On'myoji: Astrologers to the Emperor

by H. Shuseh Kokubu, Q.H.P.

According to the Nihon Shoki, an official chronicle, astrology was introduced to Japan in 602 AD by a Korean monk Kanroku. Together with astrology the theories of yin-yang and the five elements were brought and combined with the magical practices, which developed after their importation into Japan. This is called On'myodo, or the way of yin and yang.

In 675 AD, the central government established the On'myoryo, or the bureau of yin and yang, to observe the stars in order to make a calendar and forecast the future events. The staffs took it in turns to watch the sky night and day, and they secretly notified the Emperor of the unusual phenomena with interpretation; staffs who interpreted the phenomena were called On'myoji, or master of yin and yang. The staffs were forbidden to tell others what they observed and to carry the astronomical instruments and the books on astrology out. The unusual phenomena in the sky were considered as the god's warning against the Emperor's error in administration. To let out the phenomena unnecessarily was to expose the Emperor's blunder, and led to overthrown of the government. Therefore the government was afraid of leakage of the secret, and prohibited the staffs to make the phenomena and interpretations public. When the official history book was compiled later, only the phenomena were entered and the interpretations were omitted. Consequently, few is known about their astrology today. However, some idea can be glimpsed if we study history books.

Okagami, a history book compiled in the twelfth century, says that Abe-no-Seimei, the head of the On'myoryo, observed a phenomenon in 986 AD, and judged it as dethronement of the Emperor, which had been done already. In fact, Emperor Kazan was dethroned by his men in the night Abe-no-Seimei observed the phenomenon - occultation of South Scale by Jupiter. In those days, the autumnal equinox point was in the lunar mansion Tei (Chinese: Ti) which included South Scale. This lunar mansion seems to have been important for On'myoji, since many records of occultation of South Scale have been left, and On'myoji probably considered that Tei represented a decline or change. According to the Chinese ancient texts, Jupiter was certainly looked on as the Emperor. That is why Abe-no-Seimei judged the phenomenon as the dethronement of the Emperor, I dare say.

And there are many mention of Mars 'guarding' Shin (Chinese: Sin), the lunar mansion including Antares, the Scorpion's Heart. ("Shin" means "Heart".) The ancient Chinese and Japanese said that a planet guards the lunar mansion when retrograde and stationary in it. Needless to say, Mars turns retrograde every 2.2 years, and it is not so frequent as Jupiter and Saturn. Therefore retrograde Mars was considered as an important phenomenon, especially when it occurred in Shin. Ancient Chinese texts say that the longer Mars goes retrograde, the greater the misfortune or disaster would be, and that if Mars is retrograde and its locus is like a fish-hook, a fight is evil and the army would be besieged by enemy. How to interpret Mars in Shin is not mentioned, but I guess the ancients regarded it as a sign of the death of the Emperor because both records were entered continuously in history books in many cases.

Similarly, the ancients put eclipses, occultation, comets, shooting stars, aurora(!), etc. in record. As mentioned above, by On'myodo they interpreted natural phenomena to pass judgment, so their astrology seems to be based on observation, rather than judging charts. However, the details of their method have not been open to the public, so we cannot conclude that they didn't erect any chart and find any way other than conjecture. It is a good way that we examine the event charts concerning the Emperor and the Imperial Family, for it is said that On'myoji advised the best moment for wearing new clothes; this means that they were able to do the elections. If we would only take the trouble to seek for the event data - date, time, and the place - and erect charts, we could conjecture their astrology.

Chart 1 was taken from Ho-Seiju's Shakai Senseigaku (Mundane Astrology). This is cast for the moment when Emperor Mutsuhito entered the Tokyo Palace for the first time. He was living in Kyoto, the previous capital of Japan, and moved to Tokyo at the time. The Tokyo Palace was originally the headquarters of Tokugawa Shogunate, but it became the Emperor's residence after the Meiji Restoration in 1868. It was not a mere moving but a demonstration that the power was returned from Tokugawa to the Emperor.

