Taira no Sukemori (平資盛)

TAIRA no Sukemori was a Japanese military commander (busho) who lived in the Heian period. He was the second son of TAIRA no Shigemori, and his mother was a daughter of FUJIWARA no Chikamori. He attained the court rank of Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank).

He excelled in the waka form of poetry (a 31-syllable verse in native Japanese script), and examples of his verse appear in two Imperial collections of waka poetry, 'Shin chokusen wakashu' (A new anthology of Japanese poetry compiled by Imperial command) and 'Fuga wakashu' (Collection of Japanese Poetry of Elegance). He was romantically involved with Kenreimonin-ukyo-no-daibu, who was an outstanding poet and in the service of his aunt, TAIRA no Tokuko. The Denkanoriai Incident, in which Sukemori was involved at the age of 13 (or perhaps 10), occurred when the Taira clan was at the peak of its influence, and is described as representing the beginning of the Taira clan's misdeeds in "The Tale of the Heike."

Biography
On August 23, 1170, he was involved in a scuffle with a retainer of the regent, MATSUDONO Motofusa, because he failed to dismount his horse and pay his respects to the regent, when their paths crossed on the road, the regent traveling in a carriage, upon which, being insulted by the confrontation, fled and returned to the capital. When his father, TAIRA no Shigemori, heard of the event, he proceeded to execute a thorough retaliation on Motofusa, and this is what is referred to as the Denkanoriai Incident. The account recorded in "The Tale of the Heike" depicts TAIRA no Kiyomori, his grandfather, as the individual responsible to the retaliation; however, this is considered to be historically inaccurate, and to have been adopted to the thematic scheme in "The Tale of the Heike", according to which Kiyomori is portrayed as a black sheep, whereas Shigemori is portrayed as an upstanding member of the Taira clan. In "Gyokuyo", the diary of Kanezane KUJO, Sukemori is described as being the individual who was to succeed to the position of head of the family, and from the fact that he had already surpassed TAIRA no Koremori, who is thought to have been his older brother by a different mother, in official rank before December of the same year, it is considered that he was treated as Shigemori's heir from the beginning.

When Prince Mochihito rose in arms in June 1180, Sukemori went off to war with a troop including his uncle, TAIRA no Tomonori, TAIRA no Shigehira, Koremori, his older brother, and they engaged in battle with MINAMOTO no Yorifusa at Byodoin Temple, where they destroyed the enemy forces. In December of the same year, he went off to war in Omi Province with Tomonori, where they defeated Yoshitsune YAMAMOTO.

The Taira clan's departure from the capital
In July 1183, the Taira clan was defeated by MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka, and were forced to leave the capital. According to the "Gukansho" (Jottings of a Fool), Sukemori asked the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa, with whom he was in favor, to allow him to stay in the capital, but was refused. In the episode entitled, 'Dazaifu ochi' in "The Tale of the Heike," Sukemori had gone to attempt to try to win over Koreyoshi OGATA, who had been a retainer of Shigemori's in Bungo Province, and was turned away; however, in the entry for April 8, 1184 in the "Gyokuyo," Sukemori and TAIRA no Sadayoshi are said to have been detained by residents of Bungo Province.

In Febrary 1184, the Taira clan temporarily regained their strength, and advanced on Fukuhara-kyo (the capital built by TAIRA no Kiyomori) in Settsu Province. At the end of February, the troops of MINAMOTO no Noriyori, a local governor under MINAMOTO no Yoritomo who had destroyed Yoshinaka, and MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune were dispatched to pursue and subjugate the Taira clan. Sukemori encamped on Mount Mikusa, Harima Province, along with his brothers TAIRA no Arimori, TAIRA no Moromori and TAIRA no Tadafusa; however, they were ambushed by MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune, whereupon they fled to Yashima, Sanuki Province (Battle of Mikusayama). Immediately after that, on March 27, the Taira clan lost numerous family members, suffering a defeat at the Battle of Ichinotani from which the clan would not recover.

