Tachiarai: Bloodstained Waters by Yoritomo’s infamous ally Kajiwara Kagetoki

After Minamoto no Yoritomo had ordered him to track down a former ally, Kajiwara Kagetoki have cleaned his bloody sword in a water Kamakura known to Tachiarai, which means “to wash the sword.” Having gained Yoritomo’s trust, Kagetoki then turned to Minamoto no Yoshitsune.

The Light and the Dark Yoshitsune Kagetoki

I’m always curious about buses from Kamakura Station destined for Tachiarai, which means “sword washing.” “The name was a spooky ring to it. Down to Tachiarai, outside the main gate of the Kamakura Reien, cemetery in the east of the city, there is an entrance to the old road Kanazawa-Kaidō, rising up before reaching a narrow, steep stone staircase descending. After passing through a residential area, you suddenly come across a small stream. Further through the palm grove is a watering hole named Tachiarai-Mizu, “water washing sword.” It is here that Kajiwara Kagetoki is reputed to have cleaned his sword after assassinating Kazusanosuke Hirotsune.

The clear stream to Tachiarai. (© Mochida Joji)

Following the stream brings you to a roughly cut passage through the rock face known as Asaina Kiridōshi. Seven of these cuts were made through the mountains surrounding the coastal city of Kamakura, facilitating the while strengthening its defense passage, Asaina is the most easterly of the seven There are about 800 years, samurai traveling to. and from Kamakura passed through here. The reference to the washing of the sword seems inappropriate for such a quiet place.

A small cascade input Asaina Kiridoshi.  (Joji Mochida ©)
A small cascade input Asaina Kiridoshi. (© Mochida Joji)

Asaina Kiridōshi shows obvious signs of where the rock was cut to dig the pass.  (© Mochida Joji)
Asaina Kiridōshi shows obvious signs of where the rock was cut to dig the pass. (© Mochida Joji)

Minamoto no Yoritomo ordered the murder of Hirotsune, his former ally, because of his dislike for the arrogance of the latter and qu’Hirotsune conviction was planning an insurrection. It is said that in 1183, Kagetoki killed Hirotsune playing a part sugoroku with him. That in itself is a disreputable story, but there are other episodes that portray Kagetoki as a sleazy figure.

Osawa Izumi, curator at the Museum of History and culture Kamakura, explains: “There are more stories of bloody Kagetoki than mere legend Tachiarai. Kagetoki has the reputation of being an enemy of Yoshitsune and tradition depicts him negatively. In fact, he was well educated and a close ally of Yoritomo, but as Yoshitsune is considered a character “bright”, as Kagetoki is considered a dark character.

The servant who read the mind of Yoritomo

Kagetoki was originally a warrior Taira Clan. He was known as a compassionate man who excelled in the literary and military arts and had served in the Imperial capital. In the first clash between the Minamoto and Taira clans, the battle of Ishibashiyama, which took place in 1180 near the present city of Odawara, Kagetoki have leaked the overwhelmed Yoritomo. If he had killed Yoritomo then, there might never have been a Kamakura shogunate.

The site of the battle of Ishibashiyama.  (© Jiji)
The site of the battle of Ishibashiyama. (© Jiji)

The defeated Yoritomo fled Cape Manazuru by boat across Sagami Bay to the Bōsō Peninsula in present-day Chiba. There he gained the support of Hirotsune and his 20,000 troops, giving him the military clout he needed to secure Kamakura that year. But three years later, he ordered Hirotsune’s assassination, which suggests he was very suspicious of him.

After the battle of Ishibashiyama Yoritomo Kagetoki promoted to the prestigious position of head of the Samurai-dokoro (Board of Retainers). A key responsibility of his role was to keep Yoshitsune, who had managed to drive the Taira clan in the provinces of the far west. Kagetoki reported Yoritomo of unauthorized reception by Yoshitsune a title of the imperial court and other ways it acted arbitrarily and impatient manner to ensure his wartime achievements. Yoshitsune is referred to in his letter of Koshigoe, where he wrote that he was “the object of slander.”

But Kagetoki’s actions went beyond simple reporting: it seems he also urged Yoritomo to hunt and assassinate Yoshitsune. The historical novel Prize winner Naoki Enkan, Michiko Nagai, includes a scene where Kagetoki recognizes the ambiguous behavior of Yoritomo, typical of the nobility, checks his true intentions and encouraged him to kill Yoshitsune. But why did Kagetoki bother to guess Yoritomo and play the villain? Nagai implies that Yoritomo rarely showed his true colors and described his decisions being driven by others, especially if they could draw criticism. Kagetoki knew and thus acted as spokesman Yoritomo. He saw no reason to flinch if it allowed Yoritomo strengthen its provincial leadership position in the East, but his belief in building a society ruled by the army made him more and more arrogant.

With Yoritomo’s death in 1199, Kagetoki lost his main support, and the honeymoon was over. He was shunned as a slanderer and denounced by 66 of the shogun’s vassals, which led to his downfall. Although Kagetoki enjoyed a key role in both Yoritomo and his successor Yoriie, he lost his position as a board member of 13 officials, and was killed in Suruga in 1200. But the resulting imbalance among the 13 officials helped the Hojo clan to gain the advantage.

Movements Kajiwara Kagetoki in allegiance with Minamoto no Yoritomo

The tomb of Kajiwara Kagetoki to Manpukuji, Ota, Tokyo.  (© Jiji)
The tomb of Kajiwara Kagetoki to Manpukuji, Ota, Tokyo. (© Jiji)

(Originally published in Japanese banner photo:… Tachiarai-mizu where Kajiwara Kagetoki have washed the blood from his sword after killing Kazusanosuke Hirotsune Joji Mochida ©)


  • Tachiarai-mizu: From the exit of Kamakura Station, take bus line Keihin Kyuko 4 to Kanazawa Hakkei and get off at the main entrance of the cemetery Kamakura Reien, Tachiarai (name of Japanese station: Kamakura-Reien-Seimon -Mae / Tachiarai) Walk for a few minutes along the river Tachiarai.
  • Asaina Kiridōshi: There is a stone monument beyond the Tachiarai-mizu that marks the entrance to the cup. Continue in this direction.
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