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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

They forced the Shirakawa palace


relationship of the opposing nobles deserves to be studied, as this was probably one of the most unnatural struggles on record.


Sutoku (the Jo-o) Go-Shirakawa, younger brother of Sutoku.

Fujiwara Yorinaga Fujiwara Tadamichi, son of Tadazane and brother of Yorinaga.

Fujiwara Tadazane

Minamoto Tameyoshi Minamoto Yoshitomo, son of Tameyoshi and brother of Tametomo.

Minamoto Tametomo

Taira no Tadamasa Taira no Kiyomori, nephew of Tadamasa

Sutoku's party occupied the Shirakawa palace. Unfortunately for the ex-Emperor the conduct of the struggle was entrusted to Fujiwara Yorinaga, and he, in defiance of Tametomo's advice, decided to remain on the defensive; an evil choice, since it entailed the tenure of wooden buildings highly inflammable. Yoshitomo and Kiyomori took full advantage of this strategical error. They forced the Shirakawa palace, and after a desperate struggle,* the defenders took to flight. Thus far, except for the important issues involved and the unnatural division of the forces engaged, this Hogen tumult would not have differed

materially from many previous conflicts. But its sequel acquired terrible notoriety from the cruel conduct of the victors. Sutoku was exiled to Sanuki, and there, during three years, he applied himself continuously to copying a Buddhist Sutra, using his own blood for ink. The doctrine of the Zen sect had not yet prevailed in Japan, and to obtain compensation in future happiness for the pains he had suffered in life, it was essential that the exile's laboriously traced Sutra should be solemnly offered to the Buddha. He sent it to Kyoto, praying that the necessary step should be taken. But by the orders of his own brother, the Emperor, the request was refused, and the manuscript returned. Superstition ultimately succeeded where natural affection had failed; for the ex-Emperor, having inscribed maledictions on each of the five volumes of the Sutra with blood obtained by biting his tongue, and having hastened his demise by self-inflicted privations,--he died (1164) eight years after being sent into exile--the evils of the time were attributed to his unquiet spirit and a shrine was built to his memory.

*One incident of the fight has been admiringly handed down to posterity. The duty of holding the west gate of the Shirakawa palace fell to Tametomo and his handful of followers. The duty of attacking it happened to devolve on his brother, Yoshitomo. To avert such an unnatural conflict, Tametomo, having proclaimed his identity, as was usual among bushi, drew his bow with such unerring aim that the arrow shore off an ornament from Yoshitomo's helmet without injuring him in any way. Yoshitomo withdrew, and the Taira took up the attack.

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