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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Whose father Masakado had killed


genealogy of my house shows that I am the fifth in descent from the Emperor Kwammu. Therefore, though I hold one-half of a province, that cannot be attributed to mere good fortune. In the history of ancient times there are occasions where a whole country was appropriated by force of arms. Nature has endowed me with military talent. None, I presume, excels me in that respect. You, however, had no praise to bestow on me. Rather was I frequently reprimanded when I served in the capital, so that my shame was unendurable, whereas your sympathy would have delighted me. While Masakado was still a youth he served Tadahira, the prime minister, for tens of years, and when Tadahira became regent, Masakado never entertained his present project. I have no words to express my regret. Though I have conspired to revolt, I will not forget my old master, and I hope that he will make allowances for the circumstances in which I am placed."

*The vice-governor of Musashi, Minamoto Tsunemoto, was at feud with the governor, Prince Okiyo, and Masakado espoused the latter's cause.

Had it rested with Kyoto to subdue this revolt, Masakado might have attained his goal. But chance and the curious spirit of the time fought for the Court. A trifling breach of etiquette on the part of Masakado--not pausing to bind up his hair before receiving a visitor--forfeited the co-operation of a great soldier, Fujiwara Hidesato, (afterwards known as Tawara

Toda), and the latter, joining forces with Taira Sadamori, whose father Masakado had killed, attacked the rebels in a moment of elated carelessness, shattered them completely, and sent Masakado's head to the capital. The whole affair teaches that the Fujiwara aristocrats, ruling in Kyoto, had neither power nor inclination to meddle with provincial administration, and that the districts distant from the metropolis wore practically under the sway of military magnates in whose eyes might constituted right. This was especially notable in the case of the Kwanto, that is to say the eight provinces surrounding the present Tokyo Bay, extending north to the Nikko Mountains. Musashi, indeed, was so infested with law-breakers that, from the days of the Emperor Seiwa (859-876), it became customary to appoint one kebiishi in each of its districts, whereas elsewhere the establishment was one to each province. The kebiishi represented the really puissant arm of the law, the provincial governors, originally so powerful, having now degenerated into weaklings.


Another event, characteristic of the time, occurred in Nankai-do (the four provinces of the island of Shikoku) contemporaneously with the revolt of Masakado. During the Shohei era (931-937) the ravages of pirates became so frequent in those waters that Fujiwara no Sumitomo was specially despatched from Kyoto to restrain them. This he effected without difficulty. But instead of returning to the capital, he collected a number of armed men together with a squadron of vessels, and conducted a campaign of spoliation and outrage in the waters of the Inland Sea as well as the channels of Kii and Bungo. Masakado's death, in 939, relieved the Court from the pressure in the east, and an expedition was despatched against Sumitomo under the command of Ono no Yoshifuru, general of the guards.

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