Fujiwara no Michinaga

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Fujiwara no Michinaga (藤原 道長?, 966 - January 3, 1028) represents the highpoint of the Fujiwara regents' control over the government of Japan.


Early life

He was the fourth or fifth son of Fujiwara no Kaneie by his wife Tokihime, daughter of Fujiwara no Nakamasa. There were two regents and two imperial consorts among his brothers and sisters by the same mother.

As the youngest son of his father, he was not remarkable in the court until his two brothers died. He started his career in the court when he was 15 years old.

  • 986 (Kanna 2): Sakyō no Daibu (左京大夫)
  • 986 (Eien 2, 29th day of the 1st month) : Gon-no-Chūnagon (権中納言)
  • 991 (Shōryaku 2, 7th day of the 9th month): Gon-no-Dainagon (権大納言)

In 995 during the reign of Emperor Ichijō, his two elder brothers Michitaka and Michikane died of disease. He struggled with Fujiwara no Korechika, the elder son of Michitaka, for political power. With support of Senshi, his sister and mother of Ichijō, Michinaga succeeded in gaining power as well the support of majority of the court. He was appointed Nairan, the secretary of the emperor and reviewer who reviewed all the document before the emperor himself read them.


Michinaga exerted de facto reign over Japan in the early 11th century. This can be seen from the fact that he was father to four (non-reigning) empresses, uncle to two emperors and grandfather to another three.

  • 995 (Chōtoku 1, 19th day of the 6th month): Udaijin (右大臣)
  • 996 (Chōtoku 2, 20th day of the 7th month): Sadaijin (左大臣)[1]

Though Ichijō already had an empress, a daughter of Michitaka, he claimed there were two types of empresshood and therefore it was legal for an emperor to have two empresses at the same time. Michinaga's ambitions led him make his own daughter, Shōshi, a second empress of Ichijō. In 1000 Shōshi was announced as a Chūgū empress and the existing empress Teishi was given the title of Kōgō empress. It was the first time an emperor had two empresses. A power struggle between Korechika and Michinaga continued until Teishi's unexpected death in 1001, which sealed Michinaga's power since Shōshi became the only empress after Teishi's death.

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