Japan art and folklore: Samurai Taira no Tadamori

Japan art and folklore: Samurai Taira no Tadamori

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Taira clan was one of the four notable family clans of old Japan. Fujiwara, Minamoto, and Tachibana were the other notable families. Hence, Taira no Tadamori (1096-1153) was a potent samurai leader in 12th-century Japan.

Tadamori was known for his bravery and endless courage. Thus he neither feared mortals – nor the spirit world that was deemed dangerous. Therefore, in several art pieces depicting Tadamori, his bravery stands out.

The Minneapolis Institute of Art (image above) says, “The warrior Taira Tadamori (1096–1153) was serving the retired Emperor Shirakawa (1053–1129) when, one rainy night, they set out to visit a favorite concubine in the Gion district of Kyoto. On the way, a ghost-like figure appeared among the trees of a shrine. Tadamori went to subdue the beast but discovered that in fact it was an old priest with a small torch and a pot of oil, replenishing the lanterns. The emperor rewarded Tadamori’s courage by granting him his concubine.”

The Taira clan consolidated power under Tadamori. Thus his loyalty to the Taira clan he belonged to – and the Imperial Court – were part and parcel of his soul. Hence, power concentration, consolidating the Taira position, and rallying to the battle cry when needed were the areas that dominated Tadamori’s world.

The British Museum says Tadamori was a “Warrior, father of Taira no Kiyomori, and member of the Kebiishi (Imperial police force). Tadamori was also governor of the provinces of Harima, Ise, Bizen, and Tajima.”

Tadamori also protected the coasts of Nankaido and San’yodo from pirates. Hence, irrespective of whether the military campaign was on land – or at sea – he prepared to the maximum. Therefore, Tadamori was highlighted in Japanese folklore, literature, and kabuki plays during the Edo Period.



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