Heiji Monogatari (The Tale of Heiji) (平治物語)

"Heiji Monogatari" is a war chronicle concerning the Heiji War.


The author is unknown. In 1159, when TAIRA no Kiyomori, who led the strongest army of the Retired Emperor Goshirakawa, visited the Kumano-jinja Shrine, FUJIWARA no Nobuyori (who had been involved in the struggle to win Goshirakawa's favor against Shinzei) raised an army, getting together with MINAMOTO no Yoshitomo (who had been dissatisfied with the oppression by the Taira family, particularly the inadequate reward in the Hogen War). They confined the Retired Emperor to the Daidairi (the Greater Imperial Palace), killing Michinori, and held power for a while. However, TAIRA no Kiyomori, who came back from Kumano, defeated them. Nobunori was executed, and Yoshitomo was assassinated. Many manuscripts since then have contained descriptions of the glory and fall of the Taira Government, as well as the establishment of the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). As well as "Hogen Monogatari" (The Tale of the Hogen War) and "Heike Monogatari "(The Tale of Heike), it was written in a mixed writing of Japanese and Chinese. Though the contents vary among the transcriptions and published books, most of the story consists of a heroic episode of Akugenta Yoshihira (Wicked Genta, Yoshihira) (MINAMOTO no Yoshihira) and a pitiful story in which Tokiwa Gozen (the name 常盤 is also written with the characters 常葉), the mother of MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune, visits Kiyomori on behalf of her aged mother. It is characterized by the sympathetic tone toward the Minamoto Clan, as is also the case in "Hogen Monogatari."

The writing process and authorship

There aren't many reliable materials concerning the authorship and writing process of "Heiji Monogatari." However, it is certain that the work was completed at least after 1199, when MINAMOTO no Yoritomo passed away, because the manuscript of the first edition which is owned by Gakushuin University Library contains an article concerning the death of Yoritomo. Although there are manuscripts that don't contain descriptions of Yoritomo's death, Yasuaki NAGAZUMI claimed that it is almost certain that the manuscripts belonging to the Group One are the oldest. Yukio ISHII confirmed that the fragment of the oldest manuscript of the story was included in the article dated 1246 in "Shunka shugetsu shoso" (a book written by Sosho), therefore it is considered that the work was completed at least before 1246. This view is in agreement with an opinion by Shigeru MATSUBARA, who identified the handwriting written in "Heiji Monogatari Ekotoba" (illustrated stories of the Heiji Rebellion) with that of FUJIWARA no Noriie in his later years, between 1249 and 1255. From the above, it appears certain that the work was completed by the mid-13th century. "Futsu-shodo shu" (a selection of ordinary advocates) (1297) contains a record that the storytelling by a biwa-playing minstrel had spread as well as the Hogen Monogatari and Heike Monogatari, so it is estimated that by the late 13th century the story was widely known.

It was a common view that the author of the story was the same as that of "Hogen Monogatari" until the early-modern times, but in recent years it has generally been assumed that the two works were written by different authors. However, the authorship remains unknown.

See the section on the writing process of "Hogen Monogatari" to learn more about the writing process and authorship; there are many overlaps between Hogen Monogatari and Heiji Monogatari, particularly in regard to the writing process and authorship.

[Original Japanese]