THE PUPPET EMPERORS (CONTINUED)
NOW while Yoshitsune was growing up into a gallant soldier, the eldest brother, Yoritomo, had been
forming plots against Kiyomori and the rule of the Taira. At last Yoritomo thought the time had come
to attack the Taira, and he called upon his fellow-clansmen of the Minamoto and upon all who hated
the Taira to join him. But he had been too rash: the time was not yet ripe, and only three hundred
men joined his banner. Upon this small band fell a great force of the Taira and utterly routed it.
Yoritomo and six friends fled from the slaughter and hid themselves in the trunk of a huge hollow
 The Taira were in eager pursuit of them, and a man was sent to search the tree. Luckily for Yoritomo
and his friends, he was at heart a friend of the Minamoto and he called out that the tree was empty,
while he softly bade the fugitives to lie still. To show that the tree was empty, he thrust in his
spear and turned it about. As he did so two doves flew out, and those watching from a distance felt
satisfied that nothing was there or the doves would have been disturbed before. To this day the
people of the Minamoto family do not eat doves because of this wonderful way in which a pair of them
saved their great ancestor, Yoritomo. The soldier also reported that the mouth of the opening was
covered with spiders' webs, and no further search was made.
Yoritomo was not yet beaten. He fled to a part of the land where he was beyond the reach of the
Taira, and again sent messengers to call upon the enemies of Kiyomori to join him. The Minamoto
gathered around him, and his brother Yoshitsune came from the north with a strong body of troops to
add to Yoritomo's power. In the midst of this preparation the Taira suffered a great loss in the
death of Kiyomori. The stern and powerful old ruler died in A.D. 1181. He knew
well what troubles were looming in the future, and he warned his family to beware of Yoritomo. The
old chronicler gives us this bitter speech which he uttered on his death-bed: "My regret is only
that I am dying, and have not yet seen the head of Yoritomo of the Minamoto. After my decease do not
make offerings to Buddha on my behalf, nor read sacred books. Only cut off the head of Yoritomo of
the Minamoto and hang it on my tomb."
But the triumph of Yoritomo was now near at hand. He directed the march of three armies upon the
capital then fixed at Kyoto. The first was under
 his own command, the second under his brother Yoshitsune, the third he had placed under the command
of a cousin. As the armies closed in upon Kyoto, the third was the earliest to engage with the
enemy. The Taira were beaten, and Yoritomo's cousin marched into the capital in triumph. Puffed up
with this success, the general lost his head and took upon himself the airs of a conqueror. He aimed
at putting Yoritomo aside and seizing the chief power for himself. From this dream he had a rude
awakening. Yoshitsune came swiftly upon him, dashed his army in pieces, and the general fled. He saw
that he could expect no mercy from his angry relatives, and, full of shame and despair, he took his
A MOUNTED WARRIOR OF TAIRA FAMILY.
Yoshitsune now set off in pursuit of the Taira. The defeated clan had left the capital and marched
westwards, taking with them the young emperor, whose mother was a member of the Taira family, the
daughter of Kiyomori himself.
Finding that Yoshitsune was hot upon their track, the Taira sought to escape by sea. Fighting men,
women, children, servants and followers, the whole clan embarked upon five hundred junks and sailed
away down the Inland Sea, making for Kyushu, the great southern island of Japan, where they hoped to
find a refuge. But they were not so easily to escape. The Minamoto gathered a fleet of junks. The
army went on board, and the pursuit was continued. At the far western extremity of the Inland Sea
 Minamoto caught sight of the mass of flying junks, and the Taira knew that their enemies were upon
them and turned at bay at Dan-no-ura.
Then followed the greatest sea-fight in the story of Old Japan. The junks were laid alongside each
other, and their decks became battle-grounds where the fierce warriors plied spear and sword or shot
swift arrows into the joints of their enemies' harness. The Taira fought with the fury of despair,
fought, not only for their own lives and the lives of their wives and children, but for the precious
freight which their fleet bore. The boy-emperor, his mother and grandmother, were with them, the
ladies being the daughter and widow of their great leader Kiyomori. They fought in vain. Their
vessels were encumbered by many non-combatants, and the fierce warriors of the Minamoto swarmed over
junk after junk, putting all to the sword.
The grandmother of the boy-emperor had watched the fight closely, and saw that escape was impossible
for the junk in which they were. But she was resolved not to fall into the hands of the hated
Minamoto. She seized the emperor in her arms and sprang into the sea; they sank at once and were
never seen again. With them perished nearly the whole of the Taira clan. The Minamoto slew and
spared not. A few junks of the Taira fled from the fight and gained the southern island, where the
people hid themselves in the wild valleys which lie in its farthest recesses. It is said that their
descendants are to be found there to this day, and are marked by a fierce surliness of manner, and
will have nothing to do with strangers. This springs from the times when they were compelled to keep
out of the way of every one lest they should fall under the vengeance of their enemies.
