Soga no Iruka (蘇我入鹿)

SOGA no Iruka was a powerful person in the Yamato Imperial Court.
During the previous night of Taika Reform, he was killed in Isshi no hen (the Murder in the Year of Isshi), and afterward, the Soga clan declined.


The following is mainly according to the descriptions in "Nohonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan).

It is said that he was a talented man who studied from Min in the knowledge temple during his youth period.

In AD 642, when his minister father SOGA no Emishi was in his late years, he took charge of national administration in place of father, when Emperor Kogyoku ascended the throne.

On July 23 of the same year, his attendant obtained the baby bird of a white sparrow. It is assumed that the sparrow was representing his grandfather SOGA no Umako. On October 6 of AD 643 (the next year), the post of minister was transferred by his father out of his arbitrary decision.

As a result, there is a viewpoint that reigns of the family were virtually and substantially succeeded by the Soga clan. However, around this period, there was a strong cry among the imperial households for a reform of national administration centering on the emperor since the period of Prince Shotoku. Iruka suppressed such movements and attempted to attach Prince Furuhito no Oe no Miko, who was strongly related to the Soga clan, to the emperor. However, he drove those obstructive people in Jogu Oke (royal families) such as Prince Shotoku's son, Prince Yamashiro no Oe to suicide. This happened at the beginning of November, which was less than one month after the post of minister was transferred to him.

In November of AD 644, he built the residences in Amagashino-oka Hill, named them respectively "Kaminomiya" (upper shrine) and "Tani no Miya-mon" (Palace Gate of Valley), and even called his own children princes. Moreover, he built fortifications in Mt. Unebi-yama. "Nohonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan) criticized these moves saying that the Soga clan was exceeding its authority. Some people believe that he was by nature open to adopting new ideas and practices, and that his actions were taken in response to the international circumstance of that time (i.e. during the Tang Dynasty in China and the Paekche Dynasty in Korea); others, however, believe that he was preparing the way for the succession to the Imperial Throne of Prince Furuhito no Oe no Miko.

By these policies, Iruka strengthened his position substantially as the most powerful man and people revered him very much under his reign. It was said that people even did not pick up things which had fallen on the road. However, such world of Iruka did not continue long. He was assassinated in Daigoku-den Hall of Asuka Itabuki no Miya Palace in front of Emperor Kogyoku by FUJIWARA no Kamatari and his rivals in succession to the Imperial Throne, such as Prince Naka no Oe no Oji (later Emperor Tenchi), who was Prince Furuhito no Oe no Miko's younger brother with a different mother, that is, by the coup d'Etat of Isshi no hen (the Murder in the Year of Isshi). When his cousin SOGANOKURA-YAMADA no Ishikawamaro read out the Johyobun (memorial to the Emperor), his trembling was noted as suspicious, but this was cut by Prince Naka no Oe no Oji and SAEKI no Komaro. Though he appealed his innocence to the emperor, he was executed. It is said that his corpse was discarded outside and hit by the rain.

Some days later, his father Ezo also commited suicide, and the main Soga family was ended here. Even after this, his cousin Ishikawamaro and his younger brother SOGA no Akae served as the minister. After Akae was banished in the Jinshin Rebellion, Soga (Ishikawa) managed to succeed to nagon (councilor) and Sangi (councilor), his glory before did not return, and the Soga clan discontinued from the high court nobles at the beginning of Heian period and disappeared from history.


Concerning the assassination of Iruka and the ruin of head family of the Soga family that followed the incident, there was in recent years a viewpoint that the fights over the reform leadership between the Soga clan and the imperial families and the anti-Soga power had become the start of the assassination.

Moreover, concerning the name of SOGA no Iruka, theories said that Prince Naka no Oe no Oji (later Emperor Tenchi) and NAKATOMI no Kamatari (later FUJIWARA no Kamatari) erased all the materials about his current name and they named a humble name arbitrarily (theories of Teiji KADOWAKI and others). However, there were also attempted counter evidence to this (Kenkichi KATO).

Historic sites

There is the Iruka's Head Tomb close to Asuka-dera Temple precincts and Amagashino-oka Hill. Moreover, on November 13, 2005, a monument thought to be SOGA no Iruka was excavated in Nara Prefecture Asuka-mura Village.

[Original Japanese]