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Role: Minamoto no Yoshiie (源義家)

Alternate names:
Genda
Hachiman Tarō Yoshiie (八幡太郎義家)

Lifetime: 1041 - 1108

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Biography:

A real-life historical figure who was often portrayed in kabuki theater and in literature.

"Oldest son of Yoriyoshi, when a boy, was called Genda. At the age of 7, he performed the ceremony of the gembuku in the temple of Hachiman, at Iwashimizu (Yamashiro) and was from that moment called Hachiman Tarō. Having mastered in a very short time all the branches of military art, he made his first experiment at arms during the expedition conducted by his father against Abe Yoritoki, distinguished himself and on this account received the name of Dewa no kami, (1064). In 1081 the bonzes of the Mii-dera temple came to besiege Hiei-zan: Yoshiie was asked to repulse them. Named Chinjufu-Shōgun, he had to repress the Kiowara revolt in 1087; at first defeated, he at last succeeded in his endeavors, owing to the timely help his brother Yoshimitsu brought him from Kyōto. Yoshiie has remained one of the most renowned heroes of the Middle Ages and legend has added some marvelous details to his eventful life."

Quoted from: Historical and Geographical Dictionary of Japan by E. Papinot, pp. 377-378.

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"On a hot day in the spring of 1057, Minamoto no Yoshiie (1041-1108), then barely sixteen years old, was leading his troops into a battle against Abe Sadato. Yoshiie had only months before joined his fathers forces in their efforts to subdue the Abe clan and had already established his reputation as a ferocious warrior, garnering him the sobriquet Hachiman Taro Yoshiie, or "Yoshiie, first son of Hachiman (the God of War)." On this particular day, the troops in their armor were suffering from the oppressive heat. With no immediate water source in sight, Yoshiie, praying to Kannon (the Goddess of Mercy), shot an arrow into the air. Tracing the arrow to where it landed, Yoshiie used his bow to dig into the earth, releasing an unknown spring of water. Refreshed and strengthened by the waters from this divine spring, Yoshiie and his forces went on to win a major victory over the Abe.

Yoshiie is noted in Japanese history as one of its most brilliant warriors. Nobles of the day referred to him as "the samurai of the greatest bravery under heaven." Courageous in battle, he is also remembered as an accomplished poet and a motivating leader. As the Heian period drew to a close, and the stability that had marked this phase of Japanese history became increasingly fractured and strained, the imperial court frequently called Yoshiie and his Minamoto warriors into service to subdue rebels and quiet unruly segments of the country. It was partially based on the gains made by Yoshiie during his career that the Minamoto clan established themselves as one of the pre-eminent military clans in the realm, positioning themselves for the ultimate wresting of political power from the emperor and the court in Kyoto, or those who controlled it, and the establishment of the shōgunate in Kamakura, barely a hundred years later, in 1192, under Minamoto Yoritomo.

Yet, despite his accomplishments as a warrior and general, he is largely remembered for events that are largely apocryphal in nature, embellished over time to give an even deeper luster to his undeniably impressive record: the episode at Yuhajino no Izumi ("The Spring Revealed by the Strike of a Bow"), an impromptu poetry competition held on horseback between Yoshiie and his enemy Abe Sadato during a chase, and an interpretation of the erratic behavior of a flock of birds to uncover an ambush during the Battle of Kanazawa...."

Quoted from: Ningyo: The Art of the Japanese Doll by Alan Scott Pate.