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Battle of Dan no Ura: History and Myth.
Start of the Genpei war
The Genpei war began in the year 1180 after the Minamoto clan, also known as the Genji Clan supported a different candidate to the Chrysanthemum throne. The Minamoto had tried many times to defeat the Taira and overthrow them, but had yet to succeed. Two main rebellions, the Hogen ( July 28th- August 16th 1156) and the Heiji (January 19th- February 5th 1160) resulted in a series of Minamoto executions at the Taira's hands. This Deepened the hate that the Minamoto had for the Taira.
The Genpei war officially started with the Battle of Uji, which took place on and around a bridge that crossed the River Uji. The Minamoto prince Mochihito,fled from the Mii-dera or temple in the city of Otsu outside of Kyoto. The Taira clan followed close behind him and the few warrior monks who chose to fight alongside him. As Mochihito and the few who defended him crossed the Uji river, they tore up the planks of the bridge in an attempt to slow, if not completely stop the advancing Taira. But, soon the Taira began to Ford the river. The Famous warrior Minamoto no Yorimasa Tried his hardest to help the Minamoto Prince Mochihito escape, but in the thrall of battle, he was struck with an Arrow. Rather than being captured or Killed by the Taira, Yorimasa Committed suicide, a ritualized form known as Seppuku, and is the first documented person to commit Seppuku rather than being captured.
Final Battle of The Genpei War: Dan no Ura
The Battle of Dan no Ura took place in the straits of Shimonoseki off the southern tip of Honshu (The main Island of Japan) on march 24th 1180.
The Taira ships were outnumbered by the Minamoto. but they knew the waters and had the tides working to their advantage. The Taira fleet split into three to meet the approaching Minamoto ships sailing abreast into the straits. Arrows shrieked as they flew through the air as the two opposing clans crept closer to one another. The beginning of the battle consisted mainly of archery, but it didn't take long for Taira to attack the minamoto head on using the advantage of the tides, the Taira surrounded the Minamoto ships. Warriors from both Clans wasted no time in boarding their enemy ships. Fighting raged as swords clashed and cries echoed in the straits. It seemed the Taira had the upper hand, however, the tides changed and the advantage was given to the Minamoto.
Besides having the tides on their side, The Taira General Taguchi Shigeyoshi defected, revealing which ship held the Child emperor Antoku. The archers turned their attention to the oarsmen and Helmsmen of the Emperors ship sending it out of control. Many of the Taira warriors saw the battle turn against them, and Rather than being captured by the Minamoto jumped to their deaths in the rolling waves,
The Emperor Antoku was picked up by his Grandmother, and held close to her as she leapt over the side of their ship into the waters as well, Thus ending Taira rule and Bringing about Minamoto rule and a Military Government and making Minamoto no Yoritomo the first Shogun in Japan.
Myths Born from the Battle: The Heike crabs
Its is said that after the Taira (later known as Heike) warriors plunged to their deaths, their bodies were eaten by the Heikegani or Heike crabs and the warriors reincarnated as these crabs. To show their support for their former clan, the crabs adorned masks with angry expressions. It is still said in Japan that the Heikegani search the depths of the seas looking for lost artifacts from their lost clan.
Hoichi the Earless
According to the legend, Hoichi Was the most skilled Biwa player in all of Japan, not to mention the fact that he was blind. He was amazing at performing "The Tale of the Heike" also known as "Heike Monogatari" an epic depicting the fall of the Child Emperor Antoku, who is buried at the Amidaji Temple. Hoichi's performances were so outstanding that "Even the Oni who heard him play couldn't refrain from tears". Despite his talents, Hoichi was a very poor man and being so, was forced to live at Amidaji Temple. Luckily the priest was very friendly.
As it is told, one night Hoichi was sitting alone when he heard someone approach him. The man said that he was a Samurai and demanded that Hoichi played for his Lord. The Samurai led him along for what seemed to be hours until they reached the home of a powerful nobleman. The Samurai's Lord requested Hoichi to play the tale of the Heike, and he did so with great passion. When he had finished his performance everyone in the room, while they were brought to tears couldn't help but give Hoichi the highest of praise. The Lord loved his performance so much that he requested a follow up recital which Hoichi gladly agreed to. Before the Samurai returned him to his home at Amidaji, he told Hoichi that his Lord was traveling in secret and was warned not to speak of the evenings events.
The next night came and with it so did the samurai for Hoichi. The Samurai led him back to his Lords palace. However, the absence of Hoichi at the temple was discovered by his friend the priest of the Amidaji temple. The priest grew very worried about his Friend and instructed his servants to look after Hoichi the next night.
When the servants saw him leave the temple they followed him. They did so quietly as to not be noticed by him. As they followed him a massive storm set in and in the confusion of high winds and heavy rain they lost Hoichi right as the storm passed. They eventually found him playing his Biwa furiously in the old Amidaji cemetery. When they dragged poor Hoichi back to the Temple he was furious that they drug him from the lords house while he was in the middle of a performance. The priest explained to him that he was in the cemetery playing and not in a wealthy nobleman's home. Hearing this, Hoichi was filled with fear and begged his friend for help.
Realizing that Hoichi had been bewitched by spirits, he promised his friend that he would save him from further harm. He painted the heart sutra onto every part of Hoichi's body for protection and instructed him to remain motionless and silent when his Ghostly audience would call for him. That very night the Samurai returned calling for Hoichi, but was angered when there was no response. The Ghostly samurai walked closer to Hoichi, but the sutra was working and Hoichi was invisible to Samurai. Well mostly invisible, for the only thing the samurai could see were a floating pair of ears. And in an attempt to follow through with his orders the Samurai ripped Hoichi's ears off to take to his master, as that was all of Hoichi available.
After the samurai had left, Hoichi was still too frightened to move, despite the blood gushing from the places where his ears once had been.
The priest returned to the temple to find to his dismay that he had forgotten to write the sutra on his ears, which left them vulnerable. Hoichi recovered though, and was never called upon by the Ghostly lord again.
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