Prince Mochihitos Uprising (以仁王の挙兵)
Prince Mochihito's uprising was an incident that occurred in 1180 (Jisho 4), when Prince Mochihito (also Prince Takakura and Prince Sanjo), with MINAMOTO no Yorimasa, planned to raise an army and overthrow the Taira clan (who were then in power); Mochihito issued a command urging the Minamoto clan warriors in all provinces together with the forces of the great temples and shrines to rise up against the Taira clan. Due to inadequate preparations, however, their plot was discovered, and the Taira clan received an Imperial decree to track them down and kill them; Prince Mochihito and Yorimasa both died at the Battle of Byodo-in temple in Uji, and the rebellion was suppressed while still at an early stage. However, the uprising provided an opportunity for forces throughout the provinces that opposed the Taira clan to mobilize, leading to the breakout of the Genpei War (the war between the Minamoto and the Taira; in Japanese it is called the Jisho-Juei War, so named for the two eras in which it occurred), an uprising that was truly countrywide in scale. Prince Mochihito's uprising is also called the War of Prince Mochihito and MINAMOTO no Yorimasa's uprising.
Progress of the uprising
After weathering two wars, the Hogen and the Heiji wars, TAIRA no Kiyomori rose to the pinnacle of power, and created a governmental adminstration controlled by the Taira clan. In 1167, Kiyomori reached the highest position in the country, that of Daijo-daijin (Grand minister of state). In 1171, Kiyomori installed his daughter, TAIRA no Tokuko, as imperial consort (de facto Empress) to Emperor Takakura. The Taira clan's fortune steadily grew thanks to their management of the provinces in which they were enfiefed and to Japan's trade with Song China, until there were over 10 Taira family members among Kugyo (the top court officials), as well as more than 30 tenjobito (a high-ranking courtier allowed into the Imperial Palace).
It was the Taira's moment of ascendancy, during which, as recorded in the "Heike monogatari" (Tale of the Taira Clan), 'Nothing happened for anyone save by the will of the Taira family.'
This state of affairs had aroused resentment among many within the imperial court, until in 1170, the conflict between the Regent Motofusa MATSUDONO and TAIRA no Shigemori escalated into violence (the "Riding together in His Highness's Carriage" incident). In 1177 the Shishigatani Conspiracy was launched, as a result of which several of the group of close retainers to the cloistered emperor, including FUJIWARA no Narichika, TAIRA no Yasuyori, and the monks Saiko and Shunkan were executed, and suspicions about cloistered emperor Goshirakawa's possible involvement in the plot were raised as well.
In the twelfth month (eleventh month in old lunar calender) of 1178, Empress Tokuko gave birth to a boy (the soon-to-be Emperor Antoku), who was immediately invested as crown prince Tokihito.
Then in the twelfth month (eleventh month in old lunar calender) of 1179, beginning with the succession dispute over the Konoe family's territory, Kiyomori eventually led soldiers in a raid into Kyoto and launched a coup d'etat. Cloistered emperor Goshirakawa was put under house arrest at Toba Palace, while his Kanpaku (chief adviser to the Emperor) Motofusa was dismissed from his post and banished, and 39 of his close retainers were relieved of their official duties (in what became known as the Jisho Coup, so named because it occurred in the third year of the Jisho era).
Following this, in the third month (second month in old lunar calendar) of 1180, Emperor Takakura abdicated, and prince Tokihito, the boy that Empress Tokuko had given birth to, was raised to the throne (as Emperor Antoku).
Prince Mochihito and MINAMOTO no Yorimasa
Events had left prince Mochihito, the third son of cloistered emperor Goshirakawa, in quite a precarious position. He showed remarkable talent in his literary and artistic accomplishments, but due to pressure from the Taira administration, he still had not received an official proclamation of his status as an imperial prince despite being nearly 30, in the prime of his life. Nonetheless, he enjoyed the backing of the powerful imperial princess Hachijoin Akiko (cloistered emperor Goshirakawa's younger sister by a different mother), who owned enormous shoen (manor in medieval Japan); he was adopted by her, and electing not to take religious vows and become a priest (which would have disqualified him from the imperial succession), he kept his hopes fixed on being raised to the imperial throne. But with the ascension of Emperor Antoku, his hopes had been dashed, and even worse, some of the shoen on which he relied as his financial foundation were confiscated by the government.
