Minamoto no Tametomo (源為公)

MINAMOTO no Tametomo (1139 - circa April 23, 1170) was a military commander who lived during late Heian period. He was the eighth son of MINAMOTO no Tameyoshi; his mother was a courtesan from Eguchi in Settsu Province. Among his several older brothers were MINAMOTO no Yoshitomo and MINAMOTO no Yorikata.

Tametomo was a master of the bow; as he earned infamy in Chinzei (Kyushu) for his violent exploits, he started to be called Chinzei Hachiro. Although he and his father Tameyoshi fought bravely for the Retired Emperor Sutoku's faction during the Hogen Disturbance, they were defeated and exiled to Izu Oshima Island. Because he continued to behave wildly and did not follow the orders of the local governor in the Izu Island chain where he was exiled, a search and destroy mission was launched against him; in the end, he chose to commit suicide.

Present-day knowledge of Tametomo's life largely depends on a war chronicle called the "Hogen Monogatari" (The Tale of the Hogen War), and as such, the following section is mostly based on its account. Tametomo is depicted as the de facto main character of "Hogen Monogatari," yet his superhuman achievements, as depicted in this story, certainly cannot be taken as genuine historical facts.
The "Gukansho" (literally, Jottings of Personal Views; An Interpretative History of Japan) depicts Tametomo fighting bravely alongside his older brother Yorikata; the August 22, 1191 entry of the "Azuma Kagami" (The Mirror of the East) relates how Kageyoshi OBA, who was shot by an arrow on the battlefield, described Tametomo as 'the peerless master of the bow.'
It can be deduced from the above accounts that he was a brave warrior.

Chinzei (Kyushu) So-tsuibushi (a governmental officer who had rights over political and military affairs)
Tametomo is described as having been a huge man, nearly seven feet tall, and both a powerful physique and, thanks to his long-slit eyes, a formidable look. His fame as a legendary master of archery survives to this day; his left arm is described as having been almost five inches (12 cm) longer than his right arm. He was both brave and insolent, and did not restrain himself in the presence of his older brothers.

When he was 13 years old, he was disowned by his father Tameyoshi and sent to Kyushu. After Ieto, the provisional governor of Owari Province, became his guardian, Tametomo lived in Bungo Province, and later he married a daughter of TAIRA no Tadakuni from Aso, Higo Province. Tametomo styled himself the Chinzei So-tsuibushi and acted violently, fighting dozens of battles with the local lords of Kyushu like the Kikuchi and Harada clans and, by repeatedly assaulting their castles came to control all of Kyushu within three years. The Jinin (shrine administrator) of Kashii-gu Shrine reported Tametomo's violent behavior to the Imperial Court, which in 1154 issued an imperial decree ordering him to present himself at court. Tametomo refused to obey this order, but then in 1155, his father was dismissed from his governmental post. Upon hearing this, Tametomo decided to fall back into line, and journeyed to the capital with 28 strong soldiers of Kyushu.

The Hogen Disturbance
In 1156, after the death of the Cloistered Emperor Toba, the Retired Emperor Sutoku and Emperor Goshirakawa, who had fallen into conflict over the imperial succession, reached the point where it was no longer possible to avoid armed conflict, and so each camp began recruiting powerful warriors. Tameyoshi, Tametomo's father, was invited to serve as Taisho (general) by the Retired Emperor Sutoku, and although he initially tried to refuse, citing his advanced age, he was forced to accept the invitation and presented himself with six of his sons, including Yorikata and Tametomo, at Retired Emperor Sutoku's Shirakawakita-dono Palace. By contrast, Yoshitomo, who was the eldest son of Tameyoshi and was based in the Kanto region, joined the army of the Emperor Goshirakawa, along with most of the samurai of the eastern regions.

