Emperor Saga
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Emperor Saga
Emperor Saga large.jpg
Emperor of Japan
ReignMay 18, 809 - May 23, 823
BornKamino ()
October 3, 786
DiedAugust 24, 842(842-08-24) (aged 55)
Among others...
FatherEmperor Kanmu
MotherFujiwara no Otomuro
Cry for noble Saich? (), which was written by Emperor Saga for Saich?'s death. Saga was a scholar of the Chinese classics. He was also renowned as a skillful calligrapher. Chinese calligraphic influence had been weakened after the Heian period; this text was an example of the different way it was evolving in Japan.

Emperor Saga (?, Saga-tenn?, October 3, 786 - August 24, 842) was the 52nd emperor of Japan,[1] according to the traditional order of succession.[2] Saga's reign spanned the years from 809 through 823.[3]

Traditional narrative

Saga was the second son of Emperor Kanmu and Fujiwara no Otomuro.[4][5] His personal name was Kamino ().[6] Saga was an "accomplished calligrapher" able to compose in Chinese who held the first imperial poetry competitions (naien).[7] According to legend, he was the first Japanese emperor to drink tea.

Saga is traditionally venerated at his tomb; the Imperial Household Agency designates Saganoyamanoe no Misasagi (, Saganoyamanoe Imperial Mausoleum), in Uky?-ku, Kyoto, as the location of Saga's mausoleum.[1]

Events of Saga's life

  • 806 Saga became the crown prince at age 21.
  • June 17, 809[8] (Daid? 4, 1st day of the 4th month[9]): In the 4th year of Emperor Heizei's reign, he fell ill and abdicated; and the succession (senso) was received by Kanmu's second son Saga, the eldest son having become a Buddhist priest. Shortly thereafter, Emperor Saga is said to have acceded to the throne (sokui).[10]

Soon after his enthronement, Saga himself took ill. At the time the retired Heizei had quarreled with his brother over the ideal location of the court, the latter preferring the Heian capital, while the former was convinced that a shift back to the Nara plain was necessary, and Heizei, exploiting Saga's weakened health, seized the opportunity to foment a rebellion, known historically as the Kusuko Incident; however, forces loyal to Emperor Saga, led by taish?gun Sakanoue no Tamuramaro, quickly defeated the Heizei rebels which thus limited the adverse consequences which would have followed any broader conflict.[11] This same Tamuramaro is remembered in Aomori's annual Nebuta Matsuri which feature a number of gigantic, specially-constructed, illuminated paper floats. These great lantern-structures are colorfully painted with mythical figures; and teams of men carry them through the streets as crowds shout encouragement. This early ninth century military leader is commemorated in this way because he is said to have ordered huge illuminated lanterns to be placed at the top of hills; and when the curious Emishi approached these bright lights to investigate, they were captured and subdued by Tamuramaro's men.[12]

  • August 24, 842 (J?wa 9, 15th day of the 7th month[13]): Saga died at the age of 57.[14]

Eras of Saga's reign

The years of Saga's reign are more specifically identified by more than one era name (neng?).[15]


In ancient Japan, there were four noble clans, the Gempeit?kitsu (?). One of these clans, the Minamoto clan are also known as Genji (), and of these, the Saga Genji (?) are descended from 52nd emperor Saga. Saga's son, Minamoto no T?ru, is thought to be an inspiration for the protagonist of the novel The Tale of Genji.[]

In the 9th century, Emperor Saga made a decree prohibiting meat consumption except fish and birds and abolished capital punishment in 818. This remained the dietary habit of Japanese until the introduction of European dietary customs in the 19th century.[]

Emperor Saga played an important role as a stalwart supporter of the Buddhist monk K?kai. The emperor helped K?kai to establish the Shingon School of Buddhism by granting him T?-ji Temple in the capital Heian-ky? (present-day Kyoto).[]


Kugy? () is a collective term for the very few most powerful men attached to the court of the Emperor of Japan in pre-Meiji eras.[16]

In general, this elite group included only three to four men at a time. These were hereditary courtiers whose experience and background would have brought them to the pinnacle of a life's career. During Saga's reign (809-823), this kugy? included:

Consorts and children

Saga had 49 children by at least 30 different women. Many of the children received the surname Minamoto, thereby removing them from royal succession.

Empress: Tachibana no Kachiko (?), also known as Empress Danrin (?, Danrin-k?g?), Tachibana no Kiyotomo's daughter.[18]

  • Second Son: Imperial Prince Masara (?) later Emperor Ninmy?
  • Imperial Princess Seishi (; 810-879), married to Emperor Junna
  • Imperial Princess Hideko (; d. 850)
  • Imperial Prince Hidera (?; 817-895)
  • Imperial Princess Toshiko (; d. 826)
  • Fifth Daughter: Imperial Princess Yoshiko (; d. 836)
  • Imperial Princess Shigeko (; d. 865)

Hi (deposed): Imperial Princess Takatsu (; d. 841), Emperor Kanmu's daughter

  • Second Prince: Imperial Prince Nariyoshi (?; d. 868)
  • Imperial Princess Nariko (; d. 815)

Hi: Tajihi no Takako (; 787-825), Tajihi no Ujimori's daughter

Bunin: Fujiwara no Onatsu (?; d. 855), Fujiwara no Uchimaro's daughter

Court lady (Naishi-no-kami): Kudara no Kyomy? (?; d. 849), Kudara no Ky?shun's daughter

