Yoshitsune (Yorimitsu, Yorisune, Ushiwaka) (1159–1189)  Also known as Raiko in the legends that followed his death, Yorisune was a real member of the Minamoto clan who won fame during the Gempei War. The younger half-brother of clan leader, Yoritomo, his life became the basis for many stories.

The historical Yorisune’s father, Yoshitomo, was killed by a member of the rival Taira clan. Still a young man, Yorisune swore revenge. His halfbrother Yoritomo let him lead the Minamoto army at Ichinotani. Yorisune won a great victory, charging down a cliff to start a rout of the enemy forces. He then led the army at Dan-no-ura (Dannoura) in 1185, winning a great battle that sealed the fate of the Taira clan.

Yoritomo and Yorisune soon squabbled. Yorisune was eventually apprehended after he tried to escape northward. He and his men killed themselves to preserve their honour.

Yorisune’s story is told in several places, including the romance Gikeiki. Among his more glorious foes were a giant who continued to fight after his head was chopped off and an enchanted spider.


Japanese Mythology A-Z – Second Edition – Written by Jeremy Roberts – Copyright © 2010 by Jim DeFelice – Publisher : Chelsea House Publishers