Minamoto no Yorimasa

Minamoto no Yorimasa
Yorimasa by Kikuchi Yosai


  • Period: Heian Period
  • Occupation: Warrior / Poet / Monk
  • Family: –
  • Birth: 1104AD
  • Death: 1180AD

Minamoto no Yorimasa

Minamoto no Yorimasa (源 頼政 was a poet and warrior living from 1104-80.12

As a buddhist monk he went by the name of Gensan-in Nyūdo2, but also was known as Genzanmi Nyūdo1 and Genzanmi Yorimasa.3 Throughout his life it is said he was jealous of Taira no Kiyomori due to his high position, however Yorimasa as the only Minamoto at court found himself rapidly promoted up the ranks.1

He was involved in several military exploits in his lifetime. In 1156 he took part in the Hōgen no Ran (1156) siding with the retired Emperor Go-Shirakawa1 as well as Minamoto no Yoshimoto and Taira no Kiyomori.2 Later in 1159 he was involved in the Heiji no Ran again siding with Emperor Go-Shirakawa1. However this time, he was at first against Kiyomori until realising he had the stronger side and so joined him.2

Minamoto no Yorimasa
Portrait of Yorimasa.

After this his final exploit was in 1180 when he was asked by Prince Mochihito to join him in overthrowing the Taira. They were defeated at Uji12 with Yorimasa comitting seppuku in Byōdō-in Temple.2 This started the Minamoto-Taira War.2

As a poet his poems were collected in the Yorimasa kashū, as well as the Imperial Anthologies, Shin kokinshū and Senzai waka-shū.2

Yorimasa also has ties to the supernatural, in particular the creature known as the Nue. In the Tale of the Heike it is said he fells this creature with an arrow after listening for it in the clouds. As a result he is gifted the sword known as Shishō by the Emperor.3


1. Kodansha. (1993) ”Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia”. Tokyo: Kodansha Ltd.
2. Louis Frederic, translated by Kathe Roth (2002) “Japan Encyclopedia”. London: Harvard University Press.
3. Yoda, H. and Alt, M. (2016) “Japandemonium: Illustrated: The Yokai Encyclopaedia of Toriyama Sekien.”. New York: over Publications, Inc.

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