The JishoJuei Rebellion (治承・寿永の乱)
The Jisho/Juei Rebellion was a large-scale internal rebellion that lasted for 6 years from 1180 to 1185 during the later Heian Period. Starting with the raising of forces by Emperor Goshirakawa's son, Prince Mochihito, a country-wide rebellion against the Taira clan government occurred, also known as the Rokuhara government, which was led by TAIRA no Kiyomori. In the end, although there were divisions among the rebel forces, the destruction of the Taira clan government led to the establishment of the Kanto government (Kamakura bakufu) which mainly consisted of the Bando-Taira clan led by MINAMOTO no Yoritomo.
Although 'Genpei Kassen' (also called as 'Genpei Gassen,' or 'Genpai no tatakai;' the battle between Taira and Minamoto clans) is conventionally used, there are discussions that consider these terms as inappropriate.
(Specifics are in the section "Regarding the term 'Genpei Kassen'")
Prosperity of the Taira clan
The power struggle amongst Imperial family members and the aristocracy during the later Heian period led to military conflicts such as Hogen Rebellion and Heiji Rebellion. TAIRA no Kiyomori was highly successful in quelling these rebellions and attained exceptional advancement even though he belonged to the warrior class (there are theories proposing that Emperor Shirakawa was TAIRA no Kiyomori's biological father), reaching the post of Daijo-daijin (Grand minister of state) in 1167. Members of the Taira clan held principal posts and obtained governorship of chigyo-koku (provincial fiefdom), effectively establishing a Taira clan government.
The prosperity of TAIRA no Kiyomori's family (the Taira clan) intruded upon the interests of other aristocrats and Imperial family members who were part of the old regime. With the help of hatred towards the Taira clan, who originated from the warrior class, rebellion against TAIRA no Kiyomori's government started to secretly spread, mainly among the aristocracy. This took a more concrete shape in 1177 as the Shishigatani Conspiracy. The conspiracy was discovered beforehand and associated aristocrats and warriors (many of them were close aides of the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa) were exiled. After this incident, the relationship between the Taira clan government and Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa cooled rapidly.
The raising of forces by Prince Mochihito
In November 1179, a coup d'etat by TAIRA no Kiyomori captured the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa and in February 1180, Emperor Takakura abdicated in favor of Imperial Prince Tokihito (Emperor Antoku). The Taira clan government laid the foundations to its governance.
In 1180, following the recommendation of MINAMOTO no Yorimasa of the Settsu-Genji (Minamoto clan), Prince Mochihito, who had virtually no chance of becoming emperor now, raised forces and issued a call to plan an attack on the Taira clan, abolish Emperor Antoku, and establish a new government. However, this plan was found out just before the forces were ready and none of the forces that had been anticipated to support the call appeared. Therefore, the large force of Taira clan troops led by TAIRA no Tomomori and TAIRA no Shigehira destroyed MINAMOTO no Yorimasa's family at Byodo-in Temple in Uji in May of that year, and this became the start of an internal rebellion that lasted for 6 years.
The Raising of Forces by the Kanto Bushi Group
Immediately after the death of Prince Mochihito, his sympathizers passed on his call to Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan) members lying in wait across the country. One of them, MINAMOTO no Yoritomo, from near the end of June started to call to bushi groups in Sagami, Izu and Musashi that were traditionally vassals of the Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan), and attacked and killed Kanetaka YAMAKI, who lived in Izu, on August 17. Immediately after that, Yoritomo's troops experienced a large loss in a battle against Kagechika OBA at Mt. Ishibashi in Sagami Province (the Battle of Mt. Ishibashi).
Yoritomo took a sea route to Awa Province to join up with the powerful family within the Sagami Miura peninsula, the Miura clan, and gathered various families such as the local officials of Awa Province, Hirotsune KAZUSA and Tsunetane CHIBA of the Boso peninsula, Tomoto ADACHI and Shigetada HATAKEYAMA of Musashi, rapidly becoming a major force. The majority of the troops were bushi belonging to the Taira clan associated with the Kanto area and were also in fact local governors. In those times, the ownership of land by members of the warrior class was uncertain and it is suggested that the reason for the rapid gathering of bushi under Yoritomo's troops was because there was a strong wish for a government controlled by bushi. On October 6, Yoritomo entered Kamakura in Sagami Province, which was a place linked with his ancestry. This was the establishment of the Kanto government (later, the Kamakura bakufu). By this time, the Kanto government had effectively obtained control of Southern Kanto.
The Battle of Fuji-gawa River
At the same time, Nobuyoshi TAKEDA of the Kai-Genji (Minamoto clan) had raised forces in Kanto as well. In response to the situation in Kanto, the Taira clan government sent forces led by TAIRA no Koremori and TAIRA no Tadanori. The forces traveled by Tokai-do Road and met the Kanto Allied Forces of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo and Nobuyoshi TAKEDA at the Kise-gawa River in Suruga Province on October 18. Seeing the large force they faced, many troops defected from the Taira clan forces and the battle ended with no serious engagements and the Taira clan forces fleeing the site (The Battle of Fuji-gawa River). Yoritomo considered proceeding on to Kyoto with the momentum he had gained, but the majority of the Kanto government gave priority to managing the East Country so he returned to Kamakura. Later, Yoritomo newly established the Samurai-dokoro (station for Samurai) to manage the large numbers in the Bushi Group and named Yoshimori WADA as Betto (chief of the Samurai-dokoro) and Kagetoki KAJIWARA as Shoshi (deputy of the Samurai-dokoro).
Kanto Regional Management
For the Kanto bushi at that time, political stability within the Kanto region was their top priority. It is thought that their aim was different from that of Yoritomo's, which was to return to central government in Kyoto. Yoritomo was asked to maintain the rights for his supporting forces and spent much effort on eliminating or subduing forces based in Kanto that did not support him, such as Yoshihiro SHIDA, Yoshishige NITTA, the Satake clan and Tadatsuna ASHIKAGA.
Regional Bushi Groups and the Raising of Forces by MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka
Anti-Taira clan forces in areas other than Kanto became more active. Various forces raised troops including MINAMOTO no Mareyoshi of Tosa Province, the father and son, MINAMOTO no Yoshimoto and MINAMOTO no Yoshikane of Ishikawa in Kawachi Province, which was the former base of the Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan), the Toki clan in Mino Province, the Sasaki clan and Yoshitsune YAMAMOTO in Omi Province, Tanzo in Kii Province, the Kono clan in Iyo Province, the Kikuchi clan in Higo Province, and local officials in Wakasa, Echizen and Kaga Provinces.
At the same time as Yoritomo raised his forces, MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka (Yoshinaka KISO) of Shinano Province raised forces in September 1180, and won the Battle of Yokotagawara in June 1181 and controlled the area from Shinano to Echigo Province. At one point, he progressed to Kozuke Province, but did not join Yoritomo and went towards the Hokuriku region. Later, Prince Mochihito's son (Hokurokunomiya), who sought out Yoshinaka, was crowned and the Hokuriku area was brought under his control.
The Death of Kiyomori
Anti-Taira clan movements in the Kinai (the five provinces in the immediate vicinity of Kyoto) area also became active especially among the religious. To suppress this movement, in December 1180, TAIRA no Shigehira burned down Todai-ji and Kofuku-ji Temples (Nanto Yakiuchi), resulting in strengthening of the resistance against the Taira clan. In January 1181, the forces of the Kumano-Sanzan (three temples in the Kumano region) in the Kii Province raised forces and battled with Taira clan troops in Ise and Shima Provinces.
In February of the same year (a leap year), TAIRA no Kiyomori died from a fever and the Taira clan government lost its strong leader. However, three months after Kiyomori's death, the Taira clan government again sent a force along the Tokai-do Road to battle with the Kanto government forces and the Taira clan troops won a battle at Sunomata-gawa River in Owari Province (the Battle of Sunomata River). As a result, the progression of the Minamoto clan troops along the Tokai-do Road was halted for a while.
MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka's Advance on Kyoto
To attack the forces of MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka, the Taira clan sent a large force led by TAIRA no Koremori and TAIRA no Michinori in April 1183. The Taira clan troops defeated the rebellion troops in Echizen and Kaga, and in May, they met and lost to Yoshinaka's troops at Kurikara Pass between Kaga and Ecchu Province (the Battle of Kurikawa Pass).
Yoshinaka's forces held Hokurokunomiya as their leader and progressed towards Kyoto and defeated the Kyoto protection line of the Taira clan with attacks from all directions by MINAMOTO no Yukiie, Yukitsuna TADA (MINAMOTO no Yukitsuna)and Yoshisada YASUDA (MIMAMOTO no Yoshisada). In July, members of the Taira clan, with TAIRA no Munemori as their leader, took Emperor Antoku and the Three Sacred Treasures with them when they left Kyoto to escape westward. The forces of Yoshinaka reached Kyoto. Initially, everyone from the Retired Emperor Goshirakawa, aristocrats, to the local people welcomed the entry of Yoshinaka into Kyoto but the great famine of Yowa the previous year led to insufficient food for Yoshinaka's troops, who then started stealing and became violent, leading to a drop in Yoshinaka's popularity and eventually MINAMOTO no Yoritomo's entry became a common hope.
