Kajiwara Kagesue (梶原景季)

Kagesue KAJIWARA was a busho (Japanese military commander) who lived from the end of the Heian period to the beginning of the Kamakura period. He was the legitimate son of Kagetoki KAJIWARA.

He served to MINAMOTO no Yoritomo, and distinguished himself in the Jisho-Juei War. Although he became one of the senior vassals of the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) along with his father, he was declined and defeated after Yoritomo died.


The Kajiwara clan that derived from Bando Hachi Heishi (the Eight Taira clans of the East) initially served to Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan), but after the Minamoto clan declined in the Heiji War, it served to Ise-Heishi (Taira clan). In 1180, MINAMOTO no Yoritomo took up arms but was severely defeated in the Battle of Ishibashiyama. His father Kagetoki, who fought for the Taira clan, saved Yoritomo's life, and later when Yoritomo took up arms for the second time and entered Kamakura to take control of the Kanto region, Kagetoki served to Yoritomo and became a gokenin (an immediate vassal of the shogunate in the Kamakura and Muromachi through Edo periods) and was given important posts.

In 1181, Kagesue was recognized for his Kyusen (Bow and arrow) expertise and appointed a member of Yoritomo's bedchamber guards along with children of important senior vassals including Yoshitoki HOJO, Yoshimochi WADA, Kiyoshige KASAI, and Yoshitsura MIURA.

In 1182, he accompanied pregnant Masako HOJO, who was the Midaidokoro (Shogun's wife), transferring to sanjo (a hut for delivering babies). After the young load (MINAMOTO no Yoriie) was born safely, he and his father Kagetoki presented a sword for self-protection. When Yoritomo's visit to his favorite mistress called Kame no mae during Masako's pregnancy was exposed, Masako became furious and ordered Munechika MAKI to destroy the residence of Kame no mae. Raged Yoritomo punished Munechika MAKI, but this earned the wrath of Tokimasa HOJO, who was Masako's father, and Tokimasa returned to Izu Province. Yoritomo sent Kagesue to Yoshitoki, who was the legitimate son of Tokimasa, and Kagesue on his return reported Yoritomo that Yoshitoki would not obey his father.

In February, 1184, MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka, who had defeated the Taira family and been dominated Kyoto, came into conflict with Yoritomo, and Yoritomo sent his younger brothers MINAMOTO no Noriyori and MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune to Omi Province. Kagesue, with his father Kagetoki, joined them.

The battle of vanguard at the Uji-gawa River

According to "Heike Monogatari" (The tale of the Heike [Taira family]), Kagetoki fought the renowned battle of vanguard at the Uji-gawa River against Takatsuna SASAKI and won military fame. On leaving Kamakura, Kagesue asked Yoritomo to grant him a famous horse called Ikezuki, but Yoritomo declined and gave him the horse called Surusumi instead. But later, Yoritomo gave Ikezuki to Takatsuna SASAKI. Having heard Takatsuna riding Ikezuki in the battlefield, Kagetoki felt shamed and decided to kill him and commit suicide. When Takatsuna tactfully told that he had stolen the horse, not been granted by Yoritomo, Kagesue replied 'I should have had stolen it, too,' and laughed.

When the Yoshitsune's army and Yoshinaka's army faced each other at the Yodo-gawa River, Takatsuna on Ikezuki and Kagesue on Surusumi tried to go into the river to be the first to tackle the enemy.
Takatsuna advised, 'the girth is loose, you had better tighten it.'
While Kagesue was tightening the girth not to fall from the horse, Takatsuna proceeded into the river. Having noticed he was tricked, Kagesue too rushed into the river, fiercely competed for the spearhead in the river, but eventually Takatsuna took the first step on the opposite bank and won the title of the spearhead.

Noriyori and Yoshitsune won the Battle of the Uji-gawa River and defeated Yoshinaka.

Yoshitsune and Kagetoki

In the Battle of Ichinotani in March the same year, Kagetoki KAJIWARA and his sons, Kagesue and Kagetaka, joined the Ote army of Noriyori. According to "Heike Monogatari," his younger brother Kagetaka rode his horse and dashed into the enemy's camp by himself. To save Kagetaka, Kagetoki and Kagesue also charged into enemy's camp and defeated the enemy. But on their retreat, Kagesue was so caught up in the fight that he didn't return. Kagetoki rushed into the enemy camp for the second time in tears, and fought aggressively the fight which was called Kajiwara's nidogake (to attack twice). According to "Genpei Seisui ki" (Rise and Fall of the Minamoto and the Taira clans), Kagesue stuck a branch of Japanese apricot in his ebira (quiver of arrow), for which he was praised by both allies and enemies to be a Bando musha (warriors from the east Japan) who has the sense of miyabi (elegance). In the battle, Kagesue and Takaie SHO (or Ienaga SHO) captured TAIRA no Shigehira and recognized for the achievement.

