Minamoto no Yoshitomo (源義朝)

Lawful wives: Yura GOZEN (daughter of FUJIWARA no Suenori); Tokiwa GOZEN; a daughter of Yoshiaki MIURA; a younger sister of Yoshimichi HATANO; a prostitute from Ikeda-juku, Totoumi Province; and the daughter of Aohaka Choja

MINAMOTO no Yoshitomo (1123 - 1160) was a warlord of the Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan) who lived toward the end of the Heian period.

He was the first son of MINAMOTO no Tameyoshi, who was from the main branch of the Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan). His mother was a daughter of FUJIWARA no Tadakiyo, who was a kinshin (trusted vassal of the Cloistered Emperor Shirakawa). Yoshitomo was the father of MINAMOTO no Yoshihira, MINAMOTO no Tomonaga, MINAMOTO no Yoritomo, MINAMOTO no Yoshikado, MINAMOTO no Mareyoshi, MINAMOTO no Noriyori, Zenjo ANO, Gien and MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune. Sama no kami (head of caring for horses), kokushu (governor) of Shimotsuke Province, kokushu of Harima Province. After his death, he was named an Inner Minister with the rank Shonii (Senior Second Rank). He was called Shimotsuke no kami because of his position as kokushu of Shimotsuke Province, and he was also called Ko no tono because of the position of the sama no kami when the Heiji Rebellion occurred.


He was born in Kyoto and spent his childhood there, then moved to Togoku (Kanto region) in his boyhood and grew up under the aegis of Kazusa clan. Therefore, he extended the power that stemmed from his base in Togoku independently from his father, and he intervened in the conflicts for the control of Soma and Oba mikuriyas, etc., (a dedicated area of Ise shrine) between the families powerful in that locality. As a result, he subjugated some of the powerful families there, such as those of Yoshiaki MIURA and Kageyoshi OBA. It was in his time that the main base of the Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan) became Togoku (Kanto), and especially the Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan) had a strong base in Sagami Province centering on Kamakura, with which it had been associated since the time of his great-great-grandfather MINAMOTO no Yoriyoshi.

However, extending his power caused conflicts and produced tensions between him and other Minamoto clans in Kanto, especially in the Musashi Province, and Yoshitomo competed with MINAMOTO no Yoshikuni, who was his granduncle, and had the main base in Ashikaga, Shimotsuke Province. As for these tensions, Tsunekuni KAWACHI, who was Yoshitomo's uncle and was under Yoshikuni, brokered a peace deal between them. Yoshikuni and Yoshitomo became allies, and both maintained power. After that, Yoshitomo went to Kyoto and befriended Yoshikuni's son MINAMOTO no Yoshiyasu (Yoshiyasu ASHIKAGA), and that strengthened the alliance between Yoshitomo and the father and son pair of Yoshikuni and Yoshiyasu. Yoshitomo and Yoshiyasu moved to improve their relationship with the Emperor Toba and FUJIWARA no Tadamichi, and Yoshitomo was appointed as kokushu of Shimotsuke Province in 1153. The relationship between Yoshitomo, who became the kokushu of Shimotsuke Province, and Yoshikuni, who was the local feudal lord of Shimotsuke Province, was reinforced at this time as well.

One theory holds that the reason Yoshitomo moved to Togoku from Kinai (area near Kyoto that includes Kawachi Province as the base of the Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan)) is that relations were cut by his father Tameyoshi and he was disinherited. Therefore, his younger brother MINAMOTO no Yoshikata was said to be sent down to Togoku to keep Yoshitomo in check.

Yoshitomo ordered his eldest, 15-year-old son, MINAMOTO no Yoshihira, to kill Yoshikata, who had moved to Togoku and extended influences on behalf of his father Tameyoshi in the year 1155. Therefore, another younger brother of his, MINAMOTO no Yorikata, was sent down to Shinano Province to avenge Yoshikata, and war almost broke out.

Hogen Rebellion

In the Hogen Rebellion, in 1156, while his father Tameyoshi, his brothers Yorikata and MINAMOTO no Tametomo were allied with the Emperor Sutoku, Yoshitomo allied with the Emperor Goshirakawa with TAIRA no Kiyomori, and won the war. After the war, he was appointed sama no kami. However, he was said to complain about very bad treatment, for example, most his family such as Tameyoshi and Yorikata were executed in spite of his having spared them; moreover, despite his achievements the post with which he was rewarded was lower than that of Kiyomori.

However, Kiyomori had been treated as an imperial prince since his childhood, and his rank was Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) when he was 11 years old at the ceremony of his coming of age, Jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade) at age 17, and Shoshiinoge (Senior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade) at 10 years before the Hogen Rebellion, and he was almost Kugyo (the top court official), while Yoshitomo was rewarded by being named Jugoinoge and kokushu of Shimotsuke Province as Zuryo (the highest official of province) just before the Hogen Rebellion.

Therefore, the reasons for which he complained about the differences in rewarding the merits of Yoshitomo and Kiyomori were not appropriate, because there had long been large differences between them.

