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Munemori, with the boy Emperor and all the survivors of
the Taira, had fled by sea to join Tomomori at Hikoshima. This
enterprise was even more brilliant and much more conclusive than that
of Ichi-no-tani. During three consecutive days, with a mere handful
of one hundred and fifty followers, Yoshitsune had engaged a powerful
Taira army on shore, and on the fourth day he had attacked and routed
them at sea, where the disparity of force must have been evident and
where no adventitious natural aids were available.

When every allowance is made for the incompetence of the Taira
commander, Munemori, and for the crippling necessity of securing the
safety of the child-sovereign, Antoku, the battle of Yashima still
remains one of the most extraordinary military feats on record. Among
the incidents of the battle, it is recorded that Yoshitsune himself
was in imminent peril at one time, and the details illustrate the
manner of fighting in that era. He dropped his bow into the sea
during the naval engagement, and when he essayed to pick it up, some
Taira soldiers hooked his armour with a grapnel. Yoshitsune severed
the haft of the grapnel with his sword and deliberately picked up the
bow. Asked why he had imperilled his person for a mere bow, he
replied, "Had it been a bow such as my uncle Tametomo bent, its
falling into the enemy's possession would not matter; but a weak bow
like mine would give them something to laugh at." Observing this
incident, Noritsune, one of the best fighters and most skilled
archers among the Taira, made Yoshitsune the target of his shafts.
But Sato Tsuginobu, member of the band of trusted comrades who had
accompanied the Minamoto hero from Mutsu, interposed his body and
received the arrow destined for Yoshitsune. Kikuo, Noritsune's
squire, leaped from his boat to decapitate the wounded Tsuginobu, but
was shot down by the latter's younger brother. Yoshitsune pillowed
Tsuginobu's head on his knees and asked the dying man whether he had
any last message. The answer was: "To die for my lord is not death. I
have longed for such an end ever since we took the field. My only
regret is that I cannot live to see the annihilation of the Taira."
Yoshitsune, weeping, said, "To annihilate the Taira is a mere matter
of days, but all time would not suffice to repay your devotion."

BATTLE OF DAN-NO-URA

The fight at Yashima was followed by a month's interval of
comparatively minor operations, undertaken for the purpose of
bringing Shikoku completely under Minamoto sway. During that time the
two clans prepared for final action. The Taira would have withdrawn
altogether into Kyushu, but such a course must have been preceded by
the dislodging of Noriyori, with his army of thirty thousand men,
from Bungo province, which they had occupied since the beginning of
March. It is true that Noriyori himself was unable to make any
further incursion into Kyushu so long as his maritime communications
with his advanced base in Suwo remained at the mercy of the Taira
fleet. But it is equally true that the Taira generals dared not enter
Kyushu so long as a strong Minamoto force was planted on the left
flank of their route.

Thus, a peculiar situation existed at the beginning of April, 1185.
Of the two provinces at the extreme south of the main island, one,
the eastern (Suwo), was in Minamoto occupation; the other, the
western (Nagato), was mainly held by the Taira; and of the three
provinces forming the northern littoral of Kyushu, two, the western
(Chikuzen and Buzen), were in Taira hands, and the third, the eastern
(Bungo), was the camp of Noriyori with his thirty thousand men.
Finally, the Strait of Shimonoseki between Chikuzen and Buzen was in
Taira possession. Evidently the aim of the Taira must be to eliminate
Noriyori from the battle now pending, and to that end they selected
for arena Dan-no-ura, that is to say, the littoral of Nagato province
immediately east of the Shimonoseki Strait.

We have seen that ever since the Ichi-no-tani fight, the Minamoto
generals, especially Kajiwara Kagetoki, had been actively engaged in
building, or otherwise acquiring, war-junks. By April, 1185, they had
brought together a squadron of seven to eight hundred; whereas, in
the sequel of Yashima and minor engagements, the Taira fleet had been
reduced to some five hundred. The war-junk of those days was not a
complicated machine. Propelled by oars, it had no fighting capacities
of its own, its main purpose being to carry its occupants within
bow-range or sword-reach of their adversaries. Naval tactics
consisted solely in getting the wind-gage for archery purposes.

By the 22nd of April, 1185, the whole of the Minamoto fleet had
assembled at Oshima, an island lying off the southeast of Suwo, the
Taira vessels, with the exception of the Hikoshima contingent, being
anchored at Dan-no-ura. On that day, a strong squadron, sent out by
Yoshitsune for reconnoitring purposes, marshalled itself at a
distance of about two miles from the Taira array, and this fact
having been signalled to the Taira general, Tomomori, at Hikoshima,
he at once passed the strait and joined forces with the main fleet at
Dan-no-ura. Yoshitsune's design had been to deliver a general attack
immediately after the despatch of the reconnoitring squadron, but
this was prevented by a deluge of blinding rain which lasted until
the night of the 24th.

