notes: (1) shortened draft (2) macrons omitted

Modes of Reception: Heike Monogatari and "Kogo"

Michael Watson
Meiji Gakuin University

This paper considers the place of the "Kogo" 小督 episode in the Kakuichi version of the Heike, examining the significance the depiction of Takakura in the light of the topos of the "grieving monarch" .

The episode of Kogo is the last and longest of a series of four anedotes that follow the account of Retired Emperor Takakura's death at the opening of book six in the Kakuichi version of the Heike Monogatari. This type of story about incidents in the life of a character placed after the description of his or her death is a notable feature of this work and are found elsewhere in the genre of gunki. Examples of this narrative device in the Heike include the stories told about Shigemori in book 3, the pair of tales in book 4 concerning Yorimasa, and the odd collection of anecdotes about Kiyomori later in book 6.

In the course of books 1 to 5, Takakura is prominent in only a few sections, disappearing from the tale for lengthy periods. Although emperor for a relatively long time, twelve years nearly to the day, his father Go-Shirakawa and his father-in-law Kiyomori between them dominate the narrative, as they dominated the court in Takakura's minority.

Short accounts of the main external events of Takakura's life are given in the first three books. In addition there are also a number of passing references. The son of Go-Shirakawa and Kenshunmon'in, he becomes Crown Prince at the age of six [1.10 "togudachi"]. Two years later, immediately after his coming-of-age ceremony, he is married to Kiyomori's daughter Tokuko, already called in the narrative by her later name of Kenreimon'in [1.12 "shishi-no-tani"]. We do not see them until seven years of marriage have passed, when at last she has become pregnant. He is now eighteen years old [3.1 "yurushi bumi"]. Significantly, however, amid the general excitement over the birth of his son, the future Antoku, there is no further mention of Emperor Takakura. Instead, the limelight is shared by the two proud grandfathers, Go-Shirakawa and Kiyomori.

Efforts to characterize Takakura begin only in the section [3.15] "hoin mondo". For the first time in the narrative, the narrator is concerned not with external events in Takakura's life, but with his private reactions to public events, two here in one short section.

When a diviner interprets an earthquake as a portent of trouble, Takakura is described as being shocked: 君も叡慮をおどろかせおはします(Ichiko 1994, 1:239, cf. McCullough 1988, 120). For the first time the narrator makes an inference about the reactions of this character who has had no inner life until now.

From this point onwards Takakura begins to be associated with certain characteristics which prepare us for the kind of stories told after his death in book 6. One is empathy with others, seen first in his reaction to the second crisis, Kiyomori entry into the city with a large armed force. When the Regent rushes to the palace, concerned about his own life, the Emperor is again "very shocked" (Ichiko 1994, 1:239: 大きにおどろかせ給はひて, cf. McCullough 1988, 120). For the first time Takakura's actual words are quoted "Whatever should happen to you," he says to Regent Motofusa, "it will be just as if it were to happen to me" そこにいかなる目にもあはむは、ひとへにただわがあふにてこそあらんずらめ (Ichiko 1994, 1:239; cf. McCullough 1988, 120). This trait of empathy is a regular feature in the portrayal of Takakura through to the stories told after his death in book 6.

Although the portent of the earthquake was not taken seriously by young courtiers and nobles, subsequent events show that Takakura was right to be worried. The next section [3.16 "daijin nagasare"] describes how Kiyomori exiles forty-three courtiers, including Regent Motofusa. Soon afterwards he has Retired Emperor Go-Shirakawa confined to the Toba Palace [3.18 "hoo nagasare"]. Kiyomori's unprecedented treatment of the Retired Emperor, his father, is more than Takakura can bear. The passage is worth looking at, as it anticipates the explanation given in book 6 for Takakura's death. The passage is here laid out in outline form so as to make the structure clearer:

Shusho wa

(1) kanpaku no nagasase-tamai,

(2) shinka no oku horobinuru koto wo koso on-nageki arikeru ni,

(3) amassae hoo Toba ni oshi-komeraresase-tamau to kikoshimesarete nochi,

(a) tsuya tsuya kugo wo kikoshimesarezu,

(b) go-no to te tsune wa yoro no otodo ni nomi irase-tamaikeru.







3.18 "hoo nagasare", Ichiko 1994, 1: 257; cf. McCullough 1988, 127.

The two existing causes for grief are stated: firstly the exile of Regent Motofusa, and secondly, the deaths of subjects--the reference here being presumably to the Shishi-no-tani conspirators Narichika and Saiko. The adverbial amassae introduces a new cause, "on top of these, "making matters worse": the confinement of Retired Emperor Go-Shirakawa in the Toba Palace. After Takakura hears of the confinement he refuses all food, and remains in the Imperial Bedchamber saying that he is ill. Immediately before this passage, there is a description of Go-Shirakawa's reaction to involuntary confinement: he cannot eat or sleep.


3.18 "hoo nagasare", Ichiko 1994, 1:256, McCullough 1988, 127

Takakura's fasting and self-confinement is intended a conscious parallel to thisムa parallel which the yomihonkei variants make more explicit by making Takakura also suffer from sleeplessness.


book 2 of the Engyo-bon, ed. Kitahara and Ogawa 1990, 1:324 (edited)

"As the days passed, the Emperor was sunk in thought and unable to eat properly. He could not sleep, and stayed in the Imperial Bedchamber all the time, saying that he felt poorly..."

Takurakura is here described as physically suffering in empathy with his father. We saw earlier how he told the Regent he would feel for him in exactly this vicarious sort of way. Narratologically speaking, we were told that he would react in this way, now we are shown, a technique used to describe another side of the sovereign in the "Autumn Leaves" episode of book six.

But this passage also anticipates later events, with clear thematic and verbal echoes.

First let us look at another passage concerning Takakura that analyses cause and effect. It is from the first shodan in book 6, describing Takakura's death, given again in schematic form.

● 上皇はをととし法王の鳥羽殿におしこめられさせ給ひし御事、

● 去年高倉の宮のうたれさせ給ひし御有様、

● 都うつりとてあさましかりし天下の乱、


● 東大寺、興福寺のほろびぬるよしきこしめされて


6.1 "shin'in hogyo" Ichiko 1994, 1:422 (cf. McCullough 1988, 198)

Compare the cause and effect analysis with the passage quoted earlier from "hoin mondo". The last of the causes for grief there is the first to be mentioned here, Go-Shirakawa's confinement in the