Fujiwara no Hidesato (藤原秀郷)

FUJIWARA no Hidesato (year of birth and death unknown) was a military commander who lived in the middle of the Heian Period. He was a child of FUJIWARA no Murao who was Kokushi (provincial governor) of Shimotsuke Province. It is believed that he was a descendant of FUJIWARA no Uona from the Northern House of the Fujiwara clan. It is believed that his real mother was a daughter of a member of the Kashima clan who was the provincial governor of Shimotsuke Province. He is well-known with the name of "TAWARA no Tota (or"TAWARA no Toda"). His official rank was Jushiige (Junior Forth Rank, Lower Grade), Shimotsuke no kami (the governor of Shimotsuke Province), Musashi no kuni no kami (governor of Musashi Province), and Chinju-fu shogun (Commander-in-Chief of the Defense of the North). After his death, he was conferred Shoichii (Senior First Rank).

In the Muromachi Period, 'TAWARA no Tota emaki' (illustrated hand scroll of TAWARA no Tota) was completed and he is famous for the legend of killing a giant centipede in Mt. Mikami-yama in the Omi Province. He had been Shimotsuke no jo (local official for the Shimotsuke Province) before, but, by his merit of hunting down TAIRA no Masakado, he was promoted to Jushiinoge (Junior Forth Rank, Lower Grade) and appointed to the post of kokushi (provincial governors) for the Shimotsuke and Musashi Provisions as well as Chinju-fu shogun (Commander-in-Chief of the Defense of the North) and increased his power. As a leader of samurai family, rivaling Minamoto clan and Taira clan, many lines derived from him including many deceptive ones.


Although it has been a common belief that he was from FUJIWARA no Uona line of the Northern House of the Fujiwara clan, there is a view that "in fact, he was from the Tottori clan from Fumiogori in Shimotsuke Province and Hidesato himself used the family name, Fujiwara, deceptively" (Another view says that "Tottori" was the name of his parents' family which had been serving as Zaichokanjin (the local officials in Heian and Kamakura periods) from ancient times.

The name "TAWARA no Tota" appeared for the first time in "Konjaku Monogatarishu" (Volume 25 "Story of TAIRA no Koreshige putting down FUJIWARA no Moroto, No. 5), and the name of TAWARA no Tota has not been found in historical materials of Hidesato'a times. There are various views on the origin of the name, TAWARA no Tota, such as a view that the Tawara, Yurugi-gun, Sagami Province was the place of the origin of the family name, a view based on the legend that he lived in Tawara near Kyoto in his childhood, and a view that is based on a legend that he was from Tawara-go, Kurita-gun, Omi Province.

Hidesato had power as a local official in Shimotsuke Province (present Tochigi Prefecture), but, in 916, he joined and involved in anti-local government movement in the neighboring province, Kozuke Province and he was condemned to exile together with 17 (18?) family members. However, provably because he was a descendant of an emperor's vassal and his prowess made it impossible to execute exile, there is no evidence of his following the order. Two year after that in 929, the local government of the Shimotsuke Province issued an order to hunt down him by reason of his immoral conducts. He constructed Karasawayama-jo Castle (in present Sano City).

When TAIRA no Masakado raised an army in 939 and conquered eight provinces in Kanto (Johei and Tengyo War/TAIRA no Masakado's War), he formed a coalition with TAIRA no Sadamori and attacked Sashima-gun in the Shimofusa Province, which was the base of Masakado, in March 940, next year, and suppressed the turmoil. Several historians surmise that he was appointed as Shimotsuke no jo and Oryoshi (Suppression and Control Agent) concurrently immediately before the suppression. For this merit, he was ranked at Jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade) in March 940 and appointed as Shimotsuke no kami (the governor of Shimotsuke Province) in November. Later, he was appointed as Musashi no kuni no kami and Chinju-fu shogun as well.

Legend of killing a giant centipede

A large snake was lying down on Seta no karahashi Bridge in Omi Province and people, afraid of it, were not able to pass the bridge. However, TAWARA no Tota who happened to pass by did not get frightened and passed the bridge stomping over the giant snake. In the night of the same day, a beautiful girl visited Tota. The girl was a member of a family of dragon god living in Lake Biwa-ko and the giant snake which Tota stepped on in the daytime was an embodiment of the girl. The girl explained that the family of the dragon god had been agonized by a giant centipede in Mt. Mikami-yama and asked Total to kill the centipede.

Tota willingly accepted the request and when he arrived in Mt. Mikami-yama carrying a sword and a bow and arrows, a giant centipede that could wind around Mt. Mikami-yama for seven and a half time appeared. Although Tota shot arrows, they were not effective against the giant centipede. He put saliva on the last arrow and shot praying to Hachiman god and finally succeeded to kill the giant centipede. Tota received from the girl treasures as recompense including a rice bag which gave rice without limit. In addition, it is said that he managed to find a weak point of TAIRA no Masakado, thanks to the help of the dragon god and kill Masakado.

In Shimotsuke Province which was Hidesato's base, there is a story in which Sarumaudayu (or Iwaji/Iwasaburo who were hunters) killed the god of Mt. Nantai-zan which changed its form into a centipede (a legend that led to the birth of the name, "Nikko Senjougahara (warfield in Nikko)"), and it seems that this legend was linked with anecdotes of Hidesato.

A similar folk literature exists in Utsunomiya City (Shimotsuke Province). It is "legend of Dodomeki" in which TAWARA no Tota kills an evil ogre "Dodomeki." This legend gave rise to the name of "Dodomeki-dori" in the present Utsunomiya City along Fujiwara/Utsunomiya line, prefectural road No. 63 of Tochigi Prefecture.

There is a play on word; "It sounds great that the giant centipede was long enough to go around Mt. Mikami-yama seven and a half times, but it is just little shorter than eight rounds (in Japanese, "little shorter than eight rounds" has the same sound as hachimaki (headband)). This play on words is used in classical Rakugo (classical comic story-telling) "Yabasebune" and so on.

Descendant clan

As Hidesato's descendants did not go up to Kyoto, the political center, they became ancestors of samurai clans which came to control the central part of Kanto.

Shrines in which Hidesato has been enshrined

Karasawayama-jinja Shrine (former bekkaku-kanpeisha [special national shrine]) (Sano City, Tochigi Prefecture)
Unomori-jinja Shrine (Yokkaichi City, Mie Prefecture)
Hidesato Inari (Koan-ji Temple [handed down as FUJIWARA no Hidesato's residence] in Fuchu City, Tokyo Prefecture)

[Original Japanese]