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The great soldier himself died ultimately by his own hand in
the sequel of an unsuccessful engagement with the forces of the
vice-governor of Izu.

GO-SHIRAKAWA

Go-Shirakawa, the seventy-seventh sovereign, occupied the throne
during two years only (1156-1158), but he made his influence felt
from the cloister throughout the long period of thirty-four years
(1158 to 1192), directing the administration from his "camera palace"
(Inchu) during the reigns of five Emperors. Ambition impelled him to
tread in the footsteps of Go-Sanjo. He re-opened the Office of
Records (Kiroku-jo), which that great sovereign had established for
the purpose of centralizing the powers of the State, and he sought to
recover for the Throne its administrative functions. But his
independence was purely nominal, for in everything he took counsel of
Fujiwara Michinori (Shinzei) and obeyed that statesman's guidance.
Michinori's character is not to be implicitly inferred from the cruel
courses suggested by him after the Hogen tumult. He was a man of keen
intelligence and profound learning, as learning went in those days:
that is to say, he knew the classics by heart, had an intimate
acquaintance with Buddhism and astrology, and was able to act as
interpreter of the Chinese language. With his name is associated the
origin of the shirabyoshi, or "white measure-markers"--girls clad in
white, who, by posture and gesture, beat time to music, and, in after
ages, became the celebrated geisha of Japan. To the practice of such
arts and accomplishments Michinori devoted a great part of his life,
and when, in 1140, that is to say, sixteen years before the Hogen
disturbance, he received the tonsure, all prospect of an official
career seemed to be closed to him. But the accession of Go-Shirakawa
gave him an opportunity. The Emperor trusted him, and he abused the
trust to the further unhappiness of the nation.

THE HEIJI TUMULT

Go-Shirakawa's son, Morihito, ascended the throne in 1159 and is
known in history as Nijo, the seventy-eighth sovereign of Japan. From
the very outset he resented the ex-Emperor's attempt to interfere in
the administration of affairs, and the two Courts fell into a state
of discord, Fujiwara Shinzei inciting the cloistered Emperor to
assert himself, and two other Fujiwara nobles, Tsunemune and
Korekata, prompting Nijo to resist. These two, observing that another
noble of their clan, Fujiwara Nobuyori; was on bad terms with
Shinzei, approached Nobuyori and proposed a union against their
common enemy. Shinzei had committed one great error; he had alienated
the Minamoto family. In the Hogen struggle, Yoshitomo, the Minamoto
chief, an able captain and a brave soldier, had suggested the
strategy which secured victory for Go-Shirakawa's forces. But in the
subsequent distribution of rewards, Yoshitomo's claims received scant
consideration, his merits being underrated by Shinzei.

This had been followed by a still more painful slight. To Yoshitomo's
formal proposal of a marriage between his daughter and Shinzei's son,
not only had a refusal been given, but also the nuptials of the youth
with the daughter of the Taira chief, Kiyomori, had been subsequently
celebrated with much eclat. In short, Shinzei chose between the two
great military clans, and though such discrimination was neither
inconsistent with the previous practice of the Fujiwara nor
ill-judged so far as the relative strength of the Minamoto and the
Taira was concerned for the moment, it erred egregiously in failing
to recognize that the day had passed when the military clans could be
thus employed as Fujiwara tools. Approached by Nobuyori, Yoshitomo
joined hands with the plotters, and the Minamoto troops, forcing
their way into the Sanjo palace, set fire to the edifice and killed
Shinzei (1159). The Taira chief, Kiyomori, happened to be then absent
in Kumano, and Yoshitomo's plan was to attack him on his way back to
Kyoto before the Taira forces had mustered. But just as Fujiwara
Yorinaga had wrecked his cause in the Hogen tumult by ignoring
Minamoto Tametomo's advice, so in the Heiji disturbance, Fujiwara
Nobuyori courted defeat by rejecting Minamoto Yoshitomo's strategy.
The Taira, thus accorded leisure to assemble their troops, won such a
signal victory that during many years the Minamoto disappeared almost
completely from the political stage, and the Taira held the empire in
the hollow of their hands.

Japanese historians regard Fujiwara Shinzei as chiefly responsible
for these untoward events. Shinzei's record shows him to have been
cruel, jealous, and self-seeking, but it has to be admitted that the
conditions of the time were calculated to educate men of his type, as
is shown by the story of the Hogen insurrection. For when Sutoku's
partisans assembled at the palace of Shirakawa, Minamoto Tametomo
addressed them thus: "I fought twenty battles and two hundred minor
engagements to win Kyushu, and I say that when an enemy is
outnumbered, its best plan is a night attack. If we fire the
Takamatsu palace on three sides to-night and assault it from the
fourth, the foe will surely be broken. I see on the other side only
one man worthy to be called an enemy. It is my brother Yoshitomo, and
with a single arrow I can lay him low. As for Taira Kiyomori, he will
fall if I do but shake the sleeve of my armour. Before dawn we shall
be victors."

