Higuchi Kanemitsu (樋口兼光)

Kanemitsu HIGUCHI (year of birth unknown - March 22, 1184) was a military commander during the end of the Heian period. He was the second son of NAKAHARA no Kaneto. He was an elder brother of Kanehira IMAI and Tomoe Gozen (Lady Tomoe). He was commonly called Jiro. His formal name was NAKAHARA no Kanemitsu. He was a son of wet nurse of as well as a right-hand man to MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka. He was one of the Four Most Loyal Retainers of Yoshinaka.


He was a retainer of Yoshinaka since Yoshinaka rose in arms, and he played a critical role in a number of wars including the battle of Kurikara Pass. He continued to be active as a right-hand man of Yoshinaka after Yoshinaka went to Kyoto such that he captured the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa in the Battle of Hoju-ji Temple.

In 1184, Yoshinaka was defeated and died in the war, HIGUCHI accepted Kodama Party's advice and surrendered, but finally, beheaded on orders of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo. Heike Monogatari stated that HIGUCHI was killed, even though quite a few people including MINAMOTO no Noriyori and MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune, who were impressed by his heroism, begged for his life, becauase some court nobles were furiously opposed to saving his life (to be described later).

Azuma Kagami stated that 'he was close to someone from the Kodama Party in Musashi Province.'
It was unknown as to who it was from the Kodama party that was being referred to, and in the next section, the fifth generation of the head family of the Kodama party, Ienaga SHO appeared (from this, it is assumed it was someone from the Sho clan).

His death described in "Heike Monogatari"

The following is the last scene of Kanemitsu HIGUCHI in the ninth roll 'Higuchi no kirare' (The Execution of Higuchi) of "Heike Monogatari".

HIGUCHI was leaving for Nakusa, Kii Province, to put down MINAMOTO no Yukiie, but came back when he heard a battle broke out in Kyoto. He met a servant of Kanehira IMAI on the Owatari Bridge and learned that Yoshinaka KISO and Kanehira were already dead. HIGUCHI said in tears, 'Those of you who heard this, who missed him as a lord, immediately go and settle in somewhere and pray for him to rest in peace by taking whatever hard Buddhist training you can. I will go to Kyoto and die in battle to meet my lord in the heaven, seeing my lord is my wish,' and then he went to Kyoto. As he passed through the south gate of the Toba Imperial Villa, his force reduced to only a little over twenty solders. Later on, he was persuaded by the Kodama Party who desperately wanted to save his life, and decided to follow the Kodama Party. MINAMOTO no Noriyori and MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune asked the Retired Emperor Goshirakawa whether HIGUCHI could be saved, but the court nobles in the palace, even court ladies and girls that worked in palace room said, 'It is impossible to save HIGUCHI because IMAI and HIGUCHI burnt down Hossho-ji Temple and killed many high priests,' thus he was given the death sentence. When the heads of Yoshinaka and the other five were exposed on the street, HIGUCHI persistently offered to accompany them. He was with them in the indigo navy court dress and in a formal headwear with a peak for court nobles, and on the following day he was beheaded.


Kanetsugu NAOE, who was active as a tactful vassal of the Uesugi family in the Azuchi-Momoyama period, is said to be a descendant of Kanemitsu.

[Original Japanese]