According to recent theory, the status of sama no kami was a very important one for a samurai like a toryo (leader of samurai), therefore, the achievement of sama no kami constitutes preferential treatment. In addition, the imperial court judged and executed Tameyoshi as a rebel, not Kiyomori. Then Kiyomori executed his own families who were allied with their enemies by order of the imperial court. Therefore, the idea that Yoshitomo's complaints provoked the Heiji Rebellion has been questioned.
('Rereading the Hogen and Heiji Rebellions' by Yasuo MOTOKI)

Heiji Rebellion

On December 9, 1159, Yoshitomo, MINAMOTO no Yorimasa, MINAMOTO no Mitsuyasu and FUJIWARA no Nobuyori attacked FUJIWARA no Shinzei, who had the confidence of the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa, in the Sanjo-dono where Shinzei was supposed to be.

In many of the old theories, the cause of Heiji Rebellion is usually attributed to Yoshitomo's motives. As mentioned above in descriptive historical data like that of "Tale of Heiji," one theory is that his complaining about the differences in how the accomplishments of Yoshitomo and Kiyomori were rewarded was a cause of the fateful confrontation between the Minamoto clan and the Taira clan. Another is that Yoshitomo complained about Shizei's discrimination against him and allied with FUJIWARA no Nobuyori, who also hated Shinzei. Shinzei rejected Yoshitomo's offer of marriage, saying that his son was a scholar and a samurai family was not right for him to marry into, but then he contracted a marriage with the Taira clan, which was also a samurai family ("Gukansho"). Moreover the "Tale of Heiji" says of FUJIWARA no Nobuyori that 'he was not intelligent, nor was he a warrior, rather he was unintelligent and did not have any notable skills.
He only won the great graces of the emperors.'
He was also written of in the same way in "Gukansho." However, those unrefined understandings have been reviewed by the research of Rizo TAKEUCHI and Yasuo MOTOKI.

The Heiji Rebellion is said to have been caused by the conflict between the factions of the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa and the Emperor Nijo; the presence of members of the anti-Shinzei group in both factions; and the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa's inability to subdue them.

As for the relationship between Yoshitomo and Nobuyori, it is easy to see that the theory that their good relationship was based on their hatred for Shinzei is a simple-minded belief. The reason Yoshitomo followed Nobuyori was that Nobuyori was the Musashi no kami (the feudal lord of Musashi Province) while Yoshitomo was extending his power in the southern Kanto area and later became chigyo-kokushu (a provincial proprietor with the authority to appoint a provincial governor and collect tax). Yoshitomo's extension of power toward the Musashi Province and sudden awarding of the title of Jugoinoge and kokushu of the Shimotsuke Province might be based on the support of Nobuyori. As Nobuyori had built the Musashi Province centered power base, he could provide the Kanto samurais to the nobles in Kyoto after dismantling the military power based on the regent family due to the Hogen Rebellion.

After attacking the Sanjo-dono and defeating Shinzei who had once escaped, FUJIWARA no Nobuyori gained real political power. Although originally the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa's faction and the Emperor Nijo's faction cooperated to defeat Shinzei, after defeating Shinzei, there was no reason to cooperate and their solidarity began to deteriorate. Then, FUJIWARA no Nobuyori and the Emperor Nijo's faction came to be at odds. TAIRA no Kiyomori, who had left Kyoto, went back to Kyoto pretending that he would serve under the victorious FUJIWARA no Nobuyori, but after that, the Emperor Nijo escaped to Kiyomori's Rokuhara residence by a plot of the Emperor Nijo's faction. The Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa sensed the circumstances were disadvantageous and escaped to Ninna-ji Temple. By this time, he was up against the wall and isolated.

At first, MINAMOTO no Mitsuyasu agreed with Nobuyori's group, but he was originally on the side of Emperor Nijo's faction, and seceded from his alliance with Nobuyori. MINAMOTO no Yorimasa also seceded from Nobuyori, and many others also moved to Rokuhara, therefore, Kiyomori obtained the justified imperial forces. In contrast, Nobuyori and Yoshitomo became rebels, and the battle to put them down occurred on December 27 in Kyoto. The number of soldiers in Yoshitomo's army was much smaller than that of the imperial army including the Taira family's army, and the Yoshitomo's army was badly defeated.

After that, Yoshitomo abandoned FUJIWARA no Nobuyori and went to Togoku to regain his power with his first son Yoshihira, his second son Asanaga, his third son Yoritomo, the families MINAMOTO no Yoshitaka (later Mutsu Rokuro Yoshitaka), Yoshinobu HIRAGA, and MINAMOTO no Shigenari (later Shigenari SADO), his followers Masakiyo KAMATA, Sanemori SAITO and Konnomaru SHIBUYA. While fleeing, they were often attacked, and Asanaga, Yoshitaka and Shigenari died from injuries sustained during this time. Yoritomo became separatedd from the group and was caught. Yoshihira went toward Hokuriku-do separately, then went back to Kyoto and hid himself. He and Yoshitomo's retainer Kagesumi SHINAI plotted to assassinate TAIRA no Kiyomori in retribution, but failed.

