Taira no Shigemori (平重盛)

TAIRA no Shigemori was a military commander and a kugyo (the top court officials) at the end of the Heian period. He was the first, true son of TAIRA no Kiyomori.

He was noted for his distinguished war service as a young military commander while assisting his father, TAIRA no Kiyomori, in the Hogen as well as Heiji Wars. He was promoted as his father became successful, and in the end, he became an Inner Minister of the Shonii (Senior Second Rank) rank of the Konoefu (the Headquarters of the Inner Palace Guards). Although Shigemori was the first and real son of TAIRA no Kiyomori, he was not the son of the legal wife TAIRA no Tokiko who gave birth to TAIRA no Munemori and TAIRA no Tokuko, and therefore, he lacked any powerful support from his maternal relatives; since his wife was Keishi, a sister of FUJIWARA no Narichika, he became somehow isolated within the clan after the Narichika fell from power. When the Shishigatani Incident occurred, Shigemori stood up to Kiyomori's attempt to incarcerate Emperor Goshirakawa; therefore, politically speaking, Shigemori was close to the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa. He was expected to succeed his father, Kiyomori, but he died of illness before he could do this, unable to implement any effective measures to solve the conflict between his father and the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa.

He was called Komatsu-dono or Komatsu Naidaijin because he had a house in Rokuhara Komatsudai, and he was also called the Lantern Minister since he had built 48 lantern towers at his house.


The Hogen and Heiji Wars

Shigemori was born in 1138 as the first son of Kiyomori. His mother was a daughter of Motoaki TAKASHINA who was Ukon no jo (Lieutenant of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards). In December, 1150, he was appointed to be Kurodo (Chamberlain) of the Cloistered Emperor Toba. In January of the following year, he was assigned to the Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) rank.

In 1156, he followed his father's order and fought in the Hogen War. Shigemori's name was mentioned in the "Heihanki" (diary of TAIRA no Nobunori) as a nakatsukasa no shoyu (Junior Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Central Affairs). Kiyomori's force was seriously damaged in the battle against MINAMOTO no Tametomo. Anticipating his loss, Kiyomori ordered his forces to withdraw. Shigemori, however, being hot-blooded, tried to enter the war against Tametomo in defiance of his father. The Emperor's side, to which Kiyomori belonged, won the Hogen War, and in January of 1157 Shigemori at the age of 19 was promoted to the Jugoinojo (Junior Fifth Rank, Upper Grade) rank for his outstanding performance. On October 22 of the same year, the Daidairi (the Greater Imperial Palace) was reconstructed and Kiyomori built the Jijuden (literally, "hall of benevolence and longevity," which is the Emperor's residence). As a prize from his father for building the Jijuden, Shigemori was assigned to the Shogoinoge (Senior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) rank. In August, 1158, Kiyomori's chigyokoku (provincial fiefdom) changed from Aki Province to Totomi Province. Since Kiyomori was serving as a Dazai no daini (Senior Assistant Governor-General of the Dazai-fu offices), Shigemori became the Govenor of Totomi Province on behalf of Kiyomori.

When the Heiji War broke out on December 9, 1159, Kiyomori was on a pilgrimage to Kumano Sanzan in Kii Province. "The Tale of Heiji" told of Shigemori comforting his upset father, but according to the "Gukansho" (Jottings of a Fool), Kiyomori was with Motomori, Munemori, and 15 samurai, and Shigemori was present. Upon returning to Kyoto, Kiyomori helped Emperor Nijo escape from the Dairi (Imperial Palace) to Rokuhara. He then received from the Emperor a written order to hunt down and kill FUJIWARA no Nobuyori and MINAMOTO no Yoshitomo. Shigemori went to battle with his uncle, Yorimori. Shigemori raised the morale of the members of his army saying that 'we are in the era of Heiji, the capital is Heian, and we are the Taira clan, all having the same character (the character can be read as both Hei and Taira), and so we shall flatten (also the same character as Hei/Taira) our enemy out,' and he engaged in fierce battles against MINAMOTO no Yoshihira, between mandarin orange trees of the Ukon and cherry trees of the Sakon at the Imperial Palace, and then he performed heroically in the Battle of Horikawa with irresistible force as he - after losing his own horse to a volley of arrows - stood up on logs and then climbed upon a new horse. According to "Gukansho," Yoshitomo immediately left the Dairi for Rokuhara; however, it is not certain that there were in fact any battles at the Dairi, and therefore, this could be an embellishment to make the story more thrilling.

