Daijō Tennō or Dajō Tennō (both accepted readings of 太上天皇) was the title for a Japanese Emperor who abdicated in favor of a successor. The term is often shortened to Jōkō (上皇).
As defined in the Taihō Code, although retired, a Daijō Tennō could still exert power. The first such example is the Empress Jitō in the 7th century. A retired emperor sometimes entered the Buddhist monastic community, becoming a cloistered emperor. This practice was rather common during the Heian period.
The last emperor to rule as a Jōkō was Emperor Kōkaku (1779–1817). The Emperor later created an incident called the "Songo incident" (the "respectful title incident"). The emperor disputed with the Tokugawa Shogunate about his intention to give a title of Abdicated Emperor (Daijō-tennō) to his father, who was an Imperial Prince Sukehito.
A total of 62 Japanese emperors abdicated. An incomplete list follows:
Prince Kusabake was named as crown prince to succeed Empress Jitō, but he died at a young age. Kusabake's son, Prince Karu, was then named as Jitō's successor. He eventually would become known as Emperor Mommu.
In 697, Jitō abdicated in Mommu's favor; as a retired sovereign, she took the post-reign title daijō-tennō. After this, her imperial successors who retired took the same title after abdication.
Gemmei had initially planned to remain on the throne until her grandson might reach maturity. However, in 715, Gemmei did abdicate in favor of Mommu's older sister who then became known as Empress Genshō. Genshō was eventually succeeded by her younger brother, who then became known as Emperor Shōmu.
- 715 (Wadō 8): Gemmei resigns as empress in favor of her daughter, who will be known as Empress Genshō.
The Empress reigned for eight years. After abdicating, she was known as Daijō-tennō; and she was only the second woman after Empress Jitō to claim this title. Gemmei lived in retirement until her death at the age of 61.
- Anna 2 969: Reizei abdicated; and he took the honorific title of Reizei-in Jōkō. His reign lasted for just two years; and he lived another 44 years in retirement.
- Kankō 8, on the 13th day of the 6th month (1011): In the 25th year of Emperor Ichijō's reign (一条天皇25年), the emperor abdicated; and the succession (senso) was received by his cousin. Shortly thereafter, Emperor Sanjō is said to have acceded to the throne (sokui) at age 36.
- Kankō 8, 22nd day of the 6th month (1011): Daijō-tennō Emperor Ichijō died at the age of 32.
- Ōtoku 3, on the 26th day of the 11th month (1084): Emperor Shirakawa formally abdicated, and he took the title Daijō-tennō. Shirakawa had personally occupied the throne for 14 years; and for the next 43 years, he would exercise broad powers in what will come to be known as cloistered rule.
Emperor Go-Sanjō had wished for Shirakawa's younger half-brother to succeed him to the throne. In 1085, this half-brother died of an illness; and Shirakawa's own son, Taruhito became Crown Prince. On the same day that Taruhito was proclaimed as his heir, Shirakawa abdicated;, and Taruhito became Emperor Horikawa. The now-retired Emperor Shirakawa was the first to attempt what became customary cloistered rule. He exercised power, ruling indirectly from the Shirakawa-in (lit. "White River Mansion/Temple"); nevertheless, nominal sesshō and kampaku offices continued to exist for a long time.
- Eiji 1, in the 3rd month (1141): The former emperor Toba accepted the tonsure and became a Buddhist monk at the age of 39 years.
- Eiji 1, on the 7th day of the 12th month (永治元年; 1141): In the 18th year of Sutoku-tennō's reign (崇徳天皇18年), the emperor abdicated; and the succession (senso) was received by a younger brother, the 8th son of former Emperor Toba. Shortly thereafter, Emperor Konoe is said to have acceded to the throne (sokui).
At that time, Fujiwara-no Tadamichi became Imperial Regent, or Sesshō. The Cloistered Emperor Toba continued to direct all the affairs of government, while the retired Emperor Sutoku had no powers. This conflict resulted in many controversies during Konoe's reign.
- Kōji 2, in the 1st month (1143): Cloistered Emperor Go-Toba-in, now known by the title Daijō Hōō or Hōō (太上法皇), visited his mother.
Emperor Go-Hanazono abdicated in 1464, but not long afterwards, the Ōnin War (応仁の乱 Ōnin no Ran?) broke out; there were no further abdications until 1586, when Emperor Ōgimachi passed the throne to his grandson, Emperor Go-Yōzei. This was due to the disturbed state of the country; and the fact that there was neither a house for an ex-emperor nor money to support him or it.
- ...Sakuramachiden Gyokozu: information in caption text
- Varley, H. Paul . (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki, p. 137.
- Varley, p. 137.
- Varley, p. 137; Brown, Delmer et al. (1979). Gukanshō, p. 270.
- Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Annales des empereurs du japon, pp. 64-65.
- Varley, p. 140.
- Brown, p. 298.
- Titsingh, p. 155; Brown, p. 306; Varley, p. 190.
- Titsingh, p. 154; Brown, p. 307; Varley, p. 44. [A distinct act of senso is unrecognized prior to Emperor Tenji; and all sovereigns except Jitō, Yōzei, Go-Toba, and Fushimi have senso and sokui in the same year until the reign of Go-Murakami.]
- Brown, p. 306.
- Brown, p. 316.
- Titsingh, p. 171.
- Varley, p. 202
- Titsingh, p. 172.
- Titsingh, p. 185.
- Titsingh, p. 186; Brown, p. 324; Varley, p. 44.
- Titsingh, p. 186.
- Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1956). Kyoto: the Old Capital, 794-1869, pp. 340-341.
- Brown, Delmer and Ichiro Ishida, eds. (1979). [ Jien (1221)], Gukanshō; "The Future and the Past: a translation and study of the 'Gukanshō,' an interpretive history of Japan written in 1219" translated from the Japanese and edited by Delmer M. Brown & Ichirō Ishida. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-03460-0
- Ponsonby-Fane, Richard A. B. (1956). Kyoto: The Old Capital of Japan, 794-1869. Kyoto: The Ponsonby Memorial Society.
- Titsingh, Isaac, ed. (1834). [Siyun-sai Rin-siyo/Hayashi Gahō (1652)], Nipon o daï itsi ran; ou, Annales des empereurs du Japon. Paris: Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland.--Click for digitized, full-text copy of this book (in French)
- Varley, H. Paul, ed. (1980). [ Kitabatake Chikafusa (1359)], Jinnō Shōtōki ("A Chronicle of Gods and Sovereigns: Jinnō Shōtōki of Kitabatake Chikafusa" translated by H. Paul Varley). New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-04940-4
- National Archives of Japan ... Scroll showing procession of Emperor Kōkaku who abdicated in Bunka 14 (1817)