Sakanoue no Tamuramaro

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Sakanoue no Tamuramaro

Sakanoue no Tamuramaro (坂上 田村麻呂, 758 – June 17, 811) was a general and shōgun of the early Heian period of Japan. He was the son of Sakanoue no Karitamaro.[1]

Military career[edit]

Serving Emperor Kanmu, Tamuramaro was appointed shōgun and given the task of conquering the Emishi (蝦夷征伐 Emishi Seibatsu), a people native to the north of Honshū, which he subjugated. Recent evidence suggests that a migration of Emishi from northern Honshū to Hokkaidō took place sometime between the seventh and eighth centuries, perhaps as a direct result of this policy that pre-dated Tamuramaro's appointment. However, many Emishi remained in the Tōhoku region as subjects of the expanding Japanese Empire and later established independent Fushu domains. After Emperor Kanmu's death, the general continued to serve Emperor Heizei and Emperor Saga as Major Counselor (大納言, dainagon) and Minister of War (兵部卿, Hyōbu-kyō).[2] He was the second person to be given the title of Sei-i Taishōgun (征夷大将軍). The first to receive this title was Ōtomo no Otomaro.

It is said that the famous Tanabata festivals and parades of Aomori Prefecture (also celebrated in the city of Sendai in Miyagi prefecture), which draw over 3 million people to the prefecture a year, were popularised in remembrance of Sakanoue no Tamuramaro's campaign to subdue the tribal societies then living in Tōhoku. These annual matsuri are called the Nebuta festival in Aomori City and Neputa Festival (ねぷた祭り) in Hirosaki City. They feature a number of gigantic, specially-constructed, illuminated paper floats. These huge festival structures are colourfully painted with mythical figures, and teams of men carry them through the streets as crowds shout encouragement. Aomori's great nebuta lanterns are said to hark back to Tamuramaro's innovative strategy in that early ninth century campaign. According to legend, the taishogun is remembered for having 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.[3] Until the mid-1990s the prize awarded for the best float of the parades was called the Tamuramaro Prize. However, there is no historical record that Tamuramaro went farther north than Iwate Prefecture.

Tamuramaro's name is linked with payments for construction projects at Kiyomizu Temple (Kiyomizu-dera) in the late 8th century.[4]

  • 811 (Kōnin 2, 3rd month): Tamuramaro died at age 54, to the great regret of Emperor Saga, who expressed his sense of loss by distributing large quantities of silk cloth, cotton cloth and rice in honour of his dead counsellor. His bow, arrows, quiver and sword were placed in his coffin by order of the Emperor.[5]

The Tomb of Sakanoue no Tamuramaro is located in Kanshuji Higashikurisunocho, Yamashina Ward, Kyoto, Japan. He is not the samurai buried at Shōgun-zuka as that was a ceremonial statue of a warrior buried by Emperor Kanmu when he decided to move the capital to Heian-kyo, present day Kyoto.


According to the Shoku Nihongi, an official historical record, the Sakanoue clan is descended from Emperor Ling of Han China.[6][7] The Sakanoue clan's family tree shows that Tamuramaro is a 14th-generation descendant of Ling.[8] Other research traces the origins of the Sakanoue clan from the Asian mainland, possibly through Baekje.[9]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Iwao, Seiichi. (2002). Dictionnaire historique du Japon, p. 2329.
  2. ^ Varley, H. Paul. (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki, p. 272.
  3. ^ Boroff, Nicholas. National Geographic Traveler Japan, p. 156.
  4. ^ Kyoto University of Foreign Studies: Japan 101
  5. ^ Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Annales des empereurs du japon, p. 99.
  6. ^ Shoku Nihongi 延暦四年六月の条:右衛士督従三位兼下総守坂上大忌寸苅田麿ら表を上りて言さく、「臣らは、本是れ後漢霊帝の曾孫阿智王の後なり。漢の祚、魏に遷れるとき、阿智王、神牛の教に因りて、出でて帯方に行きて忽ち宝帯の瑞を得たり。
  7. ^ "Sakanoue no Karitamaro Drawing His Bow". Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Retrieved April 2, 2011.
  8. ^ 塙 保己一 [Hanawa hokii] 続群書類従 [Zoku Gunsho Ruiju Series] 従十八巻坂上系図 [Volume 18 Sakagami Clan's family tree]
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-07-29. Retrieved 2011-04-04.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)


External links[edit]

Media related to Sakanoue no Tamuramaro at Wikimedia Commons