Taira no Yasuyori (平康頼)

TAIRA no Yasuyori (c. 1146 - 1220) was a member of the noble class in the Heian period. He was a child of NAKAHARA no Yorisue who was Sadaishi (senior recorder of the left). He served in the posts of kebiishi (a police and judicial chief) and Emonfu (Headquarters of the Outer Palace Guards). He was also called Taira hangannyudo.


He was born to the Nakahara clan which had the status of Myobodo (study of Codes). Among the Taira clan was TAIRA no Yasumori who held a high-powered position, and a seemingly close relationship between Yasumori and the Nakahara family led to Yasuyori becoming a retainer of Yasumori in his teens. When Yasumori was appointed as provincial governor of Echizen Province on March 7, 1163, the 18-year-old Yasuyori was also dispatched to Echizen, and it is believed that Yasumori granted Yasuyori the family name of Taira around this time. Yasumori was appointed provincial governor of Owari Province on January 29, 1167, and dispatched Yasuyori after promoting him to deputy provincial governor.

There was a grave of MINAMOTO no Yoshitomo (father of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo) in a villa in Noma, Chita district, Owari Province, but, with nobody to look after it, it had been utterly neglected. Yoshitomo, when fleeing to Togoku (the eastern part of Japan, particularly the Kanto region) after losing the Heiji War, had fallen into the trap when he took a bath at the suggestion of the father and son of the Osada family, hereditary retainers to the Minamoto family, and was killed in the bathroom. Though Yoshimoto was an enemy, Yasuyori repaired Yoshitomo's grave, erected a temple to enshrine the lost soul, employed six monks and had them perform the continual nenbutsu (Buddhist invocation) and donated about 297510 square meters of paddy fields for the upkeep of the shrine.

When this story reached Kyoto and the ears of Retired Emperor Goshirakawa, he got the impression that TAIRA no Yasuyori, despite his rank of deputy provincial governor, was a trustworthy young man infused with the spirit of Bushido (the code of the samurai), and promoted him to the post of kinju (attendant). Yasuyori was appointed police and judicial chief, Saemon no daijo (Senior Lieutenant at the Left Division of Outer Palace Guards) and given the title of Taira hangan (inspector (third highest of the four administrative ranks of the ritsuryo period)).

Later, Yasuyori joined the plot, known as the Shishigatani Incident, by FUJIWARA no Narichika, Saiko, Shunkan and others to overthrow the Taira family. On seeing a sake bottle (called heishi) fall over at a drinking party, he is said to have been pleased and remarked 'The Heishi has fallen' (Heishi being another reading for the Chinese characters for 'Taira clan'). The story was leaked anonymously, and Yasuyori and his co-conspirators were captured. He was banished to Kikaiga-shima Island, Satsuma Province along with Shunkan and FUJIWARA no Naritsune.
(the Shishigatani plot)

According to "Heike Monogatari" (the Tale of the Heike), on being banished, the ever pious Yasuyori entered into priesthood and took the name Shosho. Naritsune and Yasuyori had a constant longing to return to Kyoto and came up with the idea of noting down nostalgic poems on a thousand stupa (long and narrow wooden tablets), and throwing them into the sea. One of the stupa washed up on the shore of Itsukushima in Aki Province, and TAIRA no Kiyomori was so moved by the poem on it that he ordered the remission of the banishment. In 1178, Naritsune and Yasuyori were pardoned and returned to Kyoto in a specially prepared vessel, but Shunkan was not pardoned.

After returning to Kyoto, he wrote and edited a collection of Buddhist Tales called "Hobutsushu" (Yasuyori's Collection of Treasures) in Sorin-ji Temple in Higashiyama where his aunt had become a nun. In 1186, MINAMOTO no Yoritomo appointed TAIRA no Yasuyori as hoji (officer governing the territory under the direct control of the bakufu) of Oe-no-ho (a territory directly controlled by the bakufu) in Awa Province, because Yoritomo knew that Yasuyori had held a Buddhist memorial service for the soul of Yoritomo's father. Yasuyori was already 41 years old.

