Minamoto no Yoshitomo

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Minamoto no Yoshitomo

Minamoto no Yoshitomo(源 義朝) (1123 – 11 February 1160) was the head of the Minamoto clan and a general of the late Heian period of Japanese history. His son Minamoto no Yoritomo became shōgun and founded the Kamakura shogunate, the first shogunate in the history of Japan.

Minamoto clan surname of Japanese imperial family members demoted into ranks of nobility

Minamoto (源) was one of the surnames bestowed by the Emperors of Japan upon members of the imperial family who were excluded from the line of succession and demoted into the ranks of the nobility from 1192 to 1333. The practice was most prevalent during the Heian period, although its last occurrence was during the Sengoku period. The Taira were another such offshoot of the imperial dynasty, making both clans distant relatives. The Minamoto clan is also called the Genji (源氏), using the on'yomi reading for Minamoto.

Heian period last major division of classical Japanese history (794 to 1185), named after the capital city of Heian-kyō, or modern Kyōto

The Heian period is the last division of classical Japanese history, running from 794 to 1185. The period is named after the capital city of Heian-kyō, or modern Kyōto. It is the period in Japanese history when Buddhism, Taoism and other Chinese influences were at their height. The Heian period is also considered the peak of the Japanese imperial court and noted for its art, especially poetry and literature. Although the Imperial House of Japan had power on the surface, the real power was in the hands of the Fujiwara clan, a powerful aristocratic family who had intermarried with the imperial family. Many emperors actually had mothers from the Fujiwara family. Heian (平安) means "peace" in Japanese.

History of Japan aspect of history

The first human habitation in the Japanese archipelago has been traced to prehistoric times. The Jōmon period, named after its "cord-marked" pottery, was followed by the Yayoi in the first millennium BC when new technologies were introduced from continental Asia. During this period, the first known written reference to Japan was recorded in the Chinese Book of Han in the first century AD. Between the fourth century and the ninth century, Japan's many kingdoms and tribes gradually came to be unified under a centralized government, nominally controlled by the Emperor. This imperial dynasty continues to reign over Japan. In 794, a new imperial capital was established at Heian-kyō, marking the beginning of the Heian period, which lasted until 1185. The Heian period is considered a golden age of classical Japanese culture. Japanese religious life from this time and onwards was a mix of native Shinto practices and Buddhism.


Hōgen Rebellion

With the outbreak of the Hōgen Rebellion in 1156, the members of the Minamoto and Taira samurai clans were beckoned into the conflict. Yoshitomo sided along with Taira no Kiyomori in support of the Emperor Go-Shirakawa and Fujiwara no Tadamichi, while his father Minamoto no Tameyoshi sided with the retired Emperor Sutoku and Fujiwara no Yorinaga. Yoshitomo, defeating his father and the forces of Sutoku and Yorinaga, became head of the Minamoto and established himself as a political power in the capital of Kyoto. However, despite his attempts to have his father pardoned, Tameyoshi was executed. Also, the outcome of the Hōgen rebellion established the Minamoto and Taira as the two strongest political rivals in the country. [1]

Samurai Military nobility of pre-industrial Japan

Samurai (侍) were the military nobility and officer caste of medieval and early-modern Japan.

Taira no Kiyomori Japanese samurai

Taira no Kiyomori was a military leader of the late Heian period of Japan. He established the first samurai-dominated administrative government in the history of Japan.

Emperor Go-Shirakawa Emperor of Japan

Emperor Go-Shirakawa was the 77th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession. His reign spanned the years from 1155 through 1158, while he remained effectively in power for almost 37 years.

Heiji Rebellion

Three years later in 1159, Yoshitomo and Fujiwara no Nobuyori placed Go-Shirakawa under house arrest and killed his retainer, the scholar Fujiwara no Michinori, in what is called the Heiji Rebellion. Eventually, Taira no Kiyomori, in support of Go-Shirakawa, defeated Yoshitomo. [1] :255–258

Fujiwara no Nobuyori was one of the chief allies of Minamoto no Yoshitomo in the Heiji Rebellion of 1159. As a member of the Fujiwara clan, Nobuyori might have been in line to become regent, and he desired power, which he obtained for a short while following the Rebellion.

