The Soga brothers Revenge (曾我兄弟の仇討ち)

The Soga brothers' Revenge refers to an incident where two brothers, Sukenari SOGA and Tokimune SOGA, took vengeance on their father's enemy, Suketsune KUDO, on July 5, 1193 at the time of Fuji no Makigari (Hunting session at Mt. Fuji) conducted by MINAMOTO no Yoritomo. This was one of three major incidents of revenge in Japan along with the Genroku Ako Incident and duel at Kagiya no Tsuji (the Key-Maker's Corner).

Progression of incident

Suketsune KUDO held a grudge against his uncle, Sukechika ITO, due to a territorial dispute. In November 1176, Suketsune ordered his roto (retainers), Kotoda OMI and Saburo HACHIMAN, to lie in wait for Sukechika who was out hunting. An arrow discharged by two assassins hit and killed Sukechika's legitimate son, Sukeyasu KAWAZU, who was with Sukechika. The two assassins were hunted down and killed by the Ito side immediately after the assassination.

Sukeyasu's wife, Manko Gozen, and his sons, Ichimanmaru and Hakoomaru were left. Manko Gozen got remarried to Sukenobu SOGA. Ichimanmaru and Hakoomaru grew up in a village in Soga. It is said whenever they saw a flight of geese, the brothers longed for their deceased father.

Later, the Ito clan - who supported the Ise-Heishi (Taira clan) during the Jisho-Juei War - collapsed, and Sukechika was captured and killed himself. Meanwhile, Suketsune followed MINAMOTO no Yoritomo and became his Gokenin (shogunal retainer of the Kamakura bakufu), quickly advancing to become Yoritomo's favorite retainer.

The Soga brothers, grandsons of Sukechika, grew up under difficult circumstances, and the elder brother Ichimanmaru, having attained manhood took over as head of the Soga family, identifying himself as SOGA no Juro Sukenari. His younger brother, Hakoomaru, was left in Hakone-jinja Shrine as chigo (temple acolytes) for the purpose of praying to Buddha for the happiness of his deceased father.

In 1187, when MINAMOTO no Yoritomo visited Hakone gongen (sacred mountain) to pray, Hakoomaru found his enemy Suketsune KUDO was accompanying Yoritomo, and chased him in order to get revenge, but rather than defeating his enemy was instead admonished by Suketsune and condemned to Akagie no Tanto 'short sword with bishop wood shaft' (Goro Tokimune murdered Suketsune KUDO with this sword thereafter).

Hakoomaru who disliked the priesthood escaped from Hakone and visited his relative, Tokimasa HOJO (Tokimasa's former wife was a daughter of Sukechika). Hakoomaru celebrated his coming-of-age ceremony, asking Tokimasa to be the eboshioya (person who wore an eboshi hat), and identified himself as SOGA no Goro Tokimune. Tokimasa became the greatest supporter of the Soga brothers. Even under difficult circumstances, the Soga brothers could never forget getting revenge for their father.

In June 1193, MINAMOTO no Yoritomo held a grand Makigari (Hunting session) at the foot of Mt. Fuji. Suketsune KUDO also participated. On the last night of the Makigari, July 5, 1193, the Soga brothers broke into Suketsune's bedroom. The Soga brothers woke up Suketsune - who had got drunk and slept with a prostitute - and got their revenge. The Soga brothers were surrounded by bushi (warriors) who gathered when they heard a disturbance. The Soga brothers managed to kill 10 warriors, but the elder brother, Juro, was eventually killed by Tadatsune NITA. The younger brother, Goro, was captured by Goromaru who broke into Yoritomo's residence disguised as a woman.

On the following day, July 6, 1193, Goro explained to Yoritomo the emotions which lead him to seek revenge. Although he considered sparing his life, Yoritomo was appealed to by Suketsune's orphaned child and sentenced Goro to decapitation. Goro faced death in a tranquil manner.

In addition, for a while right after this incident the Kamakura side could not keep track of Yoritomo.
Yoritomo's wife Masako HOJO, who was worried about his safety, received words of sympathy from Yoritomo's brother, MINAMOTO no Noriyori, who had remained in Kamakura without participating in the Makigari, saying, '(Please feel easy) because Noriyori is here.'
It is said that these words were taken to mean that Noriyori was instigating a rebellion, thus he was confined in Shuzenji town, the Province of Izu, and killed himself.

Theory of attempted assassination of Yoritomo

It has been considered a mystery that the Soga brothers tried to attack Yoritomo's lodge after killing Suketsune KUDO, resulting in the elder brother being killed. Then, a theory has been passed down that this incident was also an attempted assassination of Yoritomo by the brothers' supporter Tokimasa HOJO as a power broker.

Soga monogatari (the tale of Soga)

This incident was later compiled as "Soga monogatari" (the tale of Soga), and in the Edo period, "Soga monotagari" was picked up as subject matter for Noh, Joruri (Ballad drama), Kabuki (traditional drama performed by male actors), Ukiyoe (Japanese woodblock prints) and so on, and gained popularity among the people.


In Fujinomiya City, Shizuoka Prefecture, there is a waterfall called Otodome no Taki (sound stopping waterfall) which has a legend that when the Soga brothers were secretly plotting their revenge on Suketsune KUDO, they could not hear properly due to the roaring sound of the waterfall, so prayed to God, on which the sound of a waterfall immediately stopped.