Narichika had his life spared since he joined Nobuyori in this battle, but this may in fact be attributed to a plea by Shigemori, whose wife was a younger sister of Narichika, Keishi. Rewards were granted after the war was over, and Shigemori was appointed to be in charge of Iyo Province as a reward for his distinguished service. Early in the new year, he was assigned to the Jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade) rank and also to Sama no kami (Captain of Samaryo, Left Division of Bureau of Horses).

Smooth Promotion (during the Period of Emperor Nijo's Control)

In September, 1161, a conspiracy to make the prince born of Goshirakawa and Kenshunmonin, (Imperial Prince Norihito), become the crown prince was revealed. TAIRA no Tokitada, TAIRA no Norimori, and Narichika were removed from their posts by Emperor Nijo in this incident. However, Kiyomori supported Nijo instead of them, and this resulted in the establishment of Kiyomori's trusworthiness. Meanwhile, Shigemori was promoted rapidly, and was assigned to the Shoshiinoge (Senior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade) rank in 1161, to be Uhyoe no kami (Captain of the Right Division of Middle Palace Guards) in October, and to the Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank) rank to become a kugyo in January of the next year when he was only 26 years old. While supporting the political control by Nijo, Kiyomori at the same time never forgot to show consideration for Goshirakawa, and built the Rengeo-in Temple for him. In February 1164, as a prize from his father for building the Rengeo-in Temple, Shigemori was assigned to the Shosanmi (Senior Third Rank) rank. In September, in hopes for the prosperity of his clan, he donated 33 volumes of the Decorated Sutras (Heike nokyo) to the Itsukushima-jinja Shrine, and for this, Shigemori also participated in its creation with other clan and family members.

In April, 1165, Emperor Nijo was taken ill. Being in serious condition, Emperor Nijo appointed Shigemori to be Sangi (Royal Advisor) in May, abdicated the throne to his son Emperor Rokujo and also established an administrative organization under direct control of the emperor in June, and appointed Shigemori to Shitsuji betto (chief officer), showing his tenacity of purpose through these acts, but he finally passed away in July. Then, a system was established wherein the Taira clan and the Sekkan-ke (the families which produced the Regent and the Chief Adviser to the Emperor) supported Emperor Rokujo, and Shigemori was appointed to Sahyoe no kami (Captain of the Left Division of Middle Palace Guards) in April, 1166, and was appointed to be Gon Chunagon (a provisional vice-councilor of state) and Uemon no kami (Captain of the Right Division of Outer Palace Guards) at the same time in July. The political condition however was extremely unstable as the emperor was still quite young. Then, when Motozane KONOE died in July, the Emperor Rokujo regime collapsed.

Successor of Kiyomori (period of the Goshirakawa cloister government)

The Taira clan removed itself from the Nijo political sect and supported the Retired Emperor Goshirakawa, which contributed to the investiture of Imperial Prince Norihito in October 1166. Shigemori's wife, Keishi, and a daughter of FUJIWARA no Kunitsuna, Tsunako, were selected as nannies of Imperial Prince Norihito, and so Shigemori was the husband of a nanny. In December, Shigemori became Togu no daibu (Master of the Crown Prince's Quarters) as Kiyomori's successor. In February 1167, Shigemori became Gon Dainagon (a provisional chief councilor of state) and was allowed to be armed with a sword. Kiyomori resigned as Chancellor of the State on May 17; however, before his resignation, on May 10 Shigemori received a written imperial order to hunt down and kill bandits and pirates in Higashiyama, Tokai, Sanyo, and Nankai-do ("Heihanki" (diary of TAIRA no Nobunori)). This event marked an official transfer of the rights associated with national military and police affairs to Shigemori, and he therefore established his position as a successor to Kiyomori. Furthermore, Shigemori was the most powerful economically within his clan as he had Tango and Echizen Provinces as his chigyokoku.