MINAMOTO no Yorimasa was a member of the Settsu Genji (a branch of the Minamoto clan) and traced his lineage back to MINAMOTO no Yorimitsu; as a warrior aristocrat stationed in the capital, whose power base was the ring of provinces surrounding the Kinai (the capital area), he was appointed the Protector of the Interior. Allied with the victorious imperial side during the Hogen war, when the Heiji war broke out he stood on the sidelines and observed, and didn't join with MINAMOTO no Yoshitomo, who was of the Kawachi Genji (descended from MINAMOTO no Yorinobu, the younger brother of Yorimitsu), supporting Kiyomori instead. So even as the Kawachi Genji were destroyed, Yorimasa, of the Settsu Genji, managed to remain part of the inner circle of government.
While the power of the Taira clan was at its zenith, Yorimasa--a Minamoto--continued quietly to maintain his position, and in 1178, on Kiyomori's recommendation, he was promoted to Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank).
According to the "Heike monogatari," it was because he recited a waka (a 31-syllable classical Japanese poem) lamenting his obscure status that, when Kiyomori learned of it, made him realize 'I forgot about Yorimas' and therefore, he recommended him for promotion. As recorded in "Gyokuyo" (Jewelled Leaves), Kanezane KUJO's diary, 'This was the first unusual occurrence,' and indeed for a warrior not of the Taira clan to be promoted into the ranks of Kugyo (Jusanmi) was quite unusual during this period, and proves the extent to which Kiyomori trusted Yorimasa.
At this point Yorimasa was an old man, well into his mid-seventies, and having received his heart's desire, investiture into the third rank, he took the tonsure and became a priest the following year, bequeathing his inheritance to his eldest son and heir, MINAMOTO no Nakatsuna.
The motives behind their raising of an army
Theories abound as to the beginnings of and motives behind the stiffening of the resolve of prince Mochihito and Yorimasa to raise an army against the Taira clan.
According to the "Heike monogatari," the motive for the uprising was that Yorimasa's son and heir Nakatsuna had become embroiled in discord with TAIRA no Munemori (Kiyomori's third son) over a horse. Munemori is said to have desired Nakatsuna's favorite horse, "Konoshita" ("Undertree"). Nakatsuna initially refused to part with Konoshita, but Munemori kept insisting, with the whole weight of the Taira clan's power and authority behind him, until at last, after being admonished by his father Yorimasa, Nakatsuna reluctantly handed Konoshita over.
But Munemori, displeased that he had not been given the horse immediately, changed its name from "Konoshita" to "Nakatsuna," branding the new name onto the horse and riding about and whipping the horse while calling out 'Nakatsuna, Nakatsuna.'
According to this account, it was the insult and disgrace of this episode which prompted both father and son, Yorimasa and Nakatsuna, to decide to rebel against the government.
Regardless of whether this particular incident in fact occurred, the despotism of the Taira clan coupled with long years of simmering resentment among the Minamoto clan for the contempt they were forced to endure eventually led to an eruption of anger, which became the motive to raise troops in revolt.
Another theory holds that as Yorimasa and the rest of the Settsu Genji had served Emperors Konoe and Nijo, who were directly descended from retired emperor Toba, in the capacity of Protector of the Interior, they were bound to oppose the enthronement of Takakura and Antoku, who were from a different imperial lineage.
The "Heike monogatari" describes Yorimasa visiting the down-on-his-luck prince Mochihito at his mansion in the dead of night and proposing that they overthrow the government, but at this point Yorimasa was 77 years old, which has prompted some to suspect it was the other way around--that it was prince Mochihito, distressed at the disruption of imperial succession, who approached Yorimasa about raising an army.
