Soga no Emishi (蘇我蝦夷)

SOGA no Emishi was an aristocrat and highest officer politician in the Asuka period, who committed suicide in the so-called Isshi no hen (the Murder in the Year of Isshi) led by Prince Naka no Oe no Oji (later the Emperor Tenchi), FUJIWARA no Kamatari, SOGANOKURA-YAMADA no Ishikawamaro, and others.


In "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan), his name was SOGA no Emishi and he was commonly called Toyura no oomi. In "Jogu Shotoku Hooteisetsu" (Biography of Shotoku Taishi), he was called Soga Toyura no Emishi. Because Emishi and Ezo (northerners) use the same Chinese characters (蝦夷), some people believe that the name 蝦夷 (Emishi) was a derogatory term and his real name was 毛人 (Emishi), but 蝦夷 and 毛人 do not refer to the same thing. The name 'Emishi' was used by ONO no Emishi and SAEKI no Imaemishi. According to one theory, he dared to adopt a bad name to drive away evil (offset evil). Another theory says that he respected Ezo who were resisting the Yamato dynasty adamantly as strong men and adopted his name after them. It is also possible that Naka no Oe no Oji and others, who erased his real name and his records, gave him a derogatory name instead after his and his son Iruka's death.


From the end year of the Emperor Suiko to the reign of the Emperor Kogyoku, Emishi wielded power. For the selection of the heir to the Imperial Throne following the Emperor Suiko's demise, he succeeded in enthroning the Prince Tamura as the Emperor Jomei in accordance with the order left behind in the Emperor Suiko's will. The Prince Tamura and the Prince Yamashiro no oe were the main candidates for the succession to the Imperial Throne.
(Oe can mean a crown prince, but because there is no description that the Prince Yamashiro no oe became a crown prince in Nihonshoki [Chronicles of Japan], some people believe that he was simply a prince)
However, Emishi murdered his uncle SAKAIBE no Marise who recommended Prince Yamashiro no Oe as the Emperor Suiko's successor

"Nihonshoki" counted this incident as one of Emishi's tyrannies. However, on the other hand, one theory says that Emishi, while there was growing criticism of the Soga clan from both inside and outside after his father Umako's death, enthroned the Emperor Jomei who did not have blood relationship with the Soga clan to value the harmony between the imperial family and various powerful families.

While Emishi set the Emperor Kyogoku on the throne after the Emperor Jomei's demise, he employed the Prince Yamashiro no oe's private retainers to make his own graveyard. Moreover, he behaved like okimi (great king) by giving Iruka the purple cap for oomi (a highest officer in national politics of the Yamato dynasty), calling his younger brother Mononobe no oomi, and naming his residence kyujo no mikada (Gate on Imperial Palace). According to one theory, the purple cap indicated the first grade of "Twelve grades of cap rank", which cap belonged to heads of the Soga clan who had served as oomi for generations. SOGA no Iruka, Emishi's son, attacked the Prince Yamashiro no Oe, and drove the whole family of Jogu Oke to commit suicide. According to Nihonshoki, Emishi got angry at and grieved over his such act. In 645, when Iruka was killed in the emperor's presence, the Soga supporters gathers at Emishi's place, but the next day, he committed suicide by setting fire to his residence in the face of Iruka's corpse and Tennoki (a Record of the Emperors) and Kokki (National Record) were destroyed as well.

[Original Japanese]