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Tokiwa was then
required to choose between giving herself up and suffering her mother
to be executed. Her beauty saved the situation. Kiyomori had no
sooner seen her face than he offered to have mercy if she entered his
household and if she consented to have her three sons educated for
the priesthood. Thus, Yoshitsune survived, and in after ages people
were wont to say of Kiyomori's passion and its result that his
blissful dream of one night had brought ruin on his house.

*One of these sons, Tomonaga, fell by his father's hand. Accompanying
Yoshitomo's retreat, he had been severely wounded, and he asked his
father to kill him rather than leave him at Awobake to fall into the
hands of the Taira. Yoshitomo consented, though the lad was only
fifteen years of age.

THE TAIRA AND THE FUJIWARA

In human affairs many events ascribed by onlookers to design are
really the outcome of accident or unforseen opportunity. Historians,
tracing the career of Taira no Kiyomori, ascribe to him singular
astuteness in creating occasions and marked promptness in utilizing
them. But Kiyomori was not a man of original or brilliant
conceptions. He had not even the imperturbability essential to
military leadership. The most prominent features of his character
were unbridled ambition, intolerance of opposition, and unscrupulous
pursuit of visible ends. He did not initiate anything but was content
to follow in the footsteps of the Fujiwara. It has been recorded that
in 1158--after the Hogen tumult, but before that of Heiji--he married
his daughter to a son of Fujiwara Shinzoi. In that transaction,
however, Shinzei's will dominated. Two years later, the Minamoto's
power having been shattered, Kiyomori gave another of his daughters
to be the mistress of the kwampaku, Fujiwara Motozane. There was no
offspring of this union, and when, in 1166, Motozane died, he left a
five-year-old son, Motomichi, born of his wife, a Fujiwara lady. This
boy was too young to succeed to the office of regent, and therefore
had no title to any of the property accruing to the holder of that
post, who had always been recognized as de jure head of the Fujiwara
family. Nevertheless, Kiyomori, having contrived that the child
should be entrusted to his daughter's care, asserted its claims so
strenuously that many of the Fujiwara manors and all the heirlooms
were handed over to it, the result being a visible weakening of the
great family's influence.*

*See Murdoch's History of Japan.

RESULTS OF THE HOGEN AND HEIJI INSURRECTIONS

The most signal result of the Hogen and Heiji insurrections was to
transfer the administrative power from the Court nobles to the
military chiefs. In no country were class distinctions more
scrupulously observed than in Japan. All officials of the fifth rank
and upwards must belong to the families of the Court nobility, and no
office carrying with it rank higher than the sixth might be occupied
by a military man. In all the history of the empire down to the
twelfth century there had been only one departure from this rule, and
that was in the case of the illustrious General Saka-no-ye no
Tamura-maro, who had been raised to the third rank and made dainagon.

The social positions of the two groups were even more rigidly
differentiated; those of the fifth rank and upwards being termed
tenjo-bito, or men having the privilege of entree to the palace and
to the Imperial presence; while the lower group (from the sixth
downwards) had no such privilege and were consequently termed
chige-bito, or groundlings. The three highest offices (spoken of as
san-ko) could not be held by any save members of the Fujiwara or Kuga
families; and for offices carrying fifth rank upwards (designated
taifu) the range of eligible families extended to only four others,
the Ariwara, the Ki, the Oye, and the Kiyowara. All this was changed
after the Heiji commotion. The Fujiwara had used the military leaders
for their own ends; Kiyomori supplemented his military strength with
Fujiwara methods. He caused himself to be appointed sangi (councillor
of State) and to be raised to the first grade of the third rank, and
he procured for his friends and relations posts as provincial
governors, so that they were able to organize throughout the empire
military forces devoted to the Taira cause.

