The Battle of Hoju-ji Temple (法住寺合戦)

The Battle of Hoju-ji Temple (Hoju-ji kassen) was a military coup on January 10, 1184, in which MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka attacked In no gosho (the retired emperor's court) Hojuji-dono Palace, imprisoning Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa and Emperor Gotoba and taking over the government. It was the Jisho-Juei war, one of the domestic conflicts during the late Heian period.

To search and kill the Taira clan

On August 24, 1183, the Taira clan left the capital, while Yoshinaka and MINAMOTO no Yukiie's army entered the capital. Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa gave Yoshinaka and Yukiie an imperial decree to search and kill the Taira clan, and at the same time, dispatched NAKAHARA no Yasusada, an officer of In no cho (Retired Emperor's Office) to Kanto region. On August 26, FUJIWARA no Tsunemune, Kanezane KUJO, Sanefusa SANJO, Tadachika NAKAYAMA and FUJIWARA no Nagakata were convened to discuss and decide on important issues ("Gyokuyo" [Diary of FUJIWARA no Kanezane], entry of August 26). The agendas were praise and encouragement of searching and killing the Taira clan, violence in the capital and dispatching an envoy to shoen (manor in medieval Japan) in Kanto and Hokuriku regions.

As for praise and encouragement, the order was decided, Yoritomo was the first, Yoshinaka second, and Yukiie third, and each was to receive ningoku (place of appointment) and ikai (court rank). The violence in the capital had become serious because the Taira clan who had held the police power was no longer there, and the massive army entered the capital due to food shortage. Restoring public order and controlling violence were entrusted to Yoshinaka. Placing busho (military commanders) of the allied troops that had entered the capital on the outskirts of the capital, Yoshinaka took charge of guarding Kokonoe (Sakyo), the central area. They unanimously approved having the envoy to shoen leave the capital.

Jimoku (appointment ceremonies) at In dono

At the meeting, Tsunemune suggested having Jimoku at the In dono (cloistered emperor's palace). However, as other participants objected to it, saying that Jimoku fell under the authority of the emperor, Tsunemune retracted his statement. On September 1, removing some 200 Taira clan and cabal from the office ("Hyakuren sho" [History book for the Kamakura period], entry of September 1, "Gyokuyo" [Diary of FUJIWARA no Kanezane], entry of September 4), Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa forcibly conducted Jimon at In dono without an emperor being present. And on September 5, he appointed Yoshinaka as Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) Sama no kami (Captain of Samaryo, Left Division of Bureau of Horses) and Echigo no kami (Provincial Governor of Echigo), and Yukiie as Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank. Lower Grade) Bingo no kami (Provincial Governor of Bingo). On September 11, Jimoku was conducted for zuryo (the heads of provincial governors) of more than 30 provinces that the Taira clan occupied. The result was an outright expansion of the poser of In-no-kinshin (vassal attending on a retired emperor), which made Kanezane indignant enough to say, 'The state of appointments is practically insane. It is deplorable. Deplorable" ("Gyokuyo," entry of September 11).

At the Jimoku of September 11, Yoshinaka was transferred to the post of Iyo no kami (Governor of Iyo Province) and Yukiie to the post of Bizen no kami (Governor of Bizen Province) ("Hyakuren sho," entry of September 11). Because Iyo no kami was the highest position of zuryo that Shii (Fourth Rank) joro (high-ranking aristocrats) could be appointed, it appears that Goshirakawa properly evaluated Yoshinaka at that time.

Entanglement over the enthronement of the emperor

Although Goshirakawa requested the return of the emperor and the sacred treasures without removing the Tosho family of the Taira clan including TAIRA no Tokitada from government posts, the negotiation was unsuccessful ("Gyokuyo," entry of September 7). Having no choice, he decided to enthrone one of the two princes of Emperor Takakura, but Yoshinaka suddenly insisted on enthroning Hokuroku no miya, the son of Prince Mochihito.

This intervention would have violated the authority of chiten no kimi (supreme ruler) as Kanezane expressed in his words, 'Because this is a matter that the retired emperor should decide, vassals must not dictate what to do' ("Gyokuyo," entry of September 9). To contain Yoshinaka's objection, Goshirakawa conducted miura (royal augury), and Shinomiya (the fourth imperial prince, Imperial Prince Takahira, later Emperor Gotoba) turned out to be the best. Yoshinaka said, 'Being dutiful to the late Sanjo no miya, I find it extremely regrettable,' expressing his displeasure ("Gyokuyo," entry of September 15), but Emperor Gotoba ascended to the throne on September 15. It was an exceptional accession with no Kenji (ceremony for imperial succession) but Tsunemune set up the order of the ceremony and the ceremony was conducted without any trouble. It is considered that Goshirakawa was irate about Yoshinaka's arrogance, but since he had no choice but to rely on Yoshinaka's force to search and kill the Taira clan, he gave Yoshinaka some 140 Heike Mokkanryo (land rights confiscated by Kamakura bakufu [Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun] from the Taira family) ("The Tale of the Heike).

Deteriorating public order

The role that Yoshinaka was expected to play was to restore public order rather than searching for and killing the Taira clan, but from the end of September looting became rampant. Basically, these days in Kyoto, people other than samurai cannot find a way to survive for just one day. Therefore, it is said, many people other than samurai, regardless of their social standings, escaped to mountains outside the city and rural areas. Roads are blocked in all directions, and the arable lands in the Kinai region (provinces surrounding Kyoto and Nara) were mowed down. Not even tanbu (a unit of measure) was spared. In addition, shrines, temples houses and private residences were all confiscated. People from every social standing were robbed of whatever amount of Unjomono (goods and money that are delivered to the capital) that had luckily reached Kyoto ("Gyokuyo," entry of September 28). Just as described above, the public order continued to deteriorate.

In "The Tale of the Heike," the following statements are found regarding the order to ban violence. It is impossible to stop a person in charge of the security of the capital from keeping a horse and riding it. You should not reproach him for harvesting green crops to feed a horse all the time.
What is wrong with young men requisitioning in one corner when there is no provision of rice for the army?
It is not that they broke in to the house of a minister or Gosho (Imperial Palace). These statements made by Yoshinaka can be construed as a so-what attitude. "The Tale of the Heike" states that this statement was made right before the Battle of Hoju-ji Temple, but it is presumed that the statement was made in September or October when violence became an issue.

Unable to contain himself, Goshirakawa summoned Yoshinaka on October 14 and blamed him as follows. The country is not calm. Heishi is arbitrary and everything is inconvenient ("Gyokuyo," entry of October 16). Realizing that the situation was getting worse, Yoshinaka reported to the emperor that he was leaving to search and kill the Taira clan, and Goshirakawa had him depart by giving him a sword. Yoshinaka had to achieve military results to restore the confidence he had lost and to secure provisions.

Yoritomo's application

Immediately after Yoshinaka departed, NAKAHARA no Yasusada, the envoy who had been dispatched to Kanto region returned to Kyoto.
Yoritomo's moshijo (a document format for communicating something from a lower person to an upper person) that Yasusada had brought stated that 'The estate of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples that the Taira clan embezzled will be returned to the main shrine,' 'The estate of ingu (retired emperor, retired emperor who became a priest, imperial lady, grand empress dowager, empress dowager, empress consorts and crown prince) families that the Taira clan embezzled will be returned to the honshu (proprietor or guarantor of the manor),' and that 'Those who surrender will not be subject to execution by decapitation.'
It said 'Each moshijo was not equivalent to Yoshinaka' (一々の申状,義仲等に斉しからず) ("Gyokuyo," entry of October 26) and the contents pleased the Imperial Court. On the other hand, Yoritomo protested Yoshinaka's having been given praise and encouragement as 'totally irrational,' giving reasons that MINAMOTO no Yoshihiro (SHIDA Saburo Senjo) had gone to the capital and that Yoshinaka had disrupted the national administration, instead of searching for and killing the Taira clan ("Gyokuyo," entry of November 2).

Goshirakawa pardoned Yoritomo by reinstating him in his previous position on November 2, and gave Yoritomo the virtual right to rule the provinces along Tokai-do Road and Tosan-do Road by issuing Juei-ninen Jugatsu no Senji (the imperial decree issued to MINAMOTO no Yoritomo) on November 7 ("Hyakuren sho"). However, Goshirakawa removed Hokuriku-do Road from the area covered by the Senji, acknowledged Ueno and Shinano as Yoshinaka's sphere of influence, and ordered Yoritomo to make peace with Yoshinaka ("Gyokuyo," entry of November 16). TAKASHINA no Yasutsune stated as follows. Yoritomo is formidable, but he is in a distant region. Yoshinaka is in the capital now ("Gyokuyo," entry of November 6). As stated above, it was impossible then to completely negate Yoshinaka's achievements when Kyoto was under the control of Yoshinaka's force. As Yoritomo found the peace plan to be an opportunistic attitude of Goshirakawa, he made a threatening remark to NAKAHARA no Yasusada, 'The Cloistered Emperor is to blame for the disarray in the country' ("Gyokuyo," entry of November 17) and was adamant about the total expulsion of Yoshinaka.

Yoshinaka's return to the capital

Meanwhile, Yoshinaka was putting up a poor fight in Saigoku (western part of Japan - esp. Kyushu, but ranging as far east as Kinki). In the Battle of Mizushima on November 24, he suffered a crushing defeat and lost Yoshikiyo YADA, a powerful military commander. While the war was in a stalemate, Yoshinaka received the information that Yoritomo's younger brother who had become Taishogun (commander in chief) was on the way to the capital with tens of thousands of soldiers ("Gyokuyo," entry of December 10). Yoshinaka brought the war with the Taira clan to an end and returned to Kyoto with a small number of troops on December 8. The news that Yoshinaka was returning to Kyoto was so unsettling as described below. Men and women in the Imperial Palace were thrown into confusion. It was like being in a battlefield ("Gyokuyo," entry of December 7). TAIRA no Yorimori, who had been scrambling to act as an intermediary between Goshirakawa and Yoritomo, had already escaped ("Hyakuren sho" and "Gyokuyo," entry of December 13), and pro-shogunate Yoshiyasu ICHIJO and Motoie JIMYOIN defected to Kamakura one after another.

Some people around the Cloistered Emperor made a move to appease Yoshinaka. FUJIWARA no Norisue suggested as follows. Yoshinaka has a suspicion that the Cloistered Emperor will join hands with Yoritomo to kill him. In order to dispel his suspicion and to search for and kill the Taira clan, the Cloistered Emperor should visit Harima Province ("Gyokuyo," entry of December 11). Both TAKASHINA no Yasutsune and Joken agreed, but this suggestion was not put into practice.

On December 13, Yoshinaka cited Goshirakawa's having encouraged Yoritomo to go to the capital and having issued Juei-ninen Jugatsuno Senji as the two issues that made him harbor a grudge against him, making a bitter protest ("Gyokuyo," entry of December 13). Yoshinaka demanded the issuance of an imperial decree or Migyosho (a document for informing people of the decision of Third Rank or upper people) to hunt down and kill MINAMOTO no Yorimoto ("Gyokuyo," entry of December 14), but in no way would Goshirakawa acknowledge the demand. Yoshinaka's enemy was no longer the Taira clan and it was Yoritomo now. At the meeting of the Genji clan on December 12, an idea was put forth that they should depart to the front in the Kanto region, setting Goshirakawa up as the lord ("Gyokuyo," entry of December 13), and on December 19, an order to hunt down and kill MINAMOTO no Yoritomo was given to monk-soldiers of Kofuku-ji Temple ("Gyokuyo," entry of December 19). However, the former idea collapsed due to the fierce objection by Yukiie and MINAMOTO no Mitsunaga while the latter also was not accepted by the monk-soldiers. The army protecting Kyoto, which was under the direction of Yoshinaka, fell apart and the discord between Yoshinaka and Yukiie was overt ("Gyokuyo," entry of December 20).


On December 26, MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune's army reached Fuwa no seki (Fuwa-no-seki checking station). Yoshinaka was ready to fight a decisive battle against Yoritomo's army, but on December 29, Genji warlords under Yukiie, except for Yoshinaka, started to guard In no gosho. The news that Yoritomo's army was about to enter the capital brightened up the Cloistered Emperor's court, where accommodationists fell into obscurity and the war party gained power.
According to "Gukansho" (Jottings of a Fool), hokumen gero (the Imperial Palace Guards for the north side) TAIRA no Tomoyasu and OE no Kintomo suggested that 'Yoshinaka will be unworthy of fear if Yoritomo enters the capital.'
Especially, Tomoyasu was the spearhead of the war party, claiming that he had received an oracle from Ise-daijingu Shrine ("Kikki" [a diary of Tsunefusa YOSHIDA], entry of January 6, 1184). On December 30, Yukiie, the center of the force on the side of the Cloistered Emperor, left Kyoto to search and kill the Taira clan though it was a crucial time. There was an intense atmosphere around Goshirakawa and Yoshinaka, and Yoshinaka suggested a compromise solution that if Yoshitsune's forces were small, he would allow them to enter the capital ("Gyokuyo," entry of January 7, 1184).

On January 7, 1184, Goshirakawa secured the cooperation of the Enryaku-ji and Onjo-ji Temples, gathering armed monks and stone-throwing rogues, and reinforced Hojuji-dono Palace by guarding it with a moat and fences. With Settsu-Genji (Minamoto clan), Omi-Genji (Minamoto clan) and Mino-Genji (the Minamoto clan) rallying around, Goshirakawa thought that he had an overwhelming advantage and gave Yoshinaka an ultimatum. The content was as follows. Leave for the west immediately to search and kill the Taira clan. If you fight with Yoritomo's army, disobeying inzen (a decree from the Cloistered Emperor), do it in your own right. If you stay in Kyoto, I will take it as a rebellion. It was severe enough to make Yoshinaka indefensible ("Gyokuyo," entry of January 8, 1184, "Kikki" and "Hyakuren sho," entry of January 9, 1184).

In response to the ultimatum, Yoshinaka replied as follows. I have no intention to disobey you. If Yoritomo's army enters Kyoto, I will have to fight, but otherwise, I will leave for the west. Kanezane wrote 'Yoshinaka's moshijo was moderate, but the security measures in the Imperial Palace are excessive. The stance is not regal ("Gyokuyo," entry of January 9, 1184). It is not clear how Goshirakawa reacted to Yoshinaka's response. However, on the night of January 8, Hachijoin left Hojuji-dono Palace, on January 9, Josaimonin and the Imperial Princess Ryoshi left, Hokuroku no miya ran away, and, as if to replace them, Emperor Gotoba, Cloistered Imperial Prince Shukaku, Cloistered Imperial Prince Ene, and Myoun of Tendai-zasu (head priest of the Tendai sect) entered the Imperial Palace, and judging from the move, it is considered that Goshirakawa had made up his mind to attack Yoshinaka.


Around the midnight of January 10, Kanezane saw black smoke in the sky. At four o'clock in the afternoon he received following information. The Imperial army was completely defeated and Yoshinaka's army encompassed the cloistered emperor. Yoshinaka's soldiers were exultant. They immediately took the cloistered emperor to Sesshotei in Gojo Higashinotoin. Kanezane said as follows in astonishment.
Is this a dream or not?
Spirits disappeared and I feel nothing. Myoun, Cloistered Imperial Prince Ene, MINAMOTO no Mitsunaga and his son MINAMOTO no Mitsutsune, FUJIWARA no Nobuyuki, Chikanari KIYOHARA, and MINAMOTO no Motokuni and others were among the dead in this war.
In "Kikki," there is a following description of the confusion on the battle area, stating that the author 'heard of it later.'
The four sides of the Imperial Palace were on fire and smoke filled the palace. All the people were in a bind; Yoshinaka' s army broke in from many places and they could not resist. Putting the cloistered emperor on a mikoshi (portable shrine), they headed east. A dozen court nobles accompanied; they made a getaway in all directions, some on saddled horses and some on all fours. I don't know how many court nobles and unkaku (high-ranking courtiers allowed in the Imperial Palace) ran away. Many including nyogo (court ladies) were naked. The author Tsunefusa YOSHIDA made an evasive statement that 'it is hard to describe,' but Jien gave the details about Myoun and Cloistered Imperial Prince Ene in "Gukansho." Kanezane lamented, 'I have never heard of a high priest of noble birth who had such hardship' ("Gyokuyo," entry of January 13, 1184).

The antecedent of the attack on In no gosho was the Heiji War, but FUJIWARA no Nobuyori's goal was to seize the Shinsei group. The attack this time was unprecedented in that the cloistered emperor with a will to fight gathered soldiers himself while Yoshinaka made the cloistered emperor the target of attack, and that the Imperial army guarding the cloistered emperor was knocked to smithereens. And it was a harbinger of the Jokyu War about 40 years later.

After the war

On January 11, 1184, with more than 100 severed heads laid on Gojogawara, Yoshikuni's army gave a shout of victory ("Hyakuren sho," entry of January 11, 1184; "Kikki" recorded the date as January 12). On January 12, working with Motofusa MATSUDONO, Yoshinaka ordered a 'discussion on the issues of society with Matsudomo and take action' ("Gyokuyo," entry of January 12, 1184), and on January 13, he established a puppet government under Moroie MATSUDONO, the son of Motofusa, as Naidaijin (minister of the center) and sessho (regent). Motofusa had pleaded with Goshirakawa to install Moroie as Sessho, but his plea was turned down before ("Gyokuyo," entry of August 28), and he had been waiting for a chance to earn restitution by having his daughter FUJIWARA no Ishi marry Yoshinaka.

On January 19, the new sessho Moroie submitted a document issued by a superior or officer and it was resolved that Yoshinaka would be given some 80 territories owned by the former sessho Motomichi. Kanezane wrote about this, 'The world is insane' ("Gyokuyo," entry of January 19). On the same day, 43 government officials including chunagon (vice-councilor of state) FUJIWARA no Tomokata were dismissed ("Kikki" and "Hyakuren sho," entry of January 19; "Gyokuyo," entry of January 20).

[Original Japanese]