Imai Kanehira (今井兼平)

Kanehira IMAI (1152 - March 4, 1184) was a busho (Japanese military commander) who lived at the end of Heian period. His common name was Shiro. Therefore, he was also called Shiro Kanehira IMAI. His formal name was NAKAHARA no Kanehira. His father was NAKAHARA no Kaneto, and his brothers were Kanemitsu HIGUCHI, Tomoe Gozen and Kaneyuki OCHIAI. He was one of the Yoshinaka Shitenno (four most loyal retainers of Yoshinaka).


Kanehira IMAI fought alongside his foster brother MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka until the end, and the death of Yoshinaka and Kanehira in the 'Death of Kiso' section of "Heike Monogatari" (The tale of the Heike) is full of tragic beauty. The way Kanehira contradicts himself in this scene and the samurai spirit he expresses when he says, 'If a warrior's last moments lack grace, he disgraces himself for a long time even if he was very prominent when alive' demonstrate the painful sympathy Kanehira had for Yoshinaka in the situation he faced, as well as the beautifully strong relationship that existed between master and servant.

When Yoshinaka said 'my armor is heavy today, although it does not ordinarily feel so,' Kanehira said as follows:
You feel so because you have lost your vigor and have grown timid.'
You should think that one horseman of Kanehira was a match for a thousand.'
If you have seven or eight arrows, you can protect yourself against the enemy for a while.'
You can see a pine grove of Matsubara over there.'
Go to the pine grove and kill yourself quietly.'
When Yoshinaka said 'I want to be killed at once rather than being defeated in several places,' Kanehira said as follows:
If a warrior's last moments lack grace, he disgraces himself for a long time even if he was very prominent when alive'
You were very exhausted. Your horse also grew weak.
It would be regrettable if you were defeated and killed by a nameless man and it became told that Kiso, who was renowned throughout Japan as a fierce god, was killed a mere retainer.'
So I urge you change your mind and go to the pine grove.'
When Yoshinaka committed suicide, Kanehira said as follows:
Then I must protect the army.'
Look, my lord of the eastern provinces, this is a model suicide by Japan's strongest warrior.'
And he put the tip of his sword into his mouth, jumped off his horse and killed himself with the sword.

(Brief translation in modern Japanese: Before the battle, Kanehira advised Yoshinaka to 'raise his spirits like a warrior,' but when Yoshinaka tried to continue fighting in the battle until his death, Kanehira calmly advised him that he should commit suicide bravely because he was too exhausted to fight any further, and gave Yoshinaka enough time to kill himself.)
(When Kanehira found out that Yoshinaka had committed suicide, he said 'People of the Kanto provinces, this was a model suicide by the strongest man in Japan'.)

Reputed burial place: Kanehira's tumulus in Kawanakajima, Nagano City
There is also a tomb in Seiran, Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture. Hosai Shrine: He was enshrined as a chief god in Imai Shrine in Kawanakajima, Nagano City, and in Imai-jinja Shrine in Imai, Matsumoto City. He was also enshrined in Kisosansha-jinja Shrine, in Kitatachibana-machi, Shibukawa City, Gunma Prefecture.

[Original Japanese]