These steps were mere preludes to his ambitious programme. He married
his wife's elder sister to the ex-Emperor, Go-Shirakawa, and the
fruit of this union was a prince who subsequently ascended the throne
as Takakura. The Emperor Nijo had died in 1166, after five years of
effort, only partially successful, to restrain his father,
Go-Shirakawa's, interference in the administration. Nijo was
succeeded by his son, Rokujo, a baby of two years; and, a few months
later, Takakura, then in his seventh year, was proclaimed Prince
Imperial. Rokujo (the seventy-ninth sovereign) was not given time to
learn the meaning of the title "Emperor." In three years he was
deposed by Go-Shirakawa with Kiyomori's co-operation, and Takakura
(eightieth sovereign) ascended the throne in 1169, occupying it until
1180. Thus, Kiyomori found himself uncle of an Emperor only ten years
of age. Whatever may have been the Taira leader's defects, failure to
make the most of an opportunity was not among them. The influence he
exercised in the palace through his sister-in-law was far more
exacting and imperious than that exercised by Go-Shirakawa himself,
and the latter, while bitterly resenting this state of affairs, found
himself powerless to correct it. Finally, to evince his discontent,
he entered the priesthood, a demonstration which afforded Kiyomori
more pleasure than pain. On the nomination of Takakura to be Crown
Prince the Taira leader was appointed--appointed himself would be a
more accurate form of speech--to the office of nai-daijin, and within
a very brief period he ascended to the chancellorship, overleaping
the two intervening posts of u-daijin and sa-daijin. This was in the
fiftieth year of his life. At fifty-one, he fell seriously ill and
took the tonsure by way of soliciting heaven's aid. People spoke of
him as Dajo Nyudo, or the "lay-priest chancellor." Recovering, he
developed a mood of increased arrogance. His residence at Rokuhara
was a magnificent pile of building, as architecture then went,
standing in a park of great extent and beauty. There he administered
State affairs with all the pomp and circumstance of an Imperial
court. He introduced his daughter, Toku, into the Household and very
soon she was made Empress, under the name of Kenrei-mon-in.

Thus completely were the Fujiwara beaten at their own game and the
traditions of centuries set at naught. A majority of the highest
posts were filled by Kiyomori's kinsmen. Fifteen of his family were
of, or above, the third rank, and thirty were tenjo-bito.
"Akitsushima (Japan) was divided into sixty-six provinces. Of these
thirty were governed by Taira partisans. Their manors were to be
found in five hundred places, and their fields were innumerable.
Their mansions were full of splendid garments and rich robes like
flowers, and the spaces before their portals were so thronged with
ox-carriages and horses that markets were often held there. Not to be
a Taira was not to be a man."*

*Gen-pei Seisuiki (Records of the Vicissitudes of the Minamoto and
the Taira).

It is necessary to note, too, with regard to these manors, that many
of them were tax-free lands (koderi) granted in perpetuity. Such
grants, as has been already shown, were not infrequent. But they had
been made, for the most part, to civilian officials, by whose serfs
they were farmed, the proceeds being forwarded to Kyoto for the
support of their owners; whereas the koden bestowed on Taira officers
were, in effect, military fiefs. It is true that similar fiefs
existed in the north and in the south, but their number was so
greatly increased in the days of Taira ascendancy as almost to
constitute a new departure. Kiyomori was, in truth, one of the most
despotic rulers that ever held sway in Japan. He organized a band of
three hundred youths whose business was to go about Kyoto and listen
to the citizens' talk. If anyone was reported by these spies as
having spoken ill of the Taira, he was seized and punished. One day
Kiyomori's grandson, Sukemori, met the regent, Fujiwara Motofusa, and
failing to alight from his carriage, as etiquette required, was
compelled by the regent's retinue to do so. On learning of this
incident, Kiyomori ordered three hundred men to lie in wait for the
regent, drag him from his car and cut off his cue.

PLOTS AGAINST THE TAIRA: KIYOMORI'S LAST YEARS

All these arbitrary acts provoked indignation among every class of
the people. A conspiracy known in history as the "Shishi-ga-tani
plot," from the name of the place where the conspirators met to
consult, was organized in 1177, having for object a general uprising
against the Taira. At the Court of the cloistered Emperor the post of
gon-dainagon was filled by Fujiwara Narichika, who harboured
resentment against Kiyomori's two sons, Shigemori and Munemori,
inasmuch as they held positions for which he had striven in vain,
the Left and Right generals of the guards. There was also a bonze,
Saiko, who enjoyed the full confidence of Go-Shirakawa. In those days
any cause was legitimized if its advocates could show an Imperial
edict or point to the presence of the sovereign in their midst.
Thus, in the Heiji insurrection, the Minamoto received their severest
blow when Fujiwara Korekata contrived that, under cover of darkness,
the Emperor, disguised as a maid-of-honour in the household
of the Empress, should be transported in her Majesty's suite,
from the Kurodo palace to the Taira mansion at Rokuhara. The
Minamoto were thus transformed into rebels, and the Taira became
the representatives of Imperial authority. Therefore, in the
Shishi-ga-tani plot the part assigned to the priest Saiko was to
induce Go-Shirakawa to take active interest in the conspiracy and to
issue a mandate to the Minamoto bushi throughout the country.



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