Minamoto no Yoriyoshi (源頼義)

MINAMOTO no Yoriyoshi was a mid-Heian period warrior. He was of the family line of the Seiwa-Genji (Minamoto clan), who were descended from Tsunemoto-o (MINAMOTO no Tsunemoto), the son of the Imperial Prince Sadazumi, himself the sixth son of Emperor Seiwa. He was the firstborn son of MINAMOTO no Yorinobu, the founder of the Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan) line, and thus was the second-generation leader of the Kawachi-Genji.


As the legitimate son and heir of the Kawachi-Genji founder MINAMOTO no Yorinobu, he was born in the family mansion in Koroho, located in Tsuboi, Furuichi-gun, Kawachi Province (the modern-day Tsuboi, Habikino City, Osaka Prefecture). An expert marksman with the bow, Yoriyoshi earned high praise for his bravery starting when he was still young, and in 1030 he and his father Yorinobu took up arms to suppress TAIRA no Tadatsune War (also called the Chogen War); thereafter, he took over the headship of the Kawachi-Genji from his father Yorinobu, and began planning to relocate the seat of his power in eastern lands. He took as his bride the daughter of TAIRA no Naokata, who had failed to suppress Tadatsune's rebellion, inheriting Naokata's mansion in Kamakura; henceforward, this mansion became the seat of the Kawachi-Genji's power and influence in the east.

As the successor to FUJIWARA no Narito, he became both the governor of Mutsu Province and the Chinju-fu Shogun (Commander-in-chief of the Northern Defense Forces), and took up arms against the Abe clan (of Mutsu Province) starting in 1051 (in what is known as the Zen Kunen no Eki (Former Nine Years' Campaign)). On one occasion, he provoked ABE no Yoritoki (also written sometimes as Yoriyoshi), who had already submitted to the authority of the Imperial Court, causing another army to be raised. Yet he had become estranged from FUJIWARA no Tsunekiyo among others, and this contributed to his total defeat in the battle of Kinomi (the Yellow Sea). After this setback, he managed to obtain the help and support of the Dewa-Kiyohara clan, the most powerful family in Dewa Province, and destroyed the Abe clan.

This armed conflict was meant to magnify the Kawachi-Genji clan's power and influence and spread it into Mutsu Province, but after the fighting, Yoriyoshi failed to be renamed governor of Mutsu Province, instead being appointed governor of Iyo Province by the court, which forced him to return to the capital and leave control over Mutsu firmly in the hands of the Kiyohara clan.

He died in 1075, at the age of 87.

He presided over prayers for the creation of branch shrines of the Kawachi-Genji clan tutelary shrine, Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine, leading to two new branch shrines, Tsuboi Hachimangu Shrine (located in what today's Habikino City, Osaka Prefecture) and Tsurugaoka Wakamiya-gu Shrine (which later became Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine which is located in Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture).

His grave is located in the ruins of Tsuho-ji Temple, the Kawachi-Genji clan's ancestral temple, was is in Habikino City, Osaka Prefecture.

Record of offices and ranks held

Note that all dates given are under the old calendar (until December 2 of the fifth year of the Meiji era (1872)). October 14, 1028 (again, according to the old calendar): Yoriyoshi was appointed the governor of Sagami Province.

1051: Appointed the governor of Mutsu Province.

1053: Named Chinju-fu Shogun in addition to his position as governor of Mutsu Province.

December 29, 1056 (under the old calendar): Reappointed governor of Mutsu Province.

1062: The term of his position as governor of Mutsu Province expired.

February 25, 1063 (under the old calendar): Promoted to Jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade) and appointed the governor of Iyo Province.

September 1, 1065 (under the old calendar): Took the tonsure (that is, cut his hair and became a Buddhist monk) and took the Buddhist name Shinkai.

August 27, 1075 (under the old calendar): Passed away. Died at the age of 87.

November 10, 1915: Posthumously promoted to Shosanmi (Senior Third Rank).

Evaluations of his life and conduct

In the "Mutsuwaki" (Record of Mutsu), which depicts the events of the Former Nine Years' War and the Latter Three Years' War, Yoriyoshi is described as 'Calm and levelheaded, and excelling in military strategy, he was a commander of the finest caliber' and 'he loved his warriors and was fond of charity.'
On the other hand, some have come to doubt his abilities as a commander in the battles he fought with the Abe clan following the Incident at the Akuto-gawa River, since his strategic efforts began to fail due to a sense of alienation and estrangement among his subordinates.


The Minamoto clan had quite a number of branches, and yet a great many of its most famous members, pillars of the warrior class and those who would come to be called Minamoto clan generals, trace their ancestry to none other than MINAMOTO no Yoriyoshi. A list of exemplary descendants would begin with his eldest son MINAMOTO no Yoshiie and include MINAMOTO no Tameyori, MINAMOTO no Yoritomo and MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune, MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka, but would also include MINAMOTO no Yoshishige, founder of the Nitta clan, as well as MINAMOTO no Yoshiyasu, founder of the Ashikaga clan; in other words, his descendants include great numbers of the Minamoto clan's most famous and exemplary military commanders. Moreover, great numbers of Ishibashi clan members who lived in Mino and Kawachi Provinces trace their ancestry to Yoriyoshi's second son, MINAMOTO no Yoshitsuna. And from his third son, MINAMOTO no Yoshimitsu, came a great many members of the Satake clan, whose founder was Masayoshi SATAKE, son of MINAMOTO no Yoshinari, who had succeeded to headship of Yoshimitsu's elder brother MINAMOTO no Yoshitsuna's family after him, while from Yoshinari's younger brother MINAMOTO no Kiyomitsu came great numbers of the Takeda clan, founded by Nobuyoshi TAKEDA, as well as the Ogasawara clan, who traced their ancestry to Kiyomitsu's own younger brother Tomitsu KAGAMI's son Nagakiyo OGASAWARA. According to a legend handed down within the Kono clan of Iyo Province, a certain son-in-law Chikakiyo KONO is considered to be Yoriyoshi's fourth son, Chikakiyo MISHIMASHIRO.

[Original Japanese]