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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Yoshitomo had ridden away to the house of Osada Tadamune


The

manner of Yoshitomo's death, too, reveals something of the ethics of the bushi in the twelfth century. Accompanied by Kamada Masaie and a few others, the Minamoto chief escaped from the fight and took refuge in the house of his concubine, Enju, at Awobaka in Owari. There they were surrounded and attacked by the Taira partisans. The end seemed inevitable. Respite was obtained, however, by one of those heroic acts of self-sacrifice that stand so numerously to the credit of the Japanese samurai. Minamoto Shigenari, proclaiming himself to be Yoshitomo, fought with desperate valour, killing ten of the enemy. Finally, hacking his own face so that it became unrecognizable, he committed suicide. Meanwhile, Yoshitomo had ridden away to the house of Osada Tadamune, father of his comrade Masaie's wife. There he found a hospitable reception. But when he would have pushed on at once to the east, where the Minamoto had many partisans, Tadamune, pointing out that it was New Year's eve, persuaded him to remain until the 3d of the first month.

Whether this was done of fell purpose or out of hospitality is not on record, but it is certain that Tadamune and his son, Kagemune, soon determined to kill Yoshitomo, thus avoiding a charge of complicity and earning favour at Court. Their plan was to conceal three men in a bathroom, whither Yoshitomo should be led after he had been plied with sake at a banquet. The scheme succeeded in part, but as Yoshitomo's squire, Konno,

a noted swordsman, accompanied his chief to the bath, the assassins dared not attack. Presently, however, Konno went to seek a bath-robe, and thereupon the three men leaped out. Yoshitomo hurled one assailant from the room, but was stabbed to death by the other two, who, in their turn, were slaughtered by the squire. Meanwhile, Masaie was sitting, unsuspicious, at the wine-party in a distant chamber. Hearing the tumult he sprang to his feet, but was immediately cut down by Tadamune and Kagemune. At this juncture Masaie's wife ran in, and crying, "I am not faithless and evil like my father and my brother; my death shall show my sincerity," seized her husband's sword and committed suicide, at which sight the dying man smiled contentedly. As for Konno, after a futile attempt to lay hands on Tadamune and Kagemune, he cut his way through their retainers and rode off safely. The heads of Yoshitomo and Masaie were carried to Kyoto by Tadamune and Kagemune, but they made so much of their exploit and clamoured for such high reward that Kiyomori threatened to punish them for the murder of a close connexion--Kiyomori, be it observed, on whose hands the blood of his uncle was still wet.

Yoshitomo had many sons* but only four of them escaped from the Heiji tumult. The eldest of these was Yoritomo, then only fourteen. After killing two men who attempted to intercept his flight, he fell into the hands of Taira Munekiyo, who, pitying his youth, induced Kiyomori's step-mother to intercede for his life, and he was finally banished to Izu, whence, a few years later, he emerged to the destruction of the Taira. A still younger son, Yoshitsune, was destined to prove the most renowned warrior Japan ever produced. His mother, Tokiwa, one of Yoshitomo's mistresses, a woman of rare beauty, fled from the Minamoto mansion during a snow-storm after the Heiji disaster, and, with her three children, succeeded in reaching a village in Yamato, where she might have lain concealed had not her mother fallen into the hands of Kiyomori's agents. Tokiwa was then required to choose between giving herself up and suffering her mother to be executed. Her beauty saved the situation. Kiyomori had no sooner seen her face than he offered to have mercy if she entered his household and if she consented to have her three sons educated for the priesthood. Thus, Yoshitsune survived, and in after ages people were wont to say of Kiyomori's passion and its result that his blissful dream of one night had brought ruin on his house.


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