Minamoto no Yoshiie

Minamoto no Yoshiie

Minamoto no Yoshiie (源 義家; 1039 - August 4, 1106) also known as Hachimantarō, was a samurai of the Minamoto clan of the late Heian period who held the position of chinjufu-shōgun (General Commander for the Defense of the North).

The first-born son of Minamoto no Yoriyoshi, he proved himself against the Abe clan in the Zenkunen War (First Nine Years War) and against the Kiyohara clan in the Gosannen War (Last Three Years War), becoming a model of samurai courage and skill.

Minamoto no Yoshiie in Zenkunen War

In 1050 Abe no Yoritoki, a leading member of the Abe clan, held the title of chinjufu-shōgun in the Mutsu province, today the Tohoku region, in Honshū, a territory inhabited by the native Emishi.

Since his power had gradually expanded to the entire region, extending to the collection of tribute and land confiscation, the official governor, deprived of all authority, asked for help to the imperial government. Minamoto no Yoriyoshi was then appointed as the new governor and chinjufu-shōgun and sent with his son to stop the Abe clan.

The campaign against the Abe clan lasted from 1051 to 1063 (nine years of war and three years of truce). Yoshiie fought alongside his father in many, if not all, of the battles, including the Battle of Kawasaki and the Siege of Kuriyagawa.

Upon the death of Abe no Yoritoki in 1057, his son Abe no Sadato continued the war, taking command of the troops.

An episode reported in the Mutzu Waki, a tribute to Yoshiie's reputation as a noble warrior, tells of an exchange of renga that took place between Yoshiie and Sadato during the latter's escape from his fortress on the Kurika river, under the blows of the Minamoto army.

Yoriyoshi's eldest son, Hachimantarō, during a chase along the Koromo river shouted: "Sir, you are showing your back to the enemy! Aren't you ashamed? Turn around for a moment, I have something to tell you."

When Sadato turned around, Yoshiie said, "Koromo no tate wa hokorobinikeri ('Koromo's castle has been destroyed' or, alternatively, 'the warps of your robe have been undone')." Sadato loosened the reins a little and, turning his head, replied, "Toshi o heishi ito no midare no kurushisa ni ('Over the years the threads have become tangled, and this pains me')."

Hearing this, Yoshiie stowed the arrow he had stuck, and returned to his camp. In the midst of such a savage battle, that was a gentlemanly act.

Yoshiie returned to Kyoto in early 1063 with the Head of Abe no Sadato. As a result of his prowess in battle, he earned the name Hachimantarō, meaning son of Hachiman, god of war. The following year he took as servants several followers of the Abe whom he had taken prisoner.

Minamoto no Yoshiie in Gosannen War

After more than twenty years, Yoshiie was commander-in-chief during another important conflict of the Heian period. In early 1083, appointed governor of Mutsu province, he intervened to quell ongoing clashes within the Kiyohara clan, previously an ally of the Minamoto in the war against the Abe.

Disputes between Kiyohara no Masahira, Narihira, and Iehira over the clan's leadership did not subside, and so Yoshiie used his own forces to stop the fighting and restore peace to the region.

The final clash took place in 1087 on the palisades of Kanazawa. Yoshiie, aided by his younger brother Minamoto no Yoshimitsu and Fujiwara Kiyohira, attacked the position held by Kiyohara no Iehira and his uncle Kiyohara no Takahira.

After many months of unsuccessful battles, the fortress was set ablaze and the Kiyoharas defeated. Takahira and Iehira were killed. In the Kokon Chomonjū, it is said that during the siege of Kanezawa, Yoshiie avoided an ambush by noticing a flock of birds taking flight from a forest.

Despite suffering great losses in his ranks, Yoshiie is said to have been a particularly capable leader, managing to keep morale high and preserving discipline among the warriors.

Minamoto no Yoshiie Old age

Yoshiie returned to Kyoto, where he and his fellow soldiers resumed their military duties as Palace Guards and Ruler's Escort. The only unexpected event was when his eldest son Yoshichika was exiled to Sanuki. Escaping to Izumo, Yoshichika began a revolt that was stopped in 1108 by General Taira no Masamori, father of Taira no Tadamori.

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