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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

But because he appreciated that if Hiei zan joined Miidera


Kiyomori learned that the prince had escaped to Onjo-ji (Miidera). Thereupon secret negotiations were opened between Rokuhara and Enryaku-ji (Hiei-zan), not that the Taira chief suspected the latter, but because he appreciated that if Hiei-zan joined Miidera, the situation would become formidable. Meanwhile, his trust in Yorimasa remaining still unshaken, he sent him to attack Onjo-ji, which mission the old Minamoto warrior fulfilled by entering the monastery and joining forces with the prince. Yorimasa took this step in the belief that immediate aid would be furnished from Hiei-zan. But before his appeal reached the latter, Kiyomori's overtures had been accepted. Nothing now remained for Yorimasa and Mochihito except to make a desperate rush on Kyoto or to ride away south to Nara, where temporary refuge offered. The latter course was chosen, in spite of Yorimasa's advice. On the banks of the Uji River in a dense fog they were overtaken by the Taira force, the latter numbering twenty thousand, the fugitives three or four hundred. The Minamoto made a gallant and skilful resistance, and finally Yorimasa rode off with a handful of followers, hoping to carry Mochihito to a place of safety. Before they passed out of range an arrow struck the old warrior. Struggling back to Byodo-in, where the fight was still in progress, he seated himself on his iron war-fan and, having calmly composed his death-song, committed suicide.



These things happened in May, 1180, and in the following month Kiyomori carried out a design entertained by him for some time. He transferred the capital from Kyoto to Fukuhara, in Settsu, where the modern town of Kobe stands. Originally the Taira mansions were at the two Fukuhara, one on the north of Kyoto, the other on the south, the city being dominated from these positions. But Kiyomori seems to have thought that as the centres of Taira strength lay in the south and west of the empire, the province of Settsu would be a more convenient citadel than Kyoto. Hence he built at Fukuhara a spacious villa and took various steps to improve the harbour--then called Muko--as well as to provide maritime facilities, among which may be mentioned the opening of the strait, Ondo no Seto. But Fukuhara is fifty miles from Kyoto, and to reach the latter quickly from the former in an emergency was a serious task in the twelfth century. Moreover, Kyoto was devastated in 1177 by a conflagration which reduced one-third of the city to ashes, and in April of 1180 by a tornado of most destructive force, so that superstitious folk, who abounded in that age, began to speak ominously of the city's doom.

What weighed most with the Taira leader, however, was the propinquity of the three great monasteries; Hiei-zan on the north, Miidera on the east, and Nara on the south. In fact, the city lay at the mercy of the soldier-priests. At any moment they might combine, descend upon the capital, and burn it before adequate succour could be marshalled. That such a peril should have been dreaded from such a source seems strange; but the Buddhist priests had shown a very dangerous temper more than once, and from Kiyomori's point of view the possibility of their rising to restore the fortunes of the Fujiwara was never remote.

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