Taira no Yoritsuna (平頼綱)

TAIRA no Yoritsuna (year of birth unknown - May 29, 1293) was a private vassal of the Tokuso family of the Hojo clan (miuchibito), serving as a butler for the Eighth Regent Tokimune HOJO and the Ninth Regent Sadatoki HOJO of the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). He was the son of TAIRA no Moritsuna (Saburo, Hyoe no Jo [Lieutenant of the Middle Palace Guards]) and younger brother of TAIRA no Moritoki. He was the foster father of Sadatoki HOJO. He was commonly called Heishin Saemon no Jo (officer of the Left Division of Outer Palace Guards) and later took the name of Heizenmon when he became a Buddhist priest. His homyo (Buddhist name) was Koen.

Brief Personal History

The progenitor of Yoritsuna's family was allegedly TAIRA no Sukemori, but some question its authenticity. They consider that in reality, he was from the Seki clan whose members assumed the surname of Taira. A butler for the Tokuso family was sometimes called Uchikanrei, which meant 'the chief steward of the Tokuso family' and hence did not refer to the governmental post in the Kamakura bakufu.

Although a historical document from pre-modern times mentions that Yoritsuna's father, Moritsuna, called himself Hei no Saemon no Jo Moritsuna NAGASAKI, assuming the surname of the Nagasaki clan, no such account is found in the documents from his times. However, Moritsuna and Yoritsuna were of the same family as Takatsuna NAGASAKI (Enki) and his son Takasuke NAGASAKI, both of whom later became Uchikanrei. Yoritsuna had the following four sons: the eldest son Munetsuna NAGASAKI (Hei no Taro Saemon no Jo Munetsuna NAGASAKI), the second son Sukemune (資宗) IINUMA (Tametsuna IINUMA, hangan (judge) of Awa Province, Sukemune (助宗) IINUMA), the third son Yorimoto NAGASAKI (Saburozaemon Yorimoto NAGASAKI) and the forth son Takayori NAGASAKI (Shiro Takayori NAGASAKI).

Putting miuchibito's interests first and seeking to reinforce the power of the Tokuso family around whom the miuchibito were organized, Yoritsuna was vehemently and politically opposed to Yasumori ADACHI who vigorously pursued political reform called Koan Tokusei to help the impoverished retainers after the Mongol Invasion. Their conflict became worse when Regent Tokimune died in April 1284 and his son Sadatoki took over the regency. It culminated in a violent clash that took place in the streets of Kamakura in December 1285. This clash is called the Shimotsuki Incident. Yoritsuna serving for Regent Sadatoki won the battle, while Yasumori's family and their allies were brought to destruction and the members of his faction in the government such as Kagesuke SHONI were all dismissed.

After the Incident Yoritsuna briefly focused on the procedural aspects of politics by frequently issuing additional laws. When MINAMOTO no Koreyasu, the Seventh Seii Taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians), underwent the coming-of-age ritual and became Imperial Prince in 1287, Yoritsuna turned to a reign of terror. (Koreyasu was made Imperial Prince to be dismissed from the office of Shogun and expelled to Kyoto). This however aroused discontent within the bakufu government and made Sadatoki apprehensive. In the end, when Kamakura was hit by a great earthquake in May 1293, his house in Kyoshigayatsu was raided by Sadatoki's troops. Yoritsuna committed suicide and his family were all killed. This is called the Heizenmon Incident. Incidentally, the earthquake led to the change of era, from Shoo to Einin in September.

In his later years, his second son, Sukemune (資宗) (Sukemune spelt as 助宗, also known as Tametsuna) IINUMA, was promoted to kebiishi (an official with judicial and police powers) and later to kokushi (provincial governor) of Awa Province, which was exceptional for a private vassal of the Tokuso family. It seems that Yoritsuna took great care in advancing the social status of his family.
"Towazugatari" (The Confessions of Lady Nijo) recounts that Sukemune, Yoritsuna's son, went to Mt. Ashigara as kebiishi to receive Imperial Prince Hisaaki, who was to replace Shogun Imperial Prince Koreyasu who was expelled from Kamakura in 1289, after composing the following poem: 'I shall not follow the footsteps of the one who has been expelled.'
It describes how the miuchibito despises the former shogun.

After Yoritsuna died, Mitsutsuna NAGASAKI (Taro Saemon no Jo Mitsutsuna NAGASAKI), the son of Mitsumori NAGASAKI (Jiro Saemon no Jo Mitsumori NAGASAKI) who was Yoritsuna's uncle, became the head of his family and took up the butlership of the Tokuso family. Mitsutsuna may have been Yoritsuna's younger brother or nephew. Takatsuna NAGASAKI (whose homyo was Enki) who famously held the reins of power was Mitsutsuna's son.

Heizaemon's Hell

When a Zen monk named Shushin GIDO, who lived in the Muromachi period, went from Kamakura to the hot springs in Atami which used to belong to the Hojo clan, he took down the following episode which he heard from a local monk in his dairy.
'Heizaemon (Hei no Saemon no Jo) Yoritsuna massacred an innumerable number of people. His house which used to be here was swallowed up by the earth when he was murdered. Everybody said that he went to hell alive, and that is why up until now this place has been called Heizaemon's Hell.'
Thus, Yoritsuna's reign of terror was remembered for more than 80 years after his death.

The Name of TAIRA no Yoritsuna

At the beginning of the Kamakura period, the retainers were forbidden by the First Seii Taishogun MINAMOTO no Yoritomo from assuming a name made up with 'honsei' (real family name) followed by 'imina' (real given name): e.g. TAIRA no Kagetoki. They were instead requested to use a name composed of 'myoji' (surname) plus 'tsusho' (common name): for example, KAJIWARA Heiza. Since then, non-retainers also began to use surnames. Yoritsuna's family belonged to the Nagasaki clan. Yet there is no historical records from his times, suggesting that the clan called Nagasaki actually existed, or that Yoritsuna called himself Nagasaki. Nor is there any record to indicate that Yoritsuna used a different surname from Nagasaki. For these reasons he is conventionally called TAIRA no Yoritsuna based on his honsei. (We know for sure, at least, that his contemporaries thought that his honsei was Taira [平] since he is referred to as 'Heishin Saemon Saburo Yoritsuna' [平新左衛門三郎頼綱] or 'Heishin Saemon no Jo Yoritsuna' [平新左衛門尉頼綱] in 'Azuma Kagami' [The Mirror of the East]).