Yoshitomo reached Owari Province and stayed at his retainer Tadamune OSADA's residence, but he was killed by Tadatsune and his son while bathing ("Tale of Heiji"). He was 38 years old. According to the "Tale of Heiji," the Nagata clan was executed in the Kamakura era on the charge of killing the father of the Shogun. However, according to the "Gukansho," Yoshitomo sensed Nagata and his son's plot and asked his wet mother's son Masakiyo KAMATA to kill him.

Yoshitomo's tomb is inside the Nomadaibo in Mihama-cho, Aichi Prefecture, which was the place of his death.

Related Person

MINAMOTO no Tameyoshi: Yoshitomo's father
He was the sixth son of Yoshichika. As his father Yoshichika was sentenced to exile, Yoshitomo was adopted by his uncle MINAMOTO no Yoshitada and became the head of the Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan).
At the time of the Hogen Rebellion, Tameyoshi transferred responsibility for the family to Yoshitomo (although another theory states that Tameyoshi renounced Yoshitomo and transferred the position of head of the family to the fourth son MINAMOTO no Yorikata.)

MINAMOTO no Yoshikata: Yoshitomo's second brother
He weighed in on the side of his father Tameyoshi's faction, and went down to Kanto against his elder brother Yoshitomo, and there he plotted to establish a base of the power. It was for this reason he was killed by Yoshitomo's first son Yoshihira. He was father of MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka (later Yoshinaka KISO).

MINAMOTO no Yoshinori: Yoshitomo's third brother
SHIDA Saburo Yoshinori
He went down to Kanto with his brother Yoshikata. He set up a base in Hitachi Province, and, cooperating with Yoshikata, jeopardized Yoshitomo's sphere of influence.
Another name of his was Yoshihiro
He did not participate in the Hogen Rebellion or in the Heiji Rebellion. When his nephew Yoritomo raised an army, he looked down on Yoritomo and stood against him.

MINAMOTO no Yorikata: Yoshitomo's fourth brother
After Yoshitomo and Tameyoshi broke away, he was relied on by his father Tameyoshi and fought with Yoshitomo in the Hogen Rebellion.

MINAMOTO no Tametomo: Yoshitomo's eighth brother
Chinzei Hachiro Tametomo
He was the most courageous of all of Yoshitomo's brothers. He had power in Kyushu, but he was called back at the time of the Hogen Rebellion and fought with Yoshitomo and Kiyomori.

MINAMOTO no Yukiie: Yoshitomo's tenth brother
Initial name: Yoshimori
SHINGU Juro Yoshimori
or SHINGU Juro Yukiie
He participated in the Heiji Rebellion and fought alongside Yoshitomo's army. After being defeated in the Heiji Rebellion, he bided his time in Kishu Kumano.

MINAMOTO no Yoshihira: Yoshitomo's first son
He fought well in the Heiji Rebellion. After being defeated in the Heiji Rebellion, he slipped into Kyoto by himself and plotted to assassinate TAIRA no Kiyomori.

MINAMOTO no Tomonaga: Yoshitomo's second son
He was wounded in the Heiji Rebellion and committed suicide.

MINAMOTO no Yoritomo: Yoshitomo's third son
He was a founder of the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) and established himself as a warrior.

MINAMOTO no Noriyori: Yoshitomo's sixth son
He was a hard-nosed warlord called Kaba no kanja in the Wars of Jisho and Juei.

MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune: Yoshitomo's ninth son
He was very popular among the people because of brilliant success in the Jisho and Juei Wars, and because of his tragic death.

Masakiyo KAMATA: Yoshitomo's foster brother and his most loyal follower
He was killed with Yoshitomo.

MINAMOTO no Yoshiyasu (later Yoshiyasu ASHIKAGA): Yoshitomo's ally
He was a cousin of Yoshitomo's father MINAMOTO no Tameyoshi. Cooperating with Yoshitomo, he fought as a warlord in the Hogen Rebellion. His father was MINAMOTO no Yoshikuni. Following the Hogen Rebellion, however, he died at an early age.

Tsunekuni KAWACHI: Yoshitomo's guardian
He was a younger brother of Yoshitomo's father MINAMOTO no Tameyoshi. He had grown up with MINAMOTO no Yoshikuni and mediated between Yoshiyasu ASHIKAGA and Yoshitomo. He was the legitimate son of MINAMOTO no Yoshitada (his brother Tameyoshi was Yoshitada's adopted child). After the Hogen Rebellion, he was never heard from again.

MINAMOTO no Yoshitaka: Yoshitomo's granduncle
During the escape just after the Heiji Rebellion, he protected Yoshitomo with his own body and died from the arrows fired. Yoritomo gave a reward to MINAMOTO no Yoritaka, whose father was Yoshitaka.