Tametomo carried a sword that was over one meter long as well as a mighty bow which is said to have taken five men to string; he stationed himself to hold the gate facing Nishigawara. On July 29, 1156, a council of war was held at which Tametomo proposed a night attack, saying "I have fought many battles in Kyushu, and I believe there is no better strategy than the night attack." "If we immediately attack Takamatsu-dono Palace (the headquarters of the Emperor's army) and set fire to it, we will easily win the battle." "If my older brother Yoshitomo sallies forth, I will shoot him down, and as for Kiyomori TAIRA, he is not even worthy to be my opponent." "Let us shower the bearers of the Emperor's palanquin with arrows as he seeks to flee, for in so doing we shall scare his bearers into flight and thus capture him." However, FUJIWARA no Yorinaga, the Minister of the Left, shouted him down, saying "Say not such barbaric things." "Night attacks and other such tactics are to be used in private conflicts between warriors." "This is a battle over imperial succession between the Retired Emperor and the Cloistered Emperor." "We should wait for the warrior-monks of Kofuku-ji Temple to arrive and then commit ourselves to one decisive battle." Tametomo was greatly chagrined to hear this, as he predicted that his older brother Yoshitomo was certain to try a night attack.

That very night, Emperor Goshirakawa's army attacked Shirakawakita-dono Palace, just as Tametomo had predicted. In order to appease Tametomo, a Jimoku (ceremony for appointing officials) was quickly held in order to appoint him a Kurodo (Chamberlain), but Tametomo rejected this appointment, saying "I am happy to remain Chinzei Hachiro, as I have been."

TAIRA no Kiyomori led an army to attack the western gate, which Tametomo was defending. When Kagetsuna ITO, FUJIWARA no Tadakiyo, and Tadanao ITO, all retainers of Kiyomori, shouted out their own names in challenge, Tametomo said to them: "Since even Kiyomori is unworthy to be my opponent, I would hardly consider any of you as worthy foes--begone." Kagetsuna shot an arrow at Tametomo, shouting "Let us see how you like this arrow from a low-ranking retainer like me." Tametomo did not budge, and responded, "unworthy as you are to be my foe, I will give you the honor of your life," and let loose with an arrow of about 23 cm long. This arrow passed all the way through Tadanao's body to pierce the armor sleeve of Tadakiyo, who was standing behind him. When Tadakiyo took the arrow back to Kiyomori and reported what had happened, Kiyomori and his men were both astonished and alarmed. Kiyomori changed his soldiers' formation and began heading for the north gate; however, his son and heir TAIRA no Shigemori was galled by the withdrawal and tried to challenge Tametomo again, but Kiyomori quickly forced him to stop.

Koreyuki YAMADA, a brave warrior from Iga Province, was also galled that they were retreating after shooting only a single arrow, so he stepped forward and announced his name before shooting at Tametomo. However, his first shot missed, and he was shot by Tametomo while still nocking his second arrow.

The soldiers of Tametomo's older brother Yoshitomo advanced to replace the forces of the retreating Kiyomori, and Yoshitomo's retainer Masakiyo KAMATA announced his name in challenge to Tametomo. Tametomo said to him: "Begone, you who dare to stand against your own lord," but Masakiyo replied, "You were my lord once, but now you are just a thug who opposes the Emperor's will," and shot an arrow which hit Tametomo's helmet. Tametomo was infuriated by this, saying, "I will not waste an arrow on one such as you; I will kill you with my own hands," and charged into the midst of Masakiyo's forces leading his 28 strong warriors of Chinzei (Kyushu). Masakiyo escaped without putting up a fight, and reported to Yoshitomo that "I have never seen a more terrifying enemy." Yoshitomo replied, 'When fighting on horseback, warriors from the Kanto have greater skill,' and led 200 such mounted Kanto warriors in an attack on Tametomo, which led to a fierce battle.

Yoshitomo shouted, "This is an imperial command." He continued, "You must retreat," but Tametomo replied, "We are acting under the orders of the Retired Emperor." Yoshitomo said, "If you raise your bow against your own older brother, you will no longer receive the grace of Buddha or the gods," but Tametomo replied: "And what of raising your bow against your own father (Tameyoshi)?" for which Yoshitomo had no reply. The fierce fighting resumed, and Tametomo, whose force was very small, briefly pulled his soldiers back inside the gate, but Yoshitomo's forces only continued to press their attack. When Tametomo spotted the figure of Yoshitomo on the battlefield, he made ready to shoot at him, but reconsidered because he thought his older brother and his father may have made a secret agreement.