Fujiwara Yorinaga's reply to this counsel was: "Tametomo's method of
fighting is rustic. There are here two Emperors competing for the
throne, and the combat must be conducted in a fair and dignified
manner." To such silliness the Minamoto hero made apt answer. "War,"
he said, "is not an affair of official ceremony and decorum. Its
management were better left to the bushi whose business it is. My
brother Yoshitomo has eyes to see an opportunity. To-night, he will
attack us.". It is true that Tametomo afterwards refrained from
taking his brother's life, but the above proves that he would not
have exercised any such forbearance had victory been attainable by
ruthlessness. History does not often repeat itself so exactly as it
did in these Hogen and Heiji struggles. Fujiwara Yorinaga's refusal
to follow Tametomo's advice and Fujiwara Nobuyori's rejection of
Yoshitomo's counsels were wholly responsible for the disasters that
ensued, and were also illustrative of the contempt in which the
Fujiwara held the military magnates, who, in turn, were well aware of
the impotence of the Court nobles on the battle-field.

The manner of Yoshitomo's death, too, reveals something of the ethics
of the bushi in the twelfth century. Accompanied by Kamada Masaie and
a few others, the Minamoto chief escaped from the fight and took
refuge in the house of his concubine, Enju, at Awobaka in Owari.
There they were surrounded and attacked by the Taira partisans. The
end seemed inevitable. Respite was obtained, however, by one of those
heroic acts of self-sacrifice that stand so numerously to the credit
of the Japanese samurai. Minamoto Shigenari, proclaiming himself to
be Yoshitomo, fought with desperate valour, killing ten of the enemy.
Finally, hacking his own face so that it became unrecognizable, he
committed suicide. Meanwhile, Yoshitomo had ridden away to the house
of Osada Tadamune, father of his comrade Masaie's wife. There he
found a hospitable reception. But when he would have pushed on at
once to the east, where the Minamoto had many partisans, Tadamune,
pointing out that it was New Year's eve, persuaded him to remain
until the 3d of the first month.

Whether this was done of fell purpose or out of hospitality is not on
record, but it is certain that Tadamune and his son, Kagemune, soon
determined to kill Yoshitomo, thus avoiding a charge of complicity
and earning favour at Court. Their plan was to conceal three men in a
bathroom, whither Yoshitomo should be led after he had been plied
with sake at a banquet. The scheme succeeded in part, but as
Yoshitomo's squire, Konno, a noted swordsman, accompanied his chief
to the bath, the assassins dared not attack. Presently, however,
Konno went to seek a bath-robe, and thereupon the three men leaped
out. Yoshitomo hurled one assailant from the room, but was stabbed to
death by the other two, who, in their turn, were slaughtered by the
squire. Meanwhile, Masaie was sitting, unsuspicious, at the
wine-party in a distant chamber. Hearing the tumult he sprang to his
feet, but was immediately cut down by Tadamune and Kagemune. At this
juncture Masaie's wife ran in, and crying, "I am not faithless and
evil like my father and my brother; my death shall show my
sincerity," seized her husband's sword and committed suicide, at
which sight the dying man smiled contentedly. As for Konno, after a
futile attempt to lay hands on Tadamune and Kagemune, he cut his way
through their retainers and rode off safely. The heads of Yoshitomo
and Masaie were carried to Kyoto by Tadamune and Kagemune, but they
made so much of their exploit and clamoured for such high reward that
Kiyomori threatened to punish them for the murder of a close
connexion--Kiyomori, be it observed, on whose hands the blood of his
uncle was still wet.

Yoshitomo had many sons* but only four of them escaped from the Heiji
tumult. The eldest of these was Yoritomo, then only fourteen. After
killing two men who attempted to intercept his flight, he fell into
the hands of Taira Munekiyo, who, pitying his youth, induced
Kiyomori's step-mother to intercede for his life, and he was finally
banished to Izu, whence, a few years later, he emerged to the
destruction of the Taira. A still younger son, Yoshitsune, was
destined to prove the most renowned warrior Japan ever produced. His
mother, Tokiwa, one of Yoshitomo's mistresses, a woman of rare
beauty, fled from the Minamoto mansion during a snow-storm after the
Heiji disaster, and, with her three children, succeeded in reaching a
village in Yamato, where she might have lain concealed had not her
mother fallen into the hands of Kiyomori's agents. Tokiwa was then
required to choose between giving herself up and suffering her mother
to be executed.



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