Best books online Library

Your last book:

You dont read books at this site.

Total books on site: 11 280

You can read and download its for free!

Browse books by author: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 

Text on one page: Few Medium Many
Tradition has surrounded the early days of this, the future
Bayard of Japan, with many romantic legends, among which it is
difficult to distinguish the true from the false. What is certain,
however, is that at the age of fifteen he managed to effect his
escape to the north of Japan. The agent of his flight was an
iron-merchant who habitually visited the monastery on matters of
business, and whose dealings took him occasionally to Mutsu.

At the time of Yoshitsune's novitiate in the Kurama temple, the
political power in Japan may be said to have been divided between the
Taira, the provincial Minamoto, the Buddhist priests, and the
Fujiwara, and of the last the only branch that had suffered no
eclipse during the storms of Hogen and Heiji had been the Fujiwara of
Mutsu. It has been shown in the story of the Three Years' War, and
specially in the paragraph entitled "The Fujiwara of the North," that
the troops of Fujiwara Kiyohira and Minamoto Yoshiiye had fought side
by side, and that, after the war, Kiyohira succeeded to the six
districts of Mutsu, which constituted the largest estate in the hands
of any one Japanese noble. That estate was in the possession of
Hidehira, grandson of Kiyohira, at the time when the Minamoto family
suffered its heavy reverses. Yoshitsune expected, therefore, that at
least an asylum would be assured, could he find his way to Mutsu. He
was not mistaken. Hidehira received him with all hospitality, and as
Mutsu was practically beyond the control of Kyoto, the Minamoto
fugitive could lead there the life of a bushi, and openly study
everything pertaining to military art. He made such excellent use of
these opportunities that, by the time the Minamoto standard was
raised anew in Izu, Yoshitsune had earned the reputation of being the
best swordsman in the whole of northern Japan.

This was the stripling who rode into Yoritomo's camp on a November
day in the year 1180. The brothers had never previously seen each
other's faces, and their meeting in such circumstances was a dramatic
event. Among Yoshitsune's score of followers there were several who
subsequently earned undying fame, but one deserves special mention
here. Benkei, the giant halberdier, had turned his back upon the
priesthood, and, becoming a free lance, conceived the ambition of
forcibly collecting a thousand swords from their wearers. He wielded
the halberd with extraordinary skill, and such a huge weapon in the
hand of a man with seven feet of stalwart stature constituted a
menace before which a solitary wayfarer did not hesitate to surrender
his sword. One evening, Benkei observed an armed acolyte approaching
the Gojo bridge in Kyoto. The acolyte was Yoshitsune, and the time,
the eve of his departure for Mutsu. Benkei made light of disarming a
lad of tender years and seemingly slender strength. But already in
his acolyte days Yoshitsune had studied swordsmanship, and he
supplemented his knowledge by activity almost supernatural. The giant
Benkei soon found himself praying for life and swearing allegiance to
his boy conqueror, an oath which he kept so faithfully as to become
the type of soldierly fidelity for all subsequent generations of his
countrymen.

KISO YOSHINAKA

Looking at the map of central Japan, it is seen that the seven
provinces of Suruga, Izu, Awa, Kai, Sagami, Musashi, and Kazusa are
grouped approximately in the shape of a Japanese fan (uchiwa), having
Izu for the handle. Along the Pacific coast, eastward of this fan,
lie the provinces of Shimosa and Hitachi, where the Nitta and the
Satake, respectively, gave employment for some time to the diplomatic
and military resources of the Minamoto. Running inland from the
circumference of the fan are Shinano and Kotsuke, in which two
provinces, also, a powerful Minamoto resurrection synchronized with,
but was independent of, the Yoritomo movement.

