Minamoto no Takaakira (源高明)

MINAMOTO no Takaakira (914 - January 17, 983) was a court noble in the Heian period. He was Emperor Daigo's 10th prince. His mother was MINAMOTO no Chikako. His homyo (a name given to a person who enters the Buddhist priesthood) was Kakunen.
He erected a magnificent estate in Shijo of Ukyo in Kyoto, called 'Saikyu-sadaijin.'
His sisters from the same mother were Imperial Princess Isoko (also known as Imperial Princess Kinshi) and Imperial Princess Gashi (also known as Imperial Princess Masako).

MINAMOTO no Takaakira was also known as Issei Genji (Emperor's son who went out of Imperial family and had Genji name), a noble personage who excelled as a scholar at the chogi (Imperial court ceremony) and was highly respected at court through the patronage of the capable FUJIWARA no Morosuke and his daughter, FUJIWARA no Anshi, the wife of an Imperial Prince, and advanced to the post of Minister of the Left. Following the deaths of Morosuke and Anshi, Issei Genji was shunned by the Fujiwara clan and, losing his position during the Anna Incident, was forced out of political life. He was one model for the character of Genji HIKARU in the "Genji Monogatari" (The Tale of Genji).

In 920, at the age of 7, Takaakira demoted from nobility to subject and took the name Genji. In 929, he was promoted to Jushiinojo (Junior Fourth Rank, Upper Grade). In 939, he was elevated to the position of Sangi (councilor). He rose to the rank of Chunagon (vice-councilor of state) and Dainagon (chief councilor of state), and in 967 assumed the position of udaijin (Minister of the Right) as well as Sakone no daisho (Right General of the Imperial Guard).

Takaakira had a liking for academics, excelling at chogi (Imperial Court ceremony), Yusoku kojitsu (court and samurai rules of ceremony and etiquette), and wrote the "Saikyuki" (Chronicles of the Western Palace). He took as his wife the third daughter of FUJIWARA no Morosuke, who had power in the Imperial Court and also excelled at the ancient customs; after her death, he married Morosuke's fifth daughter, Aimiya, further cementing their alliance and establishing Morosuke as Takaakira's supporter. His wife's older sister Anshi became the wife of Emperor Murakami and gave birth to Imperial Prince Emperor Reizei, Imperial Prince Tamehira, and Emperor Enyu, and entrusted Takaakira as the chugudaibu (The chief administrator of the Empress's household). Takaakira made his own daughter the Empress of Imperial Prince Tamehira.

In 968, he rose to the position of sadaijin (Minister of the Left) with the accession of Imperial Prince Norihira (later Emperor Reizei). As Emperor Reizei was mentally ill, there was an urgent need to install a successor; Imperial Prince Tamehira, his younger brother from the same mother, was a front runner for Crown Prince. However, Tamehira's younger brother, Imperial Prince Morihira (later Emperor Enyu), was established as Emperor's Reizei's crown prince. Takaakira was terribly disappointed. Takaakira's becoming a maternal relative in the future was what the Fujiwara clan had feared and, as at this time Morosuke and Anshi had both passed away, Takaakira was isolated at court.

In 969, both MINAMOTO no Mitsunaka and FUJIWARA no Yoshitoki informed the treachery of Tachibana no Shigenobu and MINAMOTO no Tsuranu. Udaijin FUJIWARA no Morotada closed the gates of the Imperial Court and convened a discussion, sending a report of this statement to kanpaku (Chief Advisor to the Emperor) FUJIWARA no Saneyori, and dispatching kebiishi (a police and judicial chief) to arrest those involved. Among those involved was a servant of Takaakira, FUJIWARA no Chiharu (a son of FUJIWARA no Hidesato). Suspicion of involvement in the plot also fell upon Takaakira and the kebiishi surrounded his residence, delivering an Imperial edict informing him that he was demoted to Dazai gon no sochi (Provisional Governor-General of the Dazai-fu offices). This was in fact banishment, and the pleas by Takaakira and his eldest son MINAMOTO no Tadakata's pleas that they be allowed to enter the priesthood in Kyoto went unnoticed, and they were removed to Dazaifu. After Morosuke's death, this was considered to have been a strategy of the Fujiwara clan, with whom relations with Takaakira had worsened (The Anna Incident).

In 971, Takaakira was forgiven and allowed to return to Kyoto, although he was unable to return to the political arena and lived in seclusion in his residence at Kadono. In 982, he died at the age of 69.

There was a fortune teller named TOMO no Kadohira, who, upon seeing Takaakira's face, declared that he had never before seen such a noble face. However, when viewing him from behind, he predicted that Takaakira would probably meet with the misfortune of demotion.

"Konjaku Monogatarishu" (Tales of Times Now Past) has a story related the account of Takaakira's demotion. A mysterious phenomenon frequently occurred when Takaakira was in Toen of his residence; from a knothole in a pillar of the Imperial residence there frequently appeared the hand of a child, beckoning him. Despite hanging Buddhist pictures and sutras on the pillar, the visitations continued and although they finally stopped when the hole was sealed and pierced with an arrow from a battlefield, it was said that at this time he suffered his downfall.

Takaakira was formerly provincial governor of Bizen Province, where the local populace erected a shrine to honor him, and in 1448 he was promoted to Juichii (Junior First Rank).

Among his children, eldest son Tadakata was forced to become a monk because of the Anna Incident, but MINAMOTO no Toshikata and MINAMOTO no Tsunefusa were later promoted and were active in the political world. His daughter MINAMOTO no Akiko became the wife of FUJIWARA no Michinaga.

Published Works

"Saikyuki," a well used book which detailed the subject matter and points of ceremonies and annual functions. They are records of the finest quality which allow one to understand the etiquette of the Imperial Court during the middle Heian period.