Because Tametomo's small force was at a disadvantage in melee combat, he hit upon a way to intimidate the enemy commander Yoshitomo into withdrawing his forces. Tametomo's arrow flew straight and true, piercing the star on Yoshitomo's helmet. Yoshitomo said, "You are indeed a violent thug, even as I have heard," and Tametomo replied, "With your permission, I shall now present you with my second arrow." "I will make it hit you wherever you wish," he said, and then nocked another arrow. FUKASU no Kiyokuni immediately jumped between them to separate them, but Tametomo shot him dead.

The brothers Kageyoshi and Kagechika OBA stepped forward to challenge Tametomo, who shot a signal arrow at them to test their mettle; this arrow smashed Kageyoshi's left knee, tumbling him from his horse, and so Kagechika helped his older brother run back to their lines. Kageyoshi, who later served MINAMOTO no Yoritomo as a gokenin (an immediate vassal of the shogunate), claimed while recounting this incident at a banquet that although Tametomo was a peerless master of the bow, in that instance his aim had probably been thrown off because he was using a bow taller than his height from horseback, something he was not accustomed to.

Yoshitomo's Kanto warriors and Tametomo's Chinzei warriors continued fighting fiercely, until 23 out of 28 of Tametomo's warriors had been killed. By contrast, 53 of the Kanto horsemen were killed.

The hard-fought battle continued to rage at the other gates as well; neither side was able to gain the upper hand. Yoshitomo sent a messenger to the Imperial Palace to ask for imperial permission for a fire attack against the enemy's palace, and received the Emperor's permission to do so. After the fires were set, Shirakawakita-dono Palace was engulfed in flames almost immediately due to the strong wind. The Retired Emperor's forces fell into great turmoil, but both the Retired Emperor himself and Yorinaga were able to escape. The Retired Emperor's warriors, including Tameyoshi, Yorikata, and Tametomo, were also defeated.

Tameyoshi initially planned to fight another battle alongside his sons, this time in the Kanto, but having grown both old and fainthearted, he decided to enter the Buddhist priesthood and surrender. Tameyoshi hoped that "Yoshitomo will help his father and brothers even if it means forfeiting his distinguished service," but Tametomo opposed this surrender plan, insisting instead that they fall back to the eastern provinces. In the end, Tameyoshi turned himself in and surrendered.

However, not only was Tameyoshi not pardoned, his sons were also ordered arrested, and Yoshitomo was forced by imperial decree to decapitate his own father and brothers.

Tametomo continued his flight, hiding in Sakata in Omi Province (present-day Sakata County in Shiga Prefecture). He fell ill, and while he was convalescing at a hot spring, he was betrayed and the bath-house was soon surrounded by men sent by Shigesada SADO; caught stark naked, Tametomo gave in without a fight. When he was led into Kyoto, a large crowd--including the Emperor himself--gathered to catch a glimpse of the famous warrior.

The Exile of Izu-Oshima Island
Mop-up efforts after the war were already largely complete, so Tametomo's life was spared because of his great bravery during the war; on September 12, 1156, his elbow was dislocated so that he would no longer be able to use bows, the source of his pride, and he was exiled to Izu-oshima Island.

In time, his injuries healed and his skill at wielding his mighty bow returned, and he started to act violently again. Tametomo married the daughter of the local governor of the island, Saburodayu Shigetada, and began subduing the entire Izu Island chain, and even stopped paying the nengu (yearly land tax). Tadashige, however, secretly paid nengu for fear of the deputy-chief of Izu Province, Shigemitsu Kudo, administrator of the Izu Island chain, but when Tametomo found this out, he was furious and chopped off three fingers from Tadashige's hands.

In 1165, ten years after he was exiled to Izu-oshima Island, he went to Onigashima Island, which was said to be populated with giants, the descendants of ogres, and after renaming the island Ashi-jima Island, he returned with a (male) giant in tow. Tametomo gained control over seven islands of Izu, including this Ashi-jima Island.

In 1170 Shigemitsu KUDO, the deputy-chief of Izu Province, went to Kyoto to complain about Tametomo's violent and terrible behavior, and so the court issued an imperial decree to hunt Tametomo down. In the fourth month of the same year (in April or May, 1170), Shigemitsu came to attack Tametomo with an army of about 500 horsemen and 20 ships sent from the Ito, Hojo and Usami clans.