The hero of the Shinano-Kotsuke drama was Minamoto no Yoshinaka,
commonly called Kiso Yoshinaka, because his youth was passed among
the mountains where the Kiso River has its source. In the year 1155,
Yoshitomo's eldest son, Yoshihira,* was sent to Musashi to fight
against his uncle, Yoshikata. The latter fell, and his son,
Yoshinaka, a baby of two, was handed to Saito Sanemori to be
executed; but the latter sent the child to Shinano, where it was
brought up by Nakahara Kaneto, the husband of its nurse. Yoshinaka
attained an immense stature as well as signal skill in archery and
horsemanship. Like Yoritomo and Yoshitsune, he brooded much on the
evil fortunes of the Minamoto, and paid frequent visits to Kyoto to
observe the course of events. In the year 1180, the mandate of Prince
Mochihito reached him, and learning that Yoritomo had taken the
field, he gathered a force in Shinano. Between the two leaders there
could be no final forgetfulness of the fact that Yoritomo's brother
had killed Yoshinaka's father, and had ordered the slaying of
Yoshinaka himself. But this evil memory did not obtrude itself at the
outset. They worked independently. Yoshinaka gained a signal victory
over the Taira forces marshalled against him by the governor of
Shinano, and pushing thence eastward into Kotsuke, obtained the
allegiance of the Ashikaga of Shimotsuke and of the Takeda of Kai.
Thus, the year 1180 closed upon a disastrous state of affairs for the
Taira, no less than ten provinces in the east having fallen
practically under Minamoto sway.

*This Yoshihira was a giant in stature. He shares with Tametomo the
fame of having exhibited the greatest prowess in the Hogen and Heiji
struggles. It was he who offered to attack Kyoto from Kumano a
measure which, in all probability, would have reversed the result of
the Heiji war.

CONTINUATION OF THE CAMPAIGN

Kiyomori expired in March, 1181, as already related. His last behest,
that the head of Yoritomo should be laid on his grave, nerved his
successors to fresh efforts. But the stars in their courses seemed to
be fighting against the Taira. Kiyomori's son, Munemori, upon whom
devolved the direction of the great clan's affairs, was wholly
incompetent for such a trust. One gleam of sunshine, however,
illumined the fortunes of the Heike. Two months after Kiyomori's
death, a Taira army under Shigehira attacked Yukiiye, Yoritomo's
uncle, who had pushed westward as far as Owari. This Yukiiye never
showed any qualities of generalship. He was repeatedly defeated, the
only redeeming feature of his campaigns being that he himself always
escaped destruction. On this occasion he was driven out of Owari and
forced to retire within the confines of the Kwanto.

But now the home provinces and the west fell into the horrors of
famine and pestilence, as described above; and in such circumstances
to place armies in the field and to maintain them there became
impossible. The Taira had to desist from all warlike enterprises
until the summer of 1182, when a great effort was made to crush the
rapidly growing power of the Minamoto. Commissions of provincial
governor were sent to Jo no Nagashige, a puissant Taira magnate of
Echigo; to Taira no Chikafusa, of Etchu, and to Fujiwara Hidehira, of
Mutsu, who were all ordered to attack Yoritomo and Yoshinaka.
Hidehira made no response, but Nagashige set in motion against
Yoshinaka a strong force, swelled by a contingent from Kyoto under
Michimori. The results were signal defeat for the Taira and the
carrying of the white flag by Yoshinaka into Echigo, Etchu, Noto, and
Kaga.

DISSENSIONS AMONG THE MINAMOTO

Meanwhile discord had declared itself between Yoritomo and Yoshinaka.
It has been shown that the records of the two families afforded no
basis of mutual confidence, and it has also been shown that the
Takeda clan of Kai province were among the earliest adherents of the
Minamoto cause. In view of Yoshinaka's brilliant successes, Takeda
Nobumitsu proposed a marriage between his daughter and Yoshinaka's
son, Yoshitaka. This union was declined by Yoshinaka, whereupon
Nobumitsu suggested to Yoritomo that Yoshinaka's real purpose was to
ally his house with the Taira by marriage. Whether Nobumitsu believed
this, or whether his idea had its origin in pique, history does not
indicate. But there can be no hesitation in concluding that a rupture
between the two Minamoto chiefs was presaged by Yoritomo's entourage,
who judged that two Richmonds could not remain permanently in the
field.

Things gradually shaped themselves in accordance with that forecast.
The malcontents in Yoritomo's camp or his discomfited opponents began
to transfer their allegiance to Yoshinaka; a tendency which
culminated when Yoritomo's uncle, Yukiiye, taking umbrage because a
provincial governorship was not given to him, rode off at the head of
a thousand cavalry to join Yoshinaka. The reception given by
Yoshinaka to these deserters was in itself sufficient to suggest
doubts of his motives. Early in the year 1183, Yoritomo sent a force
into Shinano with orders to exterminate Yoshinaka. But the latter
declined the combat. Quoting a popular saying that the worst enemies
of the Minamoto were their own dissensions, he directed his troops to
withdraw into Echigo, leaving to Yoritomo a free hand in Shinano.
When this was reported to Yoritomo, he recalled his troops from
Shinano, and asked Yoshinaka to send a hostage. Yoshinaka replied by
sending his son Yoshitaka, the same youth to whom Takeda Nobumitsu
had proposed to marry his daughter. He was now wedded to Yoritomo's
daughter, and the two Minamoto chiefs seemed to have been effectually
reconciled.

ADVANCE OF YOSHINAKA ON KYOTO

Yoshinaka's desire to avoid conflict with Yoritomo had been partly
due to the fact that the Taira leaders were known to be just then
straining every nerve to beat back the westward-rolling tide of
Minamoto conquest. They had massed all their available forces in
Echizen, and at that supreme moment Yoritomo's active hostility would
have completely marred Yoshinaka's great opportunity. In May, 1183,
this decisive phase of the contest was opened; Koremori, Tamemori,
and Tomonori being in supreme command of the Taira troops, which are
said to have mustered one hundred thousand strong.



Pages: | Prev | | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | | 4 | | 5 | | 6 | | 7 | | 8 | | 9 | | 10 | | 11 | | 12 | | 13 | | 14 | | 15 | | 16 | | 17 | | 18 | | 19 | | 20 | | 21 | | 22 | | 23 | | 24 | | 25 | | 26 | | 27 | | 28 | | 29 | | 30 | | 31 | | 32 | | 33 | | 34 | | 35 | | 36 | | 37 | | 38 | | 39 | | 40 | | 41 | | 42 | | 43 | | 44 | | 45 | | 46 | | 47 | | 48 | | 49 | | 50 | | 51 | | 52 | | 53 | | 54 | | 55 | | 56 | | 57 | | 58 | | 59 | | 60 | | 61 | | 62 | | 63 | | 64 | | 65 | | 66 | | 67 | | 68 | | 69 | | 70 | | 71 | | 72 | | 73 | | 74 | | 75 | | 76 | | 77 | | 78 | | 79 | | 80 | | 81 | | 82 | | 83 | | 84 | | 85 | | 86 | | 87 | | 88 | | 89 | | 90 | | 91 | | 92 | | 93 | | 94 | | 95 | | 96 | | 97 | | 98 | | 99 | | 100 | | 101 | | 102 | | 103 | | 104 | | 105 | | 106 | | 107 | | 108 | | 109 | | 110 | | 111 | | 112 | | 113 | | 114 | | 115 | | 116 | | 117 | | 118 | | 119 | | 120 | | 121 | | 122 | | 123 | | 124 | | 125 | | 126 | | 127 | | 128 | | 129 | | 130 | | 131 | | 132 | | 133 | | 134 | | 135 | | 136 | | 137 | | 138 | | 139 | | 140 | | 141 | | 142 | | 143 | | 144 | | 145 | | 146 | | 147 | | 148 | | 149 | | 150 | | 151 | | 152 | | 153 | | 154 | | 155 | | 156 | | 157 | | 158 | | 159 | | 160 | | 161 | | 162 | | 163 | | 164 | | 165 | | 166 | | 167 | | 168 | | 169 | | 170 | | 171 | | 172 | | 173 | | 174 | | 175 | | 176 | | 177 | | 178 | | 179 | | 180 | | 181 | | 182 | | 183 | | 184 | | 185 | | 186 | | 187 | | 188 | | 189 | | 190 | | 191 | | 192 | | 193 | | 194 | | 195 | | 196 | | 197 | | 198 | | 199 | | 200 | | 201 | | 202 | | 203 | | 204 | | 205 | | 206 | | 207 | | 208 | | 209 | | 210 | | 211 | | 212 | | 213 | | 214 | | 215 | | 216 | | 217 | | 218 | | 219 | | 220 | | 221 | | 222 | | 223 | | 224 | | 225 | | 226 | | 227 | | 228 | | 229 | | 230 | | 231 | | 232 | | 233 | | 234 | | 235 | | 236 | | 237 | | 238 | | 239 | | 240 | | 241 | | 242 | | 243 | | 244 | | 245 | | 246 | | 247 | | 248 | | 249 | | 250 | | 251 | | 252 | | 253 | | 254 | | 255 | | 256 | | 257 | | 258 | | 259 | | 260 | | 261 | | 262 | | 263 | | 264 | | Next |