyodo. In July, the assignment was changed to Kansatsushi for Kinai region (the five capital provinces surrounding the ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto).

Year 807

Sangi was abolished (appointed to Kansatsushi for Kinai region and also to Ueji no kami).

May 808

Otsugu was also appointed to Gyobukyo (Minister of Justice). In June, he was appointed to Kansatsushi for Tosanndo and to Azechi for Mutsu Province and Dewa Province (he started to work in Mutsu Province in the next year).

June 810

Kansatsushi was abolished and Sangi was revived.


His concurrent assignment was changed to the Governor of Mino Province and Otsugu returned to Kyoto (in the same month, 'the Kusuko Incident' occurred).

Same Month

After the name of the era was changed to Konin in 810, he was also appointed to Ueji no kami (re-assignment).

Year 815

Otsugu was appointed to Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank) (FUJIWARA no Fuyutsugu was also appointed to this position in the previous year and their ranks became reversed).

Year 817

Otsugu was appointed to Chunagon.

Year 818

Otsugu was appointed to Shosanmi (Senior Third Rank).

Year 821

Otsugu was appointed to Dainagon (chief councilor of state.

Year 823

He was appointed to Junii (Junior Second Rank). He was also appointed to Kotaishi fu (an official in charge of education of the Crown Prince).

Year 825

He was appointed to Udaijin.

Year 826

FUJIWARA no Fuyutsugu (Sadaijin) died (Otsugu was promoted to the chief of the government).

Year 832

He was promoted to Sadaijin.

Year 833

He was promoted to the rank of Shonii.

Year 843

Otsugu died during his tenure as Shonii and Sadaijin (at the age of 70).