Ike no Zenni (池禅尼)
Ike no Zenni (c.1104 - c.1164) was a woman who lived around the end of the Heian period. She was the lawful wife of TAIRA no Tadamori. She was a stepmother of TAIRA no Kiyomori. Later, she became a nanny of the Imperial Prince Shigehito, a son of the Emperor Sutoku. Her father was FUJIWARA no Munekane and her mother was a daughter of FUJIWARA no Arinobu. She was a descendant of FUJIWARA no Takaie, a son of Nakanokanpaku (the Middle Regent) FUJIWARA no Michitaka. Her first name was Muneko.
She married Tadamori and gave birth to TAIRA no Iemori and TAIRA no Yorimori, who were TAIRA no Kiyomori's paternal half-brothers. She was from the family of a trusted vassal of FUJIWARA no Shoshi and was also related to FUJIWARA no Tokushi (also known as Nariko) through her cousin FUJIWARA no Ienari who was the most favorite retainer of the Cloistered Emperor Toba. Because of her wide personal connections, she was called 'a great lady, who even supports her husband Tadamori,' ("Gukansho" (Jottings of a Fool)) and respected most highly among his wives.
When her husband died in 1153, she became a priestess, and was called Ike no Zenni because she lived at Ikedono (Hall of the Pond) in Rokuhara. When the Hogen War broke out in 1156 after the death of the Cloistered Emperor Toba, the Taira clan was put in a difficult situation because Tadamori and Zenni were guardians of the Imperial Prince Shigehito. Zenni foresaw the defeat of the Sutoku side as follows.
In this war the newly retired emperor's side will be certain to lose.'
There is no way to win.'
And she ordered Yorimori to 'be sure to join the forces of your brother Kiyomori' ("Gukansho"). Thanks to this decision, the Taira clan made a success in keeping the power, which had been built up so far, by preventing conflict within the clan.
In the Heiji War in 1159, her stepson TAIRA no Kiyomori, who had survived the difficult political fight, gained a victory, and as a result, other military aristocracies such as MINAMOTO no Yoshitomo were ejected. In March 1160, the following year, the 13-year-old MINAMOTO no Yoritomo, the heir of MINAMOTO no Yoshitomo, was captured by TAIRA no Munekiyo, who was a roto (retainer) of Ike no Zenni and Yorimori. It is said that Ike no Zenni begged Kiyomori for mercy. Besides, it is also said that Kiyomori gave in finally and commuted execution to exile to Izu Province because Ike no Zenni had begun to fast in order to beg for Yoritomo's life.
In the "Heiji monogatari" (The tale of the Heiji), which recorded the above story, described that Muneko (Ike no Zenni) desperately beg for Yoritomo's life because he was the living image of her son Iemori, who had died young; but in fact, it was assumed that it was caused by the approaches of the Imperial Princess Muneko (a daughter of Taikenmonin, a maternal older half-sister of Goshirakawa) and the Atsuta-guji family (the family of Yoritomo's mother), which was the family of a trusted vassal of the Taikenmonin (Yasuo MOTOKI, "Hogen Heiji no ran o yominaosu"(Rereading the Hogen and Heiji Disturbances)).
It was said that Ike no Zenni died after that, but the exact year of her death was not known.
Yoritomo did not forget how much Ike no Zenni had done for him and gave special treatment to her son Yorimori even after Yoritomo had raised an army in Izu Province, and consequently, the family of Yorimori survived even after the fall of the Taira clan.