Minamoto no Masanobu (源雅信)

MINAMOTO no Masanobu (920 - August 24, 993) was a court noble who lived in the Middle Heian period.

Pedigree Record

He was the third son of the Imperial Prince Atsuzane who was the son of the Emperor Uda and he was the founder of the Minamoto clan. His mother was a daughter of FUJIWARA no Tokihira. His posthumous name was Kakujitsu. In 936, he assumed the status of a subject and he was conferred Jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade). MINAMOTO no Kanshin, Daisojo (the head priest of a Buddhist sect) Kancho, MINAMOTO no Shigenobu and Daisojo Gakei were his brothers. He had sons and daughters including MINAMOTO no Tokinaka, MINAMOTO no Tokimichi, MINAMOTO no Tokinobu (Jakugen), MINAMOTO no Sukenori, MINAMOTO no Tokikata, MINAMOTO no Michiyoshi, Daisojo Saishin and MINAMOTO no Rinshi.


In 938, he was appointed to a jiju (chamberlain) and he was promoted smoothly to konoefu (Headquarters of the Inner palace Guard) in 942, a chief official of the emperor's secretaries in 948 and the sangi (royal advisor) in 951. He won the confidence of the Emperor Enyu and he was promoted to the Chunagon (middle counselor) in 970 and the Dainagon (major counselor) in 972, to Udaijin (minister of the right) in 977 and Sadaijin (minister of the left) in 978 and he stayed in that position for 15 years until he died. In 991, his younger brother, Shigenobu, was appointed to Udaijin and brothers, Masanobu and Shigenobu, worked as ministers of the right and left, until the year in which Masanobu died. After his death, Masanobu was conferred Shoichii (Senior First Rank) dajodaijin (prime minister).

His father, Imperial Prince Atsuzane, was famous for his biwa play and, most probably because of its influence, Masanobu was also a past master mentioned as 'very good at music and the greatest master of his period' and he defined 'Gen-ke Konpon Roei Nanashu' (seven singing poems for the Minamoto family) and later called "the patriarch of Roei recitation." In addition, it is said that he was good at studies in ancient court and military practices and usages, waka (a 31-syllable Japanese poem) and kemari (a game played by aristocrats in the Heian period).
On the other hand, in the era of the Emperor Murakami, he worked as a jiju at the Emperor's side, but it is said that he was rather kept at a distance by the Emperor Murakami as 'a too serious person who talks about only official affairs while he is at work.'
According to "Okagami" (The Great Mirror), he made a daily habit of nenju (reciting a prayer of the Amitabuddah) of 'I worship Hachiman Great Bodhisavva, I worship Kipusan Kongozao, I worship Great Wisdom Sutra,' one hundred times a day.

On November 10, 978, Masanobu, who had been the udaijin, was promoted to the sadaijin and, at the same time, FUJIWARA no Saneyori, who had been the kanpaku (a chancellor to an adult emperor) and the sadaijin concurrently, became the dajodaijin and FUJIWARA no Kaneie who had been accorded by his real elder brother FUJIWARA no Kanemichi considerate treatment, became the udaijin. In order to restrain the power of the Fujiwara clan, the Emperor Enyu intended to make Masanobu work as the ichi no kami (top court noble). This was in line with the policy of Emperor Enyu who wanted to turn shinsei (direct administration by the emperor) into reality by restraining Yoritada and Kaneie. On February 11, 982, the Emperor Enyu carried out jimoku (to appoint ranks and positions) and joi (conferment of a Court rank) and, on that occasion, he only made FUJIWARA no Nobutaka, a kurodo (the emperor's secretary), report to Yoritada the decision but Yoritada was not allowed to join the decision making and, therefore, Yoritada did not join the jimoku and joi to protest; but, the Emperor ordered to carry out the jimoku and joi as the top court noble ignoring Yoritada's protest ("Shoyuki" (the diary of FUJIWARA no Sanesuke)). This tendency continued even after the enthronement of the Emperor Kazan, for whom Masanobu worked as Togu no fu (an official in charge of education in the Crown Prince's Palace) and, with respect to the jimoku and bettosadame for the start of the era of the Emperor Kazan in 984, the new emperor consulted with only the Cloistered Emperor Enyu and without consulting Yoritada, made Masanobu execute it as they were. As a result, Yoritada came to hate taking part in affairs of state and, therefore, the dajokan (great council of the state) in the era of the Emperor Kazan was led by FUJIWARA no Yoshichika, Gon Chunagon (a provisional vice-councilor of state) who was a maternal relative and MINAMOTO no Masanobu, who was the sadaijin, carried out kanso (to make a comment to the Emperor at the morning meeting) and executed senji (message of the Emperor) and kanpu (official documents from Dajokan, or Great Council of State). Since 985, Masanobu complained about the condition of his physique because of his advanced age, he faithfully administered the affairs of state and worked hard to manage public affairs and made hardly any errors.