Thus, it was not until the 25th that the battle took place. It
commenced with an inconclusive archery duel at long range, whereafter
the two fleets closed up and a desperate hand-to-hand struggle
ensued. Neither side could claim any decisive advantage until Taguchi
Shigeyoshi deserted from the Taira and passed over with all his ships
to the Minamoto. This Taguchi had been originally an influential
magnate of Iyo in Shikoku, whence he had accompanied the Taira
retreat to Nagato, leaving his son with three thousand men to defend
the family manors in Iyo. The son was so generously treated by the
Minamoto that he threw in his lot with them and sent letters urging
his father to adopt the same cause. Taguchi not only followed his
son's advice but also chose the moment most disastrous for the Taira.

His defection was followed quickly by the complete rout of the Heike.
A resolute attempt was made to defend the ship containing the young
Emperor, his mother, his grandmother, and several other Taira ladies;
but the vessel finally passed into Minamoto possession. Not before
she had been the scene of a terrible tragedy, however. Kiyomori's
widow, the Ni-i-no-ama, grandmother of Antoku, took the six-year old
child in her arms and jumped into the sea, followed by Antoku's
mother, the Empress Dowager (Kenrei-mon-in), carrying the regalia,
and by other court ladies. The Empress Dowager was rescued, as were
also the sacred mirror and the gem, but the sword was irrevocably
lost.

The Taira leader, Munemori, and his son, Kiyomune, were taken
prisoner, but Tomomori, Noritsune, and seven other Taira generals
were drowned. Noritsune distinguished himself conspicuously. He
singled out Yoshitsune for the object of his attack, but being unable
to reach him, he seized two Minamoto bushi and sprang into the sea
with them. Tomomori, Munemori's brother, who had proved himself a
most able general, leaped overboard carrying an anchor. Yoshitsune
spoke in strongly laudatory terms of Noritsune and ascribed to him
much of the power hitherto wielded by the Taira. Munemori and his son
were executed finally at Omi. Shigehira, in response to a petition
from the Nara priests whose fanes he had destroyed by Kiyomori's
orders, was handed over to the monks and put to death by them at
Narasaka. But Kiyomori's brother, who had interceded for the life of
Yoritomo after the Heiji emeule, was pardoned, his rank and property
being restored to him; and Taira no Munekiyo, who also had acted an
important part in saving Yoritomo at that time, was invited to visit
Kamakura where he would have been received with honour; but he
declined the invitation, declaring that a change of allegiance at
such a moment would be unworthy of a bushi.

It may here be noted that, although several of the Taira leaders who
took the field against the Minamoto were killed in the campaign or
executed or exiled after it, the punitory measures adopted by
Yoritomo were not by any means wholesale. To be a Taira did not
necessarily involve Kamakura's enmity. On the contrary, not only was
clemency extended to several prominent members of Kiyomori's kith and
kin, but also many local magnates of Taira origin whose estates lay
in the Kwanto were from first to last staunch supporters and friends
of the Minamoto. After Dan-no-ura, the Heike's sun permanently ceased
to dominate the political firmament, but not a few Heike stars rose
subsequently from time to time above the horizon.

MUNEMORI AND ANTOKU

The record of Munemori, whose leadership proved fatal to the Taira
cause, stamps him as something very rare among Japanese bushi--a
coward. He was the first to fly from every battle-field, and at
Dan-no-ura he preferred surrender to death. Tradition alleges that in
this final fight Munemori's reputed mother, Ni-i-no-ama, before
throwing herself into the sea with the Emperor in her arms, confessed
that Munemori was not her son. After she had borne Shigemori she
became enceinte and her husband, Kiyomori, looked eagerly for the
birth of another boy. But a girl was born. Just at that time the wife
of a man who combined the occupations of bonze and umbrella-maker,
bore a son, and the two children were surreptitiously exchanged. This
story does not rest upon infallible testimony. Nor does another
narrative, with regard to the motives which induced Kiyomori's widow
to drown the young Emperor. Those motives are said to have been two.
One was to fix upon the Minamoto the heinous crime of having done a
sovereign to death, so that some avenger might rise in future years;
the other was to hide the fact that Antoku was in reality a girl
whose sex had been concealed in the interest of the child's maternal
grandfather, Kiyomori.

YOSHITSUNE'S FATE

Yoshitsune's signal victories were at Ichi-no-tani and at Yashima.
The fight at Dan-no-ura could not have made him famous, for its issue
was determined by defection in the enemy's ranks, not by any
strategical device or opportune coup on the side of the victors.



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