Besides building the hoji office, Koro Tower, Rokubo-ji Temple and branch shrines of Kumano-jinja Shrine, Yasuyori built Fudaraku-ji Temple on Mt. Kikai to mourn for Shunkan in Kikaiga-shima Island (Fudaraku-ji means "temple for Kannon Worship" and Kikaiga-shima was regarded as the jodo (pure land of Kannon)); and built Gyokurin-ji Temple on Mt.Jigen where he held memorial services for all those killed in the Genpei War (war between the Minamoto clan and the Taira clan) irrespective of their allegiances.

Yasuyori died around 1220 at the age of 75 and was cremated at a place called Ichochi. Yasuyori's grave was placed next to Yasuyori-jinja Shrine which was erected according to Yasuyori's will by the Tsuruta clan to deify their lord and was served by generations of priests from the Tsuruta clan. His cremains were separated, with a portion also being buried at Sorin-ji Temple in Higashiyama, Kyoto Prefecture. It is believed that the three gravestones composed of five piled-up stone pieces erected aside Yasuyori-jinja Shrine are for Yasuyori's mother, Yasuyori and Shunkan. Shunkan, who was alone in Kikaiga-shima Island because of Kiyomori's continuing anger towards him, was visited after a few years by his pupil Ario who came all the way from Kyoto to see him; but Shunkan starved himself to death while in Ario's care. Ario brought back his master's cremains and buried them on Mt. Koya, but Yasuyori is also said to have obtained a portion and buried them under the base stone of Shunkan's gravestone composed of five piled-up stone pieces.


Kiyomoto, the second head of the house, inherited the post of hoji during 1207 and 1210, but he was later dismissed on suspicion of siding with the Retired Emperor Gotoba in the Jokyu War. Although he denied the allegation and pleaded his innocence to Kamakura, he lost his case and was decapitated in Kamakura for perjury. In the 26th volume of "Azuma Kagami"(The Mirror of the East), it is stated that TAIRA no Kiyomoto forfeited Oe-no-ho on November 20, 1221.

No longer having the government post, the third head of the family, Toshimoto, went to Kyoto but, as a member of the losing side in the Jokyu War, was unable to find a lord to serve. He then joined an insurgency, killed Shiro IGU with poisoned arrows, and was captured. SUWA no gyobu Samon, the mastermind of the incident, was decapitated, and Toshimoto and Saemon MAKI were, like Toshimoto's grandfather Yasuyori, banished to Kikaiga-shima Island, whereupon nothing more was heard of Toshimoto; and the Taira clan of the Morifuji died out.

Yasutoshi, Toshimoto's uncle, gathered his family together, left Morifuji for Asuha district in Echizen Province where his father Yasuyori had served, and joined Tanrei-in Temple as a priest. His son Yasutsuna followed him into the priesthood, renaming Tanrei-in Temple Josho-ji Temple (Jodo Shinshu sect) on Mt. Shinko and thereby becoming founder and Gon Daisozu (the provisional highest grade that can be held by one who has reached the second highest rank in the hierarchy of Buddhist priests); thereafter, Yasutsuna's descendants entered the priesthood and made a name for the family.

On the construction of the memorial column.

"Azuma Kagami" describes in detail the construction of the memorial column in Noma by Yasuyori in Mihama Town, Aichi Prefecture. There is also a story that Yoritomo built it as a token of his gratitude for Yasuyori's excellent conduct in 1190, when Yoritomo visited his father's (Yoshitomo's) mausoleum, however questions remain. Yoritomo died at the age of 53 in February 1199. When Yoritomo died, Yasuyori was still alive and would live for a further 20 years, and thus Yoritomo could not possibly have erected a memorial column for Yasuyori. Around the end of the Meiji period, Aijiro TEZUKA, the author of the History of Awa Province had doubts about this story and asked the government office of Chita district to investigate it. He was told as follows.
Yoritomo had rebuilt his father Yoshitomo's grave, which had been in Omido-ji Temple in Noma, and his retainers' grave in 1190.'
Later, however, the story that TAIRA no Yasuyori repaired the neglected grave of Yoshitomo, erected a temple building (the predecessor of Omido-ji Temple) and donated 297510 square meters of paddy fields had become more widely known, with the result that the retainers' memorial column was mistaken for Yasuyori's grave.'
TAIRA no Yasuyori did not die in the district and therefore had no connection with the grave.'
Contrary to the story, the memorial column was not erected by Yoritomo but by people who had a connection with the temple out of respect for Yasuyori as the founder of Omido-ji Temple.