Shizuka Gozen (静御前)

Shizuka Gozen (dates of birth and death unknown) was a women who lived at the end of the Heian period and the initial part of the Kamakura period. She was a shirabyoshi (dancer prostitute). Her mother, Iso no Zenji, was also a shirabyoshi.
Beloved concubine of MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune

When Yoshitsune, who had a conflict with his half-brother MINAMOTO no Yoritomo, left Kyoto and headed for Kyushu after the end of the Jisho Juei Rebellion, Shizuka Gozen also accompanied him, but his fleet was forced back to the shore by a storm. She parted from Yoshitsune in the mountains of Yoshino and decided to return to Kyoto, but since the attendants assigned to guard Shizuka stole all her belongings and abandoned her in the mountains, she didn't know which way to go and wandered astray in the mountain. Mountain priests, who were hunting for her, found Shizuka, and arrested her for delivery to Tokimasa HOJO, who was stationed in Kyoto. She was then sent to Kamakura, together with her mother Iso no Zenji, in March 1186.

She was ordered to perform a shirabyoshi dance in front of the Tsurugaoka-hachimangu Shrine on May 5 in the same year.
Shizuka sang a song of longing for Yoshitsune:

"I remember my sweetheart call my name again and again. I wish I would go back those days." "My sweetheart went into deep snow in Mount Yoshino. I miss him so much."

That made Yoritomo extremely angry, but his wife, Masako HOJO, supported the feelings of Shizuka by saying, "If I were she, I would have sung a song in the same way" and spared her life. According to "Azuma Kagami," a history book of the Kamakura period, the scene of Shizuka's dancing is extolled: "It was a splendid scene in a shrine; her performance moved everybody there."

At this time, she was pregnant with Yoshitsune's child, but Yoritomo ordered that the baby be saved if a girl but killed if a boy. On September 21, she gave birth to a baby boy. When Kiyotsune ADACHI was going to get the baby, Shizuka, crying in tears, wouldn't let him go. Then Iso no Zenji took the baby from her and gave him to Kiyotsune. Then, the baby boy was sunken in the water off Yuigahama beach.

On November 5, Shizuka and Iso no Zenji were allowed to return to Kyoto. It is said that Masako, feeling sorry for them, gave them plenty of valuables. It is not known what happened to Shizuka after that.

Shizuka Gozen in the Azuma Kagami
The following descriptions are translations in today's Japanese from the scenes where Shizuka was described.

Yoshitsune and his group, who escaped from Kyoto, set sail from Daimotsuhama, today's Amagasaki City, for Kyushu on December 6, 1185, but their ship wrecked and the group members were separated. Yoshitsune found himself with only MINAMOTO no Aritsuna, Kagemitsu HORI, Musashibo Benkei, and his concubine Shizuka.

On December 17, as the rumor said, Yoshitsune hid himself in Mount Yoshino, Yamato Province, as senior monk soldiers of Mt. Yoshino searched him in vain. Around 10 o'clock in the night, Yoshitsune's concubine Shizuka walked down Fujiozaka Slope and reached Zao-do hall. She looked suspicious, and the monks caught and took her to the temple's administrative office to interrogate her. She answered, "I am the concubine of Kurodayu Hogan. Yoshu (Yoshitsune) came to this mountain from Daimotsuhama. Iyo no kami stayed in the mountain for five days, but after he heard a rumor of monks rising in revolt, he dressed in yamabushi (mountain priest) clothes and ran away. He gave me a lot of valuables and sent me back to Kyoto with attendants. But the attendants robbed me of the treasure and abandoned me deep in the snowy mountain, and that's how I got here astray."

On December 18, Yoshino's monks went into the snowy woods in search for Yoshitsune according to what Shizuka said. Yoshino Shugyo felt very sorry for her, had her rest to heal her body, and sent her to Kamakura.

On January 7, 1186, Yoshino Shugyo sent Shizuka to the residence of Tokimasa HOJO in Kyoto. The army to hunt for Yoshitsune was sent to Mt. Yoshino.

