Empress Go-Sakuramachi was the last of eight Empresses Regnant of Japan. Before her accession to the throne, she was known as Toshiko. She was born on 23 September 1740 as the second daughter of Emperor Sakuramachi and Nijō Ieko. Her elder sister Noriko died in childhood in 1746. Her younger half-brother was Prince Toohito, later Emperor Momozono. She grew up in the Heian Palace, and she and her brother would turn out to be the last lineal descendants of Emperor Nakamikado.
On 9 June 1747, Toshiko’s father abdicated in favour of her half-brother. Emperor Sakuramachi would die just three years later at the age of 30. Her half-brother would father at least two sons with a court lady named Ichijō Tomiko. In 1762, the Emperor abdicated in favour of his sister Toshiko, who became the Empress Go-Sakuramachi. He died not much later on 31 August 1762, at the age of 21. His eldest son was just five years old, and it was expected that Go-Sakuramachi would reign only until her nephew was old enough to take over. During her reign of 8 years, it was the shōgun (military dictator) Ieshige held the actual power. There was one failed plot to restore the Imperial powers, but this did not come from the Empress herself.
She indeed abdicated in favour of her nephew on 9 January 1771, and he became Emperor Go-Momozono. When the new Emperor died just eight years into his reign, he had a single living 10-month-old daughter, who was not considered suitable. On Go-Sakuramachi’s insistence, her nephew adopted Prince Morohito as his heir, and he became Emperor Kōkaku. Go-Momozono’s daughter Princess Yoshiko later married Morohito, but their two sons would die in infancy. Go-Sakuramachi acted as guardian for the new Emperor, who was just nine years old.
The former empress Go-Sakuramachi died on 24 December 1813, at the age of 73. She was buried in the Tsuki no wa no misasagi mausoleum in Kyoto.
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