PRELUDE TO & AFTERMATH OF
THE
NAVAL BATTLE OF DAN NO URA (SHIMONOSEKI)

Taira clan crest

TAIRA VS MINAMOTO

APRIL 24, 1185

Minamoto clan crest

 


Minamoto cavaliers got into the sea straight toward the Taira battleships

 

Click here for photographs of the actual location of this battle at Dan no Ura.

 

The commander of the Minamoto battleships was actually Minamoto Yoritomo, but the largest chunk of what went on was Minamoto Yoshitsune's doing -- he got more than 800 ships under his command, more than enough to outdo whatever the Taira clan -- led by Taira Munemori -- tried to do, since they only had around 500 battleships -- even though all were larger and better-manned.

Like every new power, the Minamotos were still relying on mere guts and determination in this battle that decided everybody's fates. The Tairas, on the other hand, had been THE power in Japan for some time, and their Admirals and such were kind of cautious veterans compared to the instinctive enemies.

This was the last of the series of battles between the two sworn enemies since 1180 (the so-called 'Gempei War'). During the five previous years, the odds had came against the Taira clan; they seldom won even if their winnings were thorough.

The way we see it today, it had all been decided even before the first arrow was shot. The battleships of the Tairas were so crowded not only because they had a lot of soldiers; much of the nearly spilling-over human cargo was women of all age groups, senior citizens, and kids. The ships were not just vehicles to whack enemies with -- these were, for all literal senses, their cages. They couldn't get off the floating deathtraps. They couldn't embark and unload anywhere near. They just had to win this war or alternately row a.s.a.p toward the farthest of all seas; and as history noted, they were unable to do either the first or the second option.

Forced to evacuate Kyoto, the Taira clan actually hoped to re-settle in the region called Shikoku, around the Kyushu isles. That was far enough from anywhere. But the Minamoto brothers (Yoshitsune and Noriyori, especially) kept on kicking them out of any decent habitat they came to. The brothers systematically pushing the Tairas' backs against the sea, because there the warships of Yoshitsune's and Yoritomo's were waiting to finish this interclan contest once and for all -- which, by the end of the day, they did. There was no survivor.

 

 
Taira clansmen at the Imperial vessel   After the Taira battleships were sunken by Minamoto Yoshitsune
     
 
Too large and overloaded, the Taira vessels
meant defeat before the battle of Dan no Ura began
  The Taira clan running away from Kyoto when attacked by
Minamoto (Kiso) Yoshinaka

 

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TAIRA VERSUS MINAMOTO CLAN

 

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