Nasu no Yoichi (那須与一)

NASU no Yoichi (1169 - date of death unknown) was a warlord at the end of the Heian period. It is said that he was the second family head of the Nasu clan. His father was Suketaka (Taro) NASU. His wife was a daughter of Yoshishige NITTA. Usually, his real name is introduced as 'Munetaka NASU' (Munetaka in Heike Monogatari (The Tales of the Heike)), which is his first name, but it is said that since his accession to the position of family head he identified himself with his father's name, Suketaka.
(The name in this section will be unified as 'Yoichi.')

'Yoichi' is

Yoichi, which means ten plus one, is an alias representing the eleventh son. Moreover, during the same period Yoshitada SANADA and Yorito ASARI were also referred to as "Yoichi."
Collectively, they are called the 'three Yoichi of Genji.'

Brief Personal History

The name NASU no Yoichi is not seen in Azuma Kagami (history book) and other historical materials of the period, so the assessment of Yoichi's performance relies heavily on the descriptions written in Heike Monogatari and Gempei-Josuiki as military epics (therefore, the existence of Yoichi has not been proved academically). Counting backward based on the descriptions of Heike Monogatari, he was born in or around 1169 (or 1166 or 1168). His place of birth is often assumed to be Kanda Castle (located in Nakagawa-machi, Nasu County, Tochigi Prefecture (the present-day Tochigi Prefecture)) as a kyojo (castle where the lord usually lived) for the Nasu clan in those days.

In Jisho-Juei-no-ran War (turmoil of the Jisho-Juei,) he was on the side of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo and fought along with MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune.
In the Battle of Yashima in 1185, his achievement was so great that, with a single arrow, he dropped a folding fan as an aim hoisted onto the Taira clan's gunsen (battleship); consequently, he was rewarded with manors in five Provinces, including Tanba Province and Shinano Province from MINAMOTO no Yoritomo (Goka-no-sho manor in Tanba Province, Togu-no-sho manor in Wakasa Province, Ota-no-sho manor in Musashi Province, Sasage-no-sho manor in Shinano Province and Ebara-no-sho manor in Shitsuki County in Bichu Province)
Furthermore, since his nine older brothers (excluding Juro-Tametaka) supported the Taira clan, and because Tametaka was punished later, Yoichi took over the Nasu clan's family estate, though he was the eleventh son. According to legend, Yoichi pardoned his older brothers who were on the run in Shinano and other areas and allotted land to them, and he constructed a foundation for the development of the Nasu clan in Shimotsuke Province. He died in Fushimi in Yamashiro Province, but the exact year is not known. His Buddhist name was Sokujo-inden Zenkai-Sogo Daikoji (or Sokujo-inden Gassan-Domyo Daikoji). Meanwhile, his date of death is given as August 8, 1189 in Kansei-Choshu-Shokafu, but it's given as October 1190 in Zoku-Gunshoruiju (Japanese history book). Soon after his older brother, Sukeyuki NASU, took over the family estate, Yorisuke NASU, a blood child (though hearsay exists) of Tomotsuna UTSUNOMIYA, who served as a key lower-ranking vassal for the Kamakura shogunate, was adopted as Sukeyuki's son in order to take over the family estate; and Yorisuke's child was Mitsusuke NASU, who had played the role of hosting Yoritomo MINAMOTO in the Nasu Makigari (hunting technique) in 1193 (according to "Azuma Kagami" (history book)).

Hearsay and Legend

He had been an expert archer since his childhood, and there is a local legend that his father was amazed at the technique he demonstrated in front of all the older brothers. There is another legend that when practicing archery at Nasu-dake (Mt. Nasudake) in 1180, they met MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune, who was visiting Nasu Onsen-jinja Shrine to pray for certain victory, and Yoichi's father Suketaka exchanged a promise that he would let Yoichi and his older brother Tametaka SENBON fight for the Genji clan. Furthermore, there are some temples and shrines about which it is said that Yoichi was a founder.

The story about Yoichi's shooting a folding fan as a target, as described in Heike Monogatari, is very well known.