Fujiwara no Michinori, also known as Shinzei (信西), was an aristocratic Confucian scholar and Buddhist monk in late Heian period Japan. He was one of the chief advisors to Emperor Nijō, and one of the chief allies of Taira no Kiyomori, particularly during the Heiji Rebellion of 1159.

While escaping from Kyoto, Yoshitomo was forced to kill his son Tomonaga. Later, Yoshitomo was betrayed and killed in his bath. Three of his sons, Yoritomo, Minamoto no Yoshitsune and Minamoto no Noriyori, were later spared and exiled by Kiyomori. However, Yoshihira and Nobuyori were executed. [2]

Minamoto no Yoshitsune samurai of the late Heian and early Kamakura period

Minamoto no Yoshitsune was a military commander of the Minamoto clan of Japan in the late Heian and early Kamakura periods. During the Genpei War, he led a series of battles which toppled the Ise-Heishi branch of the Taira clan, helping his half-brother Yoritomo consolidate power. He is considered one of the greatest and the most popular warriors of his era, and one of the most famous samurai fighters in the history of Japan. Yoshitsune perished after being betrayed by the son of a trusted ally.

Minamoto no Noriyori samurai of the late Heian and early Kamakura period

Minamoto no Noriyori was a late Heian period general, who fought alongside his brothers Minamoto no Yoritomo and Minamoto no Yoshitsune at a number of battles of the Genpei War. He was the sixth son of Minamoto no Yoshitomo.

His grave in Aichi Prefecture is surrounded on all sides by wooden swords ( bokuto ), as by legend his last words were "If only I had even a bokuto ..."

Aichi Prefecture Prefecture of Japan

Aichi Prefecture is a prefecture of Japan located in the Chūbu region. The region of Aichi is also known as the Tōkai region. The capital is Nagoya. It is the focus of the Chūkyō metropolitan area.

A bokken is a Japanese wooden sword used for training. It is usually the size and shape of a katana, but is sometimes shaped like other swords, such as the wakizashi and tantō. Some ornamental bokken are decorated with mother-of-pearl work and elaborate carvings. Sometimes it is spelled "boken" in English. Bokken should not be confused with shinai, practice swords made of flexible bamboo.


Yoshitomo fathered nine sons in total. His two sons, Yoshihira and Tomonaga, lost their lives following the Minamoto Clan's defeat in the Heiji Rebellion. At the time of the outbreak of the Genpei War in 1180, Minamoto no Yoritomo was his eldest surviving son. His six remaining sons in order from eldest to youngest were Yoshikado, Mareyoshi, Noriyori, Zenjo, Gien, and Yoshitsune. [3]

Minamoto no Yoshihira samurai of the late Heian period

Minamoto no Yoshihira (1140–1160) was a Minamoto clan warrior who fought alongside his father, Minamoto no Yoshitomo, in the Heiji Rebellion.

Minamoto no Tomonaga (1144–1160) was a Minamoto clan samurai of the late Heian period. His father was Minamoto no Yoshitomo and his mother was sister of Hatano Yoshimichi.

Genpei War conflict during late-Heian period of Japan

The Genpei War (1180–1185) was a national civil war between the Taira and Minamoto clans during the late-Heian period of Japan. It resulted in the downfall of the Taira and the establishment of the Kamakura shogunate under Minamoto no Yoritomo in 1192.

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  1. 1 2 Sansom, George (1958). A history of Japan to 1334. Stanford University Press. pp. 210–211, 255–256. ISBN   0804705232.
  2. Turnbull, Stephen (1977). The Samurai, A Military History. MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 40. ISBN   0026205408.
  3. "Minamoto family", Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan Volume 5, (New York: Kodansha, 1983), 177.