In April of the same year, Sukemori's older brother, Koremori, who had left the battlefront around the time of the Battle of Ichinotani, drowned himself off the coast of Nachi. When Sukemori heard the news he was beside himself with grief. His younger brother, TAIRA no Kiyotsune, had already drowned himself in Bungo Province, and Moromori had been killed in battle at Ichinotani at the age of 14. It is thought that his youngest brother, TAIRA no Tadafusa, accompanied Koremori when he left the battlefront.
When Sukemori received a letter of comfort from Kenreimonin-ukyo-no-daibu, who had heard of the drownings of Kiyotsune and Koremori, he sent a reply, 'I know that my life may come to an end at any moment, thus I'm trying not to let things weight too heavily on my mind.'
As for the death of his brothers, he composed a waka that reads, 'In this world, being alive does not mean to be living, even more so, to have met with such bitter experience is to know despair.'
That was his last letter to Ukyo-no-daibu.

In January of the next year (December of the same year), Sukemori was defeated by MINAMOTO no Noriyori in Kojima, Bizen Province (Battle of Fujito). On May 2, 1185, the Taira clan was defeated at the Battle of Dannoura and fell into ruin. While the Taira clan was in flight westward, many of Sukemori's brothers withdrew from the train along the way; however, as one of the members of the family who continued onward to the final destination, Sukemori along with his only remaining younger brother, Arimori, and his cousin, TAIRA no Yukimori, committed suicide by throwing themselves into the rapids of Dannoura. His died at the age of 25.
(or perhaps, 28)

Mourning the death of Sukemori, Kenreimonin-ukyo-no-daibu embarked on a consolation journey. A compilation of her works "The Collected Poems of Kenreimonin-ukyo-no-daibu" (Kenreimonin-ukyo-no-daibu-no-shu), contains many waka poems that were exchanged between her and Sukemori.

On Kikai Island in the Amami Islands, a legend is told recounting that Sukemori, being defeated in battle, sought refuge on the island.

The Oda clan, to which Nobunaga belonged, claimed descent from Sukemori.

A final letter to his lover
Just before the Taira clan's banishment from the capital, Sukemori met Kenreimonin-ukyo-no-daibu in secret, and left her with the following words, which seem to represent his habitual form of expression at that time. It is said that Sukemori had no room in his heart around that time.

'In the sort of world it has become, it would not be a mistake to imagine that one's life is but a fleeting moment.
If such should be my fate, would you pity me a little in your thoughts?
Even if you were to think nothing of my death, as we shared a long-lasting close relationship, I want you to take pity on me, and pray for the repose of my soul in the afterlife. If perchance, I should remain in this world for some time to come, I have decided resolutely not to think of myself as the same self I used to be. The reason being that whether it be out of self pity, the sorrow of parting, or concern for the wellbeing of someone dear, once I allow myself to indulge such sentimental reminiscence, there will be no end to it. As I have become uncertain of the strength of my heart, I've resolved not to dwell on the things of the past, and not to send letters to your door of tidings from whatever port I may find myself at; I beseech you not to think of my lack of correspondence as neglect or a lack of regard.
Although I'd resolved to consider myself dead to the world from this point, I dread the moments when I allow myself to think of what might have been, and am on the verge of slipping into those feelings from the past.'

Chronology of government posts and ranks
Dates follow the lunar calendar.
The year 1166
November 21: Awarded the court rank of Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade). December 30: Assumed the position of Echizen no kami (governor of Echizen Province).

The year 1169
January 5: Promoted to the court rank of Jugoinojo (Junior Fifth Rank, Upper Grade) by TAIRA no Shigeko, the Empress Dowager.

The year 1171
April 7: Reappointed to the position of Echizen no kami.

The year 1174
December 4: Appointed to the position of Jiju (chamberlain), held concurrently with his other positions.

The year 1175
January 22: Completed term as Echizen no kami. December 8: Promoted to the court rank of Shogoinoge (Senior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade).

The year 1178
December 24: Assumed the position of Ukone no Gon no shosho (Provisional Minor Captain of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards). Resigned from the position of Jiju.

The year 1179
January 2: Promoted to the court rank of Jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade) by Josaimonin.

The year 1180
April 8: Promoted to the court rank of Jushiinojo (Junior Fourth Rank, Upper Grade), on the occasion of a royal visit (gyoko) by the retired Emperor Takakura.

The year 1181
May 26: Promoted to the court rank of Shoshiinoge (Senior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade) by Josaimonin. October 12: Resigned from the position of Ukone no Gon no shosho. October 29: Appointed to the position of Ukone no Gon no chujo (Provisional Middle Captain of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards).

The year 1183
January 22: Appointed to the position of Kurodo no to (reigning emperor's personal secretary). July 3: Promoted to the court rank of Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank). Retained the position of Ukone no Gon no chujo.

August 6: Dismissed from government posts.