Fujiwara no Yorimichi (藤原頼通)

FUJIWARA no Yorimichi (992 - March 2, 1074) was a noble and Imperial retainer of the Heian period. He served as Sessho (regent), Kanpaku (the chief adviser to the Emperor), and Daijo-daijin (Grand minister of state). His father was FUJIWARA no Michinaga, and his mother was MINAMOTO no Rinshi. His wife was MINAMOTO no Takahime (who was given the Minamoto name after leaving the imperial family) and their children were FUJIWARA no Michifusa and FUJIWARA no Morozane. His childhood name was Tazu. His nickname was Uji-dono (lit. Master Uji). His posthumous Buddhist name was 蓮花覚 (literally "Lotus Awakened") later simplified to 寂覚 (literally "Melancholy Awakened").

He was assigned at a young age to be Sessho (regent) to Emperor Goichijo by his father, who continued to support him. After his father's death, he was one of the leading members of the imperial government, serving as Kanpaku for 50 years, spanning the reigns of Emperor Gosuzaku and Emperor Goreizei and, together with his father Michinaga, built what was the golden age of the Fujiwara clan. The Hoo-do Hall (Phoenix Hall) at Byodoin Temple, built by Yorimichi, is still standing to show the symbol of their glory.

However, because the maiden taken by the Emperor as Empress was unable to provide a son and, due to conflicts such as the Toi Invasion, the TAIRA no Tadatsune Rebellion and the Zenkunen War, the absolute power of the Fujiwara clan in the inner circles of the imperial court was eroded at home and abroad and rocked to its political foundations time and again; in its final years, the Fujiwara clan, who kept the posision of Sessho and Kanpaku, saw the unrelated Emperor Gosanjo enthroned and as such, and headed towards decline; in time, there was a transition to a period of cloistered government and the ascendance of samurai warriors.

On the internet there are numerous instances of FUJIWARA no Yori"michi" recorded using the "道" kanji character for "michi"; however, care should be taken to use the correct character which is "通".

His father Michinaga had two wives; Rinshi, who was the daughter of Sadaijin (Minister of the Left) MINAMOTO no Masanobu, and MINAMOTO no Akiko, who was daughter of Sadaijin MINAMOTO no Takaakira (who had been overthrown in the Anna War). Rinshi was viewed as his legal wife and her sons, Yorimichi and FUJIWARA no Norimichi, were given preference in promotions over Akiko's children, FUJIWARA no Yorimune and FUJIWARA no Yoshinobu, and her daughter became Empress.

As the Nairan (inspector of documents submitted to the Emperor) and Sadaijin to Emperor Ichijo, Michinaga was the most important person in the imperial government, wielding immense influence.

In 1003 at the age of 12, Yorimichi celebrated his coming of age ceremony and was awarded the court rank of Shogoige (Lower Senior Fifth Rank). In 1006 as a 15 year old, he was awarded the official rank of Jusani (Junior Third Rank), entering the ranks of the nobility. Through successive promotions, in 1013 he was made Gon Dainagon (provisional major counselor).

When it was proposed that Princess Takako (the daughter of Prince Tomohira, the seventh son of Emperor Murakami) become Yorimichi's wife, Michinaga was overjoyed at the engagement to a princess of elevated rank and said 'The wife makes the man.'
Princess Taka was a beautiful woman and on good terms with Yorimichi but bore him no children.

Emperor Ichijo was succeeded by Emperor Sanjo who did not get on well with Michinaga and, because the Emperor was on the verge of blindness due to eye disease, Michinaga repeatedly urged him to abdicate. The Crown Prince was born to Michinaga's eldest daughter, FUJIWARA no Akiko, later becoming Emperor Goichijo. The Emperor loathed Michinaga, and did not react to the pressure to abdicate. According to the "Tale of Eiga" (A Tale of Flowering Fortunes), the Emperor proposed a marriage between Yorimichi and Imperial Princess Teishi as a gesture of conciliation with Michinaga. Michinaga consented, but for Yorimichi, who only loved Princess Taka, the proposal was met with sorrow.
To this Michinaga responded 'Why must a man stop at one wife?
Moreover, you have no children and I want you to have many heirs,' Michinaga rebuked and forced Yorimichi into the marriage but before long, Yorimichi fell seriously ill, and the wedding was instructed to be halted when, as a result of faith healing and exorcism, the ghost of Prince Tomohira emerged.

