Battle of Yashima

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Battle of Yashima
Part of the Genpei War
Nasu no Yoichi firing his famous shot at a fan atop the mast of a Taira ship. From a hanging scroll, Watanabe Museum, Tottori Prefecture, Japan.
DateMarch 22, 1185
LocationYashima, just off Shikoku in the Seto Inland Sea
Result Minamoto victory
Minamoto clan Taira clan
Commanders and leaders
Minamoto no Yoshitsune Taira no Munemori
Taira no Noritsune[1]:122–125
100+ men, 140 ships Unknown

The naval Battle of Yashima took place on March 22, 1185. Following a long string of defeats, the Taira clan retreated to Yashima, today's Takamatsu, just off the coast of Shikoku. Here they had a fortress, and an improvised palace for Emperor Antoku and the imperial regalia, which they had taken earlier in the war.

On the 18th, a Minamoto force tried to cross the sea but many of the boats were damaged in a storm. Kajiwara Kagetoki then suggested adding "reverse oars" to the boats, which prompted an argument from Minamoto no Yoshitsune. Finally after the boats were repaired and despite the high winds, Yoshitsune departed with only five of the 200 boats carrying about 150 of his men. After arriving Tsubaki Bay, in Awa Province. Yoshitsune then advanced into Sanuki Province through the night reaching the bay with the Imperial Palace at Yashima, and the houses in Mure and Takamatsu.[2]

The Taira were expecting a naval attack, and so Yoshitsune lit bonfires on Shikoku, essentially in their rear, fooling the Taira into believing that a large force was approaching on land. They abandoned their palace, and took to their ships, along with Emperor Antoku and the imperial regalia.[3]

In a memorable account in the Heike monogatari, a "very beautiful lady" in a Heike boat, placed a fan atop a pole, and dared the Minamoto to knock it off. In one of the most famous archery feats in all of Japanese history, Nasu no Yoichi rode out into the sea on horseback, and did just that in one shot.[1] The Minamoto were victorious, but the majority of the Taira fleet escaped to Dan-no-ura, where they were defeated one month later in the Battle of Dan-no-ura.[4][5]


  1. ^ a b The Tales of the Heike. Translated by Burton Watson. Columbia University Press. 2006. pp. 126–130. ISBN 9780231138031. 
  2. ^ Sato, Hiroaki (1995). Legends of the Samurai. Overlook Duckworth. pp. 130–132. ISBN 9781590207307. 
  3. ^ Sansom, George (1958). A History of Japan to 1334. Stanford University Press. pp. 301–302. ISBN 0804705232. 
  4. ^ Turnbull, Stephen (1998). The Samurai Sourcebook. Cassell & Co. p. 204. ISBN 1854095234. 
  5. ^ Turnbull, Stephen (1977). The Samurai, A Military History. MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. pp. 72–78. ISBN 0026205408. 

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