The Way Of The Warrior In The Tale Of The Heike

1306 words - 5 pages

The Way of The Warrior in The Tale of The Heike

Heike Monogatari, with its multitude of battles and skirmishes, provides a wonderful chance to analyze the way of the warrior in ancient Japan. There aren't a great number of surviving works from this period that show in such great detail both the brute and the compassion of the Japanese warriors. They followed carefully a distinct set of principles which made up the well-rounded warrior. Loyalty to one's master, bravery and glory in any situation, strength, martial skills, compassion, and interest in the arts were all held with the highest esteem. Few warriors could become well known without possessing each of these skills. Religious beliefs shaped a warrior's behavior tremendously. Most warriors were heartfelt believers of both Shinto and Buddhism, and followed the ideas of karmic retribution, the four noble truths, the six realms, and the sacred rituals of battle and death. Examples of these, and many other religious ideas abound in Heike.

Even before entering battle, warriors prepared mentally. "In the past, three commitments ha been required of a Commander who went forth from the capital to destroy an aenemy of the court. On the day when he received the Sword of Commision, he forgot his lineage; when he prepared to leave his home, he forgot his wife and children; when he engaged the foe on the battlefield, he forgot his life. Most lovingly, those same resolves must have been in the minds of the Heike leaders, Koremori and Tadanori.(p.186)" Formal battles often followed a standard procedure. First off, battles were typically planned with both sides knowing when the time of battle would be. This differs greatly from more strategic methods of battle such as surprise attacks, but at the time it was considered normal protocol to announce when you would do battle. Once the opposing sides had met each other and were ready ceremonial arrows were fired through the air to signify the start of the battle. Thus, the bow and arrow held special significance performing such rituals, and serving as serving the warrior as a powerful weapon. During one battle at Katsuura, the Genji warrior Yoichi Munetaka was chosen to hit a fan that was placed on bow of a Taira warship, beconing any archer to show his worth by shooting it down. Munetaka, unsure, says, "I am not sure I can hit it. It would be an eternal disgrace to our side if I missed it.(p.367)" Ordered by Yoshitsune to fire on the fan and affraid to refuse, Munetaka closed his eyes in silent prayer. "Hail, Great Bodhisattva Hachiman and ye gods of my province at Nikko, Utsu-no-miya and Nasu Yuzen! Vouchsafe that I may hit the center of that fan. If I miss, I will smash my bow and kill myself; I will never show my face to others again. If it is your will that I return home, keep my arrow from straying." When he opened his eyes, the wind seemed somewhat gentler, and the fan looked easier to hit. (p.368) Warriors often conducted such prayers to bring...

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