Eventually, in 1016, Emperor Sanjo succumbed to Michinaga's pressure and abdicated in favor of Imperial Prince Atsuyasu (Emperor Goichijo). Michinaga, his maternal grandfather, became Sessho. In 1017, Yorimichi was promoted to Naidaijin (Minister of the Center) as well as being commanded by imperial proclamation to replace his father as Regent and was made head of the Fujiwara clan. Yorimichi was a mere 26 years old and the youngest Sessho ever. At the end of the same year, Michinaga was elevated to the role of Daijo-daijin but resigned the following year and in his role as former Daijo-daijin, advised the young Yorimichi, reinforced the arrangements for the succession.

In 1019, Yorimichi became Kanpaku and in 1021, transferred to the role of Sadaijin. During this period his father, Michinaga, placed his third daughter FUJIWARA no Ishi as Empress to Emperor Gosanjo and married his youngest daughter, FUJIWARA no Kishi, to the Crown Prince Emperor Gosuzaku, with Kishi giving birth to Imperial Prince Chikahito (later to be Emperor Goreizei) and thus putting the strategic pieces in place for the future.

In 1019, Michinaga entered the priesthood but continued to hold onto the real power, with Yorimichi also adhering to this arrangement and taking care to solicit his judgment. It is said that Michinaga also abused Yorimichi who was Kanpaku in front of the nobility, and in 1023 and 1025 was punished for misconduct by being disinherited for a time by his father.

Yorimichi was taught the rules and practices of the imperial court and military houses by the scholar FUJIWARA no Sanesuke of the Ononomiya school, who was a critic of Michinaga, and the two became close friends.

In 1027, Michinaga passed away. Six months later, in 1028, the TAIRA no Tadatsune Rebellion erupted in the Kanto (Eastern) region. It took three years to suppress the revolt, leaving the Boso Peninsula, where the main fighting took place, in ruins. MINAMOTO no Yorinobu suppressed the rebellion and by grasping the opportunity, the Seiwa-Genji (Minamoto clan) exerted control over Kanto region; it is said that this was when samurai warriors arrived center-stage in earnest.

After the death of Michinaga, Yorimichi endeavored to establish his own particular independent authority and, with the death in 1029 of Daijo-daijin FUJIWARA no Kinsue, he reached the top rank in his own circle.

Emperor Goichijo died in 1036 and his maternal younger brother, Emperor Gosuzaku, was enthroned. Yorimichi continued to serve as Kanpaku to his other uncle. However, unlike Michinaga, who had implemented a 'One household, three empresses' policy, Yorimichi was not blessed with any daughters and so, using his wife's connections, he adopted Prince Atsuyasu's daughter, FUJIWARA no Genshi, and had her made consort of Emperor Gosuzaku.

Emperor Gosuzaku had taken Michinaga's daughter, Kishi, as his wife but she died soon after giving birth to Imperial Prince Chikahito, who was to become the Crown Prince, and Imperial Princess Teishi, who was the daughter of Emperor Sanjo and the mother of Emperor Gosanjo, was made Empress. Yorimichi had hoped that Genshi would give birth to a prince but she passed away having only given birth to princesses. There was also rivalry with his younger brother Norimichi whose daughter, FUJIWARA no Nariko, had entered the court but had been unable to give birth to a prince.

In 1045 Emperor Gosuzaku fell critically ill and hoped that Imperial Prince Takahito be the next Crown Prince. Imperial Prince Takahito was no relation to the Fujiwara clan nor, of course, Yorimichi, who thought it was premature for the Crown Prince to ascend the throne and opposed the move. At the same time, Yorimichi's younger half-brother, Yoshinobu (the son of MINAMOTO no Akiko), the Gon Dainagon, earnestly petitioned the Emperor to make Imperial Prince Takahito the Crown Prince and finally the Emperor made his decision, setting it down in his last will and testament before passing away.

Imperial Prince Chikahito was enthroned as Emperor Goreizei and Imperial Prince Takahito was elevated to Crown Prince. Yorimichi did not cooperate with the Crown Prince and, in 1050, his only daughter, FUJIWARA no Kanshi, entered the court to become Empress, accompanied by great hopes that a prince would be born but this was not to be.

