Siege of Sanjō Palace

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Siege of the Sanjō Palace
Part of the Heiji Rebellion
Heiji no ran.jpg
Night Attack on the Sanjo Palace (handscroll detail)
Date January 19 - February 5, 1160
Location Sanjo Palace, Kyoto, Japan
Result Taira clan victory; Palace destroyed
Minamoto Clan, with Fujiwara no Nobuyori Taira Clan, with Fujiwara no Michinori
Commanders and leaders
Minamoto no Yoshitomo Taira no Kiyomori
500? Unknown

The Siege of the Sanjō Palace was the primary battle of the Heiji Rebellion.[1] In early January 1160, after Taira no Kiyomori left Kyoto on a family pilgrimage, Fujiwara no Nobuyori and Minamoto no Yoshitomo saw an opportunity to effect changes they sought in the government. With a force of roughly five hundred men, they attacked in the night, kidnapping former emperor Emperor Go-Shirakawa, and setting fire to the Palace. They also abducted and imprisoned then current emperor, Emperor Nijō, who supported their enemies, the Taira clan and Fujiwara no Michinori.[2]

They next attacked the manor house of Michinori, setting it too aflame and killing all those inside, with the exception of Michinori himself, who was captured later and decapitated. Nobuyori forced Emperor Nijō to name him imperial chancellor, completing one of the first important steps towards gaining power over his rivals.[2]

However, Taira no Kiyomori returned soon afterwards, with his son Taira no Shigemori and a small force. The Minamoto, reinforced with men from Kamakura led by Yoshitomo's eldest son Minamoto no Yoshihira, were the larger force but were unprepared, and hesitated at Kiyomori's return. The Taira were thus allowed to return to their family's mansion in the Rokuhara district, where they would plan tactics and strategies, and gain many more warriors.[2]

At the end of January, the Taira smuggled the Emperor Nijō and his empress consort out of the Sanjō Palace and into the Rokuhara mansion, disguised as a lady in waiting. Meanwhile, the Taira also helped the former emperor Emperor Go-Shirakawa escape from the Minamoto as well.[2]

On the morning of February 5, Minamoto no Yoshitomo and his men prepared to defend the Palace against the inevitable Taira assault. The defense held out for a time, until a portion of the Taira feigned a retreat, luring Minamoto warriors out of the Palace, and giving the rest of their force an opportunity to rush the Gates and, soon afterwards, drive the Minamoto out. Yoshitomo's men were then obliged to attack the Rokuhara mansion, but failed in their assault, and fled Kyoto, meeting resistance along the way from the warrior monks of Mount Hiei who they had attacked in decades past.[2]


  1. ^ Turnbull, Stephen (1998). The Samurai Sourcebook. Cassell & Co. p. 200. ISBN 1854095234. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Sansom, George (1958). A History of Japan to 1334. Stanford University Press. pp. 256–258. ISBN 0804705232.