Go-Sakuramachi (1740-1813) was the last of Japan's eight Empresses. Born Princess Toshiko in 1740, she was the eldest child of Emperor Sukuramachi. When her younger brother Emperor Momozono died in 1762, Toshiko was the only suitable heir, and thus ascended to the throne as Empress Go-Sakuramachi on September 15, 1762.
Although it was technically possible for a female to become Empress, it was extremely rare in historical times, as women were held to be incapable as rulers. Indeed, Go-Sakuramachi was the first female to occupy the throne since Empress Koken reigned nearly 1,000 years before. Thus it was not surprising that as soon as Momozono's infant son Go-Momozono was ready to take the throne, Go-Sakuramachi was induced to abdicate in his favor, in 1771. She was at least allowed the dignity of the title of Empress-regent until Go-Momozono came of age in 1780, although this was of course meaningless, since the Emperor held no real political power for a regent to excercise in his stead.
Go-Sakuramachi may well remain the last Empress ever, because the unofficial ban on female rulers was made official when the Emperor was redefined as a constitutional monarch after World War II. According to the present Japanese Constitution, only males may reign.
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