Fujiwara clan

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The Fujiwara clan (藤原氏 Fujiwara-shi), descending from the Nakatomi clan, was a powerful family of regents in Japan. The clan originated when the founder, Nakatomi no Kamatari (614-669), was given the surname[1] Fujiwara by Emperor Tenji. The Fujiwara dominated the Japanese politics of Heian period (794–1185) through the monopoly of regent positions, Sesshō and Kampaku[2][3].

As abdicated Emperors took over power by exercising insei (院政) at the end of 11th century, then followed by the rise of warrior class, the Fujiwara gradually lost its control over mainstream politics.

Beyond the 12th century, they continued to monopolize the titles of sesshō and kampaku for much of the time until the system was abolished in the Meiji era. Though their influence declined, the clan remained close advisors to the succeeding Emperors.


Asuka/Nara period

The Fujiwara clan's political influence was initiated during the Asuka period. Nakatomi no Kamatari, a member of the lower-nobility Nakatomi family led a coup against the Soga in 645 and initiated a series of sweeping government reforms that would be known as the Taika Reform. In 668 Emperor Tenji (reigned 668-671), bestowed the kabane Fujiwara no Ason (藤原朝臣?) on Kamatari. The surname passed to the descendants of Fujiwara no Fuhito (659–720), the second son and heir of Kamatari, who was prominent at the court of several emperors and empresses during the early Nara period. He made his daughter Miyako a concubine of Emperor Mommu. Her son, Prince Obito became Emperor Shōmu. Fuhito succeeded in making another of his daughters, Kōmyōshi, the empress consort of Emperor Shōmu. She was the first empress (like Empress Wu in China) consort of Japan who was not a daughter of the imperial family itself. Fuhito had four sons Fujiwara no Muchimaro, Fujiwara no Fusasaki, Fujiwara no Umakai and Fujiwara no Maro. Each of the four founded a family: Nanke, Hokke, Shikike and Kyōke, respectively. Among them, the Hokke (lit. the northern family) seized power and was considered the leader of the entire clan.

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