After the succession, Shigemori most likely fell ill, and he therefore failed to attend the Goshohajime (ceremony to learn how to read under the guidance of professors) held at the Togu (Crown Prince's Quarters) in December since, as he put it, he 'has been ill' and 'has been feeling uncomfortable,' and also, he let someone else assume the shokei (master of ceremony) post at the Daijoe (commemoration of the five major Mahayana Buddhist sutras). In February 1168, Kiyomori entered the priesthood due to illness. Concerned about unstable political conditions, Goshirakawa made Norihito (Emperor Takakura) ascend the throne in the hope of stabilizing the regime. Due to his persistent poor physical condition, Shigemori resigned as Gon Dainagon in December. After entering the priesthood, Kiyomori secluded himself from the world in Fukuhara, while Shigemori remained in Rokuhara to lead the clan. During the Yasoshima-sai festival in November 1169, Emperor Takakura left Shigemori's residence in Rokuhara, and Shigemori's wife Keishi served as an imperial messenger.

Direct Petition in Kao

In December 1169, armed priests of the Enryaku-ji Temple made a petition for deportation of FUJIWARA no Narichika, who was an older brother-in-law of Shigemori and also the head of his own chigyokoku, Owari Province. The armed priests boosted their morale by surrounding the Dairi, and advised Kebiishi betto (superintendent of the Imperial Police) Tokitada to take immediate action, such as dispatching the imperial army. Meanwhile, Shigemori was already leading 300 imperial horse soldiers and stood together with Munemori and Yorimori. Because the majority of kugyo agreed that they were against risking a battle, and also, because Shigemori refused to follow the operation order that was issued three times by Goshirakawa, Goshirakawain agreed to deport Narichika.

Goshirakawain, however, quickly executed a comeback operation and assigned Narichika to Kebiishi betto, resulting in the removal of Tokitada from his post and then his deportation instead of Narichika. The conflict between Goshirakawain and the Enryaku-ji Temple worsened; and, concerned over the situation Kiyomori called Shigemori over to Fukuhara on January 14 and demanded a report of the situation. As described above, although Shigemori was the leader of the clan, Kiyomori's decisions were prioritized for important matters; therefore, Shigemori's desires and actions were very much limited. In the end, Narichika was removed from the post, the Enryaku-ji Temple community members withdrew themselves, and the situation was once again under control. In April of the same year, Shigemori once again became Gon Dainagon, and Narichika also came back as Kebiishi betto.

Tenga no Noriai Incident

On July 3 1170, which was the first day of the hakko event (eight lectures on the Lotus Sutra) at the Hossho-ji Temple, a servant of the regent Motofusa MATSUDONO reproached TAIRA no Sukemori's party for their impolite behavior and humiliated them on the way to the temple. Motofusa later came to know that it was the party of the son of Shigemori and was horrified; so, he immediately made apologies by sending a servant to Shigemori, but Shigemori declined the offer. Being afraid of retaliation, Motofusa refused to leave his residence for a while. On October 21, after things seemed to have calmed down, a warrior serving Shigemori attacked and assaulted Motofusa's servant when Motofusa was on his way to the Imperial Palace to celebrate the Emperor reaching the age of maturity.

Because of this incident, the ceremony of the Emperor reaching the age of maturity was postponed. Shigemori was the husband of a nanny to the Emperor, which made this incident unforgivable. Jien, who highly praised Shigemori, felt confused about this incident saying 'that was something that went beyond my understanding' ("Gukansho"). In December, Shigemori resigned from Gon Dainagon yet again - this could have resulted from that incident. Shigemori did not attend the coming-of-age ceremony of the Emperor held on January 3 in the following year. TAIRA no Chinamune, a brother of Kenshunmonin, and Munemori, who had been promoted to Chunagon (vice-councilor of state) by then and who also was a younger half brother of Shigemori, conducted the ceremony. Munemori was gaining power, and this later threatened Shigemori's post as a successor.