Shizuka's statement in a letter sent by Tokimasa HOJO to Kamakura on January 14:
"I was with Yoshu as he left Kyoto to head for the western part of Japan, and together we arrived at Daimotsuhama. We wanted to sail westward but our ship wrecked, and we could not cross the sea. On that day, we stayed overnight at Tenno-ji Temple, and Yoshu ran away to hide himself. He told me to stay here for a few days as he promised to send someone to pick me up, but if nobody came on the promised date, I was suggested to immediately leave the temple. After a while, men with horses appeared at the temple, and although I was not told where we would go, I travelled on horseback for a few days and arrived at Mt. Yoshino. I stayed there for five days and then departed from him. I don't know where he'd gone. I walked through the snow in the mountain trails and finally got to Zaodo, but then I was arrested by Yoshino's monks."

On January 15, Tokimasa received a letter from Kamakura that ordered him to send Shizuka to Kamakura.

On Feburary 27, 1186, the whereabouts of Yoshitsune were still unknown. Tokimasa HOJO was ordered to send Shizuka to Kamakura so that she could be interrogated further.

On March 21, Kamakura received a letter from Tokimasa in Kyoto stating that he would send Shizuka to Kamakura.

On March 30, Shizuka and her mother Iso no Zenji arrived at Kamakura. They entered the residence of ADACHI no Shinzaburo.

On April 4, although Shizuka had already been interrogated by Tokimasa in Kyoto, she was again asked about the whereabouts of Yoshitsune by officials of the Monchujo (Court of Justice in the Kamakura period). Shizuka said, "He was not in the mountains of Yoshino but at one of the temple quarters. Yoshitsune heard about the uprising of monks of Yoshino, was dressed in a mountain priest's clothes, and went up into the mountain to enter Omine as monks saw him off. I followed him and reached Ichi no torii (first torii), but as one monk bashed me and said women were not allowed to enter Omine, I had no choice but to head for Kyoto. But the attendants who accompanied me took away my treasure and ran away, and that was how I wandered off into Zaodo". She was asked about the monk's name again, but she answered that she had forgotten it. What she said in Kyoto is somewhat different from what she just said; she said Yoshitsune's group went into Omine, but word had it that they went toward Tanomine and laid low, which means she must have lied, and that was why they were ordered to interrogate her again.

On April 20, Shizuka was again asked about more information but just answered that she didn't know where Yoshitsune had gone. She was told that since she was pregnant she would be allowed to leave after delivering a baby.

On May 5, Yoritomo and Masako visited Tsurugaoka-hachimangu Shrine for prayer. Shizuka was ordered to move out of an anteroom to the corridor to perform a dance. Although she was ordered to do so days ago, she hesitated to obey the order, using her illness as an excuse or saying it would be quite a disgrace for the concubine of Yoshitsune to appear on a gala occasion although she was not in a position to blame somebody for her misfortune, but Masako frequently recommended Yoritomo to see Shizuka's dance, saying "It would be a great disappointment to miss the great performance of an excellent dancer while the dancer happens to be at this place and is going to return very soon," and persuaded Shizuka to perform the dance by saying "The dance is dedicated to Hachiman Daibosatsu." She refused to obey the order, saying that not many days had passed since she departed from Yoshitsune and she still felt depressed and did not feel ready to dance, but she had to accept the order to dance because of repeated orders.
(See the above for dance.)

On June 10, gokenin (samurai under the direct supervision of shogun), including Suketsune KUDO, Kagemochi KAJIWARA, Tsunehide CHIBA, Asashige HATTA, and FUJIWARA no Kunimichi, visited, with low-ranking youngsters, the place where Shizuka stayed and held a party. Iso no Zenji performed a dance. As drunken Kagemochi threw dirty words, Shizuka burst into tears, "Yoshu (Yoshitsune) is the brother of Kamakura Dono (Yoritomo), and I am Yoshitsune's concubine. You are just a gokenin, and what you said about my relationship with Yoshitsune sounds like an ordinary love affair among men and women, but you are too vulgar to imply such a thing about us. If Yoshu hadn't come down in the world, you wouldn't even have had the chance to see him.
Why on earth do you think you think you are given the authority to say such dirty words?"

