Emperor Kokaku

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  • Death: 1840
  • Reign: 1779-1817
  • Other Names: Tomohito
  • Japanese: 光格天皇 (koukaku tennou)

Emperor Kôkaku reigned from 1779 to 1817, succeeding Emperor Go-Momozono and being succeeded in turn by his son, Emperor Ninkô.

After Emperor Go-Momozono died without any sons, Kôkaku, a member of a collateral line of the imperial family, married Go-Momozono's only daughter, Princess Yoshiko, in conjunction with taking the throne.

Kôkaku's reign was characterized by repeated efforts to raise the symbolic authority of the imperial court vis-a-vis the Tokugawa shogunate. In 1789, he petitioned the shogunate for permission to have his father, an imperial prince who never took the throne, be posthumously declared a "retired emperor" (dajôtennô). Tairô Matsudaira Sadanobu was ultimately successful in his opposition to this petition, but the "incident" which emerged from the conflict is said to have contributed to his fall from power.[1]

Kôkaku arranged to have the term tennô ("Heavenly King", or "Emperor") employed to refer to him posthumously. This marked the revival of an ancient tradition, making himself the first emperor in roughly six hundred years to be officially called tennô.[2]

He abdicated in favor of one of his sons in 1817, who then took the throne as Emperor Ninkô.

Preceded by
Emperor Go-Momozono
Emperor of Japan
Succeeded by
Emperor Ninkô


  • Evelyn Rawski, Early Modern China and Northeast Asia: Cross-Border Perspectives, Cambridge University Press (2015), 157.
  1. Luke Roberts, Performing the Great Peace, University of Hawaii Press (2012), 170.
  2. Luke Roberts, "Cultivating Non-National Historical Understandings in Local History," Joshua Fogel (ed.) The Teleology of the Nation-State, Univ of Pennsylvania Press (2004), 169.