It is said that Yoichi had no offspring, but there is hearsay (the Echigo-Nasu clan) claimed by the historian Yoshisada NASU, according to which, after Yoichi gave up the family estate and left home due to conflicts with the Kajiwara clan, he stayed with the Igarashi family in Echigo Province, got married and had a son (thus establishing himself as an ancestor of the Echigo-Nasu clan) and a daughter. Also, there are legends or temple histories stating that clans referred to as Yoichi's descendants lived in Hitachi Province, Dewa Province and Awa Province.

There is another legend that his death in 1189 (or 1190) was disguised to facilitate his escape from Yoritomo's purge, and that the reason for his becoming a priest was that his complexion had changed due to Hansen's disease. Meanwhile, according to Yoshisada NASU, Yoichi was pardoned and returned to Nasu after Yoritomo's death, became a priest in order to enter the Jodo-shu sect and died from paralysis in 1232 in Settsu Province, after a journey of about 30 years mourning those who had died in the Battle of Gempei-Kassen.

Grave

Yoichi's grave is in Sokujo-in Temple in Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture, but it is said that Sukeyuki NASU, his older brother, constructed a temple called Kosho-in (功照院) and there conducted Bunkotsu (to bury one's bones in more than two places). In 1514, Sukekage NASU revived Koshoin (the family temple, which had become a ruin) as Gensho-ji Temple (Otawara City, Tochigi Prefecture), and the Nasu clan regards the temple as its main gravesite.

Also, in Suma Ward, Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture, there also is one considered to be Yoichi's tomb; it bears the description, "Grave of NASU no Yoichi Munetaka." There is a legend that people visiting this tomb would not need to rely on shimo no sewa (helping out the one who can't control the movements of his or her bodily wastes) in the years of advanced age. In the vicinity, there are Kitamuki-Hachiman-jinja Shrine, for which Yoichi has been believed to have living faith, and Nasu-jinja Shrine, where Yoichi has been worshiped by local people.

In front of the statue of Akasagarbha Bodhisattva, which stands northwest of Sairen-ji Temple in 5 Chome, Chuo, Yonezawa City, there is a three-story stone pagoda 4.2 meters tall with the name "NASU no Yoichi" imprinted on it. This is deemed to be NASU no Yoichi's memorial tower, on which 'NASU no Yoichi Munetaka-ko' and 'Chizaka (Chisaka) Tsushima-no-kami Kagechika-ko' are imprinted, and on the other side of which 'Completed April 13, 1719' was imprinted as its date of construction. Kagechika CHIZAKA (CHISAKA) was one of the main retainers of Kenshin UESUGI, but it is said that the guardian deity (statue of Akasagarbha Bodhisattva) for Yoichi was introduced to the CHIZAKA (CHISAKA) clan through a marital relationship with the NASU clan.

Also, there is Yoichi's Gorin-Kuyoto (memorial tower with Gorin) in the mountains of Bichu-Ebara-no-sho manor (the present-day Nishi-ebara, Ibara City, Okayama Prefecture), one of the manors Yoichi received around the country for rewards appreciating his feat of shooting a folding fan. Moreover, in the grounds of Eisho-ji Temple which was founded in Bichu-Ebara as their family temple, there are Sodegami-jinja Shrine (袖神神社) dedicated to a sleeve that was torn off while fighting the Battle of Yashima, and the site of Kosuge Castle, which is considered the NASU clan's headquarters, as well as other shrines they founded.

Influence on Future Generations

The alias of the NASU clan's family head had been 'NASU no Taro' from generation to generation with certain exceptions (Suketaka NASU and Mitsusuke NASU), but since the Edo period the Nasu clan's successive family heads, including Sukekage NASU, used ' NASU no Yoichi' as the alias.

In modern years of Japan, 'NASU no Yoichi' appearing in various side creations or fictional works have been modeled on this Yoichi.

Temples and shrines whose legends state that they had relations with or were related to Yoichi hold festivals associated with Yoichi.