Soten Tsuba

Battle of Dan-No-Ura

The scenes depicted on these tsuba took place during the naval battle of the Bay of Katsuura in February 1185. At dusk, after a day's battle, a small boat approached Mure beach from the open sea. A young lady from the Taira court stood in the bow holding up a pole that had an open fan attached to it. She challenged the Genji to shoot down the fan. Yoichi Munetaka, a Genji samurai of Nikko and an expert archer, was ordered by his commander, Yoshitsune, to perform this difficult task. The particular importance of this fan, as far as I know, is that it bore the Mon of the Taira, and bringing it down would be a serious blow to the honor and morale of that clan. After much trepidation, self doubt, and a prayer to Hachiman, Munetaka took careful aim and brought down the Taira emblem. It is reported that both sides cheered at this uncanny marksmanship. This is one of the most celebrated events in Japanese history because the loss of that fan had much to do with loss of the battle and the downfall of the Taira and the accession of the Minamoto.

Editor's notes:

  • Click on pictures for a larger, more detailed version.
  • Minamoto is Genji and Taira is Heike

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