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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The daughter of Fujiwara Yorimichi


with the title of Ho-o, took the tonsure and administered from the cloister after Shirakawa's death. One of his first acts after abdication was to take another consort, a daughter of Fujiwara Tadazane, whom he made Empress under the name of Kaya-no-in; but as she bore him no offspring, he placed in the Toba palace a second Fujiwara lady, Bifuku-mon-in, daughter of Nagazane. By her he had (1139) a son whom he caused to be adopted by the Empress, preparatory to placing him on the throne as Emperor Konoe, at the age of three. Thus, the cloistered sovereigns followed faithfully in the footsteps of the Fujiwara.


A phenomenon which became conspicuous during the reign of Shirakawa was recourse to violence by Buddhist priests. This abuse had its origin in the acquisition of large manors by temples and the consequent employment of soldiers to act as guards. Ultimately, great monasteries like Kofuku-ji, Onjo-ji, and Enryaku-ji came to possess thousands of these armed men, and consequently wielded temporal power. Shirakawa's absorbing belief in Buddhism created opportunities for the exercise of this influence. Keenly anxious that a son should be born of his union with Kenko, the daughter of Fujiwara Yorimichi, his Majesty bespoke the prayers of Raigo, lord-abbot of Onjo-ji. It happened that unsuccessful application had frequently been made by the Onjo-ji monks for an important religious privilege. Raigo

informed the Emperor that, if this favour were promised, the prayer for a prince would certainly be heard. Shirakawa made the promise, and Kenko gave birth to Prince Atsubumi. But when the Emperor would have fulfilled his pledge, the priests of Enryaku-ji (Hiei-zan), jealous that a privilege which they alone possessed should be granted to priests of another monastery, repaired to the Court en masse to protest. Shirakuwu yielded to this representation and despatched Oye no Masafusa to placate Raigo. But the abbot refused to listen. He starved himself to death, passing day and night in devotion, and shortly after his demise the little prince, born in answer to his prayers, died of small-pox.

In an age when superstition prevailed widely the death of the child was, of course, attributed to the incantations of the abbot. From that time a fierce feud raged between Onjo-ji and Enryaku-ji. In the year 1081, the priest-soldiers of the latter set the torch to the former, and, flocking to Kyoto in thousands, threw the capital into disorder. Order was with difficulty restored through the exertions of the kebiishi and the two Minamoto magnates, Yoshiiye and Yoshitsuna, but it was deemed expedient to guard the palace and the person of the Emperor with bushi. Twelve years later (1093), thousands of cenobites, carrying the sacred tree of the Kasuga shrine, marched from Nara to Kyoto, clamouring for vengeance on the governor of Omi, whom they charged with arresting and killing the officials of the shrine. This became a precedent. Thereafter, whenever the priests had a grievance, they flocked to the palace carrying the sacred tree of some temple or shrine. The soldier cenobites of Enryaku-ji--yama-hoshi, as they were called--showed themselves notably turbulent. They inaugurated the device of replacing the sacred tree with the "divine car," against which none dare raise a hand or shoot an arrow. If their petition were rejected, they would abandon the car in the streets of the capital, thus placing the city under a curse.

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