Taira no Koremori (平維盛)

TAIRA no Koremori was a samurai who lived towards the end of the Heian period. He was a legitimate son of TAIRA no Shigemori and therefore, a legitimate grandchild of TAIRA no Kiyomori.

Being of the main branch of the Taira clan and of extraordinary good looks, his appearance in the imperial court was associated with the coming of Hikaru Genji. Although he went off to the front as Taishogun (commander-in-chief) in the Jisho-Juei War, he was not competent as a warlord and was devastatingly defeated in the decisive Battle of Fujigawa and Battle of Kurikara-toge. Partly because his father died young, he tended to be isolated in the clan; he left the front line after the Taira clan fled from Kyoto, and committed a suicide by drowning himself in the sea off Nachi.

Seigaiha play

In the ceremony celebrating the Cloister Emperor Goshirakawa's 50th birthday held in April 21, 1176, Koremori, who was aged 19, performed a dance titled 'Seigaiha play,' wearing the twigs of cherry and plum trees in his Eboshi (black-lacquered headgear), which won him the name of Obai-shosho (general of flowers) as he was so handsome.
The way he danced the Seigaiha play was described in detail in diaries including "Gyokuyo" (Kanezane KUJO's diary) and "Angen Onga no Nikki" (the record of the ceremony celebrating Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa's 50th birthday), where FUJIWARA no Takafusa, who attended the ceremony, describes the scene as 'Koremori comes out and dances a Rakuson dragon dance in the Iriaya style, wearing a blue Uenokinu coat and an Uenohakama kilt that matched his complexion, his expression, and his aura, which filled the atmosphere and fascinated the audience; the beauty and magnificence of his dance was no less than those of the cherry blossoms he was wearing.'
In "Kenreimonin Ukyo-no-daibu-shu" (the poetry of Kenreimonin Ukyo-no-daibu), he is compared to Hikaru Genji.

When his father, TAIRA no Shigemori, who had been supposed to succeed Taira no Kiyomori, died of disease in July 1179 and TAIRA no Munemori took over as the head of the clan, Koremori and the other sons of Shigemori were put in a delicate position in the clan. His wife being the daughter of FUJIWARA no Narichika, who had been killed in the Shishigadani Conspiarcy, made his position more difficult.

The Battle of Fujigawa

On October 2, 1180 when MINAMOTO no Yoritomo raised an army, he was designated So-daisho (the supreme commander) to defeat Yoritomo. There was an infighting between Koremori, who wanted to depart as soon as possible, and FUJIWARA no Tadakiyo, Samurai-daisho (the commander of warriors), who insisted that the date chosen for departure should be avoided as it was inauspicious, causing the departure to be delayed to the end of the month. The beauty of Koremori, aged 23, dressed in the samurai outfit, and ready to go to battle as Taisho (the supreme commander) was beyond description.

Going down the Tokaido road, Koremori's army had difficulty not only recruiting soldiers due to the information that the Minamoto clan around the country were raising armies one after another and on the advance, disseminated while his army was procrastinating but also procuring food due to the poor crop during the summer. At last, they arrived in Suruga Province, having somehow recruiting soldiers on the way. The Mokudai (Governor's representative) of the Suruga Province, who was on the Taira side and had been waiting for Koremori's army to arrive, went off to attack the Kai-Genji (Minamoto clan) (Takeda army) fighting them at the foot of the Fuji-gawa River and suffering a crushing defeat.
On October 17, the day before the Battle of Fujigawa, the Takeda army sent a letter to Koremori's camp, following the rules of warfare of that time, which said as follows:
'I've wanted to see you for a long time.'
As you are here as the Emperor's envoy, I should be visiting you.'
However, since we are still far apart and the path is steep, I would appreciate it if we could arrange to meet at Ukishimagahara.'
Furious at this bold letter, Tadakiyo, in violation of the art of warfare, beheaded the two envoys who had brought the letter (source: "Sankaiki" (Tadachika NAKAYAMA's diary), "Gyokuyo," and "Kikki" (Tsunefusa YOSHIDA's diary)). According to "Heike Monogatari" (the Tales of the Taira Family), the Taira army that faced the Takeda army across the Fuji-gawa River on November 14 was seventy thousand strong, but in fact, there were only some four thousand soldiers, whose number became further reduced to one or two thousand as some fled or surrendered to the enemy while resting. In the face of Yoritomo's large army, there was no longer a chance of the Taira army winning.

Although Koremori had no intention of retreating, he had no choice but to do so, partly because Tadakiyo repeatedly insisted on it and partly because it was what his demoralized soldiers wanted. On the night the evacuation order was given from the camp at the Fuji-gawa River, tens of thousands of water birds that had been gathering on Fuji-numa Marsh flew up all at one time, the noise frightening the Taira soldiers and making them run in panic, assuming that the enemy was storming them.
(Some scholars say that the Taira army, who knew that the Takeda army of the Minamoto side was coming to attack them that night because they had heard the birds, was trying to pullback temporarily when an evacuation order came out of blue, causing confusion among soldiers and making them run.)
In November, Koremori fled back to Kyoto, accompanied by only a dozen mounted soldiers.
(Source: "Sankaiki," "Gyokuyo," and other documents)

His grandfather, TAIRA no Kiyomori, was furious, saying that he should have fought to death even if he ended up exposing his body to the enemy and that running back home as a loser was a shame of the clan, and forbade him from entering Kyo.

In March 1181, Kiyomori died of disease.

In April of the same year, Koremori, together with TAIRA no Shigehira and TAIRA no Tadanori, defeated MINAMOTO no Yukiie in the Battle of Sunomata-gawa River in Owari Province, which earned him Junii (Junior Second Rank), and the posts of U-Chujo (lieutenant general of the Imperial Guards of the Right) and Kurodo no to (head chamberlain), which made people call him Komatsu no Chujo (literally General of the small pines).

