Fujiwara no Nobuyori (藤原信頼)

FUJIWARA no Nobuyori (1133 – February 13, 1160) was a lord in the latter Heian period. He was the fourth son of FUJIWARA no Tadataka, Emperor Toba's personal attendant and Okurakyo (Minister of the Treasury). His mother was the daughter of FUJIWARA no Akiyori. To his brothers and sisters he was known as the father-in-law of FUJIWARA no Hidehira of the Oshu-Fujwara clan; his siblings included FUJIWARA no Motonari, FUJIWARA no Takanori, FUJIWARA no Ieyori, and FUJIWARA no Nobutoki.


In 1144 was conferred the court rank of Shorokui (Senior Sixth Rank). In 1146 achieved Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade). In the same year he was promoted to Jugoijo (Junior Fifth Rank, Upper Grade). Took successive posts of Tosa no kuni no kami (Provincial Governor of Tosa) (1148) and Musashi no kuni no kami (Provincial Governor of Musashi) (1150), and held the title of juryo (the head of the provincial governors) in his father's chigyo koku (provincial fiefdom). In 1151 achieved the court rank of Shogoinoge (Senior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade), in the following year (1152) was made Uhyoe no suke (assistant captain of the Right Division of Middle Palace Guards), and in 1155 was given the rank of Jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade) and was made Musashi no kami (Provincial Governor of Musashi).
He served as a valet to Emperor Goshirakawa and those around him said that as a favorite retainer he received 'a shameful degree of favoritism.'
In 1157 he served as Ukone no Gon no chujo (Provisional Middle Captain of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards), Kurodo no to (Head Chamberlain), and Sakone gon no chujo (Provisional Middle Captain of the Left Division of Inner Palace Guards) and was promoted from court rank of Jushiijo (Junior Fourth Rank, Upper Grade) to Shoshiinoge (Senior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade). The following year (1158), as a Shoshiinojo (Senior Fourth Rank, Upper Grade) and Kogo no miya gon no suke (Provisional Assistant Master of the Empress's Household) he was promoted from Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank), and at a youthful 26 years old, he was promoted to the rank of Shosanmi (Senior Third Rank) and Sangi (royal adviser), thus joining the ranks of the nobility. In the same year he was given the duty of Gon Chunagon (a provisional vice-councilor of state) and concurrently held the roles of Kebiishi no betto (Superintendent of the Imperial Police) and Uemon no kami (Captain of the Right Division of Outer Palace Guards). Following the Emperor's abdication, he became In no betto (chief administrator of the Retired Emperor's Office).

Around that time, Nobuyori held tremendous power; the former sessho (regent) FUJIWARA no Tadamichi who had quarreled with Nobuyori, was rebuked by the Retired Emperor and he suffered under house arrest.

Afterwards, Tadamichi took the child of the regent Motozane KONOE and Nobuyori's sister as his wife. From her womb Motozane's progeny Motomochi KONOE was born.

Seeing the influence of trust, Tadamichi made up his mind.

Also, Nobuyori and family were dispatched to govern Mutsu Province, and Nobuyori and his younger brother Nobutoki were commissioned to govern Musashi Province. The Bando samurai have a lifeline of support in the exercise of authority of the Musashi provincial government, who supplied horses and weapons, both indispensable to samurai warriors, and, with the seizure of Mutsu, the influence of MINAMOTO no Yoshitomo (who promoted Bando control) was enhanced.

At the time the most powerful military aristocrats, TAIRA no Kiyomori's daughter and Nobuyori's eldest son Nobuchika were also joined in wedlock.

Nobuyori was the person holding actual power in the Imperial Court.

He was loved by the corpulent and fair skinned Emperor Goshirakawa, who had homosexual (pederast) inclinations and is said not to have hesitated in showing his affections in the public gaze of the royal court. From a young age he had a difficult temperament, and in his latter years he was described as the 'evil' Uemon no kami (Captain of the Right Gate Guards).

However, around that time one other individual's power grew quickly as well: FUJIWARA no Shinzei, a vassal of Retired Emperor Goshirakawa. Before long, Shinzei and Nobuyori were at loggerheads.

Rule by retired Emperor Goshirakawa was not liked; influence was brought to bear in favor of direct Imperial rule by Emperor Nijo and, within the court, battles between the political cliques gained prominence.

On January 26, 1160 in Kyoto, TAIRA no Kiyomori, who had the military power to overwhelm others, was on a pilgrimage to the Shrines of Kumano.
In his absence, MINAMOTO no Yoshitomo, MINAMOTO no Mitsuyasu, and MINAMOTO no Yorimasa were drawn into a trap by Nobuyori who had raised an army in Kyoto and then captured and beheaded Shinzei. (Heiji no Ran (Heiji Rebellion))

For his success, Nobuyori rapidly rose to be the most powerful individual at court.

However, political administration in the form of Emperor Nijo exercising influence with Nobuyori and the alliance of other military nobles soon collapsed.

Upon returning to Kyoto, TAIRA no Kiyomori, who had up until then remained neutral, joined with factions loyal to Emperor Nijo and paid a visit to Emperor Nijo at the Rokuhara estate. Nobuyori branded them rebels.

Moreover, military nobles of the likes of MINAMOTO no Mitsuyasu, who were close associates of Emperor Nijo, found themselves withdrawing from Nobuyori's side, who had become rebel forces. Only MINAMOTO no Yoshitomo (who Nobuyori depended upon heavily) remained loyal to Nobuyori's camp.

Also, Nobuyori's son (who had become Kiyomori's son-in-law) returned back to his father (Nobuyori) immediately after the call on Emperor Nijo, and the marital ties with the Taira family were dissolved.

On February 14, the Emperor made a proclamation, and in the battle with the attacking imperial forces, in front of TAIRA no Kiyomori, the commander of imperial forces and the capital's greatest military noble, Nobuyori and Yoshitomo were easily defeated.

The Tale of Heiji paints a picture of Nobuyori's apparent cowardice in battle.

Escaping, Nobuyori intended to flee with Yoshitomo to the Eastern Provinces; however, Yoshitomo had only harsh words, 'Japan's greatest loser,' and refused. At Ninna-ji Temple, where Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa had gone, he pleaded for clemency, but the Imperial Court did not pardon Nobuyori as ringleader of insurrection and he was beheaded at the Rokujo-gawara execution grounds. It is said that with his neck having been placed on the executioner's block, he writhed in anguish, then calmed down, after which his head was duly chopped-off.

[Original Japanese]