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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Volunteers were called for to make away with Yoshitsune


Here

am I, weeping crimson tears in vain at thy displeasure. Well was it said that good medicine tastes bitter in the mouth, and true words ring harsh in the ear. This is why the slanders that men speak of me remain unproved, why I am kept out of Kamakura unable to lay bare my heart. These many days 1 have lain here and could not gaze upon my brother's face. The bond of our blood-brotherhood is sundered.

But a short season after I was born, my honoured sire passed to another world, and I was left fatherless. Clasped in my mother's bosom, I was carried down to Yamato, and since that day I have not known a moment free from care and danger. Though it was but to drag out a useless life, we wandered round the capital suffering hardship, hid in all manner of rustic spots, dwelt in remote and distant provinces, whose rough inhabitants did treat us with contumely. But at last I was summoned to assist in overthrowing the Taira house, and in this conflict I first laid Kiso Yoshinaka low. Then, so that I might demolish the Taira men, I spurred my steed on frowning precipices. Careless of death in the face of the foe, I braved the dangers of wind and wave, not recking that my body might sink to the bottom of the sea, and be devoured by monsters of the deep. My pillow was my harness, arms my trade. [Translated by W. G. Aston.]

This letter breathes the spirit of sincerity. But its perusal did not soften Yoritomo, if it ever reached

his eyes. He steadily refused to cancel his veto, and after an abortive sojourn of twenty days at Koshigoe, Yoshitsune returned to Kyoto where his conduct won for him increasing popularity. Three months later, Yoritomo appointed him governor of Iyo. It is possible that had not the situation been complicated by a new factor, the feud between the brothers might have ended there. But Minamoto Yukiiye, learning of these strained relations, emerged from hiding and applied himself to win the friendship of Yoshitsune, who received his advances graciously. Yoritomo, much incensed at this development, sent the son of Kajiwara Kagetoki to Yoshitsune with a mandate for Yukiiye's execution. Such a choice of messenger was ill calculated to promote concord. Yoshitsune, pleading illness, declined to receive the envoy, and it was determined at Kamakura that extreme measures must be employed. Volunteers were called for to make away with Yoshitsune, and, in response, a Nara bonze, Tosabo Shoshun, whose physical endowments had brought him into prominence at Kamakura, undertook the task on condition that a substantial reward be given him beforehand.

Shoshun did not waste any time. On the eighth night after his departure from Kamakura, he, with sixty followers, attacked Yoshitsune's mansion at Horikawa in Kyoto. By wholesale oaths, sworn in the most solemn manner, he had endeavoured to disarm the suspicions of his intended victim, and he so far succeeded that, when the attack was delivered, Yoshitsune had only seven men to hold the mansion against sixty. But these seven were the trusty and stalwart comrades who had accompanied Yoshitsune from Mutsu and had shared all the vicissitudes of his career. They held their assailants at bay until Yukiiye, roused by the tumult, came to the rescue, and the issue of Shoshun's essay was that his own head appeared on the pillory in Kyoto. Yoshitsune was awakened and hastily armed on this occasion by his beautiful mistress, Shizuka, who, originally a danseuse of Kyoto, followed him for love's sake in weal and in woe. Tokiwa, Tomoe, Kesa, and Shizuka--these four heroines will always occupy a prominent place in Japanese history of the twelfth century.


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