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History changed by smallpox: the four Fujiwara brothers and Prince Sanehito

The spread of smallpox vaccination in Japan began in 1849, when the Dutch doctor Monicke in Dejima island (Dutch consulate's located) was the first to inoculate the vaccine, and it rapidly spread after that. Enlightened feudal clans and Tekijuku in Osaka took the lead, but the shogunate also recognized this and began administering smallpox vaccinations. It is said that Naomasa Nabeshima, ruler of the Saga Domain, first inoculated his own child in order to encourage his people to take the vaccine. This virus first entered Japan in the 6th century, and has periodically threatened many lives ever since. Smallpox causes a high fever and a rash on the face and limbs, but the problem is that even after the disease has healed, it leaves scars that become pockmarks, which is why it was called smallpox.  

The Nara period was an unstable period with many conflicts over imperial succession and political power, but I think it was a run-up period to the "Japanese-style peace" (Pax Japan?) that would later lead to the Heian period. In other words, it was a period of learning that was inevitable as the Emperor ascended from a ruler to a political guardian and transitioned to a bureaucratic governance system based on the Ritsuryo system. The method of fusing the past and present as much as possible and gradually bringing them together, such as the introduction of the system of On-i(nobles'children preferentially can be positioned), the permissibility of the private land system, the system of demotion to subject, and the coexistence of Buddhism and Shintoism, are very Japanese-style delicate sense of balance (tolerance and flexibility), and may be said to be the wisdom of the Japanese people to this day. Now, regarding smallpox, it is said that the population decreased by 30% during the outbreak in 737, and it was as rampant as the plague in medieval Europe. 4 children of Fuhito Fujiwara passed away at this time, and Muchimaro, the minister of the left, was at the head, along with Fusasaki, Umakai, and Maro, who were all ranked as court nobles as councilors and council officials.

The position of Sadaijin(the minister of the left) used to be held by King Nagaya, the grandson of Emperor Tenmu and the son of Prince Takechi, but eight years ago there was a political change and his family was wiped out. This political change had two meanings; one was that it ensured succession to the imperial throne through Prince Kusakabe's lineage, and the other was that the Fujiwara clan assumed the center of government and established political order. Prince Nagaya was a member of the imperial family (he has not been lowered to the status of a subject), and his legal wife is Imperial Prince Kibi (father: Prince Kusakabe, mother: Emperor Genmei), so Emperor Shomu, who was having trouble finding a successor, should have been given the imperial throne candidate. Even though Emperor Shomu lost the one seed (Kio) that he had worked so hard to create, and had only daughters (later Emperor Koken and Imperial Princess Inoue), they saw the Nagaya family as rivals and did not see them as a spare part of the imperial line, and the epidemic occurred. Emperor Shomu was quite a poor ruler, as he attempted to move the capital from Heijo-kyo several times during the national crisis and undertook huge projects, including the construction of the Great Buddha, but these two emperors, including his daughter Empress Koken, they taught the future generations great lessons about how the Emperor and the imperial family should be involved in politics.

The smallpox outbreak that occurred at the dawn of the Ritsuryo system caused a political vacuum and confusion, but later on, through the dictatorship of the Tenmu and Kusakabe dynasties, its incompatibility with reality quickly became apparent, leading to reforms that led to the Heian period. Political change and the emergence of incompetent despots are always unfortunate events, but in order to minimize such risks, we should pool a certain number of members of the imperial family (if there are too many, they would be demoted to subjects), clarify and separate the roles of princes and vassals, and disperse power. The move to Nagaoka-kyo and Heian-kyo were probably inevitable as they sought to separate church and state.


Emperor Go-Sanjo was an emperor who was at the crossroads between the Sekkan government period and the Insei period, and had no maternal relatives from the Fujiwara clan (although his father was Emperor Go-Suzaku and his mother was Imperial Princess Teishi, so his paternal and maternal grandfathers were Both will be Michinaga Fujiwara). After Imperial Prince Sadahito (Emperor Shirakawa), who was born to his wife from the Sekkan family, he tried to have Imperial Prince Sanehito and Imperial Prince Sukehito, who were born to Kishi Minamoto, succeed to the imperial throne. Emperor Shirakawa ascended the throne with Imperial Prince Sanehito as the younger brother of the Crown Prince at the direction of his father, but when he ascended the throne, he did not follow his father's (Emperor Gosanjo) will to make Imperial Prince Sukehito the Crown Prince, and his son's Prince Yoshihito (Emperor Horikawa) was made the Crown Prince. Imperial Prince Sanehito died of smallpox in 1085 at the age of only 14.

Emperor Shirakawa is famous for the poem, "The water of the Kamo River, the dice of Sugoroku, the priest of the mountain, these are things that do not please my heart" (The Tale of the Heike), and Michinaga's poem "If you think of this world as your own, that it will never be a mochizuki moth." are similar, aren't they? Even if Imperial Prince Sanehito had ascended the throne, Emperor Shirakawa would have continued to govern directly. Emperor Shirakawa's mother, Shigeko, was a daughter of the Sekkan family (Kanin school) who was adopted by Yoshinobu (Michinaga's son). The head family of the Kan-in school called itself the Sanjo family, and was connected to Sanetomi Sanjo during the Meiji Restoration.

Many people died from smallpox, but Masamune Date is famous among those who suffered from the aftereffects. It seems that this caused him to go blind in one eye, but it may have been the source of his subsequent feud with his mother and younger brother, and the driving force behind his quest to conquer the Tohoku region. It seems that the grave was excavated about 50 years ago and Masamune's bones were examined, and it seems that it was confirmed that the reason for his one eye was not due to physical factors. The tragedy happened to Teruko Ichijo, who was Tokugawa Yoshinobu's fiancée. Before the marriage, she contracted smallpox, which left scars on her face, so the marriage was annulled, and the Ichijo family appointed a proxy. For Yoshinobu, the pox scars did not turn into dimples, but ironically, Teruko contracted the disease the year before the first smallpox vaccination in Japan.



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