[Chart 1] 9 May 1869, 12.18 PM LMT. 139E45 / 35N41

At a glance, this chart seems unfortunate because the malefics occupy the angles and the Moon is translating the light of Saturn to Mars. Vivian Robson says "Fortify the lords of the radical and electional fourth house, and let the Moon apply to good aspects" when doing the fourth house elections. Here Mars rules the fourth and the Moon is applying to a trine of Mars and is in the sign of Mars. In the nativity of Emperor Mutsuhito (November 3, 1852, 12:57 pm JST, 135E42 35N00), Mars is in the tenth and rules the tenth house - Scorpio - and Saturn rules the ascendant - Aquarius. So the malefics signify himself and his honor and are of importance for him. The ascending degree in this chart is remarkable because of the existence of Regulus (28.00 Leo at the moment), one of the Royal Stars. And the ruler of the tenth Venus is very strong by being in its own sign and triplicity, Cazimi, and fast in motion. Venus is the ruler of the radical fourth house, too. And it is interesting that Mercury (29.38 Taurus) falls upon his natal fourth cusp.

[Chart 2] 9 Jun 1993, 10:04 PM JST, 139E45 / 35N41

Chart 2 is cast for the moment of the wedding of Prince Naruhito and Miss Masako Owada in 1993. (June 9, 1993, 10:04 am JST, 139E45 35N41) Again, Regulus is rising. The natural ruler of wedding, Venus, is fortified by being in its own sign, triplicity and term. Some might say that Saturn in the seventh-of-wedding and ruling the seventh is a bad sign. But this doesn't matter because Saturn rules the seventh house in the Prince's nativity (Feb. 23, 1960, 4:15 pm JST, 139E46 35N41) and Saturn ceases to be a malefic for the matter in hand and must receive special consideration in the election. Here Saturn is accidentally strong; oriental, in the seventh, direct in motion, and free from combustion. A trine aspect between the luminaries can't be overlooked because a good aspect between the Moon and the Sun is an excellent foundation for success in all branches of astrology. And here the Moon is translating the light of Jupiter, which represents the Emperor in the context of On'myodo, to the Sun, the accidental ruler of the ascendant and the natural ruler of husband. The Sun is not strong but its dispositor Mercury is: occidental, fast in motion, in its own face, etc.

[Chart 3] 3 Sep 1993, 10:56 AM JST, 139E45 / 35N39

In the same year, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited Italy, Belgium, and Germany. Chart 3 is erected for the moment when the special plane left from the Haneda international airport. In the journey charts, the seventh house rules the place to be visited. Here the ruler of the seventh Venus is in the ninth and the ruler of the ninth the Moon is trine to Venus. (It is not a mere accident, isn't it?) Mercury which rules the Emperor's natal ninth house is combust but strong - fast in motion, occidental, in the tenth house, and in its own sign. Though a malefic Mars is applying to the natural significator of the Emperor, this doesn't matter because Mars rules the ascendant; therefore both Mars and Jupiter represent the Emperor himself. Taking a look of the MC, Regulus is close to the cusp. (Emperor Akihito's birth data are December 23, 1933, 06:39 am JST, 139E45 35N41.)

I wonder why Mars is the hour ruler in these three charts; the hour of Mars is an unfortunate hour for most purposes. Perhaps the hour of Mars has a special meaning for the Imperial family. Anyway, On'myodo is similar to the Western astrology as far as the election is concerned. I am quite sure that the Imperial family, at least the Emperor and the Prince, have On'myoji in their employ yet. But they never declare the fact because they know they have great influence on people. Indeed, they don't say their favorite TV program, so that the rating wouldn't be affected. The Emperor, the Imperial family, On'myoji - they are mysterious even to the Japanese.

Kuniji Saito "Hoshi-no-kokiroku (Old Records of the Stars)" Iwanami Shoten.
Vivian Robson "Electional Astrology" Weiser.
Ho-Seiju "Shakai Senseigaku" Nihon Senseigaku Academy

*The data of Chart 2 and 3 were taken from Asahi Shimbun.


1998 H. Shuseh Kokubu. All rights reserved.