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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Yoshiiye had Sadato at his mercy and


a subsequent occasion in the same campaign, Yoshiiye had Sadato at his mercy and, while fixing an arrow to shoot him, composed the first line of a couplet, "The surcoat's warp at last is torn." Sadato, without a moment's hesitation, capped the line, "The threads at last are frayed and worn,"* and Yoshiiye, charmed by such a display of ready wit, lowered his bow. Nine years were needed to finish the campaign, and, in its sequel, Yoriyoshi was appointed governor of Iyo, and Yoshiiye, governor of Mutsu, while Kiyowara Takenori, without whose timely aid Sadato could scarcely have been subdued, received the high post of chinju-fu shogun (commandant of the local Government office). Yoshiiye's magnanimity towards Sadato at the fortress of Koromo-gawa has always been held worthy of a true bushi.

*The point of this couplet is altogether lost in English. It turns upon the fact that the word tate used by Yoshiiye means either a fortress or the vertical threads in woven stuff, and that koromo was the name of the fortress where the encounter took place and had also the significance of "surcoat."

Sadato was ultimately killed, but his younger brother Muneto had the affection and full confidence of Yoshiiye. Muneto, however, remembered his brother's fate and cherished a desire to take vengeance on Yoshiiye, which mood also was recognized as becoming to a model bushi. One night, the two men went out together, and Muneto decided

that the opportunity for vengeance had come. Drawing his sword, he looked into the ox-carriage containing Yoshiiye and found him sound asleep. The idea of behaving treacherously in the face of such trust was unendurable, and thereafter Muneto served Yoshiiye with faith and friendship. The confidence that the Minamoto hero reposed in the brother of his old enemy and the way it was requited--these, too, are claimed as traits of the bushi.

Yet another canon is furnished by Yoshiiye's career--the canon of humility. Oye no Masafusa was overheard remarking that Yoshiiye had some high qualities but was unfortunately ignorant of strategy. This being repeated to Yoshiiye, he showed no resentment but begged to become Masafusa's pupil. Yet he was already conqueror of the Abe and governor of Dewa.


Thereafter the provinces of Mutsu and Dewa were again the scene of another fierce struggle which, since it began in the third year (1089) of the Kwanji era and ended in the fifth year (1091), was called the "After Three-years War." With regard to the nature of this commotion, no enumeration of names is necessary. It was a family quarrel between the scions of Kiyowara Takenori, a magnate of Mutsu who had rendered conclusive assistance to Yoshiiye in the Nine-years' War; and as a great landowner of Dewa, Kimiko Hidetake, took part, the whole north of Japan may be said to have been involved. It fell to Yoshiiye, as governor of Mutsu, to quell the disturbance, and very difficult the task proved, so difficult that the issue might have been different had not Fujiwara Kiyohira--who will be presently spoken of--espoused the Minamoto cause.

When news of the struggle reached Kyoto, Yoshiiye's younger brother, Yoshimitsu, who held the much coveted post of kebiishi, applied for permission to proceed at once to his brother's assistance. The Court refused his application, whereupon he resigned his office and, like a true bushi, hastened to the war. Yoshimitsu was a skilled performer upon a musical instrument called the sho. He had studied under a celebrated master, Toyohara Tokimoto, now no more, and, on setting out for the field of battle in the far north, he became apprehensive lest the secrets imparted to him by his teacher should die with him. He therefore invited Tokimoto's son, Tokiaki, to bear him company during the first part of his journey, and to him he conveyed all the knowledge he possessed. The spectacle of this renowned soldier giving instruction in the art of music to the son of his deceased teacher on moonlit nights as he travelled towards the battlefield, has always appealed strongly to Japanese conception of a perfect samurai, and has been the motive of many a picture.

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