Sato Tadanobu (佐藤忠信)
Tadanobu SATO (1161 – November 4, 1186) was a Busho in the end of Heian period and a vassal of MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune. He is considered one of Four Great Retainers of MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune in "Genpei Seisui ki" (Rise and Fall of the Minamoto and the Taira clans).
A brother of Tsugunobu SATO
His father is Motoharu SATO who served Fujiwara clan in Oshu, or FUJIWARA no Tadatsugu.
His official was Sahyoe no jo, Jurokuinoge. He is also called Shiro Hyoe no jo, connecting with his kemyo (assumed name).
In 1180 when Yoshitsune in Oshu went to the armed camp of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo who had raised an army, he accompanied Yoshitsune along with his brother Tsugunobu by order of FUJIWARA no Hidehira.
He joined the army to hunt down and kill the Heike family as a retainer of Yoshitsune.
His elder brother Tsugunobu was killed in the Battle of Yashima.
When Yoshitsune angered Yoritomo because he gained a government post without Yoshitsune's permission after the naval battle of Danno-ura on April 15, 1185, Tadanobu also assumed the position of Hyoe no jo (Lieutenant of the Middle Palace Guards), so Yoritomo abused him, saying "There is no precedent that a Hidehira's retainer was appointed to efu (a palace guard). You should know who you are. A guy who gets carried away is inferior to a cat (or badger, or raccoon dog)."
On October 17, 1185 when Yoshitsune and Yoritomo confronted and Yoritomo dispatched Shoshin TOSANOBO, an assassin, to Yoshitsune's mansion in Kyoto, Yoshitsune, who chose Tadanobu from his small number of retainers remained in his mansion for a companion, jumped out of the gate and fought back himself.
Although he accompanied Yoshitsune who had been expelled from Kyoto on November 3, 1185, their ship heading for Kyushu sank and the brigade was dismissed.
Tadanobu left Yoshitsune around Uji City, and hid in Kyoto.
On September 22, 1186, from the letter he had sent to his ex-girlfriend who got married to another man, his place was located by Arisue KASUYA, a gokenin in Kamakura, who leaked the information, and he was attacked in the Nakamikado-Higashinotoin where he was hiding. Although Tadanobu bravely fought, which was outnumbered and he killed himself along with his two retainers.
(From "Azuma Kagami" (The Mirror of the East))
"Genpei Seisui ki" (Rise and Fall of the Minamoto and the Taira clans) tells that he died at the age of 26.
(Tadanobu's stone pagoda located in Io-ji Temple (Fukushima City) which is Sato clan's family temple tells that he died at the age of 34.)
In "Gikeiki" (a military epic about the life of Yoshitsune) written in the early Muromachi period, Tadanobu was described as one of the main characters who commit a fierce suicide after the brave fight in Kyoto where he was back alone from Yoshino as being Yoshitsune's undercover.
From the famous scene of Gikeiki, he became a model of "Genkuro Gitsune", commonly known as "Tadanobu KITSUNE" from "Yoshitsune Senbonzakura", a famous program of Kabuki or ningyo joruri.
There is an anecdote that Tsugunobu's wife and Tadanobu's wife wore their husbands' armors respectively disguised as their bravery in order to show and console their old mother (Otowa Gozen) who moaned at losing her two sons, and this anecdote was published in the government-designated textbook as an educational material for girls and women until the early Showa period.
The Sato Family, a family home of the Prime Minister Nobusuke KISHI and the Prime Minister Eisaku SATO who are also sibling, called themselves the descendants of Tadanobu.