Role: Minamoto no Yoshitsune (源義経)

Lifetime: 1159 - 1189

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The youngest son of Yoshitomo, was named Ushiwaka in his childhood. After the Heiji war, he was pardoned by Kiyomori on condition that he become a bonze; he there was placed in the temple Kurama-dera, under the care of the learned Gakujitsun. At the age of 11, reading the annals of his family, he resolved in his mind to walk in the footsteps of his ancestors. Vainly did Gakujitsu try to inspire him with love of religious exercises, Yoshitsune stealthily escaped from the temple and took refuge in the palace of Fujiwara Hidehira in Mitsu: in this journey, he was accompanied by Benkei, whom he had beaten in a fencing pass on the bridge of the Gojō (Kyōto) and who became his inseparable companion. In Omi, he made the gembuku and chose the name Yoshitsune, a name which he was t o bring to a great celebrity: he was then 16 years of age. In Mutsu, Hidehira gave him shelter in the stronghold of Hiraizumi. As soon as he heard that Yoritomo had levied troops to march against the Taira, he hastened to join him with 2,000 horse [sic] (1180): the two brothers met near the Kise-gawa, a river in Suruga. In the mean time, Yoshinaka, having arrived at Kyōto and excited disturbances, Yoritomo sent his two brothers Noriyori and Yoshitsune against him; he was defeated at Uji, and then at Seta and at Awazu (Ōmi) (1184). Yoshitsune then entered Kyōto, where he was received by the ex-emperor Go-Shirakawa and lodged in the imperial palace. After a few days' rest, he continued his campaign against the Taira who had erected a stronghold near the sea, at Ichi no tani (Settsu). With the help of Noriyori, he attacked the powerful Heike army from two different sides and completely defeated it: those who survived, fled by sea towards the West. Yoshitsune returned to Kyōto, was received with enthusiasm and obtained the title of Kebiishi. The increasing popularity of his younger brother bred jealousy in the mind of Yoritomo. Early in the following year, Yoshitsune re-opened the campaign. The Taira, after their defeat at Ichi no tani, had carried away the young emperor Antoku, and made a stronghold of Yashima, in Sanuki (Shikoku): Yoshitsune attacked and obliged them to retreat to Nagano, where he closely pursued and completely crushed them at Dan no ura (1185.)

Quoted from: Historical and Geographical Dictionary of Japan by E. Papinot, pp. 383-384.

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