Wake no Kiyomaro (和気清麻呂)

WAKE no Kiyomaro (733 - April 4, 799) was a high-ranking official, who lived during the early Heian Period. He was born in Fujino Country, Bizen Province (present Wake-cho, Okayama Prefecture). Shisei (clan and hereditary title) was originally Iwanashiwake no kimi, but later he changed his name to Fujino no mahito, Wake no sukune, and Wake no ason. He was the child of Iwanashiwake no Hiramaro's son. He was Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank) in Minbusho (Ministry of Popular Affaires).


Around August 769, Kantsukasa (ritual official of Dazaifu [governmental office with jurisdiction over Kyushu, Iki, and Tsushima] under the Ritsuryo System), SUGE no Asomaro, who was also holding the position of Shinto priest at Usa-jingu Shrine, informed Empress Shotoku that he received an oracle that if the Empress would give the authority to Buddhist monk Dokyo's succession to the Imperial Throne, the universal peace would be secured. Dokyo, who believed in this oracle or it can be thought that Dokyo himself instigated SUGE no Asomaro to deliver this oracle, hoped to ascend to the Imperial Throne.
('Botsuden' in "Shokki")

At first, Empress Shotoku tried to assign a mission to confirm the oracle to her direct advisor, Buddhist nun WAKE no Hiromushi, however, since 'Hokin' (Hiromushi's Buddhist name) was too poor in health to have a long journey, the Empress invited her younger brother WAKE no Kiyomaro and ordered him to confirm it. Kiyomaro visited Hachimangu-Shrine as an Imperial messenger (envoy). When he tried to read the Empress's edict after dedicating treasures to the altar, the god delivered an oracle through Negi (Shinto mediumistic priestess) Karashima no suguri Yosome and refused to hear the imperial edict. As Kiyomaro suspected the truth of the matter, he asked Yosome to inquire the oracle once again, and when Yosome asked the god again for his appearance, a great god revealed himself transforming into a some 9-meter-high gigantesque monk. The great god refused again to listen to the imperial edict, but Kiyomaro together with Yosome, received the great god's oracle that said, 'the reign of the Sun should be taken over by the Imperial family line, and illegitimate persons should be thoroughly swept away' ("Hachimanusa gotakusenshu"). They took the oracle back to the Imperial Court and informed Empress Shotoku of it (a plot of Usa Hachiman-gu oracle).

It is said that Dokyo once cured Retired Empress Koken by using a mystical rites of Sukuyo (an esoteric Buddhism astrology based on the Sutra of constellations and planets, and an astrological doctrine of which was introduced from India), and since then, the Empress and Dokyo had maintained a close relationship. When Retired Empress Koken abolished Emperor Junnin and she herself took over the Imperial throne as a second enthronement self-proclaiming as Empress Shotoku after suppressing the Rebellion of Emi no Oshikatsu, Dokyo's influence over the Empress became extremely strong and Dokyo ascended through the ranks to Dajodaijin (Grand Minister) Zenji (master of Zen Buddhism), and in the next year, to Hoo (the Emperor of the Buddhist Law). Therefore, it is presumed that Dokyo must have been too pretentious under such a situation. In addition, it seems that Empress Shotoku herself also wanted Dokyo to take the throne. When the Empress heard Kiyomaro's report, she got angry, and firstly she demoted Kiyomaro to Inaba no ingainoge, and afterwards, she obliged him to change his name to (WAKABE no Kitanamaro)and condemned him an exile to Osumi Province (present Kagoshima Prefecture).

After Empress Shotoku's death and Dokyo's downfall, Kiyomaro was given an important position as a governmental official responsible for practical works in the Emperor Kanmu's reign. He made an recommendation on the transfer of the capital and the construction of Heiankyo (the ancient capital of Japan in current Kyoto), and he himself made efforts to promote the project as Zoei no daibu (chief of the civil engineering work).
In 785, he carried out a work to directly connect Kanzaki-gawa River with the Yodogawa-River to ensure the commodity distribution route to Heiankyo
After that he also carried out the work to level the Uemachi Plateau and construct a channel in order to make Yamato-gawa River flow directly into the Osaka Bay, but his attempt failed (it is said that Kawazoko-ike Pond situated in the premise of Chausuyama Tumulus (Osaka), in Tennoji Ward, Osaka City is a remain of this failed project and there is a bridge called 'Wake-bashi Bridge.')

He also dedicated himself to innovate the civil politics as Minbukyo (Minister of Popular Affaires), in cooperation with Minbu no taifu (Senior Assistant Minister of Popular Affaires) SUGANO no Mamichi. Following the order of Emperor Kanmu, he also compiled the genealogy of the Wa clan, the family line of the Emperor's mother, TAKANO no Niigasa, and offered it to the Emperor as the genealogy of the Wa clan. After his death, his sons, such as WAKE no Hiroyo and WAKE no Matsuna, played an important role as government officials. His old sister, WAKE no Hiromushi (Buddhist nun Hokin) was also well known for the activities of relieving orphaned children, which she carried out with her husband, Katsuragi no henushi.

On April 16, 1851, Emperor Komei praised WAKE no Kiyomaro's achievement and granted him Shoichii (Senior First Rank) and the title of god 'Goo Daimyojin.'
The mausoleum in the precincts of Jingo-ji Temple where WAKE no Kiyomaro was enshrined underwent the denomination change and came to be called Goo-jinja Shrine, designated as one of the Bekkaku-Kanpeisha (special government shrines), and was transferred from the precincts of Jingo-ji Temple to in front of Hamaguri-gomon gate of Kyoto Imperial Palace by the order of Emperor Meiji.

In his hometown, Waki-cho, Okayama Prefecture, the Waki clan's tutelary god, Wake-jinja Shrine is located, and WAKE no Kiyomaro and WAKE no Hiromushi are enshrined there. There is another Waki-jinja Shrine in Kirishima City, Kagoshima Prefecture, the place where Kiyomaro was exiled. According to one legend (in Kokurakita ward, Kitakyushu City), when he was exiled to Usa, he was saved by a boar from a difficult situation, and based on this legend, in those shrines such as Goo-jinja Shrine and Wake-jinja Shrine, a pair of 'shrine boars' (guardian boars) are placed instead of a pair of shrine dogs (a pair of stone-caved guardian dogs situated at the gate of a shrine).

Before the World War II, Kiyomaro was considered as one of the Emperor's faithful servants comparable to Masashige KUSUNOKI, and his image was printed on a bill ('ro' ten yen bill). Even now, he is considered as a loyal subject and his bronze statues are placed in various places such as in the vicinity of the Japan Meteorological Agency in Ote-machi, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo and in the premise of Wake-jinja Shrine in Wake-cho, Okayama Prefecture.