Mutsuwaki (陸奥話記)

"Mutsuwa-ki" is a war chronicle that depicts the details of Japan's Early Nine-Years War. It is also called "Mutsumonogatari" or "Oshu Kassenki." Along with "Shomonki" (The Chronicle of Masakado), it is considered to be the progenitor of Japan's war chronicles.


It is estimated to date from the latter half of the Heian period around the latter half of the 11th century. It's author is unknown.
A book in one volume
Because it contains many passages that appear to be based on kokuge (official documents) submitted to the Emperor from Mutsu Province, the prevailing view is that its author was an individual who was able to view kokuge in the Imperial Court. It contains kokuge mixed with the accounts of warriors who fought in the conflict.

It is a representative early war chronicle which the Abe clan (Mutsu Province) who were fushu (northern barbarians) and the Dewa Kiyohara clan were compared to the Minamoto clan by depicting them as warriors who were short in stature but strong.


ABE no Yoritoki, who was the chief of the fushu in the Okuroku-gun (six districts) in Mutsu Province (basin of Kitakami-gawa River, Iwate Prefecture), appropriated six districts which the governor of Mutsu Province, FUJIWARA no Narito, attempted to attack but he was defeated by the Onikobe hot springs. Subsequently, MINAMOTO no Yoriyoshi, as Mutsu no kami (the governor of Mutsu Province) and Chinju-fu shogun (Commander-in-Chief of the Defense of the North), attempted to subdue Yoritoki, but because of a pardon issued by the Imperial Court, Yoriyoshi became submissive by changing his name to ABE no Yoritoki and surrendered. Because Yoriyoshi suspected ABE no Sadato, son of Yoritoki, of having attacked the camp of Yoriyoshi's forces, Yoritoki resolved to revolt out of love for his son and the Abe clan gained superiority in the ensuing battle. FUJIWARA no Tsunekiyo reinforced the Abe clan. Yoriyoshi gave gifts to KIYOHARA no Mitsuyori, a fushu in the Senboku district of Dewa Province (Akita Prefecture) who had maintained neutrality, and requested that he enter the war, after which a large army commanded by Mitsuyori's younger brother, Takenori KIYOHARA, entered the conflict. This turned the tide of the conflict, resulting in FUJIWARA no Tsunekiyo being captured and beheaded, Sadato dying after being stabbed by a spear, and Abe clan being defeated at Kuriyagawa no Saku (Tenshoji-machi, Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture). Finally the Yoriyoshi and Yoshiie father and son were conferred the ranks of Shoshiinoge (Senior Forth Rank, Lower Grade) and Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Grade, Lower Grade) respectively in a jimoku (ceremony for appointing officials). The contents are as described above.

Style of writing

As with "Shomonki," the diary is written in a variant of the Chinese language. In contrast to "Shomonki" which is written in an ornate style using couplets and pianliti (a Chinese style of composition with alternating lines of four and six characters), "Mutsuwa-ki" is written in a light, plain style.
This is thought to be related to the fact that this work was intended to document events, and at the end of the volume is written 'Since there are many errors, it is necessary for persons who know the facts to correct them.'


The feature of work is that it extensively incorporates word-of-mouth stories. The diary is praised as a work that surpasses simple war records for its impressive stories of individuals such as those of Sadato's followers who had surrendered used a comb to, while in tears, tidy the hair of his decapitated head after it arrived in the capital; the death of an old samurai named Tsunenori SAEKI who died after fighting bravely; ABE no Norito's wife who jumped to her death with her baby in her arms.

Although a number of minor works followed "Mutsuwa-ki," there was long period in which no war chronicles were written that lasted until the first half of the 13th century when "Hogen Monogatari" (The Tale of the Hogen War), "Heiji Monogatari" (The Tale of Heiji) and "Heike Monogatari" (The tale of the Heike) appeared. Furthermore, from the perspective of the opening of "Hogen Monogatari" which contains descriptions similar to kagamimono (the generic name of history books with "Kagami" in their titles) works which tell of the reign of Emperor Toba, "Mutsuwa-ki" is slightly lacking in elements that link to subsequent ages.