Mochihito's princely command
On the twelfth day of the fifth month (ninth day of the fourth month in old lunar calendar) of 1180, prince Mochihito, after plotting with MINAMOTO no Yorimasa, issued a princely command--under the alias 'Imperial Prince Saisho' (Prince 'Great Victory')--to the Minamoto clan warriors and the great temples and shrines throughout the country to destroy the Taira clan. But Mochihito, far from being the crown prince, wasn't even an acknowledged imperial prince, and as a mere princeling, his order, issued as a hosho (a document for informing lower-rank people of the decision of upper people such as an emperor or shogun) must in fact be called a migyosho (a document for informing people of the decision of Third Rank or upper people); and for this reason, he exaggerated his social status with the name he gave himself.
The text of his proclamation is recorded in the "Azuma kagami" (Mirror of the East) and the "Heike monogatari," but as a princely command it has formal and structural defects, and the exact wording varies with the source. In terms of content, Mochihito compares his own situation to that of Emperor Tenmu during the Jinshin war, and demands that the Taira clan be struck down for usurping the imperial throne and proclaims that he be raised to the imperial throne instead.
The "Heike monogatari" lists the names of those Minamoto clan members throughout the country that responded to the call to raise troops. The list includes such names as MINAMOTO no Mitsunobu (of the Mino Genji), Yukitsuna TADA (of the Tada Genji), Yoshitsune YAMAMOTO (of the Omi Genji), Nobuyoshi TAKEDA, Tadayori ICHIJO, Yoshisada YASUDA (of the Kai Genji), as well as MINAMOTO no Yoritomo in Izu province and MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune in Mutsu province, but many of the most important and powerful people of the day are missing from the list and there are many errors, prompting some to consider the list a literary fiction added later.
MINAMOTO no Yukiie (MINAMOTO no Tameyoshi's son), who had been living in hiding in Kumano, was made the messenger entrusted to transmit this princely command. Yukiie worked as a Kurodo (Chamberlain) for princess Hachijoin, and as such had a close relationship with prince Mochihito (her adopted son). Yukiie departed from the capital on the same day the princely command was dated, the twelfth day of the fifth month (ninth day of the fourth month in old lunar calendar), and visited many different provinces. It is said that on the twenty-seventh day of the fourth month Yukiie visited the mansion of the Izu Hojo family in the guise of a mountain priest, and conveyed the command to MINAMOTO no Yoritomo.
The uprising is detected
During the fifth and sixth months (fourth and fifth months in lunar calendar) Yukiie traveled around the eastern provinces before the plot was discovered at the beginning of the sixth month. According to the "Heike monogatari," the one who revealed the plot was the Kumano betto (head priest) Tanzo. Because the military forces of Kumano, upon receiving the command, split into two opposing camps and began rioting, Tanzo sent the Taira clan word of prince Mochihito's plot.
On the sixteenth day of the sixth month (fifteenth day of the fifth month in lunar calendar), the Taira clan decided to have prince Mochihito expelled from the imperial family and made a private citizen, to change his name to 'MINAMOTO no Mochimitsu' and moreover to banish him to Tosa province. TAIRA no Tokitada, Kebiishi betto (Chief of the Inspectors and Police) led more than 300 cavalry to prince Mochihito's Takakura mansion on Sanjo avenue. From the fact that Yorimasa's second son, MINAMOTO no Kanetsuna, was included in Tokitada's force, it may be inferred that the Taira clan had not yet discovered that Yorimasa was involved in the plot.
Prince Mochihito, having been forewarned by Nakatsuna, fled from the mansion dressed in women's clothers, while back at the mansion, Nobutsura HASEBE fought with the Chief Inspector to buy Mochihito some time, allowing him to escape safely to Onjo-ji temple.
