Minamoto Yoshinaka (源義仲) (role 1154 – 1185)

Kiso Yoshinaka (木曽義仲)



Yoshinaka: the historical figure

"Son of Yoshikata and grandson of Tameyoshi was brought up by Nakahara Kanetō, in the mountainous district of Kiso (Shinano), hence his name Kiso Yoshinaka under which he is often known. At the age of 13, he made the gembuku in the temple of Iwashimizu. In 1180, obeying the orders of prince Mochihito, he levied troops in Shinano and marched against the Taira; the governor of the province, Ogasawara Yorinao tried to oppose him, but he was defeated. The following year, Jō Nagamochi a daimyō of Echigo, came to attack him, but likewise was defeated. The Taira, Michimori and Tsunemasa remained, then made war against him: they were beaten in Echigo, and Yoshinaka remained thus sole master of several provinces. His uncle Yukiie, after a quarrel with Yoritomo, joined him and both, with a large army, directed their steps toward Kyōto (1182). The Taira, vainly sought to oppose their progress; they were defeated and, when they saw the enemy approaching, their city, they fled, taking with them the young emperor Antoku. Yoshinaka entered Kyōto without difficulty, and was received as a liberator by the ex-emperor Go-Shirakawa, who named him Iyo no kami. Yoshinaka then resolved to put the prince Hokuroku no Miya, the son of Mochihito-Ō on the throne, but the ex-emperor opposed his views. Yoshinaka, irritated at this opposition, gave full play to his anger and filled Kyōto with terror. He secured the person of the ex-emperor, burned the palace, deposed the Kwampaku, replaced him by a 12 year old child, and at last had himself named Shōgun. Yoritomo, learning of this, placed his two brothers, Noriyori and Yoshitsune at the head of an army of 60,000 men and sent them against Yoshinaka, who was defeated at Seta and killed at the battle of Awazu (Ōmi); he was 31 years old. - Yoshinaka had always been surrounded by 4 trusty companions at arms who died with him; Imai Kanehira, Higuchi Kanemitsu, Take Chikatada and Nenoi Yuchichika: they were called the shi-ten."

Quoted from: Historical and Geographical Dictionary of Japan by E. Papinot, p. 385.


During the Gempei War (1180-85), a rebellion by of the Minamoto clan against the ruling Taira clan, sanctioned the Imperial prince Mochihito-o, Yoritomo with the help of his cousin Minamoto Yoshinaka "...managed to drive the Taira out of the capital of Kyoto. In 1183, the Minamoto clan was gaining ground in Japan. However, when Yoshinaka's troops caused unrest in Kyoto, Yoritomo and his half-brother Yoshitsune, at the behest of the Emperor Go-Shirakawa, took control of the capital from Yoshinaka."

Quoted from: Japan at War: An Encyclopedia: An Encyclopedia, p. 244.


In a chapter on the culinary significance of dining in the time of the Tale of Heike by Vyjayanthi Selinger it says on page 69: "In the Heike texts, the blow to imperial power is portrayed through the terror incited by Minamoto Yoshinaka, Yoritomo’s cousin and rival, whose armies run unchecked through the capital. a threat to imperial polity, as well as Yoritomo’s political ambition, Yoshinaka is caricatured in the text as a buffoonish diner."

On page 70 Selinger noted: "Minamoto Yoshinaka, iconic in the Heike texts for his military prowess and his foibles with the imperial court, is given a poignant death scene familiar to most Japanese. In a narrative heightened with the pathos of dramatically reversed fortunes, Yoshinaka, once the fearless leader of tens of thousands of men, dies a solitary death in a pine grove. This canonization of him as an exemplary warrior, however, obscures the larger significance of his character in yomihon texts such as the Genpei jōsuiki: as the scapegoat onto whom the threat of warrior power may be externalized. When his head is hung at the prison gate with those of other traitors, an anonymous graffiti appears below it…"