Beginning of the Gempei War (1180)

Beginning of the Gempei War (1180)

The Gempei War lasted from 1180 to 1185 between the prominent samurai families of Minamoto and Taira. Families fought for supremacy in Japan. The name Gempei comes from the characters of the Japanese alphabet for these two families (Genju and Heike).

At the end of the Heian period, these two families performed police and military duties for the Government. The conflict began in 1156 with the division of the Government into two groups. One part sided with the new and the other with the old emperor. Thus, the Minamoto and Taira families found themselves on opposite sides. The Taira family won the battle, and the leader of the Minamoto family was executed. Therefore, the defeated family conspired, but unsuccessfully, and the family leader was executed. The Taira family took power throughout Japan by military means, but also by good connections at court. Soon a member of their family was placed on the throne. His sanctions led to a new conspiracy and the First Battle of Uji on June 23, 1180. year, which is reputed to be the beginning of the Gempei War.

Prince Mochihito, favored by the Minamoto family, was expelled by the Taira army to the Miider Temple near Kyoto. Then they headed south, in the direction of Nara. After crossing the Uji River, they destroyed the bridge so that the Taira army could not continue behind them. Taira’s army managed to cross the river and reach them. Army leader Minamoto failed to allow Prince Michihito to escape and committed the ritual murder of a seppuku. It was the first recorded case of samurai suicide due to defeat. The prince was captured and killed.

Almost 20 battles and sieges were recorded during the war. After the end of the war, Japan held the Minamoto family firmly in its hands. This war represents an important part of Japan’s history and is a frequent theme of samurai movies and manga.

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