The system in which Masanobu managed the dajokan as the ichi no kami was continued even after the Emperor Ichijo ascended the throne and FUJIWARA no Kaneie took office of the sessho. The case of the imperial visit of the Emperor Ichijo to Kasuga-taisha Shrine (guardian god of the Fujiwara clan) planned for March 989 was symbolic to such situations where a senji to postpone the imperial visit was issued based on the order by the Cloistered Emperor Enyu, who received a kanmon (report) from Onmyo no kami (the head of Onmyoryo, or Bureau of Divination), KAMO no Mitsuyoshi. On this occasion, while all court nobles and benkans (officials of the dajokan) from the Fujiwara clan felt offended and evaded this order, Masanobu managed the senji as the jokyo (top court noble) and his fourth son Sukeyoshi was used. For Kaneie, existence of Masanobu was apparently an obstacle to gaining absolute power, but different from Michizane SUGAWARA in the Shotai Incident, MINAMOTO no Takaaki in the Anna Incident and return of MINAMOTO no Kaneaki to a member of the Imperial Family, no pretext to eliminate Masanobu could be found (As Michizane and Takaaki had matrimonial relation with influential members of the Imperial Family and Kaneaki was originally an imperial prince, a pretext for eliminating them could be found easily, but in Masanobu's case, neither of them existed). Reportedly, the reason why Kaneie resigned as udaisho and became sessho without the title of any daijin was that he intended to hold a superior political position by being released from the position of the gijokan that was lower than the sadaijin held by Masanobu.

In the meantime, Masanobu worked as the togu no fu for three emperors, Kazan, Ichijo and Sanjo, while they were crown prince. Masanobu's wish was to make use of this relationship to make his daughter, MINAMOTO no Rinshi, of whom Masanobu was very proud of, an empress. However, the Emperor Kazan abdicated the throne through the maneuvers of FUJIWARA no Kaneie. In addition, Kaneie's fourth son, Michinaga proposed marriage to Rinshi. In the beginning, Masanobu considered that such a marriage was out of the question because, although Michinaga was the son of the sessho, who was politically in an opposing position, it was difficult to expect a remarkable promotion because of his elder brothers, FUJIWARA no Michitaka, FUJIARA no Michikane, etc. and Michinaga who was younger than Rinshi by two years.

When Masanobu consulted the matter with his legal wife, FUJIWARA no Bokushi (a daughter of FUJIWARA no Asatada, one of the thirty-six poetic sages; her grandfather was FUJIARA no Sadataka, udaijin), who was the real mother of Rinshi, however, she vigorously opposed her husband's opinion. At that time, the Emperor Ichijo was younger than Michinaga by 14 years and, although the Crown Prince (later, the Emperor Sanjo) was elder than him by two years, he was still a small boy. Bokushi insisted that promotion of Michinaga had a better chance than Rinshi's entering in the royal family and giving birth to a child as Masanobu desired and made Rinshi marry Michinaga. Reportedly, Masanobu and Kaneie, who was the father of Michinaga, were astonished by this.

In 993, Masanobu died being mourned by many persons and without having a firm belief that his wife's judgment was really correct ("Gonki" (the diary of FUJIWARA no Yukinari)), he was buried in Ninna-ji Temple that had a close connection to Emperor Uda (who was his grandfather) and Imperial Prince Atsuzane. Two years after that, Michinaga became the nairan (position similar to sessho and kanpaku) and proved to the public that Masanobu's wife's judgment was correct. Rinshi, who became the legal wife of Michinaga, gave birth to FUJIWARA no Yorimichi, FUJIWARA no Norimichi, FUJIWARA no Shoshi, who was the second consort of the Emperor Ichijo, FUJIWARA no Kenshi, who was the second consort of the Emperor Sanjo, FUJIWARA no Ishi, who was the second consort of the Emperor Goichijo and FUJIWARA no Kishi, who was the consort of the Emperor Gosuzaku. In 1017, Masanobu's legal wife, Bokushi closed her life of 86 years with various dignities such as the mother-in-law of Michinaga, dajodaijin, a grandmother of Yorimichi, sessho, and three empress consorts and a great-grandmother of the Emperor Goichijo.

Offsprings of Masanobu left names as court nobles being divided into various families, namely the Niwata family, the Ayanokoji family, the Itsutsuji family, the Ohara family and the Jikoji family and, at the same time, offsprings of the fourth son, MINAMOTO no Sukenori, who was sangi and Omi no Kami (Governor of Omi Province) concurrently, put down roots in Omi Province and developed into the Sasaki clan as warriors, and they were deeply involved in Japan's history thereafter.