The Forgotten Conflict- Short Stories of the Genpei Wars
- Genpei Wars-Uji
Early 1180 C.E., Japan, near Kyoto
The day was rainy and cold, as it always was in Kyoto at this time of year. The beautiful, sacred Temple of Byodoin sat in the field along the Uji River; it was a deceptively peaceful scene that was concealing the seeds for a drama that would play out over the next 5 years, and completely change the Japanese form of government. In the central sanctuary of Mii-Dera in the Temple of the Monks, Prince Mochihito, the last heir to the Japanese Imperial Throne, was preparing for war with the backing of the Minamoto Clans and the Mii-Dera monks, who were armed with every weapon available to the Japanese at the time. The treachery of one monk with Taira Clan sympathies had given away their locations, and the battle began…
“Damn it! It appears that we’re too late, Mochihito escaped…prepare to move out. The Warrior Monks are probably taking Mochihito south to Nara. We may be able to catch up to them if we head towards the Byodoin Temple of Ho-oo. In our honor and the honor of our ancestors, we meet our destiny on the shores of the Uji River. Forward, men!!” the General Taira no Tomomori yelled to his mounted horsemen. They all cheered loudly, except for one young knight, named Koda no Uri, who was currently in mourning for the loss of his beloved Naru, a gorgeous young woman with lovely brown hair, big, pretty eyes and wore gorgeous kimonos, hand woven and silky; she carried a huge fan in her hand and a cherry blossom in her hair. Naru, unfortunately, was murdered when a Minamoto Clan raid destroyed her village. Trained and educated by the Taira Clan, he was out for revenge against the commander that killed her: Minamoto no Yorimasa. A famous Japanese poet, he had written several anthologies, and a veteran of service to 8 different emperors, holding the position of hyogo no kami, or War Master. His intellect and culture aside, he was an unrelentingly vicious warrior, having struck and burned many villages and armies. Koda would have his vengeance, and he would soon get his chance to avenge Naru’s honor. As the Taira army marched out to meet the Minamoto Clan at the Uji River, Koda felt scared and excited at the same time; he was about to see his first battle, under Lord Tomomori, nonetheless. General Tomomori was a ferocious, bloodthirsty murderer of innocents and soldiers alike. He rarely gave his enemies the honor of a noble death, preferring instead to torture them and brutalize their corpses, feeding them to dogs. He usually donned so much face paint that he looked almost clownish, with blue streaks under his eyes and red clay around his eyes, and his face was painted chalk-white, except his nose painted red. He had handprints painted onto his kabuto, or war helmet, along with deer antlers atop the helmet’s crown. Whatever he looked like, his shrieking war cry was unmistakably terrifying, especially with his mat of black, twisted hair that he never cut even once in his life. One particular account of his brutality came in a hot-spring bathhouse, when he was heavily intoxicated from drinking 13 bottles of sake. He forced himself upon a young woman working at the bathhouse; she resisted the rape, and in a drunken rage, he sliced her head cleanly off of her shoulders and threw it across the room into a lit fireplace, the stench of burning flesh filled the room, as the rest of the workers were too horrified to say anything; he and his men left the bathhouse shortly after that, and came back a few hours later after nightfall and burned the old, pagoda-style manor to the ground as the women who operated it were sleeping. Nevertheless, Taira no Tomomori was a well-respected soldier and commander; revered by his men and honored like a semi-deity. As the army marched off to the south, they began singing a song:
“There once was a wooden tavern in Kyoto-town, a place of known and great renown, where knights came to drink and sit down, our leader burns the whole place down, cleansing the earth of enemies now, we fight on with the dreadful sound, of blood being spilled and blades clashing, we give the foe a good slashing, the souls are reaped, to the underworld they go, o’er the dark river to Emma-O…Goodbye, goodbye, Sweet Land of Peace, we’ll be gone for a year at least, if we return to our home so sweet, the cicadas will sing and the birds shall tweet, and if we fall in battle, look for us at the top of a tree, blooming like a cherry blossom for all to see…Goodbye, goodbye, Sweet land of Peace, we will strike without a wail or peep, and when we die, oh damn my eyes…we look into Paradise.”
After a few hours march, the soldiers arrived at Byodo-in Temple of Ho-oo, and sure enough, the Minamoto army was there, but they had torn up the bridge across the Uji River to prevent the Taira from following Mochihito and his warrior-monk protectors. “Cowards! Across the river!!” Tomomori screamed, letting out his bloodcurdling war bellow. They crossed the meandering stream at a shallow point, with the monks of the Temple firing arrows and slashing with daggers, swords and naginatas, it was not very effective, as the Taira soldiers managed to cross the river. Tomomori and his brother, General Taira no Shigihera, led forth the charge as Minamoto Yorimasa tried to protect Prince Mochihito. Archer Koda no Uri, however, was having none of it. Taking his arrow and aiming it well, he uttered three words: “Both Eyes Open…” Letting the arrow fly, it slammed into Yorimasa’s back, crippling him, but not killing him. With defeat certain, Yorimasa crawled into the temple, where he committed seppuku in front of the Shrine of Ho-oo. Death before dishonor. Upon seeing the enemy commander fall, the Taira troops slaughtered the remaining temple defenders and killed Prince Mochihito by beheading. “Old men forget, but he who remembers what deeds young Koda has achieved this day shall never be forgotten in the annals of eternity, for what we do now will be remembered by our children, and our grandchildren, and their sons and daughters forever! It is men like us that bridge the gap between Man and Spirit! We raised the flag of war and we will not lower it until its pole rests in a pool of their blood!” General Shigihera said, cheering for Koda’s accuracy. “Do not celebrate yet. There is still a city nearby that contains 3,500 men, women and children loyal to the Minamoto Clan…It must be dealt with. To Nara!” The Taira proceeded to burn the Temples of Mii-Dera and Byodo-in, massacring everyone inside. The die was cast, and there would be no peace until one clan was completely eradicated.