The Story of Empress Jito

A life of drama, from her earliest days

The first empress to deliberately take the throne.
Meeting Prince Oama changes her life.

Prince Nakano-oe, the merciless father

When Sarara was five, her father, Prince Nakano-oe, heard a rumor that Soga no Ishikawamaro was planning to murder him. Nakano-oe believed the rumor, but Emperor Kotoku wasn’t so sure. So the emperor sent a messenger to Ishikawamaro to find out the truth. Ishikawamaro promised to explain everything to the emperor in person. But this roused the emperor’s suspicion, and he sent out a band of soldiers to investigate. Fearing the worst, Ishikawamaro took his own life. After Ishikawamaro died, items and documents were found that proved his loyalty. Nakano-oe must have regretted framing an innocent man—someone he’d worked with for years. On the other hand, it may all have been part of a conspiracy orchestrated by Nakano-oe. Perhaps he resented Ishikawamaro, who had taken up the post of udaijin (Minister of the Right). Yet it was Nakano-oe himself who had appointed Ishikawamaro to that post. To this day, the incident remains a mystery and piques the curiosity of history buffs.

Becoming the main wife and overcoming her sister’s death

At 13, Sarara was married to Prince Oama—the younger brother of her father, Emperor Tenchi (formerly Prince Nakano-oe). Although this was a politically arranged marriage, Sarara was still attracted to the regal man. At the time, Oama already had a main wife—Sarara’s older sister, Princess Ota. In ancient Japan, marriages between close relatives were not uncommon. Even so, it was rather strange for the two sisters—who had the same parents and who were close in age—to be married to the same man. Fate had very different ends in store for the sisters. Princess Ota died in her early twenties, before Oama had ascended to the throne. Sarara, overcoming her grief, became Oama’s main wife and supported the future emperor. She would go on to become empress regnant and shape the nation of Japan.

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