Emperor Tenmu and Empress Jitō
Nara was the center of Japanese politics and culture in ancient times.
We would like to introduce the historical figures of ancient Nara here.
■Emperor Tenmu (631? - 686)
His father was Emperor Jomei and his mother was Empress Kōgyoku. His uterine brother was Emperor Tenji. Before he became an emperor, His name was the imperial Prince Ōama.
■Empress Jitō (645-702)
Her father was Emperor Tenji and her mother was Ochi-no-Iratsume. Before she became an empress, her name was Princess Uno-no-Sarara.
Emperor Tenmu and Empress Jitō played a major role in forming Japanese politics and culture that we still use today. They were a married couple.
They accomplished a lot of things such as compiling laws for the first time and Japanese history, building a big city and Fujiwara Palace modeled after Chinese cities, coining for the first time, and making up bureaucracy.
They also built Daikandaiji Temple so that Buddhism would thrive. They improved religious ceremonies for gods.
1.East Asia and Japan of those days
In those days, Japan exchanged cultures with other East Asian countries. The Chinese and Koreans who settled in Japan introduced their cultures such as Buddhism, engineering skills and metal crafts to Japan. Some Japanese people went to China and Korea to learn more about their cultures, and were involved in politics in Japan.
However, when Tang, China attacked Korea in the middle of seventh century, and relations in East Asia became tense. In 660, the allied forces of Tang and Silla destroyed Paekche, which had a good relationship with Japan. To support Paekche, Japan dispatched troops. However they were defeated in the battle off the mouth of the Kum River in 663. After the defeat, Prince Naka-no-Ōe(later to be Emperor Tenji) built up defenses.
He moved the city to Ōmi-Ōtsu Palace and became Emperor Tenji.
（Left）Fuhonsen coins:Courtesy of Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties
（Right）The East Pagoda at Yakushiji Temple:Courtesy of Nara Visitors Bureau
2.The Jinshin War and the enthronement of Emperor Tenmu
After Emperor Tenji passed away in 671, Prince Ōtomo, who was a son of Emperor Tenji, fought against Prince Ōama to decide who would be the next successor to the throne. The battle was called the Jinshin War and it was the biggest war in ancient Japan. Prince Ōama defeated Prince Ōtomo and became Emperor Tenmu in Asuka. It was an enthronement during a turbulent age of East Asia.
Model of the battle in Hashihaka:Courtesy of Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties
3.The reign of Emperor Tenmu
Emperor Tenmu tried to organize the country by compiling a law and building the Fujiwara Palace, which was modeled after the Chinese capital. He started compiling Japanese history as well. However, it was finished in the age of Heijo-kyo. His main supporter was his queen, the royal princess Uno-no-Sarara.
4.The reign of Empress Jitō
After Emperor Tenmu passed away, the royal princess Uno-no-Sarara decided to take over the reins of government as Empress Jitō because of death of the Crown Prince. She carried out a large undertaking that her father had left undone such as enforcement of Asuka kiyomihara codes and relocation of the Fujiwara Palace. Even after her grandson became an emperor —Emperor Monmu, she served as his assistant, prepared the law and restarted a Japanese mission to Tang Dynasty(China). At that time, the country was officially named Nihon (Japan).
Model of Fujiwara Palace:Courtesy of Kashihara City Board of Education
5.A shared grave for Emperor Tenmu and Emperess Jitō
The Emperor and Empress were buried together in Hinokuma-no-Ouchi Burial Mound, Asuka as it is known today. Empress Jitō was the first empress to be cremated, and buried with her husband, Emperor Tenmu.
Hinokuma-no-Ouchi Burial Mound:Courtesy of Asuka Village Board of Education