Japan in the 10th century was experiencing change and disorder as its relatively new central government sought techniques for a strong and enduring legacy. In this period lived a man named Taira no Masakado. In events which are swirled with mystery and legend, Masakado found himself in direct opposition with the government, even proclaiming the title of the “New Emperor”. His legacy endures to this day and is a fundamental component in contemporary Japanese folklore. Was Masakado a product of his environment or a self-motivated rebel, examining this question is important in the discussions of the motivations behind his actions. Whether he should be viewed as a villain or a hero is to be considered by the reader. Taira no Masakado is both revered as a hero and accused of being a trader. When considering the beginning of Masakado’s conquests it is important to note that not much is known of the exact motives of his first altercation with Minamoto Tasuku. All that is clear is that Minamoto sprang a surprise attack on Masakado as he neared the Hitachi region. Why was Masakado riding towards Hitachi with a group of armed men? Why did Minamoto attack Masakado? Both of these questions are vital in determining the real nature of Masakado and would link to the motives of his actions from this battle to his demise. The lack of answers to these questions seriously hinders one’s attempt at revealing Taira Masakado as a villain or hero.
The events of Masakado’s insurrection seem to suggest that his actions were not justified and that he knew this. After being attacked by Minamoto, Masakado went on a rampage attacking many villages in southern Hitachi. Regardless of the dispute between the two, it is improbable that all of the victims of his attack were directly involved or deserving of murder. Preceding these events, Masakado is summoned to Kyoto to argue his case against allegations brought by the Minamoto family. Masakado is quick to travel to Kyoto to explain himself,...
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