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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

But the accession of Go Shirakawa gave him an opportunity


less heartless was the treatment of the vanquished nobles. The Fujiwara alone escaped. Yorinaga had the good fortune to fall on the field of battle, and his father, Tadazane, was saved by the intercession of his elder son, Tadamichi, of whose dislike he had long been a victim. But this was the sole spot of light on the sombre page. By the Emperor's orders, the Taira chief, Kiyomori, executed his uncle, Tadamasa; by the Emperor's orders, though not without protest, the Minamoto chief, Yoshitomo, put to death his father, Tameyoshi; by the Emperor's orders all the relatives of Yorinaga were sent into exile; by the Emperor's orders his nephew, Prince Shigehito, was compelled to take the tonsure, and by the Emperor's orders the sinews of Tametomo's bow-arm were cut and he was banished to the Izu island.* In justice it has to be noted that Go-Shirakawa did not himself conceive these merciless measures. He was prompted thereto by Fujiwara Michinori, commonly known as Shinzei, whose counsels were all-powerful at the Court in those days.

*The celebrated litterateur, Bakin, adduced many proofs that Tametomo ultimately made his way to Ryukyu and that his descendants ruled the island. The great soldier himself died ultimately by his own hand in the sequel of an unsuccessful engagement with the forces of the vice-governor of Izu.


Go-Shirakawa, the seventy-seventh sovereign,

occupied the throne during two years only (1156-1158), but he made his influence felt from the cloister throughout the long period of thirty-four years (1158 to 1192), directing the administration from his "camera palace" (Inchu) during the reigns of five Emperors. Ambition impelled him to tread in the footsteps of Go-Sanjo. He re-opened the Office of Records (Kiroku-jo), which that great sovereign had established for the purpose of centralizing the powers of the State, and he sought to recover for the Throne its administrative functions. But his independence was purely nominal, for in everything he took counsel of Fujiwara Michinori (Shinzei) and obeyed that statesman's guidance. Michinori's character is not to be implicitly inferred from the cruel courses suggested by him after the Hogen tumult. He was a man of keen intelligence and profound learning, as learning went in those days: that is to say, he knew the classics by heart, had an intimate acquaintance with Buddhism and astrology, and was able to act as interpreter of the Chinese language. With his name is associated the origin of the shirabyoshi, or "white measure-markers"--girls clad in white, who, by posture and gesture, beat time to music, and, in after ages, became the celebrated geisha of Japan. To the practice of such arts and accomplishments Michinori devoted a great part of his life, and when, in 1140, that is to say, sixteen years before the Hogen disturbance, he received the tonsure, all prospect of an official career seemed to be closed to him. But the accession of Go-Shirakawa gave him an opportunity. The Emperor trusted him, and he abused the trust to the further unhappiness of the nation.


Go-Shirakawa's son, Morihito, ascended the throne in 1159 and is known in history as Nijo, the seventy-eighth sovereign of Japan. From the very outset he resented the ex-Emperor's attempt to interfere in the administration of affairs, and the two Courts fell into a state of discord, Fujiwara Shinzei inciting the cloistered Emperor to assert himself, and two other Fujiwara nobles, Tsunemune and Korekata, prompting Nijo to resist. These two, observing that another noble of their clan, Fujiwara Nobuyori; was on bad terms with Shinzei, approached Nobuyori and proposed a union against their common enemy. Shinzei had committed one great error; he had alienated the Minamoto family. In the Hogen struggle, Yoshitomo, the Minamoto chief, an able captain and a brave soldier, had suggested the strategy which secured victory for Go-Shirakawa's forces. But in the subsequent distribution of rewards, Yoshitomo's claims received scant consideration, his merits being underrated by Shinzei.

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