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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The cloistered Emperor Go Shirakawa


style="text-align: justify;">Kiyomori

carried with him to Fukuhara the boy-Emperor (Antoku), the ex-Emperor (Takakura), the cloistered Emperor (Go-Shirakawa), the kwampaku (Motomichi), and all the high Court officials with rare exceptions. The work of construction at Fukuhara not being yet complete, Go-Shirakawa had to be lodged in a building thirty feet square, to which men gave the name of the "jail palace." Kyoto, of course, was thrown into a state of consternation. Remonstrances, petitions, and complaints poured into the Fukuhara mansion. Meanwhile the Minamoto rose. In August of 1180, their white flag was hoisted, and though it looked very insignificant on the wide horizon of Taira power, Kiyomori did not underrate its meaning. At the close of the year, he decided to abandon the Fukuhara scheme and carry the Court back to Kyoto. On the eve of his return he found an opportunity of dealing a heavy blow to the monasteries of Miidera and Nara. For, it having been discovered that they were in collusion with the newly risen Minamoto, Kiyomori sent his sons, Tomomori and Shigehira, at the head of a force which sacked and burned Onjo-ji, Todai-ji, and Kofuku-ji. Thereafter a terrible time ensued for Kyoto, for the home provinces (Kinai), and for the west of the empire. During the greater part of three years, from 1180 to 1182 inclusive, the people suffered, first from famine and afterwards from pestilence. Pitiful accounts are given by contemporary writers. Men were reduced to the direst straits. Hundreds perished of
starvation in the streets of Kyoto, and as, in many cases, the corpses lay unburied, pestilence of course ensued. It is stated that in Kyoto alone during two months there were forty-two thousand deaths. The eastern and western regions, however, enjoyed comparative immunity. By the priests and the political enemies of the Taira these cruel calamities were attributed to the evil deeds of Kiyomori and his fellow clansmen, so that the once omnipotent family gradually became an object of popular execration. Kiyomori, however, did not live to witness the ruin of his house. He expired at the age of sixty in March, 1181, just three months after the restoration of Kyoto to metropolitan rank. Since August of the preceding year, the Minamoto had shown signs of troublesome activity, but as yet it seemed hardly possible that their puny onsets should shake, still less pull down, the imposing edifice of power raised by the Taira during twenty years of unprecedented success. Nevertheless, Kiyomori, impatient of all reverses, bitterly upbraided his sons and his officers for incompetence, and when, after seven days' sickness, he saw the end approaching, his last commission was that neither tomb nor temple should be raised to his memory until Yoritomo's head had been placed on his grave.

ENGRAVING: ARTIST'S SEAL

ENGRAVING: SWORD-GUARDS (Tsuba) HAND-CARVED IN BRONZE

CHAPTER XXV

THE EPOCH OF THE GEN AND THE HEI (Continued)

OPENING OF THE CONFLICT

WHEN, after the great struggle of 1160, Yoritomo, the eldest of Yoshitomo's surviving sons, fell into the hands of Taira Munekiyo and was carried by the latter to Kyoto, for execution, as all supposed, and as would have been in strict accord with the canons of the time, the lad, then in his fourteenth year, won the sympathy of Munekiyo by his nobly calm demeanour in the presence of death, and still more by answering, when asked whether he did not wish to live, "Yes, since I alone remain to pray for the memories of my father and my elder brothers." Munekiyo then determined to save the boy if possible, and he succeeded through the co-operation of Kiyomori's step-mother, whom he persuaded that her own son, lost in his infancy, would have grown up to resemble closely Yoritomo.


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