Emperor Kōkaku (1771–1840) was the 119th emperor of Japan according to the traditional chronology, reigning from 1780 to 1817.
Born Prince Tomohito, Kōkaku was the younger son of a collateral branch line of the Imperial family (his great-grandfather had been Emperor Higashiyama). He therefore had no reasonable expectation of ever taking the throne, and had originally planned to take up the tonsure and become a Buddhist monk. However, in 1779, when Kōkaku was just 10 years old, the sonless and dying emperor Go-Momozono hurriedly adopted him on his deathbed.
Kōkaku's reign occurred at a time when the Imperial Court in Kyoto was in almost total eclipse, and real power was held by the Tokugawa shoguns, ruling from Edo (modern-day Tokyo). However, by the turn of the 19th century a series of natural disasters had weakened the shogunate, and during Kōkaku's reign, the Imperial Court attempted to re-assert some of its traditional authority by implementing its own famine-relief program at the time of the Great Tenmei Famine (1782–1788) and insisting upon receiving updates from the shogun about negotiations with Russia over territorial disputes in the north.
In 1817, Kōkaku abdicated in favor of his son, Emperor Ninkō. Ninkō then got into a dispute with the Tokugawa Shogunate over his plan to give the title of Abdicated Emperor (Daijō-tennō) to his father, which the shogunate saw as a threat to its authority.
Kōkaku died in 1840. All succeeding emperors of Japan, up to and including the present monarch, Akihito, are his lineal descendants.
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