Samurai File 16; Minamoto no Yoshitsune

2013.06.15 [HISTORY,WHAT'S NEW]

Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159- June 15, 1189)

Minamoto No Yoshitsune was a Minamoto Clan general, a skilled swordsman and considered one
of the finest samurai in Japanese history. He is recognized as one of Japan’s most admired heroes.


The ninth and youngest son of Minamoto no Yoritomo, Yoshitsune was born during the Heiji Rebellion
of 1159, a short civil war fought between the Taira and the Minamoto clans in a dispute regarding
Imperial succession. His father, Yoritomo would be assassinated at Noma (see Japan World’s
Temple of the Death Bath” ) and his two eldest brothers, Yoshihira and Tomonaga would also be killed
during the war. Yoshitsune was spared, and was sent to the Kurama Temple on the holy Mt. Heie, north
west of Kyoto, where legend has it that he was taught swordsmanship as a child by the mythical winged
goblins known as Tengu.



Yoshitsune’s skill with the Japanese sword is also legendary.
He was 15 years old when he fought and defeated the notorious bandit chief, Kumasake Chohan
in 1174. More famously, it is the duel fought on Kyoto’s Gojo Bridge that is most remembered.


While in Kyoto, he came across the warrior monk, Musashibo Benkei. The giant monk, said to have
stood over two meters tall, would stand on Kyoto’s famed Gojo Bridge, challenging all warriors who
wished to pass to a duel, and in defeating them, disarm them. He had collected 999 swords before
losing to the young Yoshitsune. The monk was so impressed by the youth’s skill, he became his loyal




Together they fought in the Gempei war between the Minamoto and the Taira, where Yoshitsune was
joined by his brothers Yoritomo and Noriyori, both of whom he had met for the first time.  In the first
month of 1184, he fought in the Battle of Awazu in Omi (Shiga Prefeceture) defeating and killing his rival
cousin, Minamoto no Yoshinaka, and a month later at Ichi-no-tani near modern day Kobe where he again
beat the Taira.  He claimed further victory in the Battle of Yashima, fought in Shikoku in 1185, and later
that year in the decisive sea battle, Dan-no-ura, where the Taira were finally destroyed.



With the Gempei war over, Yoshitsune sided against his brother, Yoritomo, who would later become
the First Kamakura Shogun, joining the cloistered Emperor, Go-Shirakawa, before fleeing to asylum
at the home of Fujiwara no Hidehira at Hiraizumi, in Mutsu Province (Iwate Prefecture).  There the
nobleman’s son, Fujiwara no Yasuhira betrayed them, leading to Yoshitsune’s death at the Battle of
Koromogawa On June 15, 1189,


With 500 samurai warriors loyal to his brother bearing down on them, Yoshitsune retreated to the
confines of the Koromogawanotachi, a small fortified residence. The loyal Benkei had remained on
the bridge to the main gate of the castle to protect Yoshitsune. Any enemy samurai approaching
the giant warrior monk were soon dispatched, and according to the legend, Benkei single handedly
killed some 300 troops alone. Badly wounded by multiple arrow fire, Benkei remained standing guard
long after the battle had ended. When opposing samurai finally approached, they found the arrow
riddled Benkei had died standing up.  Yoshitsune committed seppuku (ritual suicide) in the
Koromogawanotachi residence along with his wife and daughter. He was 30 years old.






Related Article of this Post


Chris Glenn
Chris Glenn
Sam Ryan
Sam Ryan
中島 大蔵
中島 大蔵
山内 美鳳
山内 美鳳
Les Paterson
Les Paterson
山口 晃司
山口 晃司
湯浅 大司
湯浅 大司
Adam Blackrock
Adam Blackrock
中島 繁正
中島 繁正
Pauline Chakmakjian
Pauline Chakmakjian
view more


Japanese Wooden Barrel Cooper Craftsman, Kurita Minoru Kurita Minoru was born in Nagoya on July 4, 1…More

Nagoya Butsudan (Home Buddhist Altar) Craftsman, Goto Katsumi   Goto Katsumi is the third gener…More

Nagoya Yuzen,  Traditional ArtisanMitsuhisa Horibe    Mr.Mitsuhisa Horibe was born in Nagoya in…More


Samurai Signatures, Kao (花押) Samurai Signatures, Kao (花押)  Kao (花押) were stylised identification sig…More

Ninja didn’t wear black! Ninja didn’t wear black! Despite the popular image of the black clothed and…More

Samurai File; Shimazu Tadahisa Samurai File; Shimazu Tadahisa (??-August 1, 1227)  Shimazu Tadahisa,…More


Book; Shogun /  James Clavell  In Osaka castle in the autumn of 1598, the great Japanese leader Toyo…More

The 47 Ronin Story / John Allyn In late 2013, Hollywood released its re-imagined version of the clas…More

BOOK REVIEW; Japonius TyrannusThe Japanese Warlord, Oda Nobunaga reconsidered. This is a brilliant b…More



Japan World mail updates !
Get Japan’s history, culture, events with this free service. Register your e-mail below, then press 「登録する」(left) to register, or「登録解除」to cancel.