In September of the same year, Yoshinaka's forces left by Sanyo-do Road to attack the Taira clan, but Yoshinaka's forces lost to the Taira clan forces led by TAIRA no Shigehira at Mizushima in Bichu Province (the Battle of Mizushima) in October. This led to a revival of the Taira clan forces along the Sanyo-do Road, and Yoshinaka returned to Kyoto after many losses.
Juei Ninen ju gatsu no senji (Imperial Order of October 1183)
Yoritomo was requested by the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa to come to Kyoto, but he stayed in Kamakura and asked the Cloistered Emperor to issue an imperial order regarding the return of Kokugaryo (property governed by the local provincial office), and shoen (private estates) in Tokai-do, Tosan-do and Hokuriku-do Roads back to the kokushi (provincial governors) and honjo (proprietor or guarantor of manor). As a result, the Cloistered Emperor issued "Juei Ninen ju gatsu no senji," an Imperial order close to the content above, except that Hokuriku-do Road was excluded in order to honor Yoshinaka and gave Yoritomo the right (Sata ken) to return shoen and Kokugaryo in the Tokai-do Road and Tosan-do Road back to their owners. Yoritomo already effectively controlled the East country, but this imperial order officially recognized and legitimized Yoritomo's right to rule the East country.
The Death of Yoshinaka
On the other hand, to hold Yoshinaka in check, Yoritomo sent MINAMOTO no Noriyori and MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune towards Kyoto and the Noriyori/Yoshitsune forces reached Omi Province in the beginning of November. Meanwhile, Yoshinaka, who had lost battles along the Sanyo-do Road, became isolated and broke relations with the Cloistered Emperor immediately after returning to Kyoto and also had some supporters leave him. On November 19, Yoshinaka executed a coup d'etat by capturing the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa and after dismissing Regent Motomichi KONOE and close aides of the emperor, he had Moroie MATSUDONO made Regent (the Battle of Hoju-ji Temple). As a result, a coalition between the Cloistered Emperor and Yoshinaka was established and in December the Retired Emperor issued an order to Yoshinaka to attack Yoritomo. In January the next year (1184), Yoshinaka was named "Seii Taishogun" (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians") (or "Seito Taishogun," literally, "great general who subdues the eastern barbarians"). This was a breakthrough because it meant that bushi may be given political power during emergency.
In this situation, on January 20, the troops of Noriyori and Yoshitsune battled against Yoshinaka's troops that were waiting at the suburbs of Kyoto, Seta and Uji, respectively (the Battle of Uji River), and Yoshitsune's troop entered Kyoto and captured the Cloistered Emperor. Yoshinaka died in battle in Awazu, Omi.
In the period until Yoshinaka met his end, the Taira clan re-established its influence and by January 1184, they had returned to Settsu Fukuhara. Noriyori and Yoshitsune's troops who were staying at Kyoto obtained the Imperial Order issued in 1184 by the Retired Emperor Goshirakawa and headed from Kyoto to Fukuhara. Noriyori and Yoshitsune's troops split in two and attacked the Taira clan forces. After a fierce battle, the Taira clan forces were forced to retreat to the sea (The Battle of Ichinotani). The Taira clan lost many distinguished warriors in this battle and this adversely affected later battles.
The Battle of Yashima
After losing the Battle of Ichinotani, the Taira clan set up their camp and held the Inner Court in Yashima, Sanuki Province. Since the Kamakura government troops did not have a naval force, there was a ceasefire while the Minamoto clan organized a navy and the Taira clan built their numbers up again. After 6 months, in August, Noriyori's troops were progressing along the Sanyo-do Road to attack the Taira clan from the back, but the line was stretched thin and was cut off by TAIRA no Yukimori. The Kanmon Straits were closed off by TAIRA no Tomomori and the troops lacked food and supplies. In 1185, Noriyori's forces crossed over to Kyushu, but the situation was not ideal so Yoritomo gave Yoshitsune an order to attack the Taira clan. In February, Yoshitsune landed at Kastuura in Awa Province and drew the local bushi to his side and defeated the Taira clan stronghold at Yashima (the Battle of Yashima).
After the Battle of Yashima, skirmishes continued to occur in the Seto Inland Sea and the battle front went back and forth. However, the Taira clan forces obtained information that Noriyori's troops would get reinforcements, so they decided to retreat to Nagato Province. As a result, the Taira clan forces gave the command of the Seto Inland Sea to the Kanto government forces and Chugoku, Shikoku region bushi such as the Kumano Navy led by Kumano Betto Tanzo and Michinobu KONO's navy started to take the Kamakura government's side.
