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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Hidehira received him with all hospitality


YOSHITSUNE

style="text-align: justify;">In the Minamoto camp there was some talk of pursuing the fugitive Taira, and possibly the most rapid results would thus have been attained. But it was ultimately decided that the allegiance of the whole Kwanto must be definitely secured before denuding it of troops for the purpose of a western campaign. This attitude of caution pointed specially to the provinces of Hitachi and Shimotsuke, where the powerful Minamoto families of Satake and Nitta, respectively, looked coldly upon the cause of their kinsman, Yoritomo. Therefore the army was withdrawn to a more convenient position on the Kiso River, and steps, ultimately successful, were taken to win over the Nitta and the Satake.

It was at this time that there arrived in Yoritomo's camp a youth of twenty-one with about a score of followers. Of medium stature and of frame more remarkable for grace than for thews, he attracted attention chiefly by his piercing eyes and by the dignified intelligence of his countenance. This was Yoshitsune, the youngest son of Yoshitomo. His life, as already stated, had been saved in the Heiji disturbance, first, by the intrepidity of his mother, Tokiwa, and, afterwards, by the impression her dazzling beauty produced upon the Taira leader. Placed in the monastery of Kurama, as stipulated by Kiyomori, Yoshitsune had no sooner learned to think than he became inspired with an absorbing desire to restore the fortunes of his family. Tradition

has surrounded the early days of this, the future Bayard of Japan, with many romantic legends, among which it is difficult to distinguish the true from the false. What is certain, however, is that at the age of fifteen he managed to effect his escape to the north of Japan. The agent of his flight was an iron-merchant who habitually visited the monastery on matters of business, and whose dealings took him occasionally to Mutsu.

At the time of Yoshitsune's novitiate in the Kurama temple, the political power in Japan may be said to have been divided between the Taira, the provincial Minamoto, the Buddhist priests, and the Fujiwara, and of the last the only branch that had suffered no eclipse during the storms of Hogen and Heiji had been the Fujiwara of Mutsu. It has been shown in the story of the Three Years' War, and specially in the paragraph entitled "The Fujiwara of the North," that the troops of Fujiwara Kiyohira and Minamoto Yoshiiye had fought side by side, and that, after the war, Kiyohira succeeded to the six districts of Mutsu, which constituted the largest estate in the hands of any one Japanese noble. That estate was in the possession of Hidehira, grandson of Kiyohira, at the time when the Minamoto family suffered its heavy reverses. Yoshitsune expected, therefore, that at least an asylum would be assured, could he find his way to Mutsu. He was not mistaken. Hidehira received him with all hospitality, and as Mutsu was practically beyond the control of Kyoto, the Minamoto fugitive could lead there the life of a bushi, and openly study everything pertaining to military art. He made such excellent use of these opportunities that, by the time the Minamoto standard was raised anew in Izu, Yoshitsune had earned the reputation of being the best swordsman in the whole of northern Japan.


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