Emperor Nintoku

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Emperor Nintoku
Woodblock print by Toyohara Chikanobu, 1886
Emperor of Japan
Reign313–399 (traditional)[1]
BornOhosazaki no Mikoto (大鷦鷯尊)
Died399 (aged 108–109)
Mozu no Mimihara no naka no misasagi (百舌鳥耳原中陵) (Osaka)
among others...
Emperor Richū
Posthumous name
Chinese-style shigō:
Emperor Nintoku (仁徳天皇)

Japanese-style shigō:
Ohosazaki no Sumeramikoto (大鷦鷯天皇)
HouseImperial House of Japan
FatherEmperor Ōjin

Emperor Nintoku (仁徳天皇, Nintoku-tennō), also known as Ohosazaki no Sumeramikoto (大鷦鷯天皇) was the 16th Emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.[3][4][5] Due to his reputation for goodness derived from depictions in the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, he is sometimes referred to as the Saint Emperor (聖帝, Hijiri-no-mikado).

While his existence is generally accepted as fact, no firm dates can be assigned to Nintoku's life or reign. He is traditionally considered to have reigned from 313 to 399,[6] although this date is doubted by scholars.[7]

Legendary narrative[edit]

The Japanese have traditionally accepted Nintoku's historical existence, and a mausoleum (misasagi) for Nintoku is currently maintained. The following information available is taken from the pseudo-historical Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, which are collectively known as Kiki (記紀) or Japanese chronicles. These chronicles include legends and myths, as well as potential historical facts that have since been exaggerated and/or distorted over time. The Kiki states that Nintoku was born to Nakatsuhime no Mikoto (仲姫命) sometime in 290 AD, and was given the name Ohosazaki no Mikoto (大鷦鷯尊).[2] According to the Nihon Shoki, he was the fourth son of Emperor Ōjin.[8]

Known information[edit]

Nintoku is regarded by historians as a emperor or ruler of the early 5th century.[9] The historical profile of Nintoku is generally accepted as fact without attributing all of the things he allegedly accomplished.[7] Nintoku's contemporary title would not have been tennō, as most historians believe this title was not introduced until the reigns of Emperor Tenmu and Empress Jitō. Rather, it was presumably Sumeramikoto or Amenoshita Shiroshimesu Ōkimi (治天下大王), meaning "the great king who rules all under heaven". Alternatively, Nintoku might have been referred to as ヤマト大王/大君 or the "Great King of Yamato". The name "Nintoku" also might have been regularized centuries after the lifetime ascribed to him, possibly during the time in which legends about the origins of the Yamato dynasty were compiled as the chronicles known today as the Kojiki.[10][11]

Although the Nihon Shoki states that Nintoku ruled from 313 to 399, research suggests those dates are likely inaccurate.[12] William George Aston notes that if they were factual, Nintoku would be 312 years old in his 78th year of reign assuming that the traditional accounts are correct.[13] Outside of the Kiki, the reign of Emperor Kinmei[a] (c. 509 – 571 AD) is the first for which contemporary historiography has been able to assign verifiable dates.[14] The conventionally accepted names and dates of the early Emperors were not confirmed as "traditional" though, until the reign of Emperor Kanmu[b] between 737 and 806 AD.[10]

Consorts and children[edit]

According to the Nihon Shoki, he was the fourth son of Emperor Ōjin and his mother was Nakatsuhime no Mikoto (仲姫命), a great-granddaughter of Emperor Keikō. He was also the father of Emperors Richū, Hanzei, and Ingyō. His name was Ohosazaki no Mikoto (大鷦鷯尊).

Empress (Kōgō): Princess Iwa (磐之媛命), poet and daughter of Katsuragi no Sotsuhiko (葛城襲津彦) (first)

  • First Son: Prince Ōenoizahowake (大兄去来穂別尊), later Emperor Richū
  • Prince Suminoe no Nakatsu (住吉仲皇子, d.399)
  • Third Son: Prince Mizuhawake (瑞歯別尊), later Emperor Hanzei
  • Fourth Son: Prince Oasatsuma Wakugo no Sukune (雄朝津間稚子宿禰尊), later Emperor Ingyō
  • Prince Sakoudo (酒人王)

Empress (Kōgō): Princess Yata (八田皇女), Emperor Ōjin's daughter (second)

Consort (Hi) : Himuka no Kaminaga-hime (日向髪長媛), Morokata no Kimi Ushimoroi's daughter

Consort: Uji no Wakiiratsume (宇遅之若郎女), daughter of Emperor Ōjin

Consort: Kuro-hime (黒日売), daughter of Kibi no Amabe no Atai (吉備海部直)

Nintoku's tomb[edit]

