Tametomo (為朝) (role 1139 – 1170)

Minamoto no Tametomo (源為朝)
Chinzei Hachirō Tametomo (鎮西八郎為朝)



The historical figure: Minamoto no Tametomo (源為朝)

"8th son of Tameyoshi, is often called Chinzei Hachirō Tametomo. It is said that he was 7 feet high and of a Herculean strength. Being sent at the age of 13 to Kyūshū, he established himself in Bungo, where he caused disturbances in a very short time. He returned to Kyōto in 1154, joined his father during the Hōgen war (1156), and was banished to the island of Ōshima (Izu). Gradually, he took possession of the 7 islands of Izu, and again contemplated to overthrow the Taira. Kudō Shigemitsu, Izu no suke received orders to attack him (1170). Seeing the fleet of the latter coming towards him, Tametomo took an arrow and aiming at the principal boat, shot it with much force that it pierced the hull and foundered the boat, he then returned home and committed harakiri. - Tametomo's exploits have passed into legend which even says that he was able to escape from Ōshima on a small skiff that landed at the Ryūkyū, on the island of Oni-ga-shima, and that he became the ancestor of the royal family of the archipelago."

Quoted from: Historical and Geographical Dictionary of Japan by E. Papinot, pp. 380-381.


The fictionalized Tametomo

Osaka Prints wrote:

The legendary Chinzei Hachirô Tametomo (1139-70) was seven feet tall, a celebrated archer whose bow was more than eight feet long and required the strength of three ordinary men to bend it. He could shoot arrows — their heads as large as spears — with such force that they could sink an enemy ship. Said to have chased away the god of smallpox, Tametomo's image acquired talismanic powers against the disease, leading to his portrayal in "smallpox prints" (hôsô-e).

The historical Minamoto Tametomo joined his father, the general Tameyoshi, in the seminal Genpei wars. In the first major battle — the Hôgan Incident of 1156 — Tametomo fought against Taira forces led by his brother, Yoshitomo. The victorious Yoshitomo ordered the execution of Tameyoshi and the exile of Tamemoto. During his banishment to the island of Ôshima in Izu, Tamemoto conquered some of the neighboring islands. This brought forth an imperial expeditionary force to hunt him down. With no escape, Tametomo took his own life, said to be the first recorded instance in which a samurai committed ritualistic suicide by cutting open his abdomen (seppuku).

A little bit of both

"From his youth. his reputation reached mythic proportions, and as a young man, he boasted before the emperor that he could easily defeat all living archers. A contest ensued whereupon two archers fired arrows at him: he caught both in his hands. On the next attempt, the archers shot their arrows simultaneously: Tametomo caught one arrow in his sleeve and the other between his teeth.

According to legend he grew to a height of 2.1m and his left 'bow' arm was reportedly some 100mm longer than his right one. His bow was an impressive 2.6m in length; it was said that it took five men or ordinary strength to bend it. His violence was so extreme that he was banished at the age of thirteen to Chinzei (present-day Kyūshū region); after this he dubbed himself 'Chinzei Hachirō'. He later became a follower of retired the Emperor Sutoku (1119-64; r. 1123-41) and, along with his father, he fought during the Hōgen Rebellion of 1156. When he was captured by Sado no Hyōe Shigesada in 1156, he was exiled to the island of Ōshima in Izu, but only after the muscles in his bow arm were severed. After those wounds healed, he regained use of his bow arm and became all powerful on the island. The governor of Izu Province was ordered to kill him but when his fleet gained sight of the island, Tametomo, standing on the beach, sank the lead boat with a single arrow.... He then retired to his house, set fire to it and committed seppuku."