It is generally believed that Kagetoki was a consummate villain who set up MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune, but distinguished services of his son Kagesue are mentioned in war chronicles. Kagetoki also fought bravely like a Togoku Samurai (a group of samurai in the eastern part of Japan) in the Battle of Ichinotani.

After the battle, he joined the army of Yoshitsune with his father Kagetoki. Yoshitsune successively defeated the Taira clan in the Battle of Yashima and the Battle of Dannoura, and destroyed the clan in April, 1184. According to "Heike Monogatari" and "Genpei Seisui ki," Kagetoki conflicted with Yoshitsune on many occasions such as the Sakaro no matsu (old pine tree) Incident and the battle of vanguard during the battles, and it is said that he came to harbor deep animosity. In his report after the battles described in "Azuma Kagami" (The Mirror of the East), Kagetoki aggressively accused Yoshitsune of being arrogant and dogmatic, attesting the conflict between them.

Yoshitsune returned to Kyoto bringing his captives. The Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa granted official court ranks to Yoshitsune and other major samurai warriors to praise the achievement. On this occasion, Kagesue received the title of Saemon no jo (third-ranked officer of the Left Division of Outer Palace Guards). The investiture without permission drove Yoritomo in Kamakura to fury, and Yoritomo cursed out every one of the invested 24 samurai warriors, and ordered them to return to Kamakura. The letters of curse words are described in "Azuma Kagami." Unlike his younger brother Kagetaka, who was appointed Hyoe no jo (Lieutenant of the Middle Palace Guards), and was blamed to be 'an evil-looking, silly creature who is the last person to deserve the title,' Kagesue wasn't blamed at all although his name was mentioned.

Downfall of Yoshitsune

Although Kagesue and his fellows were forgiven later and returned to Kamakura, Yoshitsune wasn't forgiven and forced to return to Kyoto after having reached Koshigoe in the suburb of Kamakura. In October the same year, Kagesue and Gishobo Jojin went to the capital as emissaries of Yoritomo. Their mission was to obtain the fittings for the memorial service of Shochoju-in Temple and to impel the Court to banish the remnants of the Taira clan, but another mission was to give Yoshitsune the order of Yoritomo to hunt down and kill MINAMOTO no Yukiie, who was Yoshitsune's uncle. Kagesue visited Yoshitsune's residence but Yoshitsune claimed he was ill and refused to meet him. When he visited Yoshitsune again after waiting for a day or two, he was permitted to meet him but Yoshitsune was leaning against his armrest in a debilitated condition and told Kagesue he was unable to kill Yukiie until he was recovered.

When Kagesue returned Kamakura and reported it to Yoritomo, his father Kagetoki was suspicious about delaying the meeting for a day or two, and told that Yoshitsune must have had practiced fasting to fake debilitation, and that Yoshitsune and Yukiie were already allies.

Following the incident, Yoshitsune and Yukiie took up arms but failed. Yoshitsune fled to the Oshu-Fujiwara clan, but committed suicide in Hiraizumi Town in 1189.

In August the same year, Yoritomo started off Kamakura with a large army to subjugate the Oshu-Fujiwara clan. Kagesue joined the army with his father and younger brothers. At Shirakawa no seki (Shirakawa Barrier), Kagesue was asked and dedicated a waka (a traditional Japanese poem of thirty-one syllables). Yoritomo gained a great victory and the Oshu-Fujiwara clan was destroyed.
(The Battle of Oshu)

In 1190, Yoritomo went to the capital and Kagesue accompanied him.

In 1193, Yoshisuke YASUDA, who was a son of Yoshisada YASUDA of Kai-Genji (Minamoto clan), sent an ensho (love letter) to a nyobo (a court lady) of the retired Emperor. Although the nyobo feared the consequences and kept the incident a secret, Ryuju no mae (龍樹の前), who was a Kagesue's mistress, disclosed the secret and Kagesue told Kagetoki about it. Kagetoki notified it to Yoritomo, and as a result Yoshisuke was decapitated, and Yoshisada's shoryo (territory) was confiscated.

Kagesue served actively as a powerful gokenin, and his name was frequently mentioned as an attendee in various events of the Kamakura bakufu, as well as a bugyo (magistrate). Yoritomo gave important posts to his father Kagetoki, and Kagetoki reigned powerfully as a Samurai-dokoro betto (the superior of the Board of Retainers).

Fall of the Kajiwara clan

In February, 1199, Yoritomo died and the positions of the Kajiwara clan turned worse. In November the same year, Kagetoki was impeached by a group of 66 gokenins including Yoshimura MIURA and Yoshimori WADA, deported from Kamakura, and he retired into Ichinomiya in Sagami Province, which was his shoryo (territory).

In January, 1200, Kagetoki, Kagesue and their clan left Ichinomiya in Sagami Province and attempted to go to the capital. On the way to the capital, they had a fight against local samurai warriors at the Kiyomi ga Seki checking station in Suruga Province, and the younger brothers were killed one after another. Kagesue and Kagetoki fled into mountains and fought, but killed themselves with the rest of the clan. He died at the age of 39.

[Original Japanese]