Shizuka performed a dance at the Minami Mido Hall at the request of Ohime, Yoritomo's eldest daughter, on the night of June 23.

Shizuka delivered a baby boy on the September 21. It was the son of Yoshu (Yoshitsune). Since it had been decided that she would be allowed to return to Kyoto after childbirth, she was ordered to stay until that day. But the baby's father stood against Kanto and fled. If the baby was a girl, she would be immediately returned to her mother, but if it was a boy, there is a possibility that the sparing of the boy's life would invite a disaster in the future even though the baby was still in baby clothes, and that was why it had already been decided that the baby boy would be killed as a baby. Today Shinzaburo ADACHI was ordered to dump the baby boy in the water off Yuigahama beach. Shinzaburo tried to take the baby from Shizuka to fulfill his order. Shizuka tightly held the baby in the clothes, continued crying for a long time, and would never lose hold of the baby, but Adachi strongly demanded the baby be surrendered. Iso no Zenji felt so intimidated that she took the baby from Shizuka and gave him to Shinzaburo. Masako petitioned to Yoritomo for the baby's life, only to fail.

Shizuka and her mother left Kamakura for Kyoto on November 5. Very much feeling for Shizuka, Masako and Ohime granted plenty of valuables to Shizuka.

The only historical document that records the name of Shizuka Gozen is "Azuma Kagami," a chronicle edited by the Hojo clan of the Kamakura Shogunate, Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun, and no journals of contemporary noble people contain any descriptions about Shizuka. Episodes other than those in Azuma Kagami are works of fiction in "Gikeiki," a military epic on Yoshitsune and his followers, established in the initial part of the Muromachi period. According to Gikeiki, Emperor Goshirakawa had 100 Buddhist priests chant sutras at the Shinsen-en Garden in Kyoto for prayer for rainfall because of a long spell of drought, but since the priests' prayer did not work, the Emperor invited 100 beautiful shirabyoshi dancers to pray for rainfall. Through the 99th shirabyoshi, no prayer was honored, but when the last dancer, Shizuka, started dancing, dark clouds appeared and the rain fell for three consecutive days. Shizuka was highly praised as 'Japan's No. 1' in the Cloister Emperor's Imperial decree. At that time, Yoshitsune, who was there at the ceremony, fell in love with her at first sight and asked her to become his concubine.

There are a few legends on the death of Shizuka, but none have been proven. There are many legends that include the suicide theory (she threw herself into the Himekawa River, Otobe Town, or into the sea off Yuigahama beach) or death away from home (although she followed Yoshitsune who fled northward, she was still young, alone, and could not stand the hardship of travelling and died; there are various theories about the place of her death). There is one thing commonly found in many of them: she died young.

Isono, today's Yamatotakada City, Nara Prefecture, is the hometown of Iso no Zenji, and there is a legend that Shizuka Gozen also returned to her mother's hometown and lived there until her death. There are also many tombs of hers: one on Awaji Island, one at Kurihashi Town, Kitakatsushika-gun, Saitama Prefecture, and one at former Tochio City, Niigata Prefecture, where she is said to have passed on her way to search for Yoshitsune who at the time was in today's Fukushima Prefecture. There is a pond named Bijogaike, in Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture, which is believed to be the place she threw herself into the water after she heard of the death of Yoshitsune, and a small temple named Shizuka Gozen Do, which was constructed in memory of her, stands nearby.

In Oshio, Omachi City, Nagano Prefecture, there stands a big tree called Shizuka no Sakura (Inuzakura in Japanese, scientific name is Prunus buergeriana Miq.), which is believed to have sprung up from a stick Shizuka poked on the ground as she breathed her last at the place, Oshio; she erroneously reached for its name and said Oshu, a place further to the north from the place to which Yoshitsune had fled.

At Shimohemi, Koga City, Ibaraki Prefecture, there is a bridge called Shian-bashi, which is believed to be the place where Shizuka Gozen had dwelt on ("shian" in Japanese) which way to go.