On the the seventeenth (sixteenth in lunar calendar), the Taira forces demanded that Onjo-ji temple hand over prince Mochihito, but Onjo-ji's assembly of clergy decided to refuse. Prince Mochihito also called on Kofuku-ji and Enryaku-ji temples to support his cause. The great temples and shrines made formidable opponents and as such the Taira were unable to resolve the matter easily, and so several days passed.
On the twenty-second (twenty-first in lunar calendar), TAIRA no Yorimori, TAIRA no Norimori, and TAIRA no Tsunemori (all three of whom were Kiyomori's younger brothers) as well as TAIRA no Tomomori and TAIRA no Shigehira (both sons of Kiyomori) and TAIRA no Koremori, TAIRA no Sukemori, and TAIRA no Kiyotsune (all three of whom were sons of Shigemori) as well as MINAMOTO no Yorimasa were appointed generals over the force preparing to attack Onjo-ji temple. Up until this point, Yorimasa's involvement in the plot had still not been discovered.
That night, Yorimasa burned down his own mansion and entered Onjo-ji leading 50 cavalry, joining forces with prince Mochihito.
The battle of Uji bridge
On the twenty-fourth (twenty-third in lunar calendar), a meeting of all the clergy was held at Onjo-ji temple, at which a plan to launch a night raid on Rokuhara (the stronghold of the Taira clan) was proposed, but those more favorable towards the Taira among the priests managed to prolong the debate until the plan for a night raid fell through. During this period the Taira clan had launched a strategem of their own, succeeding in splitting the clergy at Enryaku-ji temple. Because their presence endangered Onjo-ji temple, on the night of the twenty-sixth (twenty-fifth in lunar calendar), Yorimasa and prince Mochihito fled from Onjo-ji leading 1000 troops and headed for Kofuku-ji temple in Nara. Tomomori and Shigehira were made generals of the Taira forces and chased after them with 28,000 troops. Exhausted from the night march, prince Mochihito fell from his horse several times, until he was forced to take a rest at Byodoin temple in Uji.
On the twenty-seventh (twenty-sixth in lunar calendar), the two armies confronted each other across the Uji-gawa river.
The "Heike monogatari" describes this scene as 'the battle of Uji bridge.'
Yorimasa's forces tore down the Uji bridge and waited for the enemy on the far bank, engaging them in a battle of archery across the river. The "Heike monogatari" depicts the fierce fighting of three mighty warrior-monks on Yorimasa's side, GOCHIIN no Tajima, Akihide JOMYO, and Priest Ichirai.
FUJIWARA no Tadakiyo, a retainer of the Taira disheartened by the Taira army's lack of progress, advised Tomomori to take the Kawachi province road in a detour.
Warriors from Shimotsuke province, Toshitsuna and Tadatsuna ASHIKAGA--father and son respectively--argued against this, insisting that 'If we use the horses of our mounted warriors to create a sort of raft, we will be able to cross the river.'
When the seventeen-year old Tadatsuna rode his horse directly into the swift current of the Uji-gawa river, more than 300 cavalry from the Kanto followed him in.
Unable to prevent the Taira from crossing the river, Yorimasa abandoned his position by Uji bridge and retreated to Byodoin temple in a fighting withdrawal, trying to give prince Mochihito time to escape. The forces with Yorimasa were gradually worn down, with Kanetsuna struck down and Nakatsuna, having suffered mortal injuries, taking his own life. Yorimasa, having realized that this was the end, recited the Nenbutsu (a Buddhist prayer to Amida) and then disemboweled himself, with Tono WATANABE serving as his kaishaku (he who assists by delivering the coup de grace).
Prince Mochihito, protected by 30 cavalry, just barely managed to escape from Byodoin temple, but was chased by FUJIWARA no Kagetaka's forces, and was killed after being struck by an arrow and falling from his horse in front of the torii (shrine gate) of Komyozan (Gantoku-ji temple) in Soraku district of Yamashiro province.
