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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Assisted the Fujiwara in Kyoto


Go-Ichijo was constrained to endure at Michinaga's hands the same despotic treatment as that previously meted out to Sanjo. The legitimate claim of his offspring to the throne was ignored in favour of his brother, Atsunaga, who received for consort the fourth daughter of Michinaga. Thus, this imperious noble had controlled the administration for thirty years; had given his daughters to three Emperors; had appointed his son to be regent in his place, and had the Crown Prince for grandson. Truly, as his historians say, he held the empire in the hollow of his hand. His estates far exceeded those of the Crown; the presents offered to him by all ranks reached an enormous total; he built for himself a splendid mansion (Jotomon) with forced labour requisitioned from the provinces, and for his wife a scarcely less magnificent residence (Kyogoku) was erected at the charges of the Emperor Go-Ichijo. At the approach of illness he took refuge in Buddhism, but even here the gorgeous ostentation of his life was not abated. He planned the building of a monastery which should prove a worthy retreat for his declining years, and it is on record that his order to the provincial governor was, "though you neglect your official duties, do not neglect to furnish materials and labour for the building of Hojo-ji." Even from the palace itself stones were taken for this monastery, and the sums lavished upon it were so enormous that they dwarfed Michinaga's previous extravagances. Michinaga retired there to die, and on his death-bed he received a visit from the Emperor, who ordered three months' Court mourning on his decease. There is a celebrated work entitled Eigwa Monogatari (Tales of Splendour), wherein is depicted the fortunes and the foibles of the Fujiwara family from the days (889) of the Emperor Uda to those (1092) of the Emperor Horikawa. Specially minute is the chronicle when it treats of the Mido kwampaku, as Michinaga was called after he set himself to build the monastery Hojo-ji.

Loyal Japanese historians shrink from describing this era, when the occupants of the throne were virtually puppets in the hands of the Fujiwara. There was, however, one redeeming feature: amid this luxury and refinement literature flourished vigorously, so that the era of Tenryaku (947-957) lives in the memory of the nation as vividly as that of Engi (901-923). Oye Tomotsuna, Sugawara Fumitoki, Minamoto Shitago--these were famous litterateurs, and Minamoto Hiromasa, grandson of the Emperor Uda, attained celebrity as a musical genius. Coming to the reigns of Kwazan, Enyu, and Ichijo (985-1011), we find the immortal group of female writers, Murasaki Shikibu, Izumi Shikibu, Sei Shonagon, and Akazome Emon; we find also in the Imperial family, Princes Kaneakira and Tomohira; we find three famous scribes, Fujiwara Yukinari, Fujiwara Sari, and Ono no Tofu, and, finally the "Four Nagon" (Shi-nagori), Fujiwara Yukinari, Fujiwara Kinto. Minamoto Narinobu, and Minamoto Toshikata.

It is observable that in this necessarily brief summary the name "Minamoto" occurs several times, as does that of "Fujiwara" also. But that the scions of either family confined themselves to the arts of peace, is not to be inferred. There were Fujiwara among the military magnates in the provinces, and we shall presently see the Minamoto taking the lead in the science of war. Already, indeed, the Fujiwara in the capital were beginning to recognize the power of the Minamoto. It has been related above that one of the rebel Masakado's earliest opponents was a Minamoto, vice-governor of Musashi. His son, Mitsunaka, a redoubtable warrior, assisted the Fujiwara in Kyoto, and Mitsunaka's sons, Yorimitsu and Yorinobu, contributed materially to the autocracy of the regent Michinaga. Yorimitsu was appointed by the regent to command the cavalry of the guard, and he is said to have brought that corps to a state of great efficiency.


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