Yamamoto Yoshitsune (山本義経)

Yoshitsune YAMAMOTO was a busho (Japanese military commander) who lived in the end of the Heian period. He was from the Omi-Genji (Minamoto clan), with the family line of MINAMOTO no Yoshimitsu. His father was Yoshisada YAMAMOTO, the second son of MINAMOTO no Yoshinari, who was the oldest son of Yoshimitsu and the founder of the Satake clan. He raised an army in Omi Province early in the Jisho-Juei War.
Since his original name was Genji (Minamoto clan), his official name was MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune, which was an identical name with the famous MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune from the Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan) as a brother of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo, so he was known in the 'Two Yoshitsune Theory.'


According to "Azuma Kagami" (The Mirror of the East), Yoshitsune YAMAMOTO was the fifth generation descendant (the fourth generation in family trees) of Shinra-Saburo Yoshimitsu (a brother of MINAMOTO no Yoshiie) living in Omi Province, and the lord of the Yamamotoyama-jo Castle. He was a valiant, who were famous for both archery and equestrianism.

In 1176, he was banished to Sadoga-shima Island for murdering a priest of Enryaku-ji Temple. "Azuma Kagami" insists that it was a slander by the Taira clan. In 1180, he was acquitted and returned to Kyoto.

On December 15 in the same year, going along with raising arms of the Minamoto clan in various provinces, he raised an army together with the Omi-Genji (Minamoto clan) including Yoshikane KASHIWAGI (Koga Nyudo). He attacked FUJIWARA no Kageie, a powerful retainer of the Taira family, and his servants, who were on the way to Ise Province, at Seta and Noji in Omi province, and cut off and gibbeted his head at Kara-hashi Bridge in Seta. The troops of Kageie killed Prince Mochihito, who raised an army for overturning the Taira clan and was defeated, so Yoshitsune virtually avenged the Prince. The progress of the uprising of the Omi-Genji (Minamoto clan) is mentioned in the "Gyokuyo," the diary of Kanezane KUJO.

The Omi forces including Yoshitsune YAMAMOTO and Yoshikane KASHIWAGI held Lake Biwa with their navy, and built a float bridge at Seta using small boats and rafts to stop transportation of nengu (annual tribute) from Hokurikudo region. The Omi forces crossed over Seta and entered Mii-dera Temple, which made Kyoto disturbed. The Omi forces brought their boat to the west shore of Lake Biwa and attacked temples. Although Koga Nyudo wanted to attack Kyoto immediately, the envoy of the Kai-Genji (Minamoto clan) (which had cooperated with the uprising) restrained this, saying they didn't have enough military force yet.

In December, the Taira clan dispatched tsuitoshi (envoys to search and kill) with TAIRA no Tomonori as Daishogun (command in chief) to Omi. The Omi forces ran away, and the Taira clan army set fire to Seta and Noji and chased the Omi forces. In response, 5000 horse soldiers of the Mino-Genji (Minamoto clan) departed for Kashiwabara, Omi Province. The Taira clan army matched them with 3000 horse soldiers. On December 30, 3000 horse soldiers of the Omi and Mino Genji (Minamoto clan), and 2000 of the Taira clan had a fight, and then the Omi and Mino Genji (Minamoto clan) were dispersed.

Yoshitsune YAMAMOTO holed up in Mii-dera Temple with joining hands with the followers of Enryaku-ji Temple, and made a night attack to Rokuhara. The Taira clan army adopted a position to block the rear side and to attack from east and west. Getting reinforcement from TAIRA no Kiyofusa, the Taira clan army captured Mii-dera Temple. Yoshitsune YAMAMOTO escaped and kept making resistance. The Omi forces holed up in Yamamotoyama-jo Castle, the base of Yoshitsune YAMAMOTO, which fell by the attack of TAIRA no Tomomori and Sukemori on January 10 ("Gyokuyo," see the details in Offense and Defence in Omi Province). Yoshitsune YAMAMOTO ran away, and under the conduct of Sanehira DOI, he had an audience with MINAMOTO no Yoritomo in Kamakura City, and he was granted 'Kanto Shiko (attendance in Kanto)' (Azuma Kagami). "Azuma Kagami" mentions the fall of the castle was on December 26, and the arrival in Kamakura was on January 4, which has discrepancy with the record of "Gyokuyo." However, "Azuma Kagami" is, after all, a compilation in later days. According to the description of "Gyokuyo," the record of the day, from the late December to early January, the Omi-Genji (Minamoto clan) including Yoshitsune YAMAMOTO was in the middle of the battle against the tsuitoshi, so some say that the articles in "Azuma Kagami" on the fall of the castle on December 4 and the meeting with Yoritomo on January 4 are not trustworthy.

In 1183, Yoshitsune YAMAMOTO left Yoritomo, and entered Kyoto, joining the army of MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka. When Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa, who hid himself from the Taira clan and fled to Mt. Hiei, went back to the capital, Nishigori Kaja Yoshitaka, a son of Yoshitsune, escorted him. In the capital, Yoshitsune was in charge of security of Kyoto by order of Yoshinaka. He was appointed as Iga no kami (Governor of Iga Province), and later Wakasa no kami (Governor of Wakasa Province) (according to "Kikki" [Diary of Tsunefusa YOSHIDA], "Genpei Seisui ki" [Rise and Fall of the Minamoto and the Taira clans] and "Omishi Shinkai Ryakki (近江志新開略記)" [Sketch of Development in Omi] made in the Edo period).

On March 11, 1184, MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka was destroyed by the attack of the army of MINAMOTO no Noriyori and Yoshitsune (Battle of Uji-gawa River). On 13 March, right after this battle, his son Yoshihiro was appointed as Uemon Gon no Shojo (provisional Junior Lieutenant of the Right Division of Outer Palace Guards) by Inzen (a decree from the retired Emperor). The rest of the fate of Yoshitsune YAMAMOTO is unknown.


In the Showa period, based on the description of "Gyokuyo," Shinpachiro MATSUMOTO, a historian, mentioned 'Two Yoshitsune Theory' that MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune, a brother of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo and Yoshitsune YAMAMOTO were the same person.

Novels dealing with the relationship of MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune and Yoshitsune YAMAMOTO include "Futari no Yoshitsune" (Two Yoshitsunes) (included in "Uwasa no Miko" [Gossip Prince]) by Michiko NAGAI.

[Original Japanese]