Emperor Go-Toba - Events of Go-Toba's Life

Events of Go-Toba's Life

Go-Toba took the throne at the age of three.

  • September 8, 1183 (Juei 2, 20th day of the 8th month): In the 3rd year of Antoku-tennō 's reign (安徳天皇3年), the emperor fled the capital rather than give in to pressures for his abdication. In Antoku's absence, the cloistered former-Emperor Go-Shirakawa then elevated his young brother by decree; and the young child was given the acceptance of abdication (juzen) rites. The anti-Taira faction intended that the succession (‘‘senso’’) was received; and shortly thereafter, Emperor Go-Toba is said to have acceded to the throne (‘‘sokui’’).

Although these formal rites and ceremonies were taking place in Heian-kyō, the imperial regalia were still held by Antoku. Thus, the senso and sokui of Go-Toba became the first in history to omit the ritual transmission of the sacred treasures from a sovereign to his successor.

In 1192 Go-Shirakawa died and the first shogunate was established by Minamoto no Yoritomo, and the emperor became a figurehead.

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 period.

It was during this time that Go-Toba decreed that the followers of the Pure Land sect in Kyoto, let by Hōnen, be banished or in some cases executed. Originally this was prompted by complaints of clergy in Kyoto who were concerned about the rise in popularity of the new sect, but Go-Toba personally ordered the decree after two of his ladies in waiting converted to the sect without his knowledge.

In 1221, the shōgun installed Go-Toba's three-year-old grandson, Emperor 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 War after the era in which it occurred. Samurai around Kyoto 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 privileges 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.

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.

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