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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

She became the consort of Yoshinaka


The

"Morning Sun shogun" (Asahi-shogun), as Yoshinaka was commonly called with reference to his brilliant career, now at last saw himself confronted by the peril which had long disturbed his thoughts. At a distance of three hundred miles from his own base, with powerful foes on either flank and in a city whose population was hostile to him, his situation seemed almost desperate. He took a step dictated by dire necessity--made overtures to the Taira, asking that a daughter of the house of Kiyomori be given him for wife. Munemori refused. The fortunes of the Taira at that moment appeared to be again in the ascendant. They were once more supreme in Kyushu; the west of the main island from coast to coast was in their hands; they had re-established themselves in Fukuhara, and at any moment they might move against Kyoto. They could afford, therefore, to await the issue of the conflict pending between the Minamoto cousins, sure that it must end in disaster for one side and temporary weakness for the other.

In fact, the situation was almost hopeless for Yoshinaka. There had not been time to recall the main body of his troops which were confronting the Taira. All that he could do was to arrest momentarily the tide of onset by planting handfuls of men to guard the chief avenues at Uji and Seta where, four years previously, Yorimasa had died for the Minamoto cause, and Seta, where a long bridge spans the waters of Lake Biwa as they narrow to form the Setagawa.

To the Uji bridge, Nenoi Yukichika was sent with three hundred men; to the Seta bridge, Imai Kanehira with five hundred. The names of these men and of their brothers, Higuchi Kanemitsu and Tate Chikatada, are immortal in Japanese history. They were the four sons of Nakahara Kaneto, by whom Yoshinaka had been reared, and their constant attendance on his person, their splendid devotion to him, and their military prowess caused people to speak of them as Yoshinaka's Shi-tenno--the four guardian deities of Buddhist temples. Their sister, Tomoe, is even more famous. Strong and brave as she was beautiful, she became the consort of Yoshinaka, with whom she had been brought up, and she accompanied him in all his campaigns, fighting by his side and leading a body of troops in all his battles. She was with him when he made his final retreat and she killed a gigantic warrior, Uchida Ieyoshi, who attempted to seize her on that occasion. Yoshinaka compelled her to leave him at the supreme moment, being unwilling that she should fall into the enemy's hands; and after his death she became a nun, devoting the rest of her days to prayers for his spirit.

But it is not to be supposed that Yoshinaka repaid this noble devotion with equal sincerity. On the contrary, the closing scene of his career was disfigured by passion for another woman, daughter of the kwampaku, Fujiwara Motofusa. Attracted by rumours of her beauty after his arrival in Kyoto, he compelled her to enter his household, and when news came that the armies of Yoshitsune and Noriyori were approaching the capital, this great captain, for such he certainly was, instead of marshalling his forces and making dispositions for defence, went to bid farewell to the beautiful girl who resided in his Gojo mansion. Hours of invaluable time passed, and still Asahi shogun remained by the lady's side. Finally, two of his faithful comrades, Echigo Chuta and Tsuwata Saburo, seated themselves in front of the mansion and committed suicide to recall their leader to his senses. Yoshinaka emerged, but it was too late. He could not muster more than three hundred men, and in a short time Yoshitsune rode into the city at the head of a large body of cavalry.


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