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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

MUNEMORI AND ANTOKUThe record of Munemori


defection was followed quickly by the complete rout of the Heike. A resolute attempt was made to defend the ship containing the young Emperor, his mother, his grandmother, and several other Taira ladies; but the vessel finally passed into Minamoto possession. Not before she had been the scene of a terrible tragedy, however. Kiyomori's widow, the Ni-i-no-ama, grandmother of Antoku, took the six-year old child in her arms and jumped into the sea, followed by Antoku's mother, the Empress Dowager (Kenrei-mon-in), carrying the regalia, and by other court ladies. The Empress Dowager was rescued, as were also the sacred mirror and the gem, but the sword was irrevocably lost.

The Taira leader, Munemori, and his son, Kiyomune, were taken prisoner, but Tomomori, Noritsune, and seven other Taira generals were drowned. Noritsune distinguished himself conspicuously. He singled out Yoshitsune for the object of his attack, but being unable to reach him, he seized two Minamoto bushi and sprang into the sea with them. Tomomori, Munemori's brother, who had proved himself a most able general, leaped overboard carrying an anchor. Yoshitsune spoke in strongly laudatory terms of Noritsune and ascribed to him much of the power hitherto wielded by the Taira. Munemori and his son were executed finally at Omi. Shigehira, in response to a petition from the Nara priests whose fanes he had destroyed by Kiyomori's orders, was handed over to the monks and put to death by them

at Narasaka. But Kiyomori's brother, who had interceded for the life of Yoritomo after the Heiji emeule, was pardoned, his rank and property being restored to him; and Taira no Munekiyo, who also had acted an important part in saving Yoritomo at that time, was invited to visit Kamakura where he would have been received with honour; but he declined the invitation, declaring that a change of allegiance at such a moment would be unworthy of a bushi.

It may here be noted that, although several of the Taira leaders who took the field against the Minamoto were killed in the campaign or executed or exiled after it, the punitory measures adopted by Yoritomo were not by any means wholesale. To be a Taira did not necessarily involve Kamakura's enmity. On the contrary, not only was clemency extended to several prominent members of Kiyomori's kith and kin, but also many local magnates of Taira origin whose estates lay in the Kwanto were from first to last staunch supporters and friends of the Minamoto. After Dan-no-ura, the Heike's sun permanently ceased to dominate the political firmament, but not a few Heike stars rose subsequently from time to time above the horizon.


The record of Munemori, whose leadership proved fatal to the Taira cause, stamps him as something very rare among Japanese bushi--a coward. He was the first to fly from every battle-field, and at Dan-no-ura he preferred surrender to death. Tradition alleges that in this final fight Munemori's reputed mother, Ni-i-no-ama, before throwing herself into the sea with the Emperor in her arms, confessed that Munemori was not her son. After she had borne Shigemori she became enceinte and her husband, Kiyomori, looked eagerly for the birth of another boy. But a girl was born. Just at that time the wife of a man who combined the occupations of bonze and umbrella-maker, bore a son, and the two children were surreptitiously exchanged. This story does not rest upon infallible testimony. Nor does another narrative, with regard to the motives which induced Kiyomori's widow to drown the young Emperor. Those motives are said to have been two. One was to fix upon the Minamoto the heinous crime of having done a sovereign to death, so that some avenger might rise in future years; the other was to hide the fact that Antoku was in reality a girl whose sex had been concealed in the interest of the child's maternal grandfather, Kiyomori.

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