Taira no Kiyomori

Taira no Kiyomori

Taira no Kiyomori (jap. 平 清盛; b. 1118; 1181) was a general in the late Heian period in Japan. He established the first samurai-dominated government in Japanese history.

Taira no Kiyomori Life

After the death of his father Taira no Tadamori in 1153, Kiyomori assumed the leadership of the Taira family and entered the political arena with great ambitions, where he had previously played only a minor role.

In 1156, he and Minamoto no Yoshitomo, the leader of the Minamoto clan, suppressed the Hōgen Rebellion. This established the Taira and Minamoto as the most powerful political forces in Kyōto.

However, their new power caused their previous allies to become bitter rivals. The conflict culminated three years later in the Heiji Rebellion of 1159, in which Kiyomori was victorious and became the most important political power in Heian-kyō; Yoshitomo and his two eldest sons perished.

At the request of his wife, Kiyomori showed mercy and sent Yoshitomo's three youngest sons Yoritomo, Noriyori, and Yoshitsune into exile and took over most of his rivals' territories.

As the greatest political power and holder of most of the fiefdoms in Japan, he amassed unchallenged wealth and power.

In 1167, Kiyomori was the first samurai to be appointed Daijō Daijin, chief government minister and de facto administrator of the Imperial Government.

Although he relinquished this position as well as the official leadership of the clan later that year, he continued to pull the strings of government policy, successfully placing family members and allies in most government posts and administrations of nearly half of Japan.

In 1171, Kiyomori enforced the marriage between Emperor Takakura and his daughter Tokuko. Their first son, Prince Tokihito was born in 1178. In 1179, Kiyomori staged a coup d'état, forcing the resignation of his rivals from all government posts and exiling them.

He filled the vacant posts again with allies and relatives. He captured the abdicated Emperor Go-Shirakawa and forced Emperor Takakura to abdicate in 1180, placing Prince Tokuhito on the throne as Emperor Antoku.

With the expansion of Taira power and wealth and Kiyomori's new monopoly on government authority, many of his allies, most of the samurai in the provinces, and even members of his own clan turned against him.

Prince Mochihito, brother of Emperor Takakura, challenged Kiyomori's old rivals from the Minamoto clan to fight the Taira, launching the Gempei War in mid-1180.

In June 1180, Kiyomori caused the capital to be moved to Fukuhara-kyō, but it was moved back to Heian-kyō by November. Kiyomori died of malaria early the following year, leaving his sons with the decline and destruction of the Taira clan at the hands of the Minamoto.

Taira no Kiyomori is also the main character in the Kamakura-era epic Heike Monogatari. For the Itsukushima Shrine, Taira no Kiyomori donated a new building complex and sutra scrolls.