Naama Eisenstein: To the Palace at the Seafloor and Back: Perspectives of the Death of Emperor Antoku from the Twelfth-century to Early-modern Times
Late in the twelfth-century the child emperor Antoku (安徳天皇, 1178-1185, r.1180-1185) sunk to the bottom of the sea at the climax of the civil war known as the Genpei War (源平合戦, 1180-1185). Many lives were lost that day, but the loss of an emperor, and with him the Sacred Sword of the Imperial regalia, was a tremendous shock – how could the emperor, a living divinity, die? What was the meaning of this death and the loss of the Sword for the court and Japan? In this talk I trace the twelfth-century debate and show how it echoed in sixteenth-century art all the way to the nineteenth-century prints, adding layers of meaning from religious devotion to social criticism.