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Picture of Jitō
|Empress of Japan|
|Died||13 January 703 (aged 57–58)
Hinokuma-no-Ōuchi no misasagi (Nara)
|Mother||Soga no Ochi-no-iratsume|
Jitō's reign spanned the years from 686 through 697.
In the history of Japan, Jitō was the third of eight women to take on the role of empress regnant. The two female monarchs before Jitō were Suiko and Kōgyoku/Saimei. The five women sovereigns reigning after Jitō were Genmei, Genshō, Kōken/Shōtoku, Meishō, and Go-Sakuramachi.
Empress Jitō was the daughter of Emperor Tenji. Her mother was Ochi-no-Iratsume, the daughter of Minister Ō-omi Soga no Yamada-no Ishikawa Maro. She was the wife of Tenji's full brother Emperor Tenmu, whom she succeeded on the throne.
Empress Jitō's given name was Unonosarara or Unonosasara (鸕野讚良), or alternately Uno.
Events of Jitō's reign
Jitō took responsibility for court administration after the death of her husband, Emperor Tenmu, who was also her uncle. She acceded to the throne in 687 in order to ensure the eventual succession of her son, Kusakabe-shinnō. Throughout this period, Empress Jitō ruled from the Fujiwara Palace in Yamato. In 689, Jitō prohibited Sugoroku, in 690 at enthronement she performed special ritual then gave pardon and in 692 she travelled to Ise against the counsel of minister Miwa-no-Asono-Takechimaro.
Prince Kusakabe was named as crown prince to succeed Jitō, but he died at a young age. Kusakabe's son, Karu-no-o, was then named as Jitō's successor. He eventually would become known as Emperor Monmu.
Empress Jitō reigned for eleven years. Although there were seven other reigning empresses, their successors were most often selected from amongst the males of the paternal Imperial bloodline, which is why some conservative scholars argue that the women's reigns were temporary and that male-only succession tradition must be maintained in the 21st century. Empress Genmei, who was followed on the throne by her daughter, Empress Genshō, remains the sole exception to this conventional argument.
In 697, Jitō abdicated in Mommu's favor; and as a retired sovereign, she took the post-reign title daijō-tennō. After this, her imperial successors who retired took the same title after abdication.
Jitō continued to hold power as a cloistered ruler, which became a persistent trend in Japanese politics.
In general, this elite group included only three to four men at a time. These were hereditary courtiers whose experience and background would have brought them to the pinnacle of a life's career. During Jitō's reign, this apex of the Daijō-kan included:
Jitō's reign is not linked by scholars to any era or nengō. The Taika era innovation of naming time periods – nengō – languished until Mommu reasserted an imperial right by proclaiming the commencement of Taihō in 701.
However, Brown and Ishida's translation of Gukanshō offers an explanation which muddies a sense of easy clarity:
- "The eras that fell in this reign were: (1) the remaining seven years of Shuchō [(686+7=692?)]; and (2) Taika, which was four years long [695–698]. (The first year of this era was kinoto-hitsuji .) ... In the third year of the Taka era , Empress Jitō yielded the throne to the Crown Prince." 
Yasumishishi waga ōkimi no
Oh, the autumn foliage
The spring has passed
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