Rebellion by MINAMOTO no Yoshichika (源義親の乱)

The rebellion by MINAMOTO no Yoshichika was a rebellion which took place in the middle of the Heian period. It is also called the rebellion in Kowa era, the incident of tracking down and killing MINAMOTO no Yoshichika, and so on.

MINAMOTO no Yoshichika, the son of MINAMOTO no Yoshiie looted and killed a government official in Kyushu region, and was sent into exile in Oki Province. However, Yoshichika committed violent actions again by killing the mokudai (deputy kokushi, or a deputy provincial governor) and plundered kanmotsu (tribute goods paid as taxes or tithes) in Izumo Province. After the death of his father Yoshiie, TAIRA no Masamori appointed by the Cloistered Emperor Shirakawa was dispatched and Yoshichika was killed. The head of Yoshichika was exposed to public scorn or ridicule in Kyoto, but the rumor of his living continued and a person calling himself 'Yoshichika' appeared one after another and the aftermath of this incident lasted more than 20 years. After the rebellion, the internal strife of Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan) continued and it lost traction seriously. On the other hand, tracking down and killing Yoshichika by TAIRA no Masamori triggered the emergence of Ise-Heishi (Taira clan).

The background

MINAMOTO no Yoshiie fought against the Dewa Kiyohara clan in Go Sannen no Eki (Later Three-Year Campaign) and won, but Chotei (Imperial Court) did not approve the grant of honors because Chotei considered it was private warfare. Accordingly, Yoshiie rewarded the samurai who had participated in the campaign by offering personal assets, by which Yoshiie earned the enormous respect of Togoku Samurai and peasants.
The great fame of Yoshiie heightened In Kyoto as well, and he was called 'the No. 1 heroic samurai in the world.'

It was time of Insei (rule by the retired Emperor) which replaced the regency, and Emperor Shirakawa was exercising dictatorship as 'chiten no kimi' (the retired Emperor in power). While the Cloistered Emperor Shirakawa was utilizing Yoshiie's military power to guard himself, he did not allow the promotion of Yoshiie from zuryo (provincial governor) of Mutsu Province, and moreover he tried to suppress the power of Yoshiie by issuing the senji (imperial decree) prohibiting peasants in various districts from donating the fields to Yoshiie in 1091.

On the other hand, the Cloistered Emperor created a rival to Yoshiie by making active use of his brother, MINAMOTO no Yoshitsuna, to crush the insurrection led by TAIRA no Morotae and TAIRA no Morosue in Dewa Province in 1093; the outcome of this saw Yoshitsuna return to Kyoto in triumph, proudly parading the severed heads of Morotae and Morosue. As a reward Yoshitsuna was given jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade) and appointed as Mino no kuni no kami (Governor of Mino Province). Yoshitsuna and Yoshiie were at each other's throats.

Nevertheless, Yoshiie maintained high reputation and the Cloistered Emperor allowed him access to the imperial court in 1098, with which he was moved, but the climate at that time was such that the Kugyo (high court noble) community which considered the social status of samurai to be low did not take it well.

The rampancy of MINAMOTO no Yoshichika and the death of Yoshiie

Yoshichika, the second son of Yoshiie, and was known for his bravery inherited from his father, was assigned to Kyushu as Tsushima no kuni no kami (Governor of Tsushima Province), but OE no Masafusa, then Dazai no daini (Senior Assistant Governor General of the Dazai-fu) charged that Yoshichika was killing people and looting in 1101. Chotei (Imperial Court) discussed whether to track down and kill Yoshiie, and decided to dispatch his roto (retainer), FUJIWARA no Sukemichi who was Gon no kami (provisional governor) of Bungo Province to persuade Yoshiie to return to Kyoto. However, Sukemichi who arrived at the site obeyed Yoshichika and killed the government official. For this reason Chotei decided to deport Yoshichika to Oki Province in December of the following year, 1102. His whereabout since then has been unclear, and it is written in "Dainihonshi" (Great history of Japan) that Yoshichika did not go to the exile place.

Yoshichika went to Izumo Province and committed violent actions of killing mokudai and plundering kanmotsu once again. This incident put Yoshiie in a very difficult position and he was forced to confront the task of tracking down his son Yoshichika and kill him.

