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Sutoku (1119-1164) was an Emperor of Japan during the late Heian Era. The son of Emperor Toba and Toba's chief consort Taikenmon'in, Sutoku ascended to the throne upon Toba's abdication in 1123. Under the insei system of rule by retired emperors, Sutoku had little real power as emperor. It was Toba who actually pulled the strings as retired sovereign. Thus when another of Toba's consorts, Bifukumon'in, poisoned Toba's opinion of Sutoku, Toba forced Sutoku to abdicate in favor of Bifukumon'in's son Konoe.

Trouble began brewing when Konoe failed to produce an heir, and developed a series of chronic illnesses. Sutoku had a son, Prince Shigehito, who should have been named crown prince, but Bifukumon'in had an adopted son, Prince Morihito, whom she wanted to be Konoe's successor. However, the picture was further complicated by the fact that Morihito could not be named crown price while his father, Prince Masahito, was still alive. Toba decided that to appease Bifukumon'in he would name Masahito crown prince instead of Shigehito, so that Bifukumon'in's favorite Morihito would become the crown prince when Masahito took the throne.

Soon enough, the sickly Emperor Konoe died young, in 1155, Masahito ascended tot he throne as Emperor Go-Shirakawa and Morihito was named crown prince. Sutoku was not pleased with this, but as long as Toba was alive, Sutoku had no power whatsoever. But then in 1156, Toba finally died, and Sutoku became the head of the imperial household. He immediately began recruiting a force of warriors to depose Go-Shirakawa in favor of his bypassed son Shigehito. In the ensuing "Hôgen Incident," Sutoku's forces were decisively defeated by Go-Shirakawa's supporters, who were led by a young warrior named Taira Kiyomori. Sutoku was exiled and Go-Shirakawa and Kiyomori united to dominate the court for the next 25 years.

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