Battle of Uji (1180)
In early 1180, Prince Mochihito, the Minamoto Clan's favored claimant to the Imperial Throne, was chased by Taira forces to the Mii-dera, a temple just outside Kyoto. Due to the interference of a Mii-dera monk with Taira sympathies, the Minamoto army arrived too late to help defend the temple.
Minamoto no Yorimasa led Prince Mochihito, along with the Minamoto army and a number of warrior monks from Mii-dera, south towards Nara. They crossed the Uji River, just outside the Byōdō-in, and tore up the planks of the bridge behind them to prevent the Taira following them.
Three warrior monks in particular are named in the Heike Monogatari: Gochi-in no Tajima, Tsutsui Jōmyō Meishū, and Ichirai Hōshi. These three, along with the other monks of Mii-dera, fought with bow and arrow, a variety of swords and daggers, and naginata.
As for the heike troops, they were led by Ashikaga Tadatsuna, one of the few warrior of direct Minamoto descent who stayed loyal to his oath to the Taira family even when it was crumbling around him, until him and his father were murdered by one of their retainers, Kiryū Rokurō. A young hero of 18 years old, Tadatsuna is remembered as having the strength of hundred men, a voice echoed over 10 Li, and teeth of 1 sun (3.03cm) long. Describing it as such, Azuma Kagami further stated : "there will be no warrior in future ages like this Tadatsuna."
Led by their young general, the Taira force soon began to ford the river, and caught up with the Minamoto. Tadatsuna was the first warrior on the frontline, Ichiban Yari, and gallantly proclaimed his name and lineage before charging the enemies, as it was the traditional custom. Yorimasa tried to help the Imperial Prince get away, but was struck with an arrow in the right elbow. While his sons, Nakatsuna and Kanetsuna were dying to fend off the enemies eager for the old man's head, Yorimasa committed seppuku. Though probably not the first Seppuku in samurai history, and certainly not the first suicide in Japan, it was performed with such finesse that it served as a model for later generations, setting a ritual precedent of committing suicide rather than surrendering, which would be honored up to World War II.
As for Prince Mochihito, he was captured and killed shortly afterwards by the Taira warriors.
||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (October 2014)|
- Sansom, George (1958). A History of Japan to 1334. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
- Turnbull, Stephen (1998). The Samurai Sourcebook. London: Cassell & Co.
- Turnbull, Stephen (2003). Japanese Warrior Monks AD 949-1603. Oxford: Osprey Publishing.