by Dr. Pelham Mead

In 940 CE the famous Samurai Taira No Masakado was killed by an arrow to his head by his cousin Taira No Sadamori. The secret to his death is the betrayal of his friend Fuijimara No Hidetso who he trusted and took into his house. Secondly, his concubine Kzaisho betrayed him by tell Hidetso the secret to telling which of the seven fakes was the real Masakado. Kzaisho told Hidetso, her lover that the Masakado that casted a shadow was the real Masakado. Sadamori who was really a coward ran and hid from Masakado for years after trying to kill Masakado in revenge for killing his father Uncle Kunika. Everyone in Masakados clan the Taira wanted to take over Masakado’s horse farms with hundreds of horses bred for the Emperor after Masakado’s father died suddenly. They tried to ambush him but to no avail and Masakado drove them back and swept into Hatachi providence and captured the Governor and sent him back to Kyoto where the Emperor lived.

Masakado was a tall man with two pupils in one eye. Two of his brothers had died and he was the oldest to inherit his father’s lands. Masakado’s father in law Yoshikane hated Masakado because he married his daughter without her father’s permission. All of Masakado’s Uncles in the Tiara clan were jealous of the wealth Masakado’s family had amassed. They tried to take it away from Masakado by sending him as a 16 year old to the Emperor’s court to train. He remained for ten years as a member of the Imperial Guard for the Emperor’s summer home. Masakado learned to fight and shoot arrows while riding a horse. He was an accomplished horseman and other guards respected his ability.

What makes Masakado a great story is that he defeated all of the Northern Providences in Japan in 939 CE and declared himself Emperor. He returned the farms he captured to the peasants and they love him for it. He was a fair man caught in a web of betrayal by men who wanted his wealth. When he was beheaded he cursed Sadamori and down through the ages his head was buried in Tokyo in a sacred mound and every time someone tried to move or cover over the shrine they died or had bad luck. There is no happy ending to Masakado’s story except to point out that eventually the Tiara clan became very powerful in the next century as a result of Masakado’s efforts to protect his property.

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