太平記

The Taiheiki, or "Chronicle of Grand Pacification," is a 40-chapter Japanese war tale that describes five decades (1318-1367) of turmoil that included the overthrow of the Kamakura bakufu, the restoration of direct imperial rule under Emperor Go-Daigo, the establishment of the Muromachi bakufu under Ashikaga Takauji, and the ongoing civil war between the rival Northern and Southern courts.

The Taiheiki was completed in 1374, only seven years after the last events it describes, and thus is more creditable as a historical source than, say, the Tale of the Heike, although embellishment and exageration are still undoubtedly present throughout the text. The Taiheiki's composition is attributed to a Buddhist priest named Kojima, but was likely based on earlier stories and ballads crafted by numerous unknown authors.

As stylized and fictionalized as it is, the Taiheiki is our only source for much of what we know about such famous figures in Japanese history as Kusunoki Masashige, Go-Daigo, and Ashikaga Takauji.

Ashikaga Takauji walks into a local bar in Kyoto. He orders a drink and notices Kusunoki Masashige and Nitta Yoshisada sitting at a table in the corner, walks up, and sits in an extra chair.

Takauji: How you guys doing? Been a while. Why don't you guys call me anymore?

Yoshisada: Well, I guess a traitor like you wouldn't understand. You know, we were fine here until you came along.

Takauji: Hey, I'm no traitor. Go-Daigo had what was coming to him. I personally didn't have anything against the guy, even liked him from the beginning. But there were a lot of samurai that couldn't stand him all along.

Yoshisada: But a traitor is still a traitor. All three of us were fed up with the whole shogunate thing and allied against the Hojo. The Kamakura bakufu fell and the emperor came back to power.

Takauji: Yeah, we all had our reasons for disliking the Hojo. But Go-Daigo and the imperial court are a different story, and they always looked down upon us provincial samurai. And that Kemmu Restoration, we did all the fighting and no reward even came close to our sacrifice, not to mention we didn't even get a say in the "new government".

Masashige & Yoshisada: But the honor of serving the emperor is reward enough!

Takauji: That way of the thinking is so Heian period. I won't put up with that stuff like Minamoto Yoshiie did in the later ten hundreds. Don't you remember why our peasant ancestors picked up swords in the first place? The emperors used and cheated them until they said we aren't going to take it anymore. The first to stand up to that imperial court crap was Taira no Masakado, look what kind of name he has now, labeled a traitor till the end of time.

Yoshisada: But life under the Kamakura shogunate wasn't that great either. Same thing, different name.

Takauji: The original aim of Minamoto Yoritomo was for self-rule by the original people who tilled the soil in the back-water provinces like Sagami and Musashi, the samurai, not some poetry reading, calligraphy writing emperor in Kyoto. Go-Daigo's close-minded and arrogant rule was just a throwback to that Heian period court that underestimated the power of the samurai, plus made a few more big mistakes. Like reward land to one samurai clan, forget to keep track of where or how much, and then go around and give the same land to the next samurai clan. Nobody knew what the hell was going on, and it got worse. The daimyo Akamatsu, in the days of the shogunate, ruled Harima province. He joined us and Go-Daigo against the Hojo and in the end what does he get in return? He gets a small farm in this little corner of Harima. I warned Go-Daigo but he never listened. Akamatsu and other samurai that got the runaround stood up for themselves, and I was the only one that listened to them.

Masashige: All things beside, I decided from the beginning that I would risk my life for Go-Daigo, that's why I stuck with him. He came to me first.

Takauji: You can have your honor. And that's why you will always be remembered as the good guys. But under Go-Daigo, you two amounted to nothing but personal bodyguards. But the rest of us samurai, we're never going back to that way of life. No way. And just because I stood up for my beliefs, I'll always be damned as the bad guy.

Yoshisada: That's because you are the bad guy. Set up your own puppet emperor which started the Northern and Southern court period. Your new shogunate set divisions that were the cause of continuous war for decades.

Takauji: But there weren't hardly any other samurai besides you two that still longed for the Heian comeback tour. If not me, some other samurai would have stood up some point along the way. It was only a matter of time. It was all doomed to failure. And Go-Daigo took you two for chumps and sent the both of you on a suicide mission at Minatogawa that you couldn't decline.

Masashige: This talk made my beer taste awful. It's all a matter of ideology, hard to say who was wrong and who was right, can't we just change the topic?

Suddenly, from out of the restroom comes Go-Daigo. He pulls up a chair from the next table.

Go-Daigo: Oh, good to see everyone, just like the good old days. So what you guys talking about?

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