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The tragic story of Yoshinaka Minamoto and Sanemori Saito

This story is told in The Tale of the Heike, and is a famous story that has been dramatized and performed in Kabuki, but no matter how many times I read it, it makes us cry.

When you think of the samurai of the Kanto Plain, Masakado Taira is probably the first person that comes to mind. If we trace the genealogy of samurai who were active in the medieval period, they generally converge to the Taira clan, Minamoto clan, and Fujiwara clan (originating from Hidesato, who defeated Masakado, and from Toshihito, who served as provincial governor in the Kanto region and became the shogun of the military base).

Sanemori Saito was a descendant of Toshihito and was an active samurai based in the private estate of Musashi Nagai (currently Kumagaya City). The name Saito-san is often used these days, but this name is said to have come from the fact that Toshihito's son, Nobumochi, held the government position of head of Saigu(the government office to serve in Ise shrine). Toward the end of the Heian period, the number of Fujiwara clans increased so much that in many cases each family would give their name by combining the street where their mansion was located in Kyoto and their official position. Mr. Kato was probably connected to the local office of Kaga, and Mr. Muto was also connected to that of Musashi.

Yoshikata Minamoto was Yoshitomo's younger brother, and he moved to the Kanto region and became the adopted son-in-law of Shigetaka Chichibu (Taira clan), making his base in northern Musashi.

Due to conflicts of interest, the eldest son of Yoshitomo, Yoshihira, defeated Yoshikata and Shigetaka in what is called the Battle of Okura, but Sanemori, used to serve Yoshikata, kept his two-year-old orphaned son, Komaohmaru, delivered him to Kaneto Nakahara in Kiso, in a way that Yoshihira won't notice. Kaneto was the husband of Komaomaru's wet nurse and took care of their young child, but he may have felt that he should be a rare treasure because of his lineage that could lead him to become the leader of the Genji clan in the future.

As the child grows older, he takes the name Yoshinaka Kiso, and 28 years after his father's death, he gathers troops and heads down the Hokuriku route to confront the Heike clan.

The Genji clan, with Yoshitomo as its leader, fell during the Heiji Rebellion, and Sanemori ended up serving the Taira clan, but even after Yoritomo raised an army, he remained active as a member of the Heike clan. He fought on the enemy's side in Yoshinaka's Conquest Operation, and after suffering a crushing defeat at the Battle of Kurikara Pass, Sanemori, who was over 70 years old, used this as his place of death in the Battle of Shinohara, where he was defeated by Yoshinaka's subordinate, Mitsumori Tezuka. When Yoshinaka examined his neck, his hair was black, and at first he thought there was no way it could be the old man Sanemori, but when he washed his neck with water in the pond, his hair turned white, and it was said that he was crying in tears from the sadness of killing his old benefactor.

The ruins of the mansion where Yoshikata was attacked has become a remote shrine (Okura Shrine), and a bronze statue of Sanemori was erected at Kangi-in Temple (Kumagaya City), which has the national treasure Seitendo in Sanemori's territory, and is still revered today.



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