Before HEIKE and After: HOGEN, HEIJI, JOKYUKI translated by Royall Tyler. This is a translation of three tales, the Hogen monogotari, Heike monogatari, and Jokyuki. These tales are traditional histories of events that happened between 1156 and 1221 covering the fall of the Japanese court and the rise of the Samurai. Our book, Dig Two Graves, occurs during the Hogen Rebellion and so we have relied on the Hogen monogotari as source material.
Most westerners think an emperor is like a king. A man becomes king because he is the oldest living son of the current king. He is king from the time of his father’s death until he dies. The Japanese didn’t work that way. Any son of the emperor or a former emperor could become emperor. Most emperors retired at a fairly young age. The emperor was often a figurehead and the country was ruled by retired emperors or regents. The Fujiwara family effectively ruled Japan for hundreds of years by marrying daughters to emperors and then placing one of the offspring on the throne while they were still children and acting as regent.
The Hogen Rebellion was a battle for power between two brothers, one a retired emperor and the other the emperor. The events that led to this rebellion started when Emperor Go-Toba retired and placed his son Sutoku on the throne when he was four years old. When Sutoku reached the age of 19, Go-Toba forced him to retire and placed one of his half-brothers, Konoe, on the throne. Konoe was three years old at that time. Konoe died at 17. At this point in time Go-Toba had already outlived most of his contemporaries and was thinking about succession. He placed another of Sutoku’s brothers, Shirakawa, on the throne. Shirakawa was about 28 at the time and determined to rule. Sutoku was angry. He had expected his son would be named emperor and that he would be able to rule from behind the throne as Go-Toba had once Go-Toba died. With Shirakawa on the throne, this wasn’t going to happen. The result was an armed insurrection and the first battle to be fought inside the capital city in three hundred years.
We are using the Hogen Rebellion as a backdrop for our book. The characters in the book get caught up in the events of the rebellion.