Taira no Masakado



Taira no Masakado (平将門) (?–March 25, 940) was a member of the Kammu Taira clan of Japan. He was the son of Taira no Yoshimasa, Chinjufu Shogun. His childhood name was Sōma Kojirō. Taira no Masakado was a powerful landowner in the Kantō region. He is regarded as the first bushi because he was the first to lead a self-governing party.

His life is detailed in the Shōmonki, a detailed book compiled in the year 1099(?) about his life by an anonymous author. Due to the religious and political nature of the account, it was most probably written by a monk or aristocrat closely connected to Masakado himself.In 939, during the Heian period of Japanese history, he rebelled by attacking the outpost of the central government in Hitachi Province, capturing the governor. In December of that year he conquered Shimotsuke and Kōzuke Provinces, and claimed the title of Shinnō (New Emperor). Masakado killed his uncle Kunika who was part a Taira. The central government in Kyoto responded by putting a bounty on his head, and fifty-nine days later his cousin Sadamori, whose father Masakado had attacked and killed, and Fujiwara no Hidesato, killed him at Battle of Kojima (Shimōsa Province) in 940 and took his head to the capital.

The head found its way to Shibasaki, a small fishing village on the edge of the ocean and the future site of Edo, which later became Tokyo. It was buried. The kubizuka, or grave, which is located in the present day Ōtemachi section of Tokyo, was on a hill rising out of Tokyo Bay at the time. Through land reclamation over the centuries, the bay has receded some three kilometers to the south.

Over the centuries, Masakado became something of a demigod to the locals who were impressed by his stand against the central government, while at the same time felt the need to appease his malevolent spirit. The fortunes of the Edo and Tokyo seemed to wax and wane correspondingly with the respect paid to the shrine built to him at the kubizuka—neglect would be followed by natural disasters and other misfortunes. Hence, to this day, the shrine is well maintained occupying some of the most expensive land in the world in Tokyo’s financial district facing the Imperial Palace.

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