Emperor Go-Yōzei was the 107th Emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession. Go-Yōzei's reign spanned the years 1586 through to his abdication in 1611, corresponding to the transition between the Azuchi–Momoyama period and the Edo period. This 16th-century sovereign was named after the 9th-century Emperor Yōzei, and go-, translates as later, and thus, he could be called the "Later Emperor Yōzei". The Japanese word go has also been translated to mean the second one, and in some older sources, this emperor may be identified as "Yōzei, the second", or as "Yōzei II".
Prince Katahito became emperor when his grandfather abdicated. The succession was considered to have been received by the new monarch; and shortly thereafter, Emperor Go-Yōzei is said to have acceded. The events during his lifetime shed some light on his reign. The years of Go-Yōzei's reign correspond with the start of the Tokugawa shogunate under the leadership of Tokugawa Ieyasu and Tokugawa Hidetada.
December 31, 1571: The birth of an Imperial prince who will become known by the posthumous name of Go-Yōzei-tennō.
December 17, 1586 : Ogimachi gave over the reins of government to his grandson, who would become Emperor Go-Yōzei. There had been no such Imperial transition since Emperor Go-Hanazono abdicated in 1464. The dearth of abdications is attributable to the disturbed state of the country and because there was neither any dwelling for an ex-emperor nor excess funds in the treasury to support him.
1586 : The kampaku, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, was nominated to be Daijō-daijin.
1588 : Emperor Go-Yōzei and his father visit Toyotomi Hideyoshi's mansion in Kyoto. This was the first time that an emperor appeared in public since 1521.
1590 : Hideyoshi led an army to the Kantō where he lay siege to Odawara Castle. When the fortress fell, Hōjō Ujimasa died and his brother, Hōjō Ujinao submitted to Hideyoshi's power, thus ending a period of serial internal warfare which had continued uninterrupted since the Ōnin War.
1592 : Keichō expedition to Korea en route to invade China.
1610 : Reconstruction of the Daibutsu hall in Kyōto is begun.
May 20, 1610 : Toyotomi Hideyori came to Kyoto to visit the former-Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu; and the same day, the emperor announces his intention to resign in favor of his son Masahito.
May 9, 1611 : Go-Yōzei abdicates; and his son Prince Masahito receives the succession ; and shortly thereafter, Go-Mizunoo formally accedes to the throne.
Go-Yōzei's reign corresponds to the rule of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the beginning of the Edo Bakufu. He was the sovereign who confirmed the legitimacy of their accession to power; and this period allowed the Imperial Family to recover a small portion of its diminished powers. This Emperor gave Toyotomi Hideyoshi the rank of Taikō, originally a title given to the father of the emperor's chief advisor, or a retired Kampaku, which was essential to increase his status and effectively stabilize his power. When Tokugawa Ieyasu was given the title of Sei-i Taishōgun, the future of any anticipated Tokugawa shogunate was by no means assured, nor was his relationship to the emperor at all settled. He gradually began to interfere in the affairs of the Imperial Court. The right to grant ranks of court nobility and change the era became a concern of the bakufu. However, the Imperial Court's poverty during the Warring States Era seemed likely to become a thing of the past, as the bakufu provided steadily for its financial needs. Go-Yōzei did abdicate in favor of his third son; but he wanted to be succeeded by his younger brother, Imperial Prince Hachijō-no-miya Toshihito , who built the Katsura Imperial Villa. Go-Yōzei loved literature and art. He published the Kobun Kokyo and part of Nihon Shoki with movable type dedicated to the emperor by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. After abdication, Go-Yōzei lived for six years in the Sentō Imperial Palace; and thereafter, it became the usual place to which abdicated emperors would retire. The name of this palace and its gardens was Sentō-goshō; and emperors who had abdicated were sometimes called Sentō-goshō.
September 25, 1617: Go-Yōzei died.
The kami of Emperor Go-Yōzei is enshrined with other emperors at the imperial mausoleum called Fukakusa no kita no misasagi in Fushimi-ku, Kyoto.
Kugyō is a collective term for the very few most powerful men attached to the court of the Emperor of Japan in pre-Meiji eras. Even during those years in which the court's actual influence outside the palace walls was minimal, the hierarchic organization persisted. 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 Go-Yōzei's reign, this apex of the Daijō-kan included: