Hogen Disturbance (Hogen-no-ran) (保元の乱)

The Hogen Disturbance occurred during the first year (1156) of the Hogen era in the Heian period, when Emperor Sutoku and Emperor Goshirakawa had a dispute, and the Emperor's side made a surprise attack on the retired emperor's side.

Causes of the Disturbance
In 1141, Emperor Toba made Emperor Sutoku, his son with FUJIWARA no Shoshi, abdicated and had Imperial Prince Narihito, his son with FUJIWARA no Tokushi and a younger brother of retired Emperor Sutoku, ascend the Imperial Throne (Emperor Konoe).
Emperor Sutoku was rumored to be a son of Emperor Shirakawa, Cloistered Emperor Toba's grandfather, and it is believed that Cloistered Emperor Toba loathed Emperor Sutoku, calling him 'uncle child.'
However, this account is found only in "Kojidan (Collection of Folklore)," but there are theories that discredit its authenticity.

Retired Emperor Sutoku hoped to get his son, Imperial Prince Shigehito, to ascend the Imperial Throne when Emperor Konoe died in 1155, but his father, Cloistered Emperor Toba, got Imperial Prince Masahito (another brother of retired Emperor Sutoku), who was supported by Bifukumonin and FUJIWARA no Michinori, to ascend the Imperial Throne instead. Retired Emperor Sutoku resented this deeply. In the family of the regent of the Emperor there was a fight between the chief adviser to the Emperor, FUJIWARA no Tadamichi, and the minister of the left, FUJIWARA no Yorinaga, who were brothers, and then Tadamichi and Yorinaga each approached Emperor Goshirakawa and retired Emperor Sutoku.

Emperor Goshirakawa and retired Emperor Sutoku were more opposed to each other, and each of the two sides recruited samurai. MINAMOTO no Tameyoshi, MINAMOTO no Yorikata, MINAMOTO no Tametomo, MINAMOTO no Yorinori (Yorinori TADA) and TAIRA no Tadamasa sided with the retired emperor, while MINAMOTO no Yoshitomo, TAIRA no Kiyomori, MINAMOTO no Yorimasa and MINAMOTO no Yoshiyasu (Yoshiyasu ASHIKAGA) sided with the Emperor. In terms of military force, the Emperor's side had the advantage.

The clash between the two sides was inevitable when Cloistered Emperor Toba died, on July 20, 1156.

Chronology of battles
On July 31, 1156, TAIRA no Motomori, the second son of Kiyomori, on the task of guarding Uji City, apprehended MINAMOTO no Chikaharu (Chikaharu UNO) of the Yamato-Genji, who was to join the retired emperor's side.

On August 4, the two armies faced each other across the Kamo-gawa River, with the headquarters of the retired emperor's side in the Shirakawakita-dono Palace and those of the Emperor Goshirakawa's side in the Takamatsu-dono Palace (.Emperor Goshirakawa was in the Takamatsu-dono Palace). On the retired emperor's side, Tametomo planned to seize the Emperor in a night raid on the Takamatsu-dono Palace, but Yorinaga rejected the plan on the grounds that a battle over the Imperial Throne should be fought proudly in broad daylight.
(In "Gukansho," Tameyoshi is described as having made three plans, such as a preemptive attack to occupy the Imperial Palace.)
However, in a council of war on the Emperor's side, Yoshitomo planned a night attack, which was accepted.

Before dawn on August 5, the Emperor's army made a surprise attack on Shirakawakita-dono Palace in the three separate forces: Kiyomori led approximately 300 cavalry, Yoshitomo 200 cavalry and Yoshiyasu 100 cavalry. Kiyomori attacked the west gate guarded by Tametomo, but Tametomo, with his strong bow, defeated him. Then, Yoshitomo attacked the gate, and yet Tametomo with his strong bow again repulsed the attack. The emperor's side deployed Yorimasa's, MINAMOTO no Shigenari's, and TAIRA no Nobukane's forces, but the retired emperor's side fought hard at each gate and fierce battles continued.

Yoshitomo submitted the use of fire in the battle for Imperial sanction of Emperor Goshirakawa, and once the sanction was received the Emperor's army set fire to the FUJIWARA no Ienari's residence to the west of Shirakawakita-dono Palace; the fire spread to the palace, causing the retired emperor's soldiers to scramble to escape. The conflict was over.

After the conflict
On August 21, the emperor's side sentenced the nobles and the samurais on the retired emperor's side.

On August 22 in Rokuhara, by TAIRA no Kiyomori,
TAIRA no Tadamasa
TAIRA no Nagamori
TAIRA no Tadatsuna
TAIRA no Masatsuna
and Michiyuki, Tadamasa's retainer
were beheaded.

On August 24 in Mt. Oe, by MINAMOTO no Yoshiyasu,
TAIRA no Iehiro
TAIRA no Yasuhiro
TAIRA no Morihiro
TAIRA no Mitsuhiro
TAIRA no Yorihiro
and TAIRA no Yasuhiro
were beheaded.

On the same day in Funaoka (Mt. Funaoka), by MINAMOTO no Yoshitomo,
MINAMOTO no Tameyoshi
MINAMOTO no Yorikata
MINAMOTO no Yorinaka
MINAMOTO no Tamenari
MINAMOTO no Tamemune
and MINAMOTO no Tamenaka
were beheaded.

The brutal act of children beheading their parents and nephews beheading their uncles was thus carried out. The death penalty, in the first place, had not been imposed for more than 200 years since the Kusuko Incident (Kusuko-no-Hen), but it was reinstated by Shinzei. No one opposed Shinzei's decision, because he was knowledgeable enough about law to write "Hosso-ruirin" (a collection of legal documents).

Additionally, retired Emperor Sutoku was banished to Sanuki-no-kuni; he died a miserable death without being able to return to the capital. Tametomo escaped but was later captured and was allegedly banished to Izu-oshima Island after his arm tendon was removed to keep him from ever drawing a bow (his claim to fame).

Emperor Goshirakawa succeeded in eliminating his opponents in this way. People at that time, however, were surprised by the fact that the internal conflict of the Imperial Court was resolved militarily, particularly in a battle in the urban area of Kyoto, and the death penalty was imposed for the first time in hundreds of years; commoners as well as nobles were left with a strong impression of samurai power. "Gukansho," a history book in the Kamakura period, describes this disturbance as the beginning of the 'warrior's world' and a turning point in history.

The disturbance, one of the underlying causes of the Heiji Disturbance (Heiji-no-ran) that occurred three years later, led to the establishment of Japan's first samurai-dominated government--that of the Taira clan--and the Kamakura shogunate based on the kanto warrior bands.

"Hogen Monogatari" is a military chronicle based on the Hogen Disturbance. The chronicle is composed of three volumes, and its author is unknown. It is believed to have been completed during the Kamakura period.

Shiramine,' a story in "Ugetsu Monogatari" (Tales of Moonlight and Rain), is a supernatural tale about the ghost of the retired Emperor Sutoku, who was defeated in the Hogen Disturbance. Its author was a person called Akinari UEDA. It was written in the Edo period.

To the Toba-dono PalaceFive or six cavalry rushedIn a gust of autumn wind
By Buson YOSA

[Original Japanese]