The Battle of Kurikara-toge and the exile of the Taira clan from Kyoto

In May (April in old lunar calendar) 1183, an army led by So-daisho Koremori to defeat MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka departed in groups one by one, recruiting as many as a hundred thousand (or forty thousand acccording to some sources) soldiers, which was equivalent to the entire force of the Taira clan, and advanced to Hokuriku. In May, his army was heavily defeated in the Battle of Kurikara-toge by Yoshinaka's army. According to "Gyokuyo," out of forty thousand soldiers, only four or five soldiers wearing armor were found alive; the vast majority of the Taira army was killed and the rest fled into mountains and forests, leaving all their belongings behind, only to be found and murdered later. Commanders Moritoshi, Kageie, and Tadakiyo, who were the bravest among the Taira clan, fled with no subordinates accompanying them. The Taira army was defeated by an enemy of only five thousand soldiers while the supreme commander (Koremori) and the three commanders of warriors were vying for authority.

In July of the same year, the Taira clan was exiled from the capital and fled west. The 'The Exile of the Taira clan' chapter of "Heike Monogatari" depicts TAIRA no Takakiyo and TAIRA no Tomomori as suspecting Koremori and the other sons of Shigemori of having changed their minds since they saw Koremori, who had been reluctant to leave his heir, TAIRA no Takakiyo, in Kyoto and to part from his wife and his other children, late for departure. In March 1184, sometime before or after the Battle of Ichinotani, Koremori secretly left camp and fled. According to "Gyokuyo," he headed towards Nankai, taking some thirty ships with him. Later, he became a priest at Mt. Koya, made a pilgrimage to Kumano Sanzan (three major shrines of Kumano-Hongu-Taisha, Kumano-Hayatama-Taisha, and Kumano-Nachi-Taisha) and in May, committed suicide by drowning himself in the sea around the Ki no Matsushima islands off Nachi. He died at the age of twenty seven.

The rumor that Koremori committed suicide by drowning himself spread to Kyo and reached Kenreimonin Ukyo no daibu (the administrator of eastern Kyoto), who had been on friendly terms with him, felt saddened, and made the waka poems of condolence: 'His beautiful look, which was likened to cherry blossoms in spring, vainly ended up dead under the sea' and 'What a sad thing that he had such a bitter experience of downing himself in Kumano inlet.'

"Zenchu-ki" in the military epic, "Genpei Seisuiki" (The Rise and Decline of the Minamoto and Taira clans), has a different story; instead of committing suicide, after his pilgrimage to Kumano, Koremori went to Kyoto to plead with the Cloistered Emperor for his life, and the Cloistered Emperor communicated Koremori's wish to Yoritomo, who wanted Koremori to come to Kanto (the east of Japan) but he died of disease on the way to Kamakura in Yu-shimojuku in Sagami Province. According to the entry for May 1184 in the "Kikki," there was a rumor circulated that TAIRA no Tadafusa, a younger brother of Koremori, had secretly been to Kanto, was pardoned and returned to Kyoto. The same record also mentions that Tadafusa was beheaded the following year, which conflicts with the above description and it would be reasonable to conclude that it is Koremori, not Yoshifusa, that is discussed in the above. Koremori is also thought to have left Yashima peninsula sometime before or after the Battle of Ichinotani in March and died of disease in Sagami in May.
(Reference: "The Genpei War and the Heike Monogatari" by Masataka UWAYOKOTE, Kadokawa Sensho)

Some scholars say that rumors of Koremori's suicide were deliberately circulated to prevent a search for Taira soldiers by Yoritomo, and that Koremori, who was actually alive, traveled across the country, settled in Irokawa-go in Kii Province, and had two sons: Morihiro, who later named himself Shimizu, and Moriyiasu, who later named himself Mizuguchi, the ancestor of the Irokawa clan in the Sengoku period (Period of Warring States), although this story remains unproven.


February 10: He was promoted to Jugoinojo (Junior Fifth Rank, Upper Grade).

February 13, 1171 (December 30, 1170 in old lunar calendar): He was appointed Ukone no Gon no shosho (Provisional Minor Captain of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards).

March 3: He was designated Deputy Vice-Governor of Tanba Province while continuing to serve in the other posts. May 20: He was promoted to Shogoinoge (Senior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade).

March 13: He was designated Chugu Gon no suke (Provisional Assistant Master of the Consort's Household) to assist Chugu (emperor's consort), TAIRA no Tokuko.

April 29: He was promoted to Jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade).

March 19: He was appointed Deputy Vice-Governor of Iyo Province while continuing to server in the other posts. January 13, 1177 (December 15, 1176 in old lunar calendar): He was promoted to Jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Upper Grade).

Janyuary 31, 1179 (December 15, 1178 in old lunar calendar): He was designated Togu Gon no suke (Provisional Assistant Master of the Crown Prince's Quarters) to assist Crown Prince Tokihito. He left the post of Chugu Gon no suke.

December 28: He was promoted to Shoshiinoge (Senior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade). He received Kinjiki Chokkyo, authorization by the Emperor to wear colors permitted only to the imperial family or court nobles.

March 25: He resigned from the post of Togu Gon no suke as the prince became Emperor Antoku. May 30: He was allowed Shoden (access to the imperial court).

July 30: He was designated Ukone no Gon no chujo (Provisional Middle Captain of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards). Kurodo no to (Head Chamberlain).

January 17, 1182 (December 4, 1181 in old lunar calendar): He was promoted to Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank). Retained his position as Ukone no Gon no chujo.

April 19: He was designated Deputy Governor of Iyo Province while continuing to serve other posts.

September 1: He was removed from all his posts.

[Original Japanese]