Minamoto no Yorimitsu (源頼光)

MINAMOTO no Yorimitsu (948 - September 4, 1021) was a military commander during the mid-Heian Period. He was also commonly known as MINAMOTO no Raiko. His father was Chinjushufu Shogun MINAMOTO no Mitsunaka, and his mother was a daughter of MINAMOTO no Suguru of the Saga-Genji, who was the Kokushu (Governor) of Omi Province. His early childhood name was Monjumaru. His wives included a daughter of FUJIWARA no Motohira, Iyo no kuni no kami (Governor of Iyo Province), a daughter of Chunagon (Councillor) TAIRA no Koretaka and a daughter of YOSHISHIGE no Tamemasa, Noto no kuni no kami (Governor of Noto Province). His children included MINAMOTO no Yorikuni, who became his heir, MINAMOTO no Yoriie (Settsu-Genji), MINAMOTO no Yorimoto, Eiju (a monk), and Yoriaki. FUJIWARA no Michitsuna was the husband of one of his daughters. The poet, Sagami, is said to have been his adopted daughter. It is also said that he was born on August 30, 954.

As the eldest son of Mitsunaka, he was the third head of the Seiwa-Genji.
He inherited the land of Tada in Settsu Province (present-day Tada, Kawanishi City, Hyogo Prefecture), where Mitsunaka formed a group of warriors for the first time, and his descendants became the 'Settsu Genji.'
His younger brothers by different mothers included MINAMOTO no Yorichika of the Yamato-Genji (Uno, Nara Prefecture), and MINAMOTO no Yorinobu of the Kawachi-Genji (Habikino City, Osaka Prefecture), who later became the main line of the Buke (Warrior) Genji (MINAMOTO clan).

Brief History

His birthplace is not known, but it was either Tada, where he was based, or his father's mansion in Sakyo Ichijo in Heian-Kyo, which his father is known to have owned around 973. His history during his youth is not known. As with other mid-ranking aristocrats of the period, he began to work in the government at the age of 20, and it is thought that he accumulated his wealth by acquiring government positions through serving the Fujiwara clan, who, like Mitsunaka, acted as regents to the Emperor.

When Imperial Prince Okisada (later Emperor Sanjo) became the Crown Prince around 986, Yorimitsu was assigned as one of his advisers. In 992, he was assigned as the local governor of Bizen Province but as he stayed in the capital, it is believed that he was a yonin (absentee lord). Records of the yearly events associated with the rituals and ceremonies of the Imperial Court show that, while serving as the Crown Prince's adviser, he participated in horse races hosted by FUJIWARA no Michinaga. According to "Nihon Giryaku," in October, 988, he presented 30 horses as a gift at the banquet held to celebrate the completion of the new mansion of the chief advisor to the Emperor, FUJIWARA no Kaneie.

It is said that he was impressed by FUJIWARA no Michinaga's demeanor at the funeral of Kaneie, chief advisor to the Emperor, in 990, and therefore he began to serve as one of his close advisers. In 1001, he was assigned to be the Mino no kuni no kami (Governor of Mino Province), and because there are no records indicating that he sent somebody else instead (yonin) it is assumed that he moved to the province. During the same period, OE no Masahira became the Owari no kuni no kami (Governor of adjoining Owari Province) and since the two of them exchanged letters upon moving to their assigned areas, it is believed that they became friends. Furthermore, Masahira's wife, Akazomeemon, left a waka poem that talks about Yorimitsu.

He successively held the positions of Zuryo in Tajima, Iyo and Settsu Provinces (970). He was given the court rank of Shoshiinoge (Senior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade) after he became Sama no gon no kami (Provisional Captain of Samaryo, Left Division of Bureau of Horses), and he was permitted to be present during Emperor Goichijo's enthronement. He built Ichijo Mansion with the wealth he accumulated as a Zuryo, and he often presented Michinaga with expensive gifts as a sign of his devotion. With the expansion of Michinaga's power, Yorimitsu, who was his close adviser, came to be called the 'Protector of the Imperial Family' because of his skill as a commander and he laid the foundations for the subsequent rise of the Genji (Minamoto clan) with his chivalrous younger brother, Yorinobu, who also served the Fujiwara family. He was either 68 or 74 years old when he died.

Personal Profile

His father, Mitsunaka, formed a group of Genji warriors in Tada, Settsu Province, and as someone who served as a protector of the Fujiwara family, his personality was undeniably warrior-like, but Yorimitsu, who served the Fujiwara's as a keishi (administrator), had a tendency to be described as a person with an aristocratic character.

On the other hand, in "Konjaku monogatari shu" (Tales of Times Now and Then collection) and "Uji Shui Monogatari" (a collection of the Tales from Uji) that were put together later, and in "Otogi Zoshi" that was put together during the Muromachi Period, he is known for the legends of his victories over the demons Shuten Doji of Mt. Oe-yama and Tsuchigumo. The legends mention retainers such as the four loyal retainers led by WATANABE no Tsuna, from the same Saga-Genji as Yorimitsu's mother, and the strong FUJIWARA no Yasumasa, so it can be assumed that these stories reflect the fact that Yorimitsu actually had retainers. Furthermore, in the Japanese classic "Heike Monogatari," Yorimitsu's name is mentioned as one of the highly talented warriors, and there is a tendency to seek valiant characteristics in Yorimitsu's personality.