Emperor Antoku

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Emperor Antoku was a child emperor, the grandson of Taira no Kiyomori, whose accession spurred the Genpei War of the 1180s, and who died in the battle of Dan-no-ura in 1185 which ended that war and saw the end of the Taira clan. Antoku was perhaps the only emperor to ever die in war, and perhaps the only one whose official mausoleum is located far from the capital.

Born in 1178, Antoku was named emperor in 1180 at the age of two, succeeding his father Emperor Takakura as part of schemes by Antoku's grandfather, Taira no Kiyomori, to secure and expand his political power. This came only a few months after Antoku's uncle, Prince Mochihito, sent out a call requesting the Minamoto clan support his claim to the throne over Antoku's, thus beginning the Genpei War. Takakura and Kiyomori both died the following year, in 1181, but the Taira remained strong, and continued to fight the Minamoto for dominance for about five years. Fujiwara no Motomichi served as sesshô (regent) throughout Antoku's reign.[1]

Minamoto forces seized Kyoto in 1183 and the young emperor fled west alongside his mother, Kenreimon-in (Taira no Tokuko), and a large Taira army. His half-brother took the throne at that time as the Emperor Go-Toba; though according to some sources Antoku is considered to have abdicated or retired at that time, other sources suggest he was merely considered in exile, or some other such special temporary status, his reign continuing but overlapping with Go-Toba, who was in a more suitable position for actually exercising rule.

The war between the Minamoto and Taira ended at the battle of Dan-no-ura in 1185, a naval battle on the straits of Shimonoseki. The battle ended in Minamoto victory, and many members of the Taira clan, along with Antoku and his wet-nurse Suke no Tsubone, leapt into the water, to their deaths. Antoku's official imperial mausoleum was later established nearby, and is the only imperial mausoleum located outside of the Nara/Kyoto/Osaka or Greater Tokyo regions.

Preceded by
Emperor Takakura
Emperor of Japan
Succeeded by
Emperor Go-Toba


  1. Evelyn Rawski, Early Modern China and Northeast Asia: Cross-Border Perspectives, Cambridge University Press (2015), 156.