Becoming the Udaisho (Major Captain of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards) and the Inner Minister

In December, 1171, taking the marriage of Tokuko, a daughter of Kiyomori, and Emperor Takakura, Shigemori returned to the Gon Dainagon post. After returning to the post, Shigemori actively engaged himself in Imperial affairs. In April 1173, when there was a fire at the Kaya gosho palace in Hojyu-ji Temple, Shigemori quickly came to the scene to put out the fire and was then praised by Goshirakawa ("Kenshomonin Chunagon's Diary"). When there was a petition by armed priests of the Nanto sect in the winter of the same year, Shigemori, following the imperial order, sent one of his family members, TAIRA no Sadayoshi, to Uji. In July, Shigemori was assigned to the Ukone no daisho Ukone no daisho (Major Captain of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards) post which was at the time vacant. Shigemori was greatly pleased by this appointment, and Kunitsuna, 10 kugyo, and 27 tenjo-bito (a high-ranking courtier allowed into the Imperial Palace) therefore attended the celebration held on the 21st.

In January, 1176, Shigemori as the head of the clan, attended the celebration of Goshirakawa's 50th birthday, showing a close and favorable relationship between the Taira clan and Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa. In May, Shigemori again received an imperial order to hunt down and kill pirates. After the death of Kenshomonin in July, however, conflicts between the Taira clan and the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa gradually surfaced. Nevertheless, in January next year, Shigemori was assigned to the Sakone no daisho (Major Captain of the Left Division of Inner Palace Guards) and Munemori was assigned to Ukone no daisho, resulting in the Taira clan dominating both daisho posts. The Inner Minister post became vacant as FUJIWARA no Moronaga was assigned to Chancellor of the State, and in March, Shigemori was assigned to Inner Minister. The time passed as if nothing of concern was happening - this is represented by the visit to Fukuhara by the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa.

Direct Petition in Angen and the Shishigatani Incident

However, in April, members of the Enryaku-ji Temple made a direct petition to deport FUJIWARA no Morotaka of Kaga Province. The outset of the direct petition was a dispute between one of the branch temples called Shirayama-ji Temple and a local agent; and, the impact of this dispute expanded into a full conflict between the Emperor and Enryaku-ji temple. Shigemori, leading the imperial army, guarded the Kanin dairi palace and fought against the armed priests, but he accidentally created a scandal when an arrow shot by one of his family members hit the portable shrine. Although Emperor Takakura was evacuated to the Hojuji-dono palace and Goshirakawa attempted to eliminate the armed priests by force, Goshirakawa faced an opposition saying that Kyoto may become a war zone, and also, the Taira clan, those that would actually fight the battle, were quite hesitant to be in a conflict with Enryaku-ji Temple; therefore, Goshirakawa abandoned his attempt, accepted the request and deported Morotaka, and imprisoned Shigemori's family member who had shot the portable shrine.

Then, the 'Taro shobo' conflagration occurred, and the Daigokuden and a total of 13 kanpaku (chief adviser to the Emperor) and kugyo residences were burned down. Shigemori's house was one of them. In May, upon deciding to retaliate against the Enryaku-ji Temple, Goshirakawa dismissed Myoun who was Tendai zasu (a chief priest of the Tendai sect of Buddhism), seized his land, and issued an order to deport him to Izu Province. Myoun was however rescued by armed priests, and Goshirakawa therefore summoned Shigemori and Munemori and ordered an attack against Enryaku-ji Temple. As Kiyomori responded that he 'would not make any actions unless ordered by Kiyomori,' the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa thought a conversation with Shigemori would be a waste of time and therefore called Kiyomori over from Fukuhara. Kiyomori also was reluctant to dispatch troops, but since the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa maintained a hard-line stance, Kiyomori approved the dispatch of troops against his will.

