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Minamoto no Yoshinaka

Minamoto no Yoshinaka 源義仲 (1154-1184) was a general and last shogun of the late Heian Period of Japanese history. A member of the Minamoto samurai clan, Minamoto no Yoritomo was his cousin and rival during the Genpei War between the Minamoto and the Taira clans.

Born in Musashi province, Yoshinaka's father Minamoto no Yoshikata was killed and his domain was seized by Minamoto no Yoshihira in an interfamily feud while he was still an infant. Yoshihira sought to kill Yoshinaka also, but he escaped into the care of Nakahara clan in Kiso, Shinano province where he was then raised. Yoshinaka later changed his name from Minamoto to Kiso.

In 1180, Yoshinaka received Prince Mochihito's call to the members of the Minamoto clan to rise against the Taira. Yoshinaka entered the Genpei War raising an army in Shinano and quickly conquered the province. Next in 1181, he sought to regain his father's domain in Musashi which was already under the control of his cousin Minamoto no Yoritomo. The two reconciled and resolved to not fight one another but Yoshinaka had to accept Yoritomo as the leader of the Minamoto clan, give up his aspirations for his father's domain, and send his son Yoshitaka to Kamakura as a hostage. However, having been shamed, Yoshinaka was now determined to beat Yoritomo to Kyoto, defeat the Taira on his own, and take control of the Minamoto for himself.

Yoshinaka defeated the army of Taira no Koremori at the Battle of Kurikara Pass and marched to Kyoto. The Taira retreated out of the capital, taking the child Emperor Antoku with them. Three days later Yoshinaka's army entered the capital and the cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa laid upon him the title of Asahi Shogun. However, his army ransacked Kyoto and the emperor ordered him to attack the Taira in order to get the army out of the capital.

Later returning to Kyoto after a battle, Yoshinaka was angered to find out that the emperor had aligned with his cousin Yoritomo. He exerted his military power over the city, pillaging it, imprisoning the Emperor Go-Shirakawa, and forced him to lay upon him the title of shogun. The angered Minamoto no Yoritomo ordered his brothers Minamoto no Yoshitsune and Minamoto no Noriyori to attack and kill him.

Yoshinaka was driven out of Kyoto and killed by his cousins at Awazu in Omi province. He was buried in Otsu, Omi, and a temple was built his honor, and named Gichu Temple after him, during the later Muromachi period.

The Edo period poet Matsuo Basho, persuant to his last wishes, was buried next to Minamoto no Yoshinaka in Gichu Temple.

Minamoto no Yoshinaka is one of many main characters in the Kamakura period epic, the Tale of Heike.