This section is a little detail of  Chapter 7.

Taira-No-Kiyomori (平清盛)

As I described in Chapter 7, at the end of the Heian period, two major Samurai groups, the Genji (源氏) and the Heishi (平氏) existed.  The head of the Genji is Minamoto-no-Yoshitomo (源義朝) and the head of the Heishi is Taira-no-Kiyomori.  They were childhood friends.  Because of the political situation, they became enemy.  The Genji side lost.  After the Heishi won, Taira-noKiyomori became very powerful.  He gave his men high positions, and his daughter marries to the emperor.  His power even went beyond the Emperor.  This is the time it is said that if  “you are not a part of the Heishi family, you are not a human being”.   The situation like this created too many opponents.  Eventually, the Genji and other Samurai group raised the army, fought against the Heishi and the Heishi lost.  While Taira-no-Kiyomori was in power, he started the active trading with China and that contributed to the economic prosperity tremendously.  The picture below is the Itsukushima Shrine built by Taira-no-Kiyomori.  It is registered at the UNESCO World Heritage Site.


From Wikipedia   Photo is a public Domain        Author: Rdsmith4                File Itsukushima Floating Shrine.jpg 8 /05/04

Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune (源頼朝 )

Minamoto-no-Yoritomo (源頼朝) is a son of Minamoto-no-Yoshitomo(源義朝).  After Yoshitomo was defeated by Taira-no-Kiyomori (平清盛 ),  the direct line of Genji, Minamoto-no-Yoritomo was sent to Izu Island.  He was in his early teens.  Yoritomo grew to be a young man in Izu island, eventually, he met Hojo Masako (北条政子) who was a daughter of Hojo Tokimasa (北条時政).  He was a local government official.  While Tokimasa was on a business trip to Kyoto, Yoritomo and Masaki had a baby.  Tokimasa was afraid if Heike finds out about his daughter and Yoritomo, the Hojo family may get into trouble.  So, he planned Masako to marry somebody else.  But she escaped a night before the wedding day eloped with Yoritomo.  This story was written in the Japanese history book called  “Azuma Kagami (吾妻鏡)” and a few other books, but some historian says this story may not be exactly how it happened.  Meantime In Kyoto, the Heishi became very powerful and tyrannical in the central government (called Chotei) and suppressed the opponents.  All the angry dissatisfied groups raised an army to attack the Heishi.  Minamoto-no-Yoritomo was the center of those opponents and his army grew bigger and stronger with the help of Masako ’s father, Hojo Tokimasa.  By this time Hojo Tokimasa realized he has a better chance to side with Yoritomo, the Genji.  The Genji power pushed the Heike power all the way to the Southern part of Japan.  The Heike was defeated at the place called Dan-no-Ura (壇ノ浦 ) near Kyushu (九州 ) area at 1185.  Yoritomo set up the Kamakura Bakufu (Kamakura government) in Kamakura.  His wife Masako later found out to be a very capable politician and she saved Kamakura Bakufu when they got into trouble from the central government after Yoritomo’s death.  Here is one famous story about her.  When Yoritomo went around for different women in the town of Kamakura, Masako sent her men to follow her husband and set the fire of the woman’s house her husband was after.  Masako is known as a jealous wife in Japanese history.  But in her mind, the Hojo is one who made Yoritomo the head of the Kamakura Bakufu.  Without the help from the Hojo, Yoritomo could not be what he became.


Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu  in Kamakura     Author: Urashimataro                               From Wikipedia    Photo is public domain

Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune (源義経 )

Minamoto-no-Yoritomo (源頼朝 ) had several half brothersTaira-no-Kiyomori (平清盛) saved the lives of those young boys only if they became a monk when they grew up.  One of them was Ushiwaka-Maru (牛若),later Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune (源義経) who lived with Taira-no-Kiyomori while he was an infant, believing Kiyomori was his father.  Later Yoshitsune was sent to Kurama-Yama temple.  He spent there until mid-teens.  After that, he made a flight to live with O-Shu Fujiwara (奥州藤原).   They were in the northern part of Japan, quite some distance from KyotoO-Shu Fujiwara was a very wealthy clan and they had a luxurious culture.  Because of the distance from Chotei (central government), they could almost be like an independent county.   They created quite a wealth by the gold mining nearby.  When Yoshitsune heard his half-brother Yoritomo raised an army to attack Heike, he joined with his brother.  Yoshitsune was a quite a strategist, he won many well-known battles that were very critical battlefield for Genji to win the war. That made Yoritomo fear Yoshitsune.  Eventually, Yoshitsune became popular among people, fearful Yoritomo decided to get rid of Yoshitsune.  Yoshitsune fled to O-Shu Fujiwara.  In the beginning, O-Shu Fujiwara protected Yoshitsune but could not hold.  Yoritomo destroyed O-Shu Fujiwara entirely at the end

Chinese knew about the wealth of O-Shu Fujiwara.  Later, Marco Polo heard about the small wealthy country further into the East from Chinese.  He never visited Japan, but he mentioned about this small wealthy island in his book, “The travels of Marco Polo”.  The famous quote “all the houses are made of gold”.  This is O-Shu Fujiwara.  Of course, all the houses are not made of gold.  Marco Polo introduced Japan as “Zipangu” in his book.  It means the golden country.  That evolved into Japan.  However, we Japanese don’t call Japan as Japan.  We call our country “Nihon” or “Nippon”, either one is correct.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s