Emperor Go-Toba of Japan

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Emperor Go-Toba (後鳥羽天皇) (August 6, 1180 - March 28, 1239) was the 82nd imperial ruler of Japan. He reigned from August 20, 1183 - January 11, 1198). His personal name was Takahira (尊成). He was known as a calligrapher, painter, musician, poet and editor.


He was the fourth son of Emperor Takakura, and thus grandson of Emperor Go-Shirakawa. His mother was Bōmon Shōkushi (坊門稙子) (Empress Dowager Shichijō-in, ), daughter of Bōmon Nobutaka (坊門信隆) of the Fujiwara clan.

  • Empress (chūgū): Empress Dowager ?? (宜秋門院) Kujō Takako (九条任子), daughter of regent Kunō Kanezane (九条兼実)
    • Empress Dowager Shunka? (春華門院) Imperial Princess Shōko? (昇子内親王) - 1195-1211
  • Empress Dowager ?? (承明門院) Minamoto no Ariko? (源在子), adopted daughter of Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal Minamoto no Michichika (内大臣源通親)
  • Empress Dowager Nobuaki? (修明門院) Takakura Shigeko (高倉重子)
  • Court Lady Bōmon, daughter of Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal Bōmon Nobukyo (?, 坊門信清)
    • Imperial Prince Nagahito (長仁親王) (1196-1249)
    • Imperial Princess Reiko (礼子内親王) (1200-1273)
    • Imperial Prince Yorihito (頼仁親王) (1201-1264) (exiled after Jōkyū Incident)
  • Court Lady ? (丹波局)
    • Imperial Princess Hiroko (煕子内親王) (Fukakusa Saigū, served at Ise Shrine during the reigns of Emperors Juntoku and Chūkyō) (1205-??)


Go-Toba took the throne at the age of three, after his brother, Antoku, himself only five, was forced to abdicate during the Genpei War. His grandfather ex-Emperor Go-Shirakawa reigned as cloistered Emperor. Shortly after Go-Toba took the throne, in 1192 Go-Shirakawa died and the first shogunate was established by Minamoto no Yoritomo. This meant that the emperor became a figurehead with little or no real power. In 1198, the shōgun forced Go-Toba, who was still in his teens, to abdicate. Two of Go-Toba's sons succeeded him on the throne, but they were each in turn also forced to abdicate. Go-Toba reigned as cloistered Emperor from 1198 till 1221 during reigns of three emperors, but his power was more limited than former cloistered Emperors in the Heian era. In 1221, the shōgun installed Go-Toba's three-year-old grandson, Chūkyō, as emperor, but Go-Toba chose to stage a rebellion in an attempt to reclaim the throne and overthrow the Kamakura shogunate. This is known as the Jōkyū Incident after the era in which it occurred. Samurai around Kyōto who were against the Shogunate supported him but most of samurai, particularly in Kantō supported the Shogunate with encouragement of Hōjō Masako, the widow of Yoritomo. She persuaded samurai gathering in Kamakura that if they would not support the Shogunate, then the contemporary status and priveleges that samurai had attained would be lost, and the court and kuge would regain their power and influence. Go-Toba's rebellion was defeated and Chūkyō was replaced as emperor by Go-Horikawa, a nephew of Go-Toba.

Go-Toba was a great lover of swords, and over the course of several years summoned the most talented swordsmiths in the land to his court where they were given honorary titles and invited to teach the Emperor their craft. He became a respectable swordsmith himself, and it was his patronage and encouragement of this art that gave birth to Japan's 'Golden Age' of swordsmithing. His contribution to the art is still held in such high esteem, that even today a tradition is maintained in sword literature that he is the first swordsmith to be discussed.

His greatest contribution to literature is the Shinkokinshū (The New Anthology of Ancient and Modern Waka). He ordered its creation and took part in the working group as an editor. He revived the Office of Waka (和歌所) and made it the headquarters of this edition. He held many utakai (waka parties) and utaawase (waka competitions).

After the rebellion Go-Toba was exiled to the Oki Islands. He died and was buried there. Later a part of his body was buried in Ohara, Kyōto.

Eras of his reign

Preceded by:
Emperor of Japan
Succeeded by:

Template:End boxde:Go-Toba ja:後鳥羽天皇


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