On May 2, 1185, a naval battle between the Taira clan and Kanto government forces was fought (the Battle of Dannoura). Around 6 a.m., the battle started with an attack by the Taira clan forces. In the beginning, the Taira clan had the advantage, but after midday, the Taira clan started to lose ground. After the betrayal of the Awa Navy, it became clear that the Taira clan was losing, and the Taira clan busho (military commanders) threw themselves into the sea along with Emperor Antoku and TAIRA no Tokiko and the Three Sacred Treasures. The Taira clan ended with this battle.
Removal of the Taira clan government
Before the rebellion, the Taira clan government held many principal posts and had obtained governorship of many provinces. Therefore, members of the old regime (Imperial family members, aristocracy, religious orders) who had lost their privileges to the Taira clan government planned to remove the Taira clan government. In the end, this goal was achieved, but the old regime could not regain all of the privileges that the Taira clan government obtained.
Establishment of a bushi government
The old regime lacked the power (military power) to remove the Taira clan government, it was the warrior class that had that power. Initially, the anti-Taira clan forces that began in the Kanto and Hokuriku regions were acting as the old regime anticipated and it was thought that after the Taira clan government was removed, the country would return to a central government as in the past. However, while the anti-Taira clan forces attacked the Taira clan, the real reason was to keep their own rights and privileges and to obtain a certain degree of independence from the central government. For the old regime, bushi were vassals and not an opponent to treat as an equal. Therefore the old regime could not understand the Eastern bushi's real agenda and lacked foresight when it issued the Imperial Order of October 1183 and named MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka as Seii taishogun with the aim of destroying the Taira clan because it opened up the road to greater rights for the warrior class.
As a result, it led to the establishment of the Kamakura bakufu. The initial Kamakura bakufu only had the right to control the Eastern provinces and this should have been enough for the bushi who were part of the government of that time.
However, the politics over rights and the tense relationship between the initial warrior class government and the conventional Imperial Court forces continued, and it was resolved to a certain degree only after the Jyokyu Rebellion.
Regarding the term 'Genpei Kassen'
The Jisho/Juei Rebellion is often referred to as the "Genpei Gassen" (or "Genpai no tatakai" (battle between the Taira and Minamoto clans)). This term started because the war was considered as a fight between Kiyomori and Munemori of the Taira family and Yoritomo, Yoshitsune, Yoshinaka of the Minamoto clan due to the fact that the war started with Prince Mochihito's call for "destroying the Taira clan," the transition from the Taira clan government to Yoritomo government (Kamkura bakufu), and the effect of stories such as "Heike Monogatari" (The Tales of the Heike) and "Genpei Seisuiki" (The Rise and Fall of the Genji and the Heike) had on the people.
But the forces that were against the Taira clan government were not composed only of members of the Minamoto clan, and therefore it cannot be simply considered as a war between the Taira and Minamoto clans. Additionally, this war was a conflict between the ties amongst clan, family, and regional community, and the ties between lords and vassals, and all of the warriors who fought for their lives can not simply be classified into specific clans such as Minamoto or Taira. In addition, both the Taira clan government and the Yoritomo government had a historic problem, "controlling Insei" (government by cloistered emperors), and were governments that occurred because of this situation, therefore this term is not appropriate historically and it is considered appropriate to add the era/year.
Also, the term 'Genpei Kassen' emphasizes the clans too much and does not explain the complicated relationships within the Minamoto and Taira clans. It is a fact that many Minamoto clan members, such as Nobuyoshi TAKEDA of the Kai-Genji (Minamoto clan) and MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka of the Kiso clan, raised forces in response to the anti-Taira clan call. However, there were some who fought against the Minamoto clan even if they were part of it because of a connection with the Taira clan or an obligation. This kind of phenomenon was also found during the Heiji Rebellion. MINAMOTO no Yorimasa of the Settsu-Genji took completely opposite actions to MINAMOTO no Yoshitomo of the Kawachi-Genji.
The phenomenon of Minamoto clan members fighting each other or Taira clan members fighting each other was seen across the country. Some warriors were Minamoto clan on the paternal side and Taira clan on the maternal side, or vice versa, and there were some who had a hard time deciding, and even families that split in two to fight each other. Stories about conflict within clans are common in the Sengoku period (period of warring states), but it had already started in this period. Since their start, bushi had stronger ties with their regions than blood relatives, and this rebellion led to the strengthening of regional ties within society in Japan.
Taira clan members who followed MINAMOTO no Yoritomo
Minamoto clan members who did not follow MINAMOTO no Yoritomo
Yoshishige NITTA, Yoshihiro SHIDA, Hideyoshi SATAKE, MINAMOTO no Suesada, and others.