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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Munemori was among the first of the fugitives


What ensued is soon told. Taken completely by surprise, the Taira weakened, and the Minamoto, pouring in at either flank, completed the rout which had already commenced. Munemori was among the first of the fugitives. He embarked with the Emperor Antoku and the regalia, and steered for Yashima, whither he was quickly followed by the remnants of his force. Shigehira, Kiyomori's fifth son, was taken prisoner. Michimori, Tadanori, and Atsumori were killed. Several illustrative incidents marked this great fight. Michimori's wife threw herself into the sea when she heard of her husband's death. Tomoakira, the seventeen-year-old son of Tomomori, deliberately sacrificed himself to save his father, and the latter, describing the incident subsequently to his brother, Munemori, said with tears: "A son died to save his father; a father fled, leaving his son to die. Were it done by another man, I should spit in his face. But I have done it myself. What will the world call me?" This same Tomomori afterwards proved himself the greatest general on the Taira side. Okabe Tadazumi, a Minamoto captain, took the head of Tadanori but could not identify it. In the lining of the helmet, however, was found a roll of poems and among them one signed "Tadanori:"

Twilight upon my path, And for mine inn to-night The shadow of a tree, And for mine host, a flower.

This little gem of thought has gleamed on Tadanori's memory through all the centuries and has brought vicarious fame even to his slayer, Tadazumi. Still more profoundly is Japanese sympathy moved by the episode of Taira no Atsumori and Kumagaye Naozane. Atsumori, a stripling of fifteen, was seized by Naozane, a stalwart warrior on the Minamoto side. When Naozane tore off the boy's helmet, preparatory to beheading him, and saw a young face vividly recalling his own son who had perished early in the fight, he was moved with compassion and would fain have stayed his hand. To have done so, however, would merely have been to reserve Atsumori for a crueller death. He explained his scruples and his sorrows to the boy, who submitted to his fate with calm courage. But Naozane vowed never to wield weapon again. He sent Atsumori's head and a flute found on his person to the youth's father, Tsunemori, and he himself entered the priesthood, devoting the remaining years of his life to prayers for the soul of the ill-fated lad. Such incidents do not find a usual place in the pages of history, but they contribute to the interpretation of a nation's character.

BATTLE OF YASHIMA

The battle of Ichi-no-tani was not by any means conclusive. It drove the Taira out of Harima and the four provinces on the immediate west of the latter, but it did not disturb them in Shikoku or Kyushu, nor did it in any way cripple the great fleet which gave them a signal advantage. In these newly won provinces Yoritomo placed military governors and nominated to these posts Doi Sanehira and Kajiwara Kagetoki, heroes, respectively, of the cryptomeria forest and the hollow tree. But this contributed little to the solution of the vital problem, how to get at the Taira in Shikoku and in Kyushu. Noriyori returned to Kamakura to consult Yoritomo, but the latter and his military advisers could not plan anything except the obvious course of marching an army from Harima westward to the Strait of Shimonoseki, and thereafter collecting boats to carry it across to Kyushu. That, however, was plainly defective strategy. It left the flank of the westward-marching troops constantly exposed to attack from the coast where the Taira fleet had full command of the sea; it invited enterprises against the rear of the troops from the enemy's position at Yashima in Shikoku, and it assumed the possibility of crossing the Strait of Shimonoseki in the presence of a greatly superior naval force.


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