The meeting at the palace of the retired emperor
On the twenty-eighth (twenty-seventh in lunar calendar), a meeting was held at the palace of the retired emperor, at which a debate began over what sort of measures to take against Onjo-ji and Kofuku-ji temples, which had joined the insurrection (as recorded in both "Gyokuyo" and "Sankaiki"). But before the public meeting started, Munemori, Tokitada, FUJIWARA no Takasue, and FUJIWARA no Kunitsuna had gathered and met for a private conference with retired emperor Takakura.
At the public meeting, MINAMOTO no Michichika and Takasue argued that 'Since the armed clergy of Onjo-ji temple disbanded of their own accord, simply arresting the ringleaders will be sufficient punishment. But Kofuku-ji temple's blame for their willful rebellion is heavy indeed.
We should immediately dispatch a government army to attack Kofuku-ji temple, seizing their branch temples and confiscating their shoen.'
Other Kugyo proposed a more cautious response, saying 'Let us demand that Kofuku-ji temple turn over the ringleaders of the rebellion, and if they refuse to do so, then is the time to dispatch a government army,' a view that was supported by both the Minister of the Right, Kanezane KUJO, as well as the Minister of the Left, FUJIWARA no Tsunemune.
Just as Tsunemune summoned the Sashoben (third-ranked officer of the left) FUJIWARA no Yukitaka and was about to have him go to retired emperor Takakura to report the consensus opinion of the meeting, Takasue protested, saying 'Why is it necessary to send a messenger to Kofuku-ji temple when the head priest and his deputy will simply keep saying that they are unable to control the assembled clergy?
By what means, and to whom, then, do you intend to convey your will?'
Kanezane objected, 'What benefit is there in laying waste to an entire sect?' which provoked Takasue into showing his displeasure on his face. Thereafter, Yukitaka, who had returned from reporting to the emperor, conveyed the news of the death of the criminal, prince Mochihito, which removed the impetus for the immediate destruction of Kofuku-ji temple.
Kanezane launched a furious criticism of Takasue and Michichika's official report to the emperor, saying 'you try to divine Kiyomori's will, but care nothing if it causes great harm to the imperial family.'
After the battle
For a while after the fighting had ended, rumors persisted that prince Mochihito was alive, rumors moreover that were useful to anti-Taira activities.
Both Onjo-ji temple and Kofuku-ji temple once again revealed their opposition and active resistance to the Taira clan, and in the twelfth month of the same year they were burned down by the forces of TAIRA no Shigehira.
Prince Mochihito and Yorimasa's uprising was brief and ended in failure, but it had profound effects, with Mochihito's princely command used as justification and rallying cry for local insurrections launched by MINAMOTO no Yoritomo, MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka, the Kai Genji, and the Omi Genji among others, marking the true beginning of the Genpei War (the Jisho-Juei war between the Minamoto and the Taira).
Prince Mochihito's children, who were living at princess Hachijoin's palace, were taken by TAIRA no Yorimori and forced to join the priesthood. One of them, however, was able to flee into the Hokuriku region and was helped by MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka. Yoshinaka nicknamed this imperial prince 'Prince Hokuriku,' and when he triumphantly marched into the capital a few years later, he planned to put him forward as a potential replacement for Emperor Antoku, who had fled with the Taira to the west, on the imperial throne, but was forced to abandon the idea by Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa, who had been displeased by prince Mochihito's usurpation of the title of 'imperial prince' when he issued his command.
Even after prince Mochihito's death, Yoritomo was able to point to his 'princely command' as a just cause to rally the portions of the Kanto region under Yoritomo's own control, and continued to issue documents bearing the Jisho era name even after the era name was changed to Juei (arguing thereby that the current emperor's administration was illegitimate). But in 1183 (Juei 2), when he was given de facto authorization to control the entire Kanto thanks to the "Proclamation of the tenth month of the second year of Juei" issued by cloistered emperor Goshirakawa, the usefulness of prince Mochihito's command was at an end, and Yoritomo at last began using the Juei era name on his documents.