In 1051, the Zenkunen War broke out in Mutsu Province. Against this backdrop of unrest in the provinces, having succeeded Michinaga and worked for many years as Kanpaku to the Emperor, Yorimichi's influence appeared, on the surface, as strong as ever; he built his enormous Kayain residence (mansion) in close proximity to the imperial palace and, on May 5 1052, he remodeled Michinaga's villa, "Uji Mansion," into the magnificent Hoo-do Hall (Phoenix Hall) at Byodoin Temple, which remains to the present day.

Around this time, due to an increase in the number of manors, the nation's finances were in a critical condition and required reorganizing. The lords of these manors were mostly powerful families like Yorimichi's. Yorimichi gave orders in 1040, 1045 and 1055 to embark on reorganizing the manors but his resulted in the support of the powerful families (although other viewpoints contend that the resulting curtailment of expansion was a positive thing).

In 1061, at 70 years of age, Yorimichi was declared Daijo-daijin by imperial proclamation, thus being elevated to the highest civil rank in the country. The next year he followed his father's example and stepped aside as Daijo-daijin less than a year after taking office. In 1067 he stood down from his role as Kanpaku and was given the imperial title of Jusangu (rank equal to the member of imperial family) by proclamation. His biological younger brother, Norimichi, was appointed to succeed him as Kanpaku.

In the same year (1068), Emperor Goreizei passed away and Imperial Prince Takahito ascended the throne as Emperor Gosanjo. The new emperor, unrelated by blood to the Fujiwara clan and, at 35, in the prime of his life, having endured 25 years as Crown Prince, embarked on an ambitious program to reform the nation's finances and, during the Enkyu era (1069 – 1074), issued orders to reorganize the manors. The manors of the powerful families of the Fujiwara clan did not escape coming under scrutiny. According to the "Gukansho" (Record of Foolish Random Thoughts), when Yorimichi was requested to submit documents, he responded: 'I have none of those, so I don't mind if you confiscate everything'; it is reported that only Yorimichi's manor was exempted from submitting documents.

In April, 1072 he entered the priesthood and cloistered himself in Uji City. In January 1073 (December, 1072 in old lunar calendar), Emperor Gosanjo abdicated in favor of Imperial Prince Sadahito (Emperor Shirakawa). It is said that the retired emperor planned for a cloistered government by acting as guardian of the new emperor but in just six months (in June of the same year) he passed away. Yorimichi had confronted Emperor Gosanjo during his days as Crown Prince but is said that he grieved over the wise leader's early death.

In his younger days, Yorimichi had the warm demeanor of a wealthy individual but it is said that by continuously holding on to power over so many years he developed a taste for extravagant luxury and persisted in his influence. According to the ancient Kojidan" written narratives, Yorimichi had a strong desire to pass the position of Sessho and Kanpaku to his son, Morozane, and made his younger brother Norimichi, who had become Kanpaku promise to do; however, because Norimichi apparently did not actually do this at all, he said 'I have to see the job (as Sessho and Kanpaku) Morozane does with my own eyes,' to which Norimichi responded, 'This I can not allow for my own reasons' which is something Yorimichi is said to have bitterly resented.

Yorimichi's long life ended with his death at the age of 83 in 1074.

As was common at the time, Yorimichi kept a diary. However, as with the diaries of his younger brothers, Norimichi and Yorimune, the records were lost. Lost writings that he completed include: "Ingoteiburuiki," "Kaigenburui" (Changing Categories), and in "Entairyaku," surviving document of 'Ujidengoki' (Master Uji's Diaries) and 'Kaiki' (Japanese pagoda tree Chronicle) are included.

Chronology of government posts and ranks
Dates follow the lunar calendar.

On February 28, he was appointed as Chamberlain.

He was reassigned as Ukone no shosho (Minor Captain of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards) (date not recorded).

On January 24, he held the position of Omi no suke (Inspector of Omi Province) concurrently.

On September 2, he was promoted to Shosanmi (Senior Third Rank), and retained his position as Ukone no shosho.

On June 13, he retained his position as Togu Gon no daibu (Provisional Master of the Crown Prince's Quarters).

On June 3, he retained his position as Sakone no daisho (Major Captain of the Left Division of Inner Palace Guards).

On March 16, he proclaimed Sessho (Regent). He retained his positions as Naidaijin (Minister of the Center) and Sakone no daisho.

On March 22, he resigned as Sakone no daisho.

On July 25, he changed role to Sadaijin and retained his position as Kanpaku.

On August 10, he was commanded by the Emperor to the rank below Daijo-daijin, FUJIWARA no Kinsue.