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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Yoritomo received more gracious treatment than Yoshinaka



Yoshinaka's desire to avoid conflict with Yoritomo had been partly due to the fact that the Taira leaders were known to be just then straining every nerve to beat back the westward-rolling tide of Minamoto conquest. They had massed all their available forces in Echizen, and at that supreme moment Yoritomo's active hostility would have completely marred Yoshinaka's great opportunity. In May, 1183, this decisive phase of the contest was opened; Koremori, Tamemori, and Tomonori being in supreme command of the Taira troops, which are said to have mustered one hundred thousand strong. At first, things fared badly with the Minamoto. They lost an important fortress at Hiuchi-yama, and Yukiiye was driven from Kaga into Noto. But when the main army of the Minamoto came into action, the complexion of affairs changed at once. In a great battle fought at Tonami-yama in Echizen, Yoshinaka won a signal victory by the manoeuvre of launching at the Taira a herd of oxen having torches fastened to their horns. Thousands of the Taira perished, including many leaders.

Other victories at Kurikara and Shinowara opened the road to Kyoto. Yoshinaka pushed on and, in August, reached Hiei-zan; while Yukiiye, the pressure on whose front in Noto had been relieved, moved towards Yamato; Minamoto no Yukitsuna occupied Settsu and Kawachi, and Ashikaga Yoshikiyo advanced to Tamba. Thus, the capital lay at the mercy of

Yoshinaka's armies. The latter stages of the Minamoto march had been unopposed. Munemori, after a vain attempt to secure the alliance of the Hiei-zan monks, had recalled his generals and decided to retire westward, abandoning Kyoto. He would have taken with him the cloistered Emperor, but Go-Shirakawa secretly made his way to Hiei-zan and placed himself under the protection of Yoshinaka, rejoicing at the opportunity to shake off the Taira yoke.


On August 14, 1183, the evacuation of Kyoto took place. Munemori, refusing to listen to the counsels of the more resolute among his officers, applied the torch to the Taira mansions at northern and southern Rokuhara, and, taking with him the Emperor Antoku, then in his sixth year, his Majesty's younger brother, and their mother, together with the regalia--the mirror, the sword, and the gem--retired westward, followed by the whole remnant of his clan. Arrived at Fukuhara, they devoted a night to praying, making sacred music, and reading Sutras at Kiyomori's tomb, whereafter they set fire to all the Taira palaces, mansions, and official buildings, and embarked for the Dazai-fu in Chikuzen. They reckoned on the allegiance of the whole of Kyushu and of at least one-half of Shikoku.


The Taira leaders having carried off the Emperor Antoku, there was no actually reigning sovereign in Kyoto, whither the cloistered Emperor now returned, an imposing guard of honour being furnished by Yoshinaka. Go-Shirakawa therefore resumed the administration of State affairs, Yoshinaka being given the privilege of access to the Presence and entrusted with the duty of guarding the capital. The distribution of rewards occupied attention in the first place. Out of the five hundred manors of the Taira, one hundred and fifty were given to Yoshinaka and Yukiiye, and over two hundred prominent Taira officials were stripped of their posts and their Court ranks. Yoritomo received more gracious treatment than Yoshinaka, although the Kamakura chief could not yet venture to absent himself from the Kwanto for the purpose of paying his respects at Court. For the rest, in spite of Yoshinaka's brilliant success, he was granted only the fifth official rank and the governorship of the province of Iyo.

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