Hirotsugu no Fujiwara was the son of Fujiwara no Umakai and the grandson of Fujiwara no Fuhito, both powerful court ministers of the time. Perhaps as a result, he is said to have been inordinately proud of his family background and often willful and overbearing in behavior.
In 737, when an outbreak of disease carried off his father and many of the other important ministers of the Fujiwara family, a new group of men headed by Kibi no Makibi and the Buddhist priest Gembo rose to prominence and began to introduce elements of Chinese culture, which they had become familiar with during visits to the continent.
In 738 Fujiwara no Hirotsugu was suddenly assigned to a post in the Dazaifu (military governor’s office) in Kyushu, an appointment that amounted to virtual banishment. In 740 Hirotsugu, declaring that Gembo and Makibi would bring about the ruin of Japan, raised the cry of revolt, but the court dispatched a force of some fifteen thousand troops against him, and he was killed.
Later, in 746, Gembo fell from power and was exiled to the Dazaifu, where he died. It is said that the people of the time attributed his death to the angry spirit of Hirotsugu.