Minamoto no Aritsuna (源有綱)

Minamoto no Aritsuna (year of birth unkown - July 4, 1186) was a busho (Japanese military commander) in the Heian Period, who was a member of the Settsu-Genji (Minamoto clan). He was a grandson of MINAMOTO no Yorimasa, who was the Ouchi Shugo (safeguard of the Imperial Palace), and the second son of MINAMOTO no Nakatsuna. He held the Jugoinoge rank (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade), and administrative posts as Uemon no jo (the third ranked official of the Right Division of Outer Palace Guards), and kebiishi (an official with judicial and police powers). He was also known as Izu no Aritsuna.


When his grandfather Minamoto no Yorimasa and father Nakatsuna mobilized the troops following Prince Mochihito and both died in battle in 1180, Aritsuna was in safety because he was staying in Izu Province, which was the chigyo-koku (provincial fiefdom) of Yorimasa. Immediately after this incident, when MINAMOTO no Yoritomo, who had been banished to Izu Province, raised an army, Aritsuna joined the army under Yoritomo, so as to destroy his grandfather's enemy, the Taira clan.

In 1182, he set out for the front in Tosa Province, under orders from Yoritomo. The aim of this campaign was to mop-up the power of Taira forces including Ietsune HASUIKE, Shunto HIRATA and the like, who had killed Yoritomo's younger maternal half-brother, MINAMOTO no Mareyoshi; Yukimune YASU, a gokenin (an immediate vassal of the shogunate) from Tosa Province took the head of the charge. At this battle, Aritsuna and Yukimune managed their large forces and successfully routed Hasuike and hostile forces.

Around this time, he served MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune, who was a younger brother of Yoritomo, as yoriki (mounted warrior belonged to a general in the Sengoku period). It would be more appropriate to say that Aritsuna was an ally rather than a vassal, as there was no difference in family lineage, official rank, and age in comparison to Yoshitsune. In the article of May 19, 1185 of "Azuma Kagami" (The Mirror of the East), there is described a story that Aritsuna pillaged a lot of shoen-koryo (public lands and private estates) by saying he was Yoshitsune's son-in-law; accordingly, Aritsuna is considered to have been Yoshitsune's son-in-law. However, if Yoshitsune had begotten a daughter during his stay in Hirazumi Province, she would have been less than ten years old at the time when she married Aritsuna, who was already a grown-up; as there was big difference in age between them, she was very possibly Yoshitsune's adopted daughter. Regardless of the verity of that account, it is a fact that Aritsuna served as a loyal commanding officer under Yoshitsune, and even after Yoshitsune came to have a conflict with Yoritomo, Aritsuna was a member of the group that accompanied Yoshitsune when he left Kyoto. When the ship they were boarding en route to Kyushu was wrecked due to a severe storm and they became separated, Aritsuna was a member of four survivors, Musashibo Benkei, Kagemitsu HORI, Shizuka Gozen and himself; and these survivors escaped with Yoshitsune to Mt. Yoshino.

After that, Aritsuna parted company with Yoshitsune and hid in Uda-gun, Yamato Province together with other retainers, but got found on June 16, 1186 by the troops of Tokisada HOJO searching for the remnants of Yoshitsune's party; he was defeated in battle and fled into deep mountains to commit suicide.

On November 14, 1191, Aritsuna's retainer Yasumori TAIRA, the former Uemon no jo (the third ranked official of the Right Division of Outer Palace Guards), hid in Kamakura and was later captured by Kagetoki KAJIWARA at Yuigahama. Yasumori did not give any answer to the question of Kagetoki regarding Yasumori's background while demanding a chance to have a direct talk to Yoritomo; thus he told Yoritomo, in the meeting with a bamboo blind hung between them, that he had intended to kill Aritsuna's foe, Tokisada HOJO. After the sengu (transferring the shrine) of Tsuruoka Shrine, the sentence for Yasumori's crime was stated and he was imprisoned in Koshigoe.

Aritsuna's wife

There is a description in "Gukansho" (Jottings of a Fool) (Vol. 5) with respect to the meaning of "the son-in-law of Yoshitsune" such that Imperial Regent FUJIWARA no Motozane states that "married a sister of Nobuyori to become a son-in-law" (Motozane married a sister of Nobuyori to become a son-in-law of Nobuyori), which could mean a husband of a sister was equal to a son-in-law; so "the son-in-law of Yoshitsune" is thought to have been a husband of Yoshitsune's sister. Aritsuna had escaped and gone into hiding in Uda-gun, Yamato Province, a place in which Yoshitsune's mother, Tokiwa Gozen had family connections, meanwhile twleve days after Tokiwa and Yoshitsune's younger sister (Aritsuna's wife) were captured in Kyoto by the Kamakura forces, Aitsuna's hideout was attacked, so it is thought that they had divulged his whereabouts, or someone in the vicinity had leaked his whereabouts.
"Yoshitsun Appears on the Scene", by Michihisa HOTATE, Japan Broadcast Publishing Association

Although not based on a written material of history, there is a theory that holds that Aritsuna's wife was a daughter of Yoshitsune and a sister of the brothers of Tsugunobu SATO and Tadanobu SATO, who was born during their stay in Hiraizumi, judging from the brothers' enthusiastic devotion to Yoshitsune. "MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune, a Wandering Hero" by Minoru NOGUCHI, published by Buneido.


According to a legend of Shiobara, Tochigi Prefecture, Aritsuna's last stand was in Shimotsuke Province, but that is not confirmed. The legend holds that, Aritsuna, who had been pursued in Kamakura, took refuge in a limestone cave called "Genzokutsu" at the Nakashiobara hot springs so as to make a comeback.