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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The wife of a comrade called Minamoto Wataru


In

May, or June, 1180, the mandate of Prince Mochihito reached Yoritomo, carried by his uncle, Minamoto Yukiiye, whose figure thenceforth appears frequently upon the scene. Yoritomo showed the mandate to Tokimasa, and the two men were taking measures to obey when they received intelligence of the deaths of Mochihito and Yorimasa and of the fatal battle on the banks of the Uji.

Yoritomo would probably have deferred conclusive action in such circumstances had there not reached him from Miyoshi Yasunobu in Kyoto a warning that the Taira were planning to exterminate the remnant of the Minamoto and that Yoritomo's name stood first on the black-list. Moreover, the advisability of taking the field at once was strongly and incessantly urged by a priest, Mongaku, who, after a brief acquaintance, had impressed Yoritomo favourably. This bonze had been the leading figure in an extraordinary romance of real life. Originally Endo Morito, an officer of the guards in Kyoto, he fell in love with his cousin, Kesa,* the wife of a comrade called Minamoto Wataru. His addresses being resolutely rejected, he swore that if Kesa remained obdurate, he would kill her mother. From this dilemma the brave woman determined that self-sacrifice offered the only effective exit. She promised to marry Morito after he had killed her husband, Wataru; to which end she engaged to ply Wataru with wine until he fell asleep. She would then wet his head, so that Morito, entering by an unfastened

door and feeling for the damp hair, might consummate his purpose surely. Morito readily agreed, but Kesa, having dressed her own hair in male fashion and wet her head, lay down in her husband's place.

*Generally spoken of as "Kesa Gozen," but the latter word signifies "lady."

When Morito found that he had killed the object of his passionate affection, he hastened to confess his crime and invited Wataru to slay him. But Wataru, sympathizing with his remorse, proposed that they should both enter religion and pray for the rest of Kesa's spirit. It is related that one of the acts of penance performed by Mongaku--the monastic name taken by Morito--was to stand for twenty-one days under a waterfall in the depth of winter. Subsequently he devoted himself to collecting funds for reconstructing the temple of Takao, but his zeal having betrayed him into a breach of etiquette at the palace of Go-Shirakawa, he was banished to Izu, where he obtained access to Yoritomo and counselled him to put his fortune to the test.*

*Tradition says that among the means employed by Mongaku to move Yoritomo was the exhibition of Yoshitomo's bones.

THE FIRST STAGE OF THE STRUGGLE

The campaign was opened by Hojo Tokimasa on the 8th of September, 1180. He attacked the residence of the lieutenant-governor of Izu, Taira Kanetaka, burned the mansion, and killed Kanetaka, whose abortive nuptials with the lady Masa had been celebrated a few months previously. Yoritomo himself at the head of a force of three hundred men, crossed the Hakone Pass three days later en route for Sagami, and encamped at Ishibashi-yama. This first essay of the Minamoto showed no military caution whatever. It was a march into space. Yoritomo left in his rear Ito Sukechika, who had slain his infant son and sworn his own destruction, and he had in his front a Taira force of three thousand under Oba Kagechika. It is true that many Taira magnates of the Kwanto were pledged to draw the sword in the Minamoto cause. They had found the selfish tyranny of Kiyomori not at all to their taste or their profit. It is also true that the Oba brothers had fought staunchly on the side of Yoritomo's father, Yoshitomo, in the Heiji war. Yoritomo may possibly have entertained some hope that the Oba army would not prove a serious menace.


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