In 1106 Yoshiie's third son, MINAMOTO no Yoshikuni and his younger brother MINAMOTO no Yoshimitsu created a disturbance extending to a battle in Hitachi Province (Hitachi Battle) and Yoshiie recalled them to Kyoto. In the middle of the disorders which were created by his family, Yoshiie died at the age of 68 in July, 1106.

Tracking down and killing (of Yoshichika) byTAIRA no Masamori

Ise-Heishi (Taira clan) whose ancestor was TAIRA no Korehira was the bushi (warriors) based on Ise Province, and worked as a military force of Chotei doing kebiishi (officials with judicial and police powers), but maintained a low profile. TAIRA no Masamori who was Oki no kami (Governor of Oki Province) donated his shoryo (territory) of Ise for a temple at Rokujo-in built to perform religious rites for the repose of a soul of the late Princess Teishi, Imperial Princess of the Cloistered Emperor Shirakawa in 1096, and on that occasion he became Wakasa no kuni no kami (Governor of Wakasa Province), and began to receive favors from the Cloistered Emperor.

On December 19, 1107 Masamori who was Inaba no kuni no kami (Governor of Inaba Province) was appointed as an envoy for tracking down and kill Yoshichika who was still looting in Izumo Province. On the occasion of his departure to the war, Masamori shouted a battle cry to Yoshichika's mansion in Kyoto three times and shot a whistling arrow to it three times ("Genpei Seisui ki" [Rise and Fall of the Minamoto and the Taira clans]).

On January 6 in the following year (1108), Masamori's army arrived in Izumo Province. On January 19, a war victory report of cutting the heads of Yoshichika and his five subordinates was already sent to Kyoto. In this way Yoshichika's rebellion was ended abruptly.

The details of the kassen (battle, engagement) are unknown, but according to "Daisenji engi" (tales of the origin of Daisen-ji Temple) which was completed at the end of the Kamakura period, Yoshichika built a castle at Kumoto (Kumotsuura) and barricaded himself in it, against which Masanori charged leading the troops of three provinces of Inaba, Hoki and Izumo, crossing the sea and the mountains, and he finally killed Yoshichika.

The Cloistered Emperor was pleased at this and in an unusual move he conferred an award before Masamori's return to Kyoto. He appointed Masamori as Tajima no kuni no kami (governor of Tajima Province), his son TAIRA no Moriyasu as Uhyoe no jo (officer of the Right Division of Middle Palace Guards), and another son TAIRA no Morinaga as Sahyoe no jo (officer of the Left Division of Middle Palace Guards).
"Chuyu-ki", a diary written by a kuge (court noble) at that time, made reference to a rumor that 'the reason for someone with the rank of saigebon (the lowest rank in the nobility) being appointed to the position of Dai-ikkoku might be that he served the Cloistered Emperor closely.'

On January 29, Masamori returned to Kyoto. He and his troops returned with glory parading in lines with the heads of Yoshichika and others upheld. The rich and the poor in Kyoto were greatly excited to look at this and even the Cloistered Emperor came out riding on a kuruma (a small covered 2-wheeled vehicle usually for one passenger). Yoshichika's head was passed to kebiishi (officials with judicial and police powers) at Shichijogawara and exposed to the public.

The internal strife of Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan)

The fact that Yoshichika, who had been a legitimate child of Yoshiie, was tracked down and killed caused great unrest among the Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan), leading to a serious internal conflict within the clan.

According to the will of Yoshiie, the family estate of Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan) was given to his fourth son, MINAMOTO no Yoshitada and Yoshichika's son, MINAMOTO no Tameyoshi was adopted. In February 1109, an incident in which Yoshitada was killed occurred. Yoshitsuna was charged, got angry and barricaded himself and his family at Kaga, Omi Province. Tameyoshi was named to attack Yoshitsuna, killed Yoshitsuna's children after a battle and had Yoshitsuna surrender. Yoshitsuna was deported to Sado Province and later killed himself.

It is said that the charge against Yoshitsuna was a false one, and the truth is unknown although "Sonpi Bunmyaku" (a text compiled in the fourteenth century that records the lineages of the aristocracy), etc. consider Yoshiie's younger brother Yoshimitsu as the real criminal. Because of the internal strife in the same family, Kawachi-Genji's power declined greatly.