On June 1, Yukitsuna TADA secretly informed Kiyomori that there was a conspiracy to bring down the Taira clan, and this dramatically changed the situation. Shigemori's older brother-in-law Narichika was involved in this incident, and Shigemori cheered up the captured Narichika saying that he 'would not let him die' ("Gukansho"). Kiyomori was outraged, and as a result, Narichika was deported to Bizen Province, and those who took part in the incident were all arrested (Shishigatani Incident). Shigemori resigned from the position of sadaisho (Major Captain the Left Division of Inner Palace Guards) to show his resistance and tried hard to save deported Narichika by, for example, secretly sending clothes to him; however, in July, Narichika was killed.

Shigemori and Narichika had a close relationship; for example, Shigemori married his son Koremori off to a daughter of Narichika. Shigemori valued Narichika as a negotiator and a connection to Goshirakawa and expected him to inform the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa of the requests of the Taira clan. Because of the fact that Narichika actually was the leader of the conspiracy to bring down the Taira clan, Shigemori was greatly ashamed and lost his political standing.

His Final Days

This incident dispirited Shigemori, and caused him to hardly make appearances on the political stage. In February 1178, Shigemori offered his resignation as Inner Minister, but his offer was declined because chugu (the second consort of an emperor) Tokuko became pregnant and Shigemori was the father of the chugu. In June, Shigemori attended the obi-ceremony to pray for the safe delivery of his baby. Tokuko gave birth to a son in November (Emperor Antoku). In the following month, Emperor Antoku was given the family name 'Tokihito' and became a crown prince.

In February 1179, Shigemori attended the celebration for the 100th day since the birth of Togu (the Crown Prince), but he often stayed home due to illness. In March, Shigemori supposedly visited Kumano to pray for a good future. Then he started permanent fasting, and entered the priesthood on May 25. His Buddhist name was Joren. On June 21, Goshirakawa visited Shigemori at the Komatsu-dono in Rokuhara. Around the same time, Moriko, a daughter of Kiyomori, died, and Goshirakawa started to control the land of the Sekkan-ke that Moriko inherited and increased pressure on the Taira clan. On July 29, Shigemori died at the age of 42. There are a number of theories about the cause of his death such as a stomach ulcer, tumor on his back, and beriberi. In October, the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa seized Echizen, the chigyokoku that Shigemori had controlled since 1166. In the following month, the relationship between Kiyomori and Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa completely fell part, and the Goshirakawa cloister government ended by Coup in the Third Year of Jisho.

His Reputation

People who lived in the same time period as Shigemori often regarded him as a 'kind person who sent his messenger when something occurred ("Sankaiki" (diary by Tadachika NAKAYAMA)),' 'a person of a very beautiful mind ("Gukansho"),' and 'a very calm person even though he was braver than anyone ("Hyakurensho" (History book from the Kamakura period)),' and therefore, he was an excellent warrior yet at the same time calm and considerate (however, Kanezane KUJO disliked Shigemori and scorned him in his personal diary).
To the messenger that Tadachika NAKAYAMA sent, Shigemori expressed his gratitude saying that 'my long-time desire came true and I was extremely pleased.'
Because of his warm and sincere personality, he was very much trusted by Goshirakawa, and the fact that he was portrayed as the reasonable one of the Taira clan in the "Tale of the Heike" was because information on his personality was passed down to later generations.

However, Shigemori, who was forced to stand between Kiyomori and Goshirakawa, did not necessarily have total control even though he was the leader of the Taira clan. He had to contain himself and served as a coordinator, and this probably contributed to the formation of his mild and quiet personality. Note that this personality was not the one that he was born with; it is believed that he developed it through effort and self-control. The valiant and lively personality seen in the Hogen and Heiji Wars disappeared, but how he acted in the Tenga no noriai incident suggests that he was in fact hiding his intense emotions. Shigemori supposedly mumbled that 'if I try to be faithful to the Emperor, I cannot be a good son, and if I try to be a good son, then I cannot be faithful to the Emperor (Nihon gaishi),' but it is not certain if this is historical fact. However, since in Gukansho he also left words of hopelessness saying that 'I want to die early,' he may have actually said it considering the fact that he was powerless standing between Kiyomori and Goshirakawa who were in conflict with each other. Shigemori's mother was of low birth and he therefore did not have any powerful relatives that could support him, and also, his younger brother by the same mother, Motomori, died young, and these facts are believed to have deepened Shigemori's loneliness.