This vengeance was a thing to be dreaded. No
 mercy was shown in these terrible civil wars. Yoritomo gave orders that every Taira man, woman, or
child was to be put to death wherever found, and the orders were carried out to the letter. But
Yoritomo was now about to stain his famous career with the darkest blot which lies upon it. The land
was ringing with stories of the great deeds of the gallant young general Yoshitsune; Yoritomo became
jealous of his brother. He forgot all the great services which the splendid young soldier had
rendered him: he thought no longer of the great sea-fight of Dan-no-ura, where Yoshitsune had
destroyed his enemies once and for ever: he felt deep anger when he saw how the hearts of all turned
to the heroic figure of the victor, and he resented the fame and success which his brother had won.
A COURT LADY OF THE EIGHTH CENTURY.
After crushing the Taira, Yoshitsune marched northwards to meet Yoritomo, bringing prisoners and
captured banners to lay at his brother's feet. But on his way he was checked by a message commanding
him not to enter his brother's presence, and to give up his trophies of victory. There is still to
be seen in a Buddhist monastery the noble and touching letter which Yoshitsune sent to his brother
on receiving this harsh and ungrateful message. He declared his good faith and loyalty, he denied
every report of ambition and self-seeking, but all went for nothing. Yoritomo's heart was turned
against his brother, and soon Yoshitsune was compelled to fly in order to save
 his life. His brother closed every road and bridge against him and posted guards to seize him, but
Yoshitsune, in disguise and attended only by the faithful Benkei, managed to win his way to the
distant province where he had learned the first lessons of war, and where he hoped to lie in safety.
On his flight he had some very near escapes from danger. One day he was flying from the soldiers of
Yoritomo when he came to a barrier which was strongly guarded. The attendants did not recognise the
young hero and Benkei, for they were dressed like the wandering priests who go up and down the
country begging for food and money. The fugitives thought that as priests they would easily gain a
passage. But no. The strictest orders had been given that no one might pass, and the watchmen drove
them back. Then the cunning Benkei plucked from his bosom a roll of blank paper and pretended to
read from it. He recited that they held a commission from the abbot of the chief monastery of the
capital to go through the land and gather money for casting a great bell to hang in their temple,
and the anger of Heaven was called down upon all who should stay them. The keepers of the barrier
were deeply impressed on hearing this holy message, and at once made way for them to pass.
For a time Yoshitsune lived in safety among his old friends, and then a new Governor was appointed.
This man was eager to gain the favour of Yoritomo, and in 1189 he caused Yoshitsune to be murdered;
the noble victim was only thirty years of age. The death of this beloved hero caused so much anger
among the people that Yoritomo was forced to march against the Governor and punish him, though the
man had only done that which Yoritomo wished.
LADY'S COSTUME OF GEMPEI PERIOD.
Yoritomo now stood at the full height of power.
 He had destroyed the Taira, the emperor had perished with them, and the leader of the Minamoto
placed on the throne another child-emperor, a boy seven years old, and received for himself the
title of Shogun or Chief General.
Under this title he ruled Japan well and firmly, and with him began that system of dual rule which
has given rise to a mistaken belief that Japan for many centuries had two emperors, the Mikado, the
descendant of the Sun Goddess, a kind of spiritual emperor, and the Shogun or Tycoon, as he was
called in later times, an emperor who took charge of the practical details of government. This was
never so. There was but one emperor, the Mikado, though often enough he was a mere child shut up in
his palace and never seen of the people. Yet for all that he was the real emperor, and the Shogun
ruled on his behalf and was always careful to say that his authority came from the Mikado, though,
in point of fact, the Mikado was simply a puppet in his hands. This system of Mikado and Shogun, or
Tycoon, lasted from 1190 to 1868.
Yoritomo made splendid use of his power as the first Shogun. The land was in a terrible state after
the fierce civil wars of the last hundred years. He set up courts where robbers and law-breakers
could be tried, he introduced government and order into provinces where law and order had been
 and for the first time for centuries he gave a little peace to the land. In order to establish his
authority in the provinces, he chose able soldiers and placed them there to force men to keep the
law and cease from strife. In order to maintain these military families he laid a tax upon the
product of the soil, and thus, in forcing the husbandman to support the soldier, he made a beginning
of the feudal system which was to last in Japan until within living memory.
KASA AND WARAJI (SANDALS AND UMBRELLAS)
So wise and strong was Yoritomo's rule that the Japanese regard his name as one of the greatest in
their history, and give him high praise save for his cruel treatment of Yoshitsune. In 1198 he met
with a severe accident: he fell from his horse, and was so badly hurt that he died early in the next
year, in the fifty-third year of his age. His life marks an important epoch in Japanese history. He
was the first Shogun: he set on foot the beginning of the feudal system: he restored law and order
after the devastation of the fierce wars of the clans.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics