Emperor Kōbun

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Emperor Kōbun (弘文天皇 Kōbun-tennō?, 648 – August 21, 672) was the 39th emperor of Japan,[1] according to the traditional order of succession.[2]

Kōbun's reign lasted only a few months in 671-672.[3]


Traditional narrative

Emperor Kōbun was named the 39th emperor by the Meiji government in 1870; and since the late 19th century, he is known by the posthumous name accorded to him by Meiji scholars.[4]

In his lifetime, he was known as Prince Ōtomo (大友皇子, Ōtomo no ōji). He was the favorite son of Emperor Tenji; and he was also the first to have been accorded the title of Daijō-daijin.[2]

Contemporary historians now place the reign of Emperor Kōbun between the reigns of Emperor Tenji and Emperor Temmu; but the Nihongi, the Gukanshō, and the Jinnō Shōtōki do not recognize this reign. Prince Ōtomo was only given his posthumous title and name in 1870.

  • In the 10th year of Tenji, in the 11th month (671): Emperor Tenji, in the 10th year of his reign (天智天皇10年), designated his son as his heir; and modern scholars construe this as meaning that the son would have received the succession (senso) after his father's death. Shortly thereafter, Emperor Kōbun is said to have acceded to the throne (sokui).[5] If this understanding were valid, then it would it would follow:
  • In the 1st year of Kōbun (672): Emperor Kōbun, in the 1st year of his reign (弘文天皇1年), died; and his uncle Ōaomino ōji received the succession (senso) after the death of his nephew. Shortly thereafter, Emperor Temmu could be said to have acceded to the throne (sokui).[6]
  • In the 10th year of Tenji, in the 11th month (671): Emperor Tenji, in the 10th year of his reign (天智天皇10年), died; and despite any military confrontations which ensued, the brother of the dead sovereign would have received the succession (senso); and after a time, it would have been understood that Emperor Temmu rightfully acceded to the throne (sokui).

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