Kumagai Jirō Naozane (熊谷直実) (role 1141 – 1208)



The historical figure

"Son of Naosada, first served under Taira Tomomori and contributed with Ōba Kagechika to the defeat of Yoritomo at Ishibashi-yama (1181). Shortly after, he passed over to the Minamoto and the battle of Ichi no tani (1184), aided by his son Naoie and Hirayama Sueshige, obliged the Taira to escape by sea. There it was that he pursued and killed Taira Atsumori - Legend has embellished this episode so far as to pretend that Naozane substituted his own son for the young heir of his former masters. - In 1192, having fallen out with Kuge Naomitsu about the limits of their respective domains, he retired to the temple of Kuodani (Kyōto), where he took the name of Renshō, and put himself under the direction of the famous Genkū. He died in 1208."

Quoted from: Historical and Geographical Dictionary of Japan by E. Papinot, p. 322.


It should be noted that there are several other credible scholarly theories about why he retired from a military life. In Tōkaidō Texts and Tales: Tōkaidō gojūsan tsui by Kuniyoshi, Hiroshige, and Kunisada on page 86 it says that Naozane "...distinguished himself in the Genpei War (1180-85) and is best known as the warrior who suffered mental anguish when forced to slay the young Atsumori, a warrior with the enemy Taira forces, at the battle of Ichinotani in 1184 - a scene memorialized in The Tale of the Heike and in the Noh play Atsumori. Literary legend has it that Naozane's remorse for this act led him to take the tonsure and seek salvation. Recent scholarship, however, points to two instances of conflict with Minamoto Yoritomo, the first in 1187, over the hierarchical arrangement of archers at a ceremonial occasion, and the second in 1192 over a familial boundary dispute adjudicated by Yoritomo, the outcome which angered Naozane. Naozane then abandoned warrior society and went to Kyoto, where he met the priest Hōnen (1133-1212) and became his disciple. [See Lyon Collection 382 for a scene from the life of Hōnen.] Hōnen introduced to Japan the Tang monk Shandao's commentaries on the Pure Land sutras and advocated recitation of Buddha's sacred name (nenbutsu - "Namu Amida Butsu," or "I take refuge in Amida Buddha" - as the surest way to salvation. Hōnen is regarded as the founder of the Pure land (Jōdo) school of Buddhism. While just one sincere recitation is sufficient to ensure rebirth in the Western Paradise, thee are references in Hōnen's 1188 treatise Senchaku hongan nenbutsu shū to the efficacy of ten recitations..."