When Tametomo realized that there was no point resisting such a force, he stabbed to death his nine-year-old son MINAMOTO no Tameyori, who had been born on the island. He considered killing himself right then and there, but wanted to shoot at least one final arrow, so he raised his bow against a warship with about 300 soldiers on board and let his arrow fly. His arrow was so well-aimed that the ship immediately sank.

When he returned to his mansion, he murmured, "I killed two people with one arrow during the battle of Hogen era, but now in the Kao era, I have killed a great many with one arrow." After reciting the nenbutsu (a prayer in homage to Amitabha, or Amida), he leaned back against a pillar and committed suicide by ritual disembowelment. He was 33 years old at his death.

The imperial army would not land on the island for quite some time out of fear of Tametomo, but Kagekado KATO, ascertaining that he had already committed suicide, went and cut off Tametomo's head using his naginata (halberd).

According to "Sonpibunmyaku" (literally, Bloodlines of Noble and Base), it is said that Tametomo actually died in 1177.

Tametomo remains popular on Oshima Island even today. The island has erected a monument to commemorate Tametomo's life. On the island, men who moved to the island from the mainland for marriage are called 'Tametomo-san' in the hopes that they will follow the example of Tametomo's tremendous bravery.

Legends of Tametomo

The Picture of Tametomo the Great Warrior Driving Back the Fierce God of Smallpox
The Oshima Clan of Miyauchi-mura Village, Adachi-gun County (present-day Miyauchi, Kitamoto City) was described in "Shinpen Fudoki" (literally, a new edition of records of the culture and geography of the province) as follows: "There was a man called Daizen-no-suke Hisaie." "He ruled Izu Province and lived in Oshima Island, and during the Eisho and Taiei eras, he lived in Bushu and served the Hojo clan of Odawara, receiving a letter of commendation for his distinguished war service in the eleventh month of the seventh year of the Eiroku era." "He also inherited two spears." "At the time, he lived in Miyauchi-mura Village in the territory of Konosu." The twins Taromaru and Jiromaru, who were illegitimate children of Tametomo, appealed this fact to Tokimasa HOJO, so MINAMOTO no Yoritomo appointed Taromaru the lord of Oshima Island and appointed Jiromaru the lord of Hachijo-jima Island. Jiromaru entered the Buddhist priesthood and in 1208 founded Mida-dera Temple (known as Sofuku-ji Temple today). Taromaru was renamed Taro Tameie OSHIMA (and later renamed again to Tamemasa) at his genpuku (coming of age ceremony). Daizen-no-suke Hisaie OSHIMA was one of the Seven Horsemen of Konosu, vassals of the Ota clan, whose leader was a daimyo (feudal lord) in the warring states period; he returned to farming after the Siege of Odawara, and his family lineage has continued down to the present day. His family crest featured a sword-shaped Katabami (Creeping Woodsorrel) flower on a circle.

According to the Chuzan seikan (Mirror of the Ages of Chuzan) and the Omoro Soshi (Book of Poems), an official poetry compilation, which together are considered the official history of the Ryukyu islands, MINAMOTO no Tametomo escaped to the Ryukyus (Okinawa Prefecture), and his son took the name Shunten, the founder of the royal lineage of Ryukyu; however, the authenticity of this tale that Tametomo visited the Ryukyus cannot be verified. Nonetheless, this story was treated as part of the official history, and was later used in this capacity as the basis of the story entitled "Chinsetsu Yumiharizuki," written by Bakin KYOKUTEI. It is often mentioned in connection to the theory holding that the people of Japan and the Ryukyus had a common ancestor. It is thought that this was a legend created by the Sho clan to bolster their authority and legitimacy. Based on this legend, a monument to commemorate Tametomo's landing on the Ryukyu islands was built in 1922. Below and to the left of the front inscription, which commemorates Tametomo's landing, one can see inscribed the name of the monument's creator: Heihachiro TOGO.

According to the historical documents owned by the Hei clan, who were based during the Kamakura period in what today is the city of Miyako City in Iwate Prefecture, a man called Tameyori HEI (also known as Tameie, Yorimoto, or Yukimitsu), said to be the bereaved child of MINAMOTO no Tametomo, was awarded the territories of Hei and Kesen, and took the name of Hei for his clan.

[Original Japanese]