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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Yoshitomo joined hands with the plotters


had been followed by a still more painful slight. To Yoshitomo's formal proposal of a marriage between his daughter and Shinzei's son, not only had a refusal been given, but also the nuptials of the youth with the daughter of the Taira chief, Kiyomori, had been subsequently celebrated with much eclat. In short, Shinzei chose between the two great military clans, and though such discrimination was neither inconsistent with the previous practice of the Fujiwara nor ill-judged so far as the relative strength of the Minamoto and the Taira was concerned for the moment, it erred egregiously in failing to recognize that the day had passed when the military clans could be thus employed as Fujiwara tools. Approached by Nobuyori, Yoshitomo joined hands with the plotters, and the Minamoto troops, forcing their way into the Sanjo palace, set fire to the edifice and killed Shinzei (1159). The Taira chief, Kiyomori, happened to be then absent in Kumano, and Yoshitomo's plan was to attack him on his way back to Kyoto before the Taira forces had mustered. But just as Fujiwara Yorinaga had wrecked his cause in the Hogen tumult by ignoring Minamoto Tametomo's advice, so in the Heiji disturbance, Fujiwara Nobuyori courted defeat by rejecting Minamoto Yoshitomo's strategy. The Taira, thus accorded leisure to assemble their troops, won such a signal victory that during many years the Minamoto disappeared almost completely from the political stage, and the Taira held the empire in the hollow of their

Japanese historians regard Fujiwara Shinzei as chiefly responsible for these untoward events. Shinzei's record shows him to have been cruel, jealous, and self-seeking, but it has to be admitted that the conditions of the time were calculated to educate men of his type, as is shown by the story of the Hogen insurrection. For when Sutoku's partisans assembled at the palace of Shirakawa, Minamoto Tametomo addressed them thus: "I fought twenty battles and two hundred minor engagements to win Kyushu, and I say that when an enemy is outnumbered, its best plan is a night attack. If we fire the Takamatsu palace on three sides to-night and assault it from the fourth, the foe will surely be broken. I see on the other side only one man worthy to be called an enemy. It is my brother Yoshitomo, and with a single arrow I can lay him low. As for Taira Kiyomori, he will fall if I do but shake the sleeve of my armour. Before dawn we shall be victors."

Fujiwara Yorinaga's reply to this counsel was: "Tametomo's method of fighting is rustic. There are here two Emperors competing for the throne, and the combat must be conducted in a fair and dignified manner." To such silliness the Minamoto hero made apt answer. "War," he said, "is not an affair of official ceremony and decorum. Its management were better left to the bushi whose business it is. My brother Yoshitomo has eyes to see an opportunity. To-night, he will attack us.". It is true that Tametomo afterwards refrained from taking his brother's life, but the above proves that he would not have exercised any such forbearance had victory been attainable by ruthlessness. History does not often repeat itself so exactly as it did in these Hogen and Heiji struggles. Fujiwara Yorinaga's refusal to follow Tametomo's advice and Fujiwara Nobuyori's rejection of Yoshitomo's counsels were wholly responsible for the disasters that ensued, and were also illustrative of the contempt in which the Fujiwara held the military magnates, who, in turn, were well aware of the impotence of the Court nobles on the battle-field.

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