The death of Shigemori meant the loss of the last defense against a conflict between Kiyomori and the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa, and as a result, the alliance between them completely fell apart.


The portrait of Shigemori is one of the three portraits owned by Jingo-ji Temple in Kyoto. Recently, however, the theory that the portrait was actually Takauji ASHIKAGA's portrait has been widely accepted, causing debates (three portraits at Jingo-ji Temple).

Record of Office and Rank

1150 (13 years old)
December 30: Kurodo

1151 (14 years old)
January 1: Jugoinoge

1155 (18 years old)
July 22: Nakatsukasa no shoyu

1157 (20 years old)
January 24: Jugoinojo (for his performance in the Hogen War)
September 19: Nakatsukasa no gon no taifu (provisional Senior Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Central Affairs)
October 22: Shogoinoge
October 27: Saemon no suke (assistant captain of the Left Division of Outer Palace Guards)

1158 (21 years old)
August 10: Governor of Totomi Province

1159 (22 years old)
December 27: Governor of Iyo Province (for his performance in the Heiji War)

1160 (23 years old)
January 6: Jushiinoge
January 27: Sama no kami
October 11: Jushiinojo
November 30: Kura no kami (Chief of Kuraryo, Bureau of Palace Storehouses).
He resigned from both Saemon no suke and Governor of Iyo Province

1162 (25 years old)
January 5: Shoshiinoge
January 27: resigned from Kura no kami
October 28: Uhyoe no kami

1163 (26 years old)
January 5: Jusanmi

1164 (27 years old)
February 17: Shosanmi

1165 (28 years old)

1166 (29 years old)
January 12: Provisional Governor of Omi Province as a concurrent post
April 6: Sahyoe no kami
July 15: Gon Chunagon.
Uemon no kami as a concurrent post

December 2: Togu no daibu

1167 (30 years old)
January 28: Junii (Junior Second Rank)
February 11: Gon Dainagon.
Served as Togu no daibu concurrently

1168 (31 years old)
February 19: resigned from Togu no daibu (as Emperor Takakura ascended the throne)
December 13: resigned from Gon Dainagon (due to illness)

1169 (32 years old)
January 5: Shonii

1170 (33 years old)
April 21: returned to the Gon Dainagon post
December 30: resigned as Gon Dainagon

1171 (34 years old)
December 8: returned to the Gon Dainagon post

1174 (37 years old)
July 8: Ukone no daisho

1175 (38 years old)
November 28: Dainagon (chief councilor of state).
Served as Ukone no daisho concurrently

1177 (40 years old)
January 24: Sakone no daisho
March 5: Inner Minister.
Served as Sakone no daisho concurrently

June 5: resigned from Sakone no daisho

1178 (41 years old)
February 8: submission of a letter of resignation as Inner Minister
June: The letter was returned as unaccepted.
Stayed at his Inner Minister post (as Tokuko became pregnant)

1179 (42 years old)
March 11: resigned as Inner Minister

Media Programs Featuring Shigemori

Tale of Heiji
Tale of the Heike
Genpei Seisuiki (The Rise and Decline of the Minamoto and Taira clans)
"Jigokumon" (directed by Teinosuke KINUGASA, starring Yataro KUROSAWA, Daiei, 1953)
"Koshoku Genpei Emaki" (directed by Michinori FUKAO, starring Kurofuyu SUDA, Toei, 1977)
"Shin Heike Monogatari" (starring Daijiro HARADA, 1972 NHK taiga drama)
"Taira no Kiyomori" (TBS drama) (starring Atsuro WATABE, 1992 TBS)
"Yoshitsune" (starring Masanobu KATSUMURA, 2005 NHK taiga drama)

[Original Japanese]