Daisen-Kofun, the tomb of Emperor Nintoku, Osaka

Daisen Kofun (the largest tomb in Japan) in Sakai, Osaka, is considered to be his final resting place. The actual site of Nintoku's grave is not known.[3]

The Nintoku-ryo tumulus is one of almost 50 tumuli collectively known as "Mozu Kofungun" clustered around the city, and covers the largest area of any tomb in the world. Built in the middle of the 5th century by an estimated 2,000 men working daily for almost 16 years, the Nintoku tumulus, at 486 meters long and with a mound 35 meters high, is twice as long as the base of the famous Great Pyramid of Pharaoh Khufu (Cheops) in Giza.[15]

The Imperial tomb of Nintoku's consort, Iwa-no hime no Mikoto, is said to be located in Saki-cho, Nara City.[16] Both kofun-type Imperial tombs are characterized by a keyhole-shaped island located within a wide, water-filled moat. Imperial tombs and mausolea are cultural properties; but they are guarded and administered by the Imperial Household Agency (IHA), which is the government department responsible for all matters relating to the Emperor and his family. According to the IHA, the tombs are more than a mere repository for historical artifacts; they are sacred religious sites. IHA construes each of the Imperial grave sites as sanctuaries for the spirits of the ancestors of the Imperial House.[12]

Nintoku is traditionally venerated at a memorial Shinto shrine (misasagi) at Osaka. The Imperial Household Agency designates this location as his mausoleum. It is formally named Mozu no Mimihara no naka no misasagi.[17]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ The 29th Emperor[4][5]
  2. ^ Kanmu was the 50th sovereign of the Yamato dynasty


  1. ^ "Genealogy of the Emperors of Japan" (PDF). Kunaicho.go.jp. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 22, 2011. Retrieved February 5, 2022.
  2. ^ a b Kenneth Henshall (2013). Historical Dictionary of Japan to 1945. Scarecrow Press. p. 487. ISBN 9780810878723.
  3. ^ a b "仲哀天皇 (16)". Imperial Household Agency (Kunaichō) (in Japanese). Retrieved August 2, 2019.
  4. ^ a b Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Annales des empereurs du japon (in French). Royal Asiatic Society, Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland. pp. 22–24, 34–36.
  5. ^ a b Brown, Delmer M. and Ichirō Ishida (1979). A Translation and Study of the Gukanshō, an Interpretative History of Japan Written in 1219. University of California Press. pp. 256–257, 261–262. ISBN 9780520034600.
  6. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1959). The Imperial House of Japan, p. 36.
  7. ^ a b Wetzler, Peter (1998-02-01). Hirohito and War: Imperial Tradition and Military Decision Making in Prewar Japan. University of Hawaii Press. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-8248-6285-5.
  8. ^ Aston, William. (1998). Nihongi, Vol. 1, pp. 254–271.
  9. ^ Kelly, Charles F. "Kofun Culture". www.t-net.ne.jp. Retrieved February 5, 2022.
  10. ^ a b Aston, William George. (1896). Nihongi: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to A.D. 697, Volume 1. The Japan Society London. p. 109 & 272–300.
  11. ^ Brinkley, Frank (1915). A History of the Japanese People from the Earliest Times to the end of the Meiji Era. Encyclopaedia Britannica Company. p. 21. Posthumous names for the earthly Mikados were invented in the reign of Emperor Kanmu (782–805), i.e., after the date of the compilation of the Records and the Chronicles.
  12. ^ a b Parry, Richard Lloyd. "Japan guards the Emperors' secrets; Ban on digs in ancient imperial tombs frustrates archaeologists", The Independent (London). 12 November 1995.
  13. ^ Aston, William George. (1896). Nihongi: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to A.D. 697, Volume 1. The Japan Society London. p. 295.
  14. ^ Hoye, Timothy. (1999). Japanese Politics: Fixed and Floating Worlds. Prentice Hall. p. 78. ISBN 9780132712897. According to legend, the first Japanese Emperor was Jimmu. Along with the next 13 Emperors, Jimmu is not considered an actual, historical figure. Historically verifiable Emperors of Japan date from the early sixth century with Kimmei.
  15. ^ Merueñas, Mark. "Where Emperors sleep: Japan's keyhole-shaped burial mounds". GMA News Online. Retrieved 2017-09-20.
  16. ^ Iwa-no hime no Mikoto's misasagi -- map (upper right) Archived 2012-02-07 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, p. 419.
  18. ^ "Genealogy". Reichsarchiv (in Japanese). Retrieved 9 January 2021.

Further reading[edit]

Regnal titles
Preceded by Emperor of Japan:

(traditional dates)
Succeeded by