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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The Emperor Nijo had died in 1166


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steps were mere preludes to his ambitious programme. He married his wife's elder sister to the ex-Emperor, Go-Shirakawa, and the fruit of this union was a prince who subsequently ascended the throne as Takakura. The Emperor Nijo had died in 1166, after five years of effort, only partially successful, to restrain his father, Go-Shirakawa's, interference in the administration. Nijo was succeeded by his son, Rokujo, a baby of two years; and, a few months later, Takakura, then in his seventh year, was proclaimed Prince Imperial. Rokujo (the seventy-ninth sovereign) was not given time to learn the meaning of the title "Emperor." In three years he was deposed by Go-Shirakawa with Kiyomori's co-operation, and Takakura (eightieth sovereign) ascended the throne in 1169, occupying it until 1180. Thus, Kiyomori found himself uncle of an Emperor only ten years of age. Whatever may have been the Taira leader's defects, failure to make the most of an opportunity was not among them. The influence he exercised in the palace through his sister-in-law was far more exacting and imperious than that exercised by Go-Shirakawa himself, and the latter, while bitterly resenting this state of affairs, found himself powerless to correct it. Finally, to evince his discontent, he entered the priesthood, a demonstration which afforded Kiyomori more pleasure than pain. On the nomination of Takakura to be Crown Prince the Taira leader was appointed--appointed himself would be a more accurate form of speech--to
the office of nai-daijin, and within a very brief period he ascended to the chancellorship, overleaping the two intervening posts of u-daijin and sa-daijin. This was in the fiftieth year of his life. At fifty-one, he fell seriously ill and took the tonsure by way of soliciting heaven's aid. People spoke of him as Dajo Nyudo, or the "lay-priest chancellor." Recovering, he developed a mood of increased arrogance. His residence at Rokuhara was a magnificent pile of building, as architecture then went, standing in a park of great extent and beauty. There he administered State affairs with all the pomp and circumstance of an Imperial court. He introduced his daughter, Toku, into the Household and very soon she was made Empress, under the name of Kenrei-mon-in.

Thus completely were the Fujiwara beaten at their own game and the traditions of centuries set at naught. A majority of the highest posts were filled by Kiyomori's kinsmen. Fifteen of his family were of, or above, the third rank, and thirty were tenjo-bito. "Akitsushima (Japan) was divided into sixty-six provinces. Of these thirty were governed by Taira partisans. Their manors were to be found in five hundred places, and their fields were innumerable. Their mansions were full of splendid garments and rich robes like flowers, and the spaces before their portals were so thronged with ox-carriages and horses that markets were often held there. Not to be a Taira was not to be a man."*

*Gen-pei Seisuiki (Records of the Vicissitudes of the Minamoto and the Taira).

It is necessary to note, too, with regard to these manors, that many of them were tax-free lands (koderi) granted in perpetuity. Such grants, as has been already shown, were not infrequent. But they had been made, for the most part, to civilian officials, by whose serfs they were farmed, the proceeds being forwarded to Kyoto for the support of their owners; whereas the koden bestowed on Taira officers were, in effect, military fiefs. It is true that similar fiefs existed in the north and in the south, but their number was so greatly increased in the days of Taira ascendancy as almost to constitute a new departure. Kiyomori was, in truth, one of the most despotic rulers that ever held sway in Japan. He organized a band of three hundred youths whose business was to go about Kyoto and listen to the citizens' talk. If anyone was reported by these spies as having spoken ill of the Taira, he was seized and punished. One day Kiyomori's grandson, Sukemori, met the regent, Fujiwara Motofusa, and failing to alight from his carriage, as etiquette required, was compelled by the regent's retinue to do so. On learning of this incident, Kiyomori ordered three hundred men to lie in wait for the regent, drag him from his car and cut off his cue.


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