The emergence of Ise-Heishi (Taira clan)

After the 'success' in tracking down and killing Yoshichika the Cloistered Emperor Shirakawa supported Masamori and promoted him to have him compete with Genji. Letting Masamori gain accomplishments by appointing him for the defense against the direct petition by the monk-soldiers of Sammon gate (temple gate), for searching and capturing robbers, for hunting down and killing TAIRA no Naosumi in Kyushu region, and for others, the Cloistered Emperor Shirakawa promoted Masamori to jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade).

On the other hand, although Yoshichika's son Tameyoshi succeeded the reigns of the family of Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan), his request to become Mutsu no Kami (Governor of Mutsu) which his grandfather was, was rejected and he remained as kebiishi (officials with judicial and police powers) hangan (inspector, third highest of the four administrative ranks of the ritsuryo period).

Masamori and his son Tadamori increased their power in Shikoku region through the capture of pirates and other accomplishments, and eventually TAIRA no Kiyomori's zensei (at the height of its prosperity) came into being.

Four 'Yoshichikas' who appeared after tracking down and killing Yoshichika.

Not a few people doubted that Yoshichika who was famed for his bravery was killed so easily by Masamori who did not have such military fame. Masamori's military exploits were considered to be questionable and a rumor of Yoshichika's living was spread.

In 1117 a hoshi (Buddhist priest) who called himself Yoshichika appeared in Echigo Province and visited the mansion of Gozoku (local ruling family), TAIRA no Nagamoto. At the order of Kokushi (provincial governor), Nagamoto beheaded the hoshi and exposed his head to the public, but it was not clear whose head it was and Nagamoto was questioned by kebiishi (officials with judicial and police powers).

In the following year (1118), a person who called himself Yoshichika appeared in Hitachi Province. Shimousa no kuni no kami (Governor of Shimousa Province), MINAMOTO no Nakamasa (the father of MINAMOTO no Yorimasa) tried to capture him in vain, and five years later (1123) he was captured in Shimotsuke Province, transferred to Kyoto and passed to kebiishi. This became a big incident which made the Cloistered Emperor Shirakawa and the Emperor Toba actually see him, but after all he was killed and his head was exposed to the public as a false person since Yoshichika had already extinguished.

In September 1129, when the Cloistered Emperor Shirakawa died, there was a rumor that a person who called himself Yoshichika came from Kanto region and entered into Kyoto.
At the intent of the retired Emperor Toba, he was harbored in the Kamoin mansion of the former chief adviser to the Emperor, FUJIWARA no Tadazane and was called 'Kamoin Yoshichika.'
Kaga no suke (Assistant governor of Kaga Province) Iesada and others who knew Yoshichika actually saw him and testified that he was a different person, but some people said that he was real Yoshichika. Moreover, in addition to this 'Kamoin Yoshichika,' there was a rumor that a former Kenin (retainer) of Yoshichika had seen him in Kumano area, and there was a strong belief that he was alive.

However, in 1130, another person calling himself Yoshichika appeared in Otsu, Omi Province, entered into Kyoto and was called 'Otsu Yoshichika.'
It caused a bizarre state of affairs to happen in which two 'Yoshichikas' existed at the same time. In October of the same year, the two brought their followers and started a scuffle in front of the mansion of MINAMOTO no Mitsunobu and 'Otsu Yoshichika' was killed.

In November 20 horse soldiers and 30 to 40 attendants attacked 'Kamoin Yoshichika' who was in the mansion of FUJIWARA no Tadazane (Kamoin). Kamoin Yoshichika' was killed together with his cabal of 10 people.

The retired Emperor Toba ordered the conference of kugyo (court nobles) to search for the murderer. Masamori's son, TAIRA no Tadamori who tracked down and killed Yoshichika was suspected, but he claimed innocence and he insisted that he would capture the murderer on his own.
After all, the kebiishi, MINAMOTO no Mitsunobu was considered as the murderer (the reason unknown), and was deported to Tosa Province
His younger brother MINAMOTO no Mitsuyasu was also removed from his office for conspiracy.

This incident has many suspicious points: the retired Emperor Toba had FUJIWARA no Tadazane protect a person calling himself Yoshichika, who was a serious criminal whom the Cloistered Emperor Shirakawa had tracked down and killed; and furthermore the retired Emperor punished the person who killed this criminal instead of giving him a reward.