  • Minamoto no Yoshihime (; b. 814)
  • Minamoto no Sadamu (; 815-863)
  • Minamoto no Wakahime ()
  • Minamoto no Shizumu (; 824-881)

Ny?go: Kudara no Kimy? (?; d. 851), Kudara no Shuntetsu's daughter

  • Imperial Prince Motora (?; d. 831)
  • Fourth Son: Imperial Prince Tadara (?; 819-876)
  • Imperial Princess Motoko (; d. 831)

Ny?gohara no Kiyoko (?; d. 841), ?hara no Ietsugu's daughter

  • Tenth Daughter: Imperial Princess Ninshi (; d. 889), 15th Sai? in Ise Shrine 809-823

Koui: Iidaka no Yakatoji (), Iidaka Gakuashi

  • Minamoto no Tokiwa (; 812-854)
  • Minamoto no Akira (; 814-852/853)

Koui: Akishino no Koko (?/), Akishino no Yasuhito's daughter

  • Minamoto no Kiyoshi ()

Koui: Yamada no Chikako (?)

  • Minamoto no Hiraku(?) (; 829-869)
  • Minamoto no Mituhime ()

Ny?go: Princess Katano (?), Prince Yamaguchi's daughter

  • Eighth Daughter: Imperial Princess Uchiko (; 807-847), 1st Saiin in Kamo Shrine 810-831

Court lady: Takashina no Kawako (?), Takashina no Kiyoshina's daughter

  • Imperial Princess S?shi (; d. 854)

Court lady: Hiroi no Otona's daughter

Court lady: Fuse no Musashiko ()

  • Minamoto no Sadahime (; 810-880)
  • Minamoto no Hashihime ()

Court lady: Kamitsukeno clan's daughter

  • Minamoto no Hiromu (; 812-863)

Court lady: Abe no Yanatsu's daughter

  • Minamoto no Yutaka (; 813-876)

Court lady: Kasa no Tsugiko (), Kasa no Nakamori's daughter

  • Minamoto no Ikeru (; 821-872)

Court lady: Awata clan's daughter

  • Minamoto no Yasushi (; 822-853)

Court ladyhara no Matako (?), ?hara no Mamuro's daughter

  • Minamoto no T?ru (), Sadaijin
  • Minamoto no Tsutomu (; 824-881)
  • Minamoto no Mitsuhime ()

Court lady: Ki clan's daughter

  • Minamoto no Sarahime ()

Court lady: Kura no Kageko (?)

  • Minamoto no Kamihime ()
  • Minamoto no Katahime ()
  • Minamoto no Agahime ()

Court lady: Kannabi no Iseko ()

  • Minamoto no Koehime ()

Court lady: Fun'ya no Fumiko (?), Fun'ya no Kugamaro's daughter

  • Imperial Princess Junshi (; d. 863)
  • Imperial Princess Seishi (; d. 853), married to Prince Fujii (son of Emperor Kanmu)
  • Prince Atsushi ()

Court lady: Tanaka clan's daughter

  • Minamoto no Sumu(?) ()

Court lady: Koreyoshi no Sadamichi's daughter

  • Minamoto no Masaru ()

Court ladynakatomi no Mineko ()

Court lady: Tachibana no Haruko ()

Court lady: Nagaoka no Okanari's daughter

  • Minamoto no Sakashi(?) ()

Court lady(Nyoju): Taima no Osadamaro's daughter

  • Minamoto no Kiyohime (; 810-856), married to Fujiwara no Yoshifusa
  • Minamoto no Matahime (; 812-882), Naishi-no-kami ()

Lady-in-waiting: Sugawara Kanshi (?)

(from unknown women)

  • Minamoto no Tsugu (?) ()
  • Minamoto no Yoshihime ()
  • Minamoto no Toshihime ()



See also


  1. ^ a b Emperor Saga, Saganoyamanoe Imperial Mausoleum, Imperial Household Agency
  2. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1959). The Imperial House of Japan, pp. 63-64.
  3. ^ Brown and Ishida, pp. 280-282; Varley, H. Paul. (1980). Jinn? Sh?t?ki, p. 151-163; Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Annales des empereurs du Japon, pp. 97-102., p. 97, at Google Books
  4. ^ Varley, p. 151.
  5. ^ a b c d Brown and Ishida, p. 280.
  6. ^ Titsingh, p. 96; Brown and Ishida, p. 280.
  7. ^ Brown and Ishida, p. 281
  8. ^ Julian dates derived from NengoCalc
  9. ^
  10. ^ Titsingh, p. 96; Brown and Ishida, p. 280; Varley, p. 44; a distinct act of senso is unrecognized prior to Emperor Tenji; and all sovereigns except Jit?, Y?zei, Go-Toba, and Fushimi have senso and sokui in the same year until the reign of Emperor Go-Murakami.
  11. ^ Titsingh, p. 98; Varley, p. 151.
  12. ^ Boroff, Nicholas. National Geographic Traveler Japan, p. 156.
  13. ^
  14. ^ Brown and Ishida, p. 282; Varley, p. 163.
  15. ^ Titsingh, p. 97.
  16. ^ Furugosho: kugy? of Saga-tenn?
  17. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, p. 319.
  18. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1959). The Imperial House of Japan, pp. 318-319.
  19. ^ "Genealogy". Reichsarchiv (in Japanese). Retrieved 2018.



External links

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Emperor Heizei
Emperor of Japan:

Succeeded by
Emperor Junna

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