Emperor Saga

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Emperor Saga (嵯峨天皇 Saga-tennō?, (786–842) was the 52nd emperor of Japan,[1] according to the traditional order of succession.[2]

Saga's reign spanned the years from 809 through 823.[3]


Traditional narrative

Before his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne, his personal name (his imina)[4] was Kamino-shinnō (神野親王).[5]

He was the second son of Emperor Kammu, and younger brother of Emperor Heizei by the same mother.[6]

Saga had nine Empresses and consorts; and 47 Imperial sons and daughters.[7]

Events of Saga's life

Saga succeeded to the throne after the retirement of Heizei due to illness, and soon after his enthronement was himself ill.

  • June 17, 809 (Daidō 4, 1st day of the 4th month): In the 4th year of Emperor Heizei's reign (平城天皇4年), he fell ill and abdicated; and the succession (senso) was received by Kammu's second son, the eldest son having become a Buddhist priest. Shortly thereafter, Emperor Saga is said to have acceded to the throne (sokui).[8]

Emperor Saga's untimely health problems provided former-Emperor Heizei with a unique opportunity to foment a rebellion; and yet ultimately, the Heizei insurgents were defeated.

Forces loyal to Emperor Saga, led by taishōgun Sakanoue no Tamuramaro, quickly defeated the Heizei rebels which thus limited the adverse consequences which would have followed any broader conflict.[9] This same Tamuramaro is remembered in Aomori's annual nebuta or neputa matsuri which feature a number of gigantic, specially-constructed, illuminated paper floats. These great lantern-structures are colorfully painted with mythical figures; and teams of men carry them through the streets as crowds shout encouragement. This early ninth century military leader is commemorated in this way because he is said to have 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 by Tamuramaro's men.[10]

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