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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

But though Yoritomo might have been jealous of Yoshitsune


On

the other hand, neglect of these arts, or conduct unbecoming a samurai, was mercilessly punished. When Hayama Muneyori retired to his province without accompanying the army sent to attack O-U, he was severely censured and deprived of his estates. Cognate instances might be multiplied. In the year 1193, the first case of the vendetta occurred in Japan. Yoritomo organized a grand hunting party on the moors at the southern base of Fuji-yama. Among those that accompanied him was Kudo Suketsune, who had done to death Soga no Sukeyasu. The latter's sons, Sukenari (commonly called Juro) and Tokimune (Goro), having sworn to avenge their father, broke into Yoritomo's camp and took the head of their enemy. The elder was killed in the enterprise; the younger, captured and beheaded. Yoritomo would fain have saved Goro's life, though the youth declared his resolve not to survive his brother. But the Kamakura chief was constrained to yield to the demands of Suketsune's son. He, however, marked his appreciation of Juro and Goro's filial piety by carefully observing their last testament, and by exonerating the Soga estate from the duty of paying taxes in order that funds might be available for religious rites on account of the spirits of the brothers.

This encouragement of fidelity may well have been dictated by selfish policy rather than by moral conviction. Yet that Yoritomo took every conspicuous opportunity of asserting the principle must be recorded. Thus,

he publicly declared Yasuhira a traitor for having done to death his guest, Yoshitsune, though in so doing Yasuhira obeyed the orders of Yoritomo himself; he executed the disloyal retainer who took Yasuhira's head, though the latter was then a fugitive from the pursuit of the Kamakura armies, and he pardoned Yuri Hachiro, one of Yasuhira's officers, because he defended Yasuhira's reputation in defiance of Yoritomo's anger.

Gratitude Yoritomo never failed to practise within the limit of policy. Rumour said that he had fallen in his first battle at Ishibashi-yama. Thereupon, Miura Yoshiaki, a man of eighty-nine, sent out all his sons to search for Yoritomo's body, and closing his castle in the face of the Taira forces, fell fighting. Yoritomo repaid this loyal service by appointing Yoshiaki's son, Wada Yoshimori, to be betto of the Samurai-dokoro, one of the very highest posts in the gift of the Kamakura Government. Again, it will be remembered that when, as a boy of fourteen, Yoritomo had been condemned to death by Kiyomori, the lad's life was saved through the intercession of Kiyomori's step-mother, Ike, who had been prompted by Taira no Munekiyo. After the fall of the Taira, Yoritomo prayed the Court to release Ike's son, Yorimori, and to restore his rank and estates, while in Munekiyo's case he made similar offers but they were rejected.

Towards his own kith and kin, however, he showed himself implacable. In Yoshitsune's case it has been indicated that there was much to awaken Yoritomo's suspicions. But his brother Noriyori had no qualities at all likely to be dangerously exercised. A commonplace, simple-hearted man, he was living quietly on his estate in Izu when false news came that Yoritomo had perished under the sword of the Soga brothers. Yoritomo's wife being prostrated by the intelligence, Noriyori bade her be reassured since he, Noriyori, survived. When this came to Yoritomo's ears, doubtless in a very exaggerated form, he sent a band of assassins who killed Noriyori. Assassination was a device from which the Kamakura chief did not shrink at all. It has been shown how he sent Tosabo Shoshun to make away with Yoshitsune in Kyoto, and we now see him employing a similar instrument against Noriyori, as he did also against his half-brother, Zensei. It would seem to have been his deliberate policy to remove every potential obstacle to the accession of his own sons. Many historians agree in ascribing these cruelties to jealousy. But though Yoritomo might have been jealous of Yoshitsune, he could not possibly have experienced any access of such a sentiment with regard to Noriyori or Zensei.


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