Sunday, August 7, 2011

Kiyomori Taira Built the Foundation for Samurai Age

History teaches in Japanese elementary and middle schools teach students that 1492 is the beginning of Samurai government. 1492 is the year when Yoritomo Minamoto established Kamakura Shogunate. Samurais, from its word origin, were warriors who fought for emperors before this Kamakura Samurai government. The word Samurai came from a verb "Saburau" in Japanese language. "Saburau" means service. Samurais were servants to emperors and aristocratic government before the sixteenth century.

There were, however, Samurai family who took control of government before Yoritomo Minamoto in the fifteenth century. By the early twelfth century, after their peak time in ruling power, aristocratic government started to be corrupted. People from Fujiwara family were dominating high positions in government that time. They did not care about people who were starving to death and struggling for life due to long-lasting drought. Aristocrats were enjoying their lives, playing, dancing, drinking, or partying. No aristocrat thought about reforming Japan and its control.

When a civil war broke out based on a power struggle for selecting next emperor, aristocrats did not have any way to stop the violence. Kiyomori Taira was the leader of "Heike" family. He fought for Goshirakawa emperor and won the war. This civil war brought significant changes in Japanese social structure. Although the sovereign power of the imperial family was preserved, aristocrats were no longer as powerful as before, due to ongoing power struggle. The situation was favorable for Samurai families, led by Kiyomori, because they held large army to fight.

After two major civil wars, Emperor Goshirakawa appointed Kiyomori a highest rank which Samurai could become before him. His position was functions of Police Chief together with Chiefs of Staff. His influential power to the government became huge. In addition, Emperor Goshirakawa trusted him and respected him. Kiyomori started to participate in politics. He appointed his family members to be government officers and his clan, "Heike" replaced aristocrats who were the center of politics.

He failed to maintain the success because he copied aristocrats' way. He made his daughter married royal family's son and became a grandfather of the next emperor. In the process of his political game, he and his family lost their original power of fighting. They were no longer "Samurai", but just emerging new aristocratic family.

The royal family started to be apprehensive of Kiyomori family's power became too large. After Kiyomori's death, his clan's enemy family, Minamoto rose from their suppressed situation and destroyed Heike family.

People have regarded Kiyomori and his family, "Heike" as inimical family, which controlled royal family. Kiyomori changed the concept of Samurai to be just servants. He proved that Samurai could take part of politics. He built the foundation of coming Samurai era.

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1 comment:

Cookies said...

Thank you for very good blog about Word Origin. It's very nice.