While praising Yoshiie's bravery, the diary also describes the viciousness and vindictiveness of samurai by depicting scenes such as Tsunekiyo's execution in which he was deliberately beheaded using a blunt sword in order to make him suffer. It is thought that the words 'I am far away (from Mutsu)' at the end of "Mutsuwa-ki" indicate that its author was not a samurai linked to Togoku (the eastern part of Japan, particularly the Kanto region) but was instead a noble in the capital.

Volume 25, No. 13 of "Konjaku Monogatari Shu" (Anthology of Tales from the Past) contains a story entitled 'Minamoto no Yoriyoshi no Ason Abe no Sadatadura wo Utsu Koto' (lit. MINAMOTO no Yoriyoshi Defeats ABE no Sadato) which is thought to be slight modification of a "Mutsuwa-ki" narrative. A major difference is that the sentences of "Konjaku" are written in a mixture of Japanese and Chinese, and are approachable as a narrative. The citations of several anecdotes and Chinese books have also been omitted. Several descriptions of battles are also omitted, showing that "Konjaku" is more involved in the flow of the narrative than the details of "Mutsuwa-ki."

An example of the deletion of Chinese books can be illustrated by the reference to FUJIWARA no Tsunekiyo who, upon coming under suspicion from Yoriyoshi, likened his situation to that of the meritorious retainers (Han Xin, Peng Yue and Ying Bu) who were fell under the suspicion of Gaozu (Liu Bang) of Han and were killed by him, but this portion is not contained in "Konjaku." It was the general practice of war chronicles to explain the contemporary situation by citing historical events but "Konjaku" does not adopt this method.

An example of omitted content is an impressive event in which after the end of the war, Takenori KIYOHARA wished to see Yoshiie's reputed superhuman archery skill, in response to which Yoshiie is said to have demonstrated his ability by shooting an arrow through three layers of armor. This story of Yoshiie's prowess is thought to have been well known, as demonstrated by reference to the event in a depiction of MINAMOTO no Tametomo's archery skill in "Hogen Monogatari," but it appears that the author of "Konjaku" deemed it unsuitable for this work. At the end of the story, "Mutsuwa-ki" praises Yoriyoshi's achievements by likening them to both Gaozu's subjugation of Han Dynasty China and to SAKANOUE no Tamuramaro but these references are also omitted from "Konjaku."

Problematic changes include the sequence of events leading to Yoriyoshi's killing of TAIRA no Nagahira. Like Tsunekiyo, Nagahira was a son-in-law of Yoritoki but sided with Yoriyoshi. However, he was suspected of betrayal and killed by Yoriyoshi.
"Mutsuwa-ki" states in its account of this event that Nagahira was 'disloyal and immoral' and that he had 'conceived a plot.'
It is written that he wore a silver helmet in order to, like the Yellow Turbans of the Yellow Turban Rebellion, avoid being accidently attacked by his allies. On the other hand, "Konjaku" simply states that somebody secretly informs Yoriyoshi of Nagahira's betrayal and, other than saying that his helmet is different from those of others, gives absolutely no other evidence. Depending on the viewpoint, it is uncertain whether or not Nagahira intended to betray Yoriyoshi (the facts are unknown but judging from the context of the story), but it can be said that Nagahira's death was caused by Yoriyoshi's suspicion. From the examples given above, it can be said that "Konjaku" shows less sympathy to the father and son Yoriyoshi and Yoshiie than "Mutsuwa-ki" does.

Other works based on "Mutsuwa-ki" include "Fuso Ryakki" (A Brief History of Japan) and "Jikkinsho" (A Miscellany of Ten Maxims).

[Original Japanese]