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
At that moment (February,
1184), Yoritomo's two younger brothers, Yoshitsune and Noriyori, were
en route for Kyoto, where they had been ordered to convey the Kwanto
taxes. They had a force of five hundred men only, but these were
quickly transformed into the van of an army of fifty or sixty
thousand, which Yoritomo, with extraordinary expedition, sent from
Kamakura to attack Yoshinaka.

The "Morning Sun shogun" (Asahi-shogun), as Yoshinaka was commonly
called with reference to his brilliant career, now at last saw
himself confronted by the peril which had long disturbed his
thoughts. At a distance of three hundred miles from his own base,
with powerful foes on either flank and in a city whose population was
hostile to him, his situation seemed almost desperate. He took a step
dictated by dire necessity--made overtures to the Taira, asking that
a daughter of the house of Kiyomori be given him for wife. Munemori
refused. The fortunes of the Taira at that moment appeared to be
again in the ascendant. They were once more supreme in Kyushu; the
west of the main island from coast to coast was in their hands; they
had re-established themselves in Fukuhara, and at any moment they
might move against Kyoto. They could afford, therefore, to await the
issue of the conflict pending between the Minamoto cousins, sure that
it must end in disaster for one side and temporary weakness for the
other.

In fact, the situation was almost hopeless for Yoshinaka. There had
not been time to recall the main body of his troops which were
confronting the Taira. All that he could do was to arrest momentarily
the tide of onset by planting handfuls of men to guard the chief
avenues at Uji and Seta where, four years previously, Yorimasa had
died for the Minamoto cause, and Seta, where a long bridge spans the
waters of Lake Biwa as they narrow to form the Setagawa. To the Uji
bridge, Nenoi Yukichika was sent with three hundred men; to the Seta
bridge, Imai Kanehira with five hundred. The names of these men and
of their brothers, Higuchi Kanemitsu and Tate Chikatada, are immortal
in Japanese history. They were the four sons of Nakahara Kaneto, by
whom Yoshinaka had been reared, and their constant attendance on his
person, their splendid devotion to him, and their military prowess
caused people to speak of them as Yoshinaka's Shi-tenno--the four
guardian deities of Buddhist temples. Their sister, Tomoe, is even
more famous. Strong and brave as she was beautiful, she became the
consort of Yoshinaka, with whom she had been brought up, and she
accompanied him in all his campaigns, fighting by his side and
leading a body of troops in all his battles. She was with him when he
made his final retreat and she killed a gigantic warrior, Uchida
Ieyoshi, who attempted to seize her on that occasion. Yoshinaka
compelled her to leave him at the supreme moment, being unwilling
that she should fall into the enemy's hands; and after his death she
became a nun, devoting the rest of her days to prayers for his
spirit.

But it is not to be supposed that Yoshinaka repaid this noble
devotion with equal sincerity. On the contrary, the closing scene of
his career was disfigured by passion for another woman, daughter of
the kwampaku, Fujiwara Motofusa. Attracted by rumours of her beauty
after his arrival in Kyoto, he compelled her to enter his household,
and when news came that the armies of Yoshitsune and Noriyori were
approaching the capital, this great captain, for such he certainly
was, instead of marshalling his forces and making dispositions for
defence, went to bid farewell to the beautiful girl who resided in
his Gojo mansion. Hours of invaluable time passed, and still Asahi
shogun remained by the lady's side. Finally, two of his faithful
comrades, Echigo Chuta and Tsuwata Saburo, seated themselves in front
of the mansion and committed suicide to recall their leader to his
senses. Yoshinaka emerged, but it was too late. He could not muster
more than three hundred men, and in a short time Yoshitsune rode into
the city at the head of a large body of cavalry.

Yoshitsune had approached by way of Uji. He was not at all deterred
by the fact that the enemy had destroyed the bridge. His mounted
bowmen dashed into the river* and crossed it with little loss. A few
hours brought them to Kyoto, where they made small account of the
feeble resistance that Yoshinaka was able to offer. Wounded and with
little more than half a score of followers, Yoshinaka rode off, and
reaching the plain Of Awazu, met Imai Kanehira with the remnant of
his five hundred men who had gallantly resisted Noriyori's army of
thirty thousand. Imai counselled instant flight eastward. In Shinano,
Yoshinaka would find safety and a dominion, while to cover his
retreat, Imai would sacrifice his own life. Such noble deeds were the
normal duty of every true bushi. Yoshinaka galloped away, but, riding
into a marsh, disabled his horse and was shot down. Meanwhile Imai,
in whose quiver there remained only eight arrows, had killed as many
of the pursuing horsemen, and then placing the point of his sword in
his mouth, had thrown himself headlong from his horse. One incident,
shocking but not inconsistent with the canons of the time, remains to
be included in this chapter of Japanese history. It has been related
that Yoshinaka's son, Yoshitaka, was sent by his father to Kamakura
as a hostage, and was married to Yoritomo's daughter. After the
events above related Yoshitaka was put to death at Kamakura,
apparently without Yoritomo's orders, and his widow, when pressed by
her brother to marry again, committed suicide.

*Japanese tradition loves to tell of a contest between Sasaki
Takatsuna and Kajiwara Kagesue as to which should cross the river
first. Kagesue was the son of that Kajiwara who had saved. Yoritomo's
life in the episode of the hollow tree.

BATTLE OF ICHI-NO-TANI

The victory of the armies led by Noriyori and Yoshitsune brought
Kamakura and Fukuhara into direct conflict, and it was speedily
decided that these armies should at once move westward to attack the
Taira. A notable feature of the military operations of that era was
celerity. Less than a month sufficed to mobilize an army of fifty
thousand men and to march it from Kamakura to Kyoto, a distance of
three hundred miles, and within ten days of the death of Yoshinaka
this same army, augmented to seventy-six thousand, began to move
westward from Kyoto (March 19, 1184). The explanation of this
rapidity is furnished, in part, by simplicity of commisariat, and by
the fact that neither artillery nor heavy munitions of war had to be
transported. Every man carried with him a supply of cooked rice,
specially prepared so as to occupy little space while sufficing for
several days' food, and this supply was constantly replenished by
requisitions levied upon the districts traversed. Moreover, every man
carried his own implements of war--bow and arrows, sword, spear, or
halberd--and the footgear consisted of straw sandals which never hurt
the feet, and in which a man could easily march twenty miles a day
continuously.

These remarks apply to all the fighting men of whatever part of
Japan, but as to the Kwanto bushi, their special characteristics are
thus described by a writer of the twelfth century: "Their ponderous
bows require three men or five to bend them. Their quivers, which
match these bows, hold fourteen or fifteen bundles of arrows. They
are very quick in releasing their shafts, and each arrow kills or
wounds two or three foemen, the impact being powerful enough to
pierce two or three thicknesses of armour at a time, and they never
fail to hit the mark. Every daimyo (owner of a great estate) has at
least twenty or thirty of such mounted archers, and even the owner of
a small barren estate has two or three. Their horses are very
excellent, for they are carefully selected, while as yet in pasture,
and then trained after their own peculiar fashion. With five or ten
such excellent mounts each, they go out hunting deer or foxes and
gallop up and down mountains and forests. Trained in these wild
methods, they are all splendid horsemen who know how to ride but
never how to fall. It is the habit of the Kwanto bushi that if in the
field of battle a father be killed, the son will not retreat, or if a
son be slain the father will not yield, but stepping over the dead,
they will fight to the death."*

*Murdoch's History of Japan.

The Taira, as noted above, had by this time largely recovered from
the disasters suffered in their first encounters with Yoshinaka's
forces. In the western provinces of the main island, in Shikoku, and
in Kyushu, scions of the clan had served as governors in former
times, so that ties of close intimacy had been established with the
inhabitants. Since the first flight to Kyushu in August, 1183, their
generals, Shigehira, Michimori, Noritsune, and others had defeated
the forces of Yoshinaka at Mizushima and those of Yukiiye at
Muroyama, so that no less than fourteen provinces of the Sanyo-do and
the Nankai-do owned Taira sway, and by the beginning of 1184 they had
re-occupied the Fukuhara district, establishing themselves at a
position of great natural strength called Ichi-no-tani in the
province of Harima. Their lines extended several miles, over which
space one hundred thousand men were distributed. They lay within a
semi-circle of mountains supposed to be inaccessible from the north;
their camp was washed on the south by the sea where a thousand
war-vessels were assembled; the east flank rested on a forest, and
the west was strongly fortified.

On March 21, 1184, the Kamakura armies delivered their assault on
this position; Noriyori with fifty-six thousand men against the east
flank at Ikuta; Yoshitsune's lieutenants with twenty thousand men
against the west at Suma. Little progress was made. Defence and
attack were equally obstinate, and the advantage of position as well
as of numbers was with the former. But Yoshitsune himself had
foreseen this and had determined that the best, if not the only, hope
of victory lay in delivering an assault by descending the northern
rampart of mountains at Hiyodori Pass.



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 |