|Empress of Japan
(Kōgyoku, first reign)
|Reign||January 25, 642 – June 14, 645|
|Coronation||January 25, 642(aged 48)|
|(Saimei, second reign)|
|Reign||January 3, 655 - July 24, 661|
|Coronation||January 3, 655(aged 61)|
|Empress consort of Japan|
|Died||661 (aged 66–67)
Asakura no Miya
|Burial||Ochi-no-Okanoe no misasagi (Nara)|
Kōgyoku's reign spanned the years from 642 to 645. Her reign as Saimei encompassed 655 to 661. In other words,
- 642: She ascended the throne as Kōgyoku-tennō, and she stepped down in response to the assassination of Soga no Iruka (see: Isshi Incident).
- 645: She abdicated in favor of her brother, who would become known as Emperor Kōtoku
- 654: Kōtoku died; and the throne was vacant.
- 655: She re-ascended, beginning a new reign as Saimei-tennō.
- 661: Saimei ruled until her death caused the throne to be vacant again.
The two reigns of this one woman spanned the years from 642 through 661.
In the history of Japan, Kōgyoku/Saimei was the second of eight women to take on the role of empress regnant. The sole female monarch before Kōgyoku/Saimei was Suiko-tennō. The six women sovereigns reigning after Kōgyoku/Saimei were Jitō, Genmei, Genshō, Kōken/Shōtoku, Meishō, and Go-Sakuramachi.
- Prince Naka no Ōe (Emperor Tenji)
- Prince Ōama (Emperor Tenmu)
- Princess Hashihito (Empress consort of Emperor Kōtoku)
Events in Kōgyoku's reign
During her first reign the Soga clan seized power. Her son Naka no Ōe planned a coup d'état and slew Soga no Iruka at the court in front of her throne. The Empress, shocked by this incident, abdicated the throne.
Kōgyoku'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 queen who rules all under heaven". Alternatively, Kōgyoku might have been referred to as (ヤマト大王/大君) or the "Great Queen of Yamato".
Empress Kōgyoku reigned for four years. The years of Kōgyoku's reign are not linked by scholars to any era or nengō. The Taika era innovation of naming time periods – nengō – was yet to be initiated during her son's too-brief reign.
In this context, Brown and Ishida's translation of Gukanshō offers an explanation about the years of Empress Jitō's reign which muddies a sense of easy clarity in the pre-Taiho time-frame:
- "The eras that fell in this reign were: (1) the remaining seven years of Shuchō [(686+7=692?)]; and (2) Taika, which was four years long [695–698]. (The first year of this era was kinoto-hitsuji .) ... In the third year of the Taka era , Empress Jitō yielded the throne to the Crown Prince."
Events in Saimei's reign
When Kōtoku died, his designated heir was Naka no Ōe. When Naka no Ōe's mother re-ascended, he continued in the role of her heir and crown prince. In this role, he could and did remain active in the political life of Japan.
In the fifth year of Saimei's reign, Paekche in Korea was destroyed in 660. Japan assisted Paekche loyals in an attempt to aid the revival of Paekche dynasty. Early in 661, Saimei responded to the situation by leaving her capital in Yamato Province. Her plan was to lead a military expedition to Korea. The empress stayed in Ishiyu Temporary Palace in Iyo Province, today Dōgo Onsen. In May she arrived at Asakura Palace in the north part of Tsukushi province in Kyūshū, today a part of Fukuoka Prefecture. The allied army of Japan and Paekche was preparing for war against Silla, but the death of the empress thwarted those plans. In 661, Saimei died in the Asakura Palace before the army departed to Korea. In October her body was brought from Kyūshū by sea to Port Naniwa-zu (today Osaka city); and her state funeral was held in early November.
Empress Saimei ruled for seven years. The years of Saimei's reign are not linked by scholars to any era or nengō. The Taika era innovation of naming time periods – nengō – languished until Mommu reasserted an imperial right by proclaiming the commencement of Taihō in 701.
The actual site of Kōgyoku/Saimei's grave is known, having been identified as the Kengoshizuka tomb in the village of Asuka, Nara Prefecture. This empress is traditionally venerated at a memorial Shinto shrine (misasagi) at Nara.
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 Kōgyoku's reign, this apex of the Daijō-kan included:
The kugyō during Saimei's reign included:
- Sadaijin, Kose no Tokoda(巨勢徳太) (593–658), 649–658 
- Udaijin (not appointed)
- Naidaijin (内臣), Nakatomi no Kamako(中臣鎌子) (Fujiwara no Kamatari, 藤原鎌足) (614–669), 645–669 
- Imperial Household Agency (Kunaichō): 皇極(こうぎょく)天皇 (35) and 齊明(さいめい)天皇 (37)
- Kunaichō: 斉明天皇 (37)
- Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1959). The Imperial House of Japan, pp. 49, 51.
- Brown, Delmer et al. (1979). Gokanshō, p. 265–267; Varley, H. Paul. (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki. p. 130–134; Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Annales des empereurs du Japon, pp. 43–54., p. 43, at Google Books
- Brown, pp. 264; prior to Emperor Jomei, the personal names of the emperors (imina) were very long and people did not generally use them; however, the number of characters in each name diminished after Jomei's reign.
- Ponsonby-Fane, p. 8.
- Ashton, William. (2005). Nihongi, p. 171; Ponsonby-Fane, p. 8.
- Brown, p. 265.
- Titsingh, pp. 43–47.
- Brown, p. 270.
- Titsingh, pp. 43–54.
- http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100910a5.html Japan Times: Nara tomb said that of seventh century empress
- http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/tomb-identified-as-that-of-7th-century-empress-saimei Japan Today: Tomb identified as that of 7th-century Empress Saimei
- Ponsonby-Fane, p. 420.
- Brown, p. 267.
- Aston, William George. (1896). Nihongi: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to A.D. 697. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner. OCLC 448337491
- Brown, Delmer M. and Ichirō Ishida, eds. (1979). Gukanshō: The Future and the Past. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-03460-0; OCLC 251325323
- Ponsonby-Fane, Richard Arthur Brabazon. (1959). The Imperial House of Japan. Kyoto: Ponsonby Memorial Society. OCLC 194887
- Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Nihon Ōdai Ichiran; ou, Annales des empereurs du Japon. Paris: Royal Asiatic Society, Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland. OCLC 5850691
- Varley, H. Paul. (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki: A Chronicle of Gods and Sovereigns. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-04940-5; OCLC 59145842
|Empress of Japan:
|Empress of Japan: