The Shishigatani-no-Inbo (Shishigatani Conspiracy) (鹿ケ谷の陰謀)

The Shishigatani Conspiracy was a plot to overthrow the Taira clan and occurred in Kyoto in July, 1177, during the Heian period. It is called "Shishigatani Conspiracy" because secret talks were carried out at Joken Hoin (a child of FUJIWARA no Michinori)'s mountain retreat in Higashiyama Shishigatani, Kyoto (presently, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto City).


Death of Kenshunmonin

The Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa turned 50 in 1176, and various celebratory events continued from the beginning of the year. The Taira clan members attended parties at Hoju-ji Temple, exhibiting their closeness with the Cloistered Emperor. However, Kenshunmonin's physical condition worsened in July and she died on August 21. Around the same time, Takamatsuin (Imperial Princess Shushi), Emperor Rokujo and Kujyoin (FUJIWARA no Shimeko) died and the political scene fell into turmoil.

First, the status of Emperor Takakura, who had no sons, became unstable due to the death of his mother. There were signs of confrontation between Emperor Takakura, who had started to take part in political matters after reaching adulthood, and Goshirakawa, who wanted to continue his cloistered governance, but upon the position assignment on January 13, 1177, FUJIWARA no Nobuyoshi and FUJIWARA no Mitsuyoshi, who were close aides of Goshirakawa, were promoted to Kurodo no to (Head Chamberlain), passing over TAIRA no Tomomori and others. As a counter move against the advancement of the Goshirakawa cloistered government group, TAIRA no Shigemori was appointed Konoefu (head of the inner palace guards) and TAIRA no Munemori was appointed Udaisho (head of the right palace guards) on the position assignment day of January 1177. Losing a mediator in Kenshunmonin, the Taira clan, who supported Takakura, and the group of aides who supported Goshirakawa began to fight over position appointments. However, on April 21, Goshirakawa visited Fukuhara-kyo for a ceremony involving a thousand Bhuddist monks, where he acted favorably towards the Taira clan and it seemed as if the rift had been mended.

The Hakusan Incident

However, when Goshirakawa returned to Kyoto on April 29, the daishu (Buddhist monks) at the Sanmon (Enryaku-ji Temple, Hieizan Mountain) demanded the removal of the Kaga (presently Ishikawa Pref.) governor, FUJIWARA no Morotaka (Hakusan Incident).
The cause was that monks at Hakusan appealed to the Sanmon because Morotaka, Saiko's child, became governor of Kaga Province and the Mokudai (substitute for the governor who lives in the province and performs actual duties) Morotsune burned down Ukawa-ji Temple, a branch temple of Hakusan,
It was common for the Mokudai of the governor's office and temples/shrines at the province to fight over various aspects regarding shoen (private estates) owned by temples, but this incident sent ripples into the central government and caused a full confrontation between the Sanmon and the cloistered government group because Hakusan was a branch temple of the Sanmon and the governor was a child of Saiko, a close aide of the cloistered government.

Goshirakawa tried to settle the situation by exiling the Mokudai, Morotsune, to Bingo Province (present eastern half of Hiroshima prefecture), but the monks were not satisfied and brought out a mikoshi (portable shrine) and headed towards the inner Imperial Court on May 18. Goshirakawa took strong measures and sent court troops, but there was a confrontation between Shigemori's troops, who were sent to maintain security, and the monks, and the situation worsened after an arrow hit the mikoshi. On May 26, the incident came to a finish due to agreement to all of the demands of the monks, with Morotaka exiled to Owari Province (present western Aichi Prefecture) and Shigemori's soldier who fired the arrow into the mikoshi detained.

Preparations to attack the Sanmon

Soon after, on June 3, an extensive fire referred to as 'Taro Shobo' broke out and shocked the people as it burned down the Daigoku-den Palace and housing complexes of 13 aristocrats including Motofusa MATSUDONO (chief adviser to the Emperor). In this situation, Goshirakawa suddenly brought up the former incident and dismissed Myoun of Tendai-zasu (head priest of the Tendai sect), took away his property, and exiled him to Izu Province on June 27. It is said that this was caused by Saiko, who saddened by the exile of Morotaka, blamed Myoun as the leader of the demonstrations and demanded punishment. Since the monks rebelled against the exile of their chief and rescued him, Goshirakawa ordered TAIRA no Kiyomori to attack the Sanmon. Kiyomori was not in favor of attacking, but was pressured by Goshirakawa, and so samurai from Omi Province (present Shiga Prefecture), Mino Province (present southern Gifu Prefecture) and Echizen Province (present northern part of Fukui Prefecture) were readied in preparation for an attack.

Discovery of the plot

Just before the attack, Yukitsuna TADA visited Kiyomori's house at Nishi-Hachijo and informed him about the plan to destroy the Taira clan on July 5. According to the "Gukansho," when Goshirakawa made a visit to Joken's Shishigatani mountain retreat, FUJIWARA no Narichika, Saiko and Shunkan met together to talk about plans to destroy the Taira clan and Yukitsuna was called and given 30 rolls of Uji fabric to make white flags for the launch. According to the "Heike Monogatari" (The Historic Romance of Taira Family), a sake bottle (called "heiji", the same pronunciation as "the Taira clan" in Japanese) fell over when Narichika stood up and when Goshirakawa asked, 'what was that?' Narichika answered, 'the sake bottle (heiji) fell over,' and when Shunkan asked what to do with it, Saiko said 'we must take its neck (kill)' and broke the neck of the bottle.

Kiyomori immediately sent for Saiko and when he admitted to all of the charges under torture, he was beheaded. Narichika was also sent for and detained. It is said that Shigemori, whose wife was Narichika's younger sister, encouraged Narichika by promising to save his life ("Gukansho"). When the monks of the Sanmon, who had descended to Nishi-Sakamoto, became aware of this, they sent a messenger to Kiyomori to thank him for killing their enemy and returned to their mountain. On July 8, participants such as Shunkan, Motonaka, NAKAHARA no Motokane, Nobufusa KOREMUNE, TAIRA no Sukeyuki and TAIRA no Yasuyori were all captured, and on July 9, Myoun was released from exile. On July 13, Morotaka, who has been exiled to Owari, was attacked by followers of Kiyomori and brutally killed, and although Narichika was saved and exiled to Bizen Province, he was starved to death.


Whether there in fact were any secret plans was questioned even at that point and since Saiko and Narichika readily attended to Kiyomori's call, there is a possibility that it was a plot by the Taira clan (Kiyomori) to destroy close aides of the cloistered government or evade confrontation with the Sanmon. Kiyomori targeted the core aides of the cloistered government, Saiko and Narichika, and did not penalize Goshirakawa, instead sending him to Fukuhara.
Goshirakawa was said to feign complete ignorance and said 'what it all this? I don't think I have anything to be accused of.'

Shigemori quit the position of Sadaisho (head of the left palace guards) on July 9 because he had lost face when his soldier hit the mikoshi with an arrow during the Hakusan Incident and his wife's elder brother was killed during exile even after Shigemori asked for his life to be spared. As a result, Munemori established his position as Kiyomori's successor. Kiyomori was able to prevent a confrontation with the Sanmon and eliminate close aides of the cloistered government who were against the Taira clan, but the relationship between Kiyomori and Goshirakawa was irreversibly damaged and this led to the "Jisho sannen no seihen" (Coup of the Third Year of Jisho, 1179).

Historical references


[Original Japanese]