Emperor Go-Shirakawa of Japan

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Emperor Go-Shirakawa (後白河天皇, Go-Shirakawa-tennō) (October 18, 1127April 26, 1192) was the 77th imperial ruler of Japan, reigning from August 23, 1155 to September 5, 1158. His personal name was Masahito (雅仁).


He was the fourth son of Emperor Toba. His mother was Shōko (璋子), the daughter of Fujiwara Kinzane (藤原公実)
Major consorts and children

  • Empress (chūgū): Tokudaiji (Fujiwara) ??ko
  • Consort (shinnō-hi): Minamoto Atsushiko (?) (源懿子)
    • First son: Imperial Prince Morihito (守仁親王) (Emperor Nijō)
  • Court Lady: Sanjō (Fujiwara) Sōko (?) (三条(藤原)琮子)
  • Court Lady: Taira no Shigeko (平滋子)
  • Consort: Fujiwara Naruko (?) (藤原成子)


He was named after Emperor Shirakawa (Go-, 後, translates literally as "later", thus, "Later Shirakawa Emperor").

He seized power steadily after Hōgen Rebellion; his reign commenced in 1155. In 1158, he abdicated, but continued to hold power as a cloistered Emperor. He attempted to decrease the influence of the Fujiwara clan and increased the power of the samurai. His policy allowed Taira no Kiyomori to seize power, and at the end of his life he let Minamoto no Yoritomo found the Kamakura Shogunate in Kamakura, in the province of Sagami, modern-day Kanagawa. The establishment of the Shogunate (or Bakufu) was the beginning of samurai control of Japan for 700 years until the Meiji Restoration in the middle of the 19th century.

Ex-emperor Toba expected him to be on the Chrysanthenum throne. When his brother Emperor Konoe died in 1155, Go-Shirakawa became Emperor with support of Toba and a powerful peer Fujiwara no Tadamichi, since they were against the ex-Emperor Sutoku and did not want his son to be the next emperor. They expected Go-Shirakawa to keep the throne until his son, the future Emperor Nijō would be old enough succeed him. The coronation of Go-Shirakawa made the political tension between Toba and Sutoku stronger. At the beginning of Go-Shirakawa's reign Toba continued to reign as cloistered Emperor until his death.

In 1156 Toba died and soon afterwards the Hōgen rebellion arose. Go-Shirakawa gained the support of Samurai including Minamoto no Yoshitomo and Taira no Kiyomori, and they defeated the armies of Sutoku. After the rebellion, Go-Shirakawa ruled Japan by himself. In 1158 he abdicated to his son Nijō and became cloisterd Emperor, through the reigns of five emperors (Nijō, Rokujō, Takakura, Antoku, and Go-Toba) until his death in 1192.

Kiyomori and Go-Shirakawa were on good terms initially. Kiyomori began trade with China and supported Go-Shirakawa not just militarily but also financially. Two samurai clans, the Taira and the Minamoto, stood against each other, and the Heiji Rebellion occurred in 1159. The Minamoto lost and the Taira seized power. With Kiyomori's power at its peak, the good relationship between Kiyomori and Go-Shirakawa ended. Go-Shirakawa attempted a coup d'tat to expell Kiyomori in 1177 but failed. Kiyomori forced Go-Shirakawa to stay in Toba-in, the former palace of his father Emperor Toba in 1179. In 1178 Kiyomori made Imperial Prince Tokihito Crown Prince. Tokihito was his grandson, the child of Emperor Takakura and empress Taira no Tokuko who was a daughter of Kiyomori.

Go-Shirakawa planned to regain power, and secretly sent his son Prince Mochihito as a messenger to the Minamoto, who were the enemy of the Taira, in which Go-Shirakawa proclaimed the Taira as the enemy of the court and requested that the people fight against them. In 1180 Mochihito and Minamoto no Yorimasa started first rebellion. It failed, but several other samurai followed their attempt. In 1181 Kiyomori died and the decline of the Taira began. Go-Shirakawa began ruling again as cloistered Emperor. In 1183 Minamoto no Yoshinaka from Musashi province defeated the Taira and entered Kyōto. After internal struggles within the Minamoto clan, finally Minamoto no Yoshitsune, a brother of Yoritomo destroyed the Taira clan entirely in 1185.

Go-Shirakawa came to bad terms with Yoritomo and between them Yoshitsune was sacrificed. Yoritomo considered Yoshitsune disloyal to him and finally in 1189 Yoshitsune died in the battle of Mutsu province. At the same time Oshu-Fujiwara-shi, the Fujiwara clan in Mutsu province was destroyed because they supported Yoshitsune against Yoritomo, who claimed then the title of chief of all samurai. After the death of Yoshitsune, Go-Shirakawa and Yoritomo reconciled and Go-Shirakawa let Yoritomo found a new shogunate.

Eras of his reign

Preceded by:
Emperor of Japan
Succeeded by:

Template:End boxde:Go-Shirakawa ja:後白河天皇


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