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Nara was the center of Japanese politics and culture in ancient times.
We would like to introduce the historical figures of ancient Nara here.
- Fujiwara-no-Fuhito was a great politician who led the politics in the Nara Period and was involved in the establishment of Taiho Code and capital relocation, further bringing prosperity to the Fujiwara Clan thereafter. Fuhito was an unparalleled great politician who played a big role in forming current Japanese politics and culture. Let’s see his life.
- ■Fujiwara-no-Fuhito (658 – 720)
- It is said that he was born as the second son of Nakatomi-no-Kamatari, his father, and Yoshiko-no-Iratsume, his mother, in Asuka. He inherited the name of Fujiwara that Kamatari was given by the emperor and began to play an active role in Imperial Court starting when the Emperess Jitō came into power. In the court, he led in the establishment of Taiho Code and became a pivotal player of the capital relocation from Fujiwara-kyo to Heijo-kyo. Thus, Fuhito is an important figure who made up the foundation of the Japanese ancient state.
Portrait of Fujiwara-no-Fuhito:courtesy of Ise Jingu
- 1.The youth period of Fuhito
- Fujiwara-no-Fuhito is said to have been born as the second son of Nakatomi-no-Kamatari in Asuka. However, as his father died when Fuhito was only 12 years old, he had come to have an unhappy boyhood. In the third year of Jitō, his name appeared in “Nihonshoki ” for the first time. From this time, Fuhito had been gradually gaining prominence as a policymaker.
Tōnomine Mandara (Portrait of Fujiwara-no-Kamatari:courtesy of Kasuga Tisha)
- 2.Fuhito’s wives and children
- We can find his four wives in “Sonpibunmyaku.” His first wife was Shōshi who gave birth to three sons including Muchimaro, Fusasaki, and Umakai. The next wife was Ioe-no-Iratsume, his younger half-sister, who gave birth to Maro, his forth son. His third wife was Kamo-no-Asonhime who gave birth to Miyako. Later, Miyako became the wife of Emperor Monmu and then the mother of Prince Obito(who became Emperor Shōmu later). And his fourth wife was Agatainukai-no-Sukunemichiyo who gave birth to Asukabehime (who became Empress Kōmyō) and Tahino. As you see, Fuhito became a relative of the emperors by having his daughters marry the emperors, and then reinforced the relationship with the royal family with his grandchildren.
Portrait of Emperor Shōmu and Portrait of Empress Komyo (by KOIZUMI Junsaku):courtesy of Tōdaiji Temple
- Kurotsukuri-no-Kakehaki-no-Tachi is a famous sword that symbolizes the trust relationship between the emperors and Fuhito. Though this sword doesn’t exist anymore, it is published as removed goods in “Kokkachinpōchō” The list says that “Kusakabe-no-Miko gave it to the minister (Fuhito). When Emperor Monmu assumed the throne, the minister gave it to the emperor. Then when the emperor passed away, he returned it to the minister, and when the minister died, he gave it to Emperor Shōmu.” This sword was inherited from Kusakabe by Monmu, and then by Shōmu, always by way of Fuhito. This indicates how much the emperors trusted Fuhito.
- 4.Establishment of Taiho Code
- In 700 of the age of Emperor Monmu, Taiho Code was newly established in place of Asuka Kiyomihara Code that had been in force until then. Taiho Code is a code that consists of 6 volumes of Ritsu (equivalent to criminal code at present) and 11 volumes of administrative Ryo. The history of the era names that still continues started with this Ryo, and the political system called Ritsuryo-sei based upon this Taiho Code which was established, allegedly by Fuhito as the key player. Also, the country name “Japan” seems to have been decided in Taiho Ryo.
- 5.Capital relocation to Heijo-kyo
- In Wado 3 (710), the capital relocation from Fujiwara-kyo to Heijo-kyo was executed. Heijo-kyo had the flared part in addition to the basic rectangular area, with Daigokuden (Imperial Audience Hall) in the central part of Heijo Imperial Palace. The imperial palace was quite similar to the Choan Castle of Tang that Kentoshi had gone to see in China. So it is said that Jobo-sei was planned by following the one in Tang. The location of Fuhito’s house indicates the fact that Fuhito led the capital relocation. His vast house was built next to the flared part. The place called Toin Garden at present used to be called Togu, where Fuhito might track his grandchild Prince Obito’s growth. Later, this Fuhito’s house was inherited by Empress Komyo, and currently exists as Hokkeji Temple.
East Palace Garden of Imperial Audience Hall:courtesy of the Administrative Office of Heijo Palace Remains of Agency for Cultural Affairs
- 6.The death of Fuhito
- Fuhito died on August 3rd of Yoro 4 (720). It might be his only one regret that he could not have watched the enthronement of Prince Obito. He died at the age of 63 after he served as U-daijin (minister of the right; official in Nara and Heian Periods) for 13 years, and was appointed as Shōichii (the first rank in the hierarchy of the government) Dajyō-daijin (Grand Minister) after his death.
- 7.Construction of Kofukuji Temple, Fujiwara Clan’s Ujidera (temple built for praying for the clan’s glory)
- Kofukuji Temple, Fujiwara Clan’s Ujidera, indicates Fuhito’s Buddhist belief. According to the temple’s legend), the temple originates from Yamashinadera Temple that was built by the wife of Kamatari, Fuhito’s father, to pray for her husband’s recovery from disease in Yamashina (in Kyoto City). After Fuhito moved it to Umayasaka (now Kashihara City), following the capital relocation to Heijo-kyo, the temple was moved to, and built in, the present location. It is published in “Fusouryakki” that the Buddhist memorial service for the first anniversary of Fuhito’s death was conducted in Kōfukuji Temple mainly by abdicated Empress Genmei and Empress Genshō, and that Hokuendo was built in the temple to enshrine the Buddhist statues, and that Michiyo, Fuhito’s wife, constructed Miroku Jōdo (the Pure Land) in Kondo of Kofukuji Temple in order to hold a memorial service for Fuhito.
Kofukuji Temple:courtesy of Nara Prefecture Regional Development Department