The Story of Lady Nukata

A poet of turbulent times

One of the outstanding poets of her time, Nukata captures in her poetry the legacy of the empresses

Turmoil begins and ends

Soga no Emishi killed Sakaibe no Marise, one of Prince Yamashiro’s main supporters. This brought Prince Tamura to the throne as Emperor Jomei, the successor to Empress Suiko. But conflict still raged between the power-hungry Soga clan and their rivals. After Jomei died, Emishi pushed for the throne to be taken by his empress consort, Princess Takara (who became Empress Kogyoku). Meanwhile, Emishi’s son Iruka crushed Prince Yamashiro and his family. Yamashiro had been a rival to Prince Furuhito, a favorite of the Soga clan. The Soga father and son, Emishi and Iruka, had now seized total power—or so it seemed. Then came the Isshi Incident, a coup planned by Empress Kogyoku’s son Prince Nakano-oe. Iruka was killed and Emishi committed suicide, marking the end of the main Soga bloodline. The political situation was a mess. But, perhaps unexpectedly, ancient Japan’s biggest coup brought a period of calm.

Lady Nukata’s mysterious origins

There are few written accounts of Lady Nukata’s background. The only known description of her comes in the Nihon Shoki chronicles, which state merely that “She was the daughter of Prince Kagami, wedded Prince Oama, and gave birth to Princess Tochi.” Mystery also surrounds her father, Prince Kagami. The title “prince” implies that he was royalty of some kind, perhaps a member of the imperial family. One theory suggests he was the great-grandson of Emperor Senka. Nor is Lady Nukata’s birthplace known for certain. Some think she was born in Nukata Village, in the Heguri District of Yamato Province (near present-day Yamato-koriyama, Nara Prefecture). Others suggest she came from the Ou District of Izumo Province (present-day eastern Shimane Prefecture). Over the years, Lady Nukata’s enigmatic profile has aroused the curiosity of researchers, writers, and history buffs alike.

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