Minamoto no Yoshitsune
Minamoto no Yoshitsune (源 義経) (1159-1189) was a late Heian and early Kamakura period general of the Minamoto clan of Japan. Yoshitsune was the ninth son of Minamoto no Yoshitomo and his older brother Minamoto no Yoritomo founded the Kamakura shogunate.
Yoshitsune was born slightly before the Heiji Rebellion of 1159 in which his father and oldest two brothers were killed. His life was spared and put under the care of Kurama Temple in the capital of Kyoto while Yoritomo was banished to Izu province. Eventually Yoshitsune was put under the protection of Fujiwara no Hidehira, head of the powerful regional Fujiwara clan in Hiraizumi, Mutsu province.
In 1180, Yoshitsune heard that Yoshitomo, now head of the Minamoto clan, had raised an army at the request of Prince Mochihito to fight against the Taira clan which had usurped the power of the emperor. Yoshitsune shortly thereafter joined Yoshitomo along with Minamoto no Noriyori, all brothers that had never before met, in the last of three conflicts between the rival Minamoto and Taira samurai clans in the Gempei War.
Yoshitsune defeated and killed his rival cousin Minamoto no Yoshinaka at Awazu in Omi province in the first month of 1184 and in the next month defeated the Taira at the Battle of Ichi no Tani in present day Kobe. In 1185, Yoshitsune defeated the Taira again at the Battle of Yashima in Shikoku and destroyed them at the Battle of Dan no Ura in present day Yamaguchi prefecture.
After the Gempei War, Yoshitsune joined the cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa against his brother Yoritomo. Fleeing to the temporary protection of Fujiwara no Hidehira in Mutsu again, Yoshitomo was betrayed and killed by Hidehira's son Fujiwara no Yasuhira.
Because of Yoshitsune's tragic life and early death, he is one of the greatest folk heroes of Japan, becoming the subject of and influencing many works of Japanese literature and Japanese drama, while the details of his life became legendary.