The was a
major sea battle of the Genpei War,
occurring at Dan-no-ura, in
Strait off the southern tip of Honshū.
April 25 1185
) clan fleet, led by
Minamoto no Yoshitsune
defeated the Heike (Taira
) clan fleet, during
a half-day engagement.
The Taira were outnumbered, but some sources say that they had the
advantage over the Minamoto in understanding the tides of that
particular area, as well as naval combat tactics in general. The
Taira split their fleet into three squadrons, while their enemy
arrived en masse, their ships abreast, and archers ready. The
beginning of the battle consisted mainly of a long-range archery
exchange, before the Taira took the initiative, using the tides to
help them try to surround the enemy ships. They engaged the
Minamoto, and the archery from a distance eventually gave way to
and daggers after the crews of the ships boarded
each other. However, the tide
changed, and the advantage was given back to the Minamoto.
One of the crucial factors that allowed the Minamoto to win the
battle was that a Taira general by the name of Taguchi Shigeyoshi
defected, and revealed
to the Minamoto which ship the six-year-old Emperor Antoku
was on. Their archers turned their
attention to the helmsmen and rowers of the Emperor's ship, as well
as the rest of their enemy's fleet, sending their ships out of
control. Many of the Taira warriors, as they saw the battle turn
against them, threw themselves overboard, committing suicide rather
than having to face defeat at the hands of the Minamoto. Among
those who perished this way were Antoku and his grandmother, the
widow of Taira no Kiyomori
of the clan. To this day, the Heike Crabs
found in the Straits of Shimonoseki
considered by the Japanese
the spirits of the Taira warriors.
The Taira attempted to toss the crown jewels
off the ship but only
managed to get the sword
into the water before the ship holding
the jewels was captured. The mirror was recovered by divers; many
presume the sword to have been lost at this time, though it is
officially said to have been recovered and enshrined at Atsuta Shrine.
decisive defeat of the Taira forces led to the end of the Taira bid
for control of Japan.
, the elder
half-brother of Minamoto
, became the first Shogun
establishing his military government ('bakufu'
) in Kamakura
In popular culture
, a dramatized version of the battle
appeared as part of the movie Kwaidan
In his book and television series Cosmos
, Carl Sagan
presents a brief, dramatic account of
the battle in chapter/episode 2; "One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue".
Sagan then uses the Heike crabs
examples of artificial
In the anime film, Pom Poko
Ghibli, one of the venerable Shape-Shifting Tanuki
Masters is an eyewitness of the battle, and
delights in telling the Tama Tanuki of his exploits, where he was
responsible for firing the first critical shot of the battle
disguised as one of the mounted archers.
In Sukiyaki Western:
(a Japanese remake of the spaghetti Western
movie A Fistful of Dollars
), this battle
is referred to as part of the film's backstory.
The battle is also recounted near the beginning of the Usagi Yojimbo
story arc Grasscutter
- Turnbull, Stephen (1998). 'The Samurai Sourcebook'. London:
Cassell & Co.
- Gaskin, Carol, and Vince Hawkins (1990). 'The Ways Of The
Samurai'. New York: Barnes & Noble Books.