Japanese Art and Samurai Taira no Tadamori

Japanese Art and Samurai Taira no Tadamori

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


Taira no Tadamori (1096-1153) is depicted in a prestigious way in Japanese art because this notable samurai was widely respected during his lifetime. Tadamori also played a very important role in the consolidation of the Taira samurai clan within the Imperial Court. Therefore, not surprisingly, Tadamori is depicted in Japanese art because of his legacy in this period of Japanese history.

Tadamori served the Imperial Court and his own clan. Also, just like Oda Nobunaga many centuries later, the warrior monks became a source of conflict. It is often difficult for outsiders to understand the military prowess of Buddhist warrior monks but clearly they were a threat in this period of history. This reality meant that Tadamori would clash with the warrior monks of Mount Hiei and Nara while serving the Taira clan.

Upper echelons within the power control mechanisms of the Imperial Court were concerned about the role of piracy. Therefore, Tadamori launched military campaigns against pirates on the coasts of Nankaido and San’yodo. His military prowess was noted strongly by the Imperial Court and this fact enabled the Taira clan to consolidate their prestigious role within Japan.

The Toshidama Gallery http://toshidama.wordpress.com comments: Taira no Tadamori (1096 – 1153) was a great figure from Japanese history… a Taira clan samurai, governor of various provinces and the first samurai to serve the Emperor directly at court. There are many ukiyo-e portraits of him and he is still remembered today in Japan as the man who oversaw the construction of the longest wooden building in the world: the Sanjusangen-do temple in Kyoto. An extraordinary building, it contains one thousand statues of the deity Kannon of which an incredible 124 date from the original construction.”


Toshidama Gallery also highlights a notable art piece by Utagawa Yoshikazu (1833-1904) that focuses on the highly esteemed Tadamori. This are piece is titled A Mirror of Our Country’s Generals. Yoshikazu did this amazing art piece during the Edo Period because it was completed in 1858. It is worth noting that the power and respect shown towards Tadamori remained the same during the revolutionary Meiji Period. Therefore, while the political and industrial landscape altered greatly after 1868 based on Meiji concepts, it is equally true that continuity remained potent when it came to the historical and cultural legacy of pre-Meiji times.

Tadamori is depicted strongly by Yoshikazu and Toshidama Gallery  (top art image) comments: “This is a magnificent print. Tadamori is pictured in the conventional robes of court and yet the huge abstract bulk of the figure in burnished black ink seems to burst out of the design.  The sword that he grasps cuts a striking diagonal across the black mass of his robes and the calligraphy above seems to dance off the page. Yoshikazu contrasts the great heaviness of the robes with delicate sprig like designs in white at the base. The most striking of this series and a very fine print indeed.”

The historical legacy of Tadamori remains potent because his diplomatic skills enabled the Taira clan to grow in power and prestige. Indeed, the amazing groundwork done by Tadamori enabled the power concentration of the Taira clan to bloom even after his death. Therefore, his son, Kiyomori, gained from the genius of Tadamori because he would consolidate the power concentration that was put into motion by his father.

Not surprisingly, many Japanese artists have depicted Tadamori and praised his prowess. Indeed, his diplomatic legacy and boosting trade with China after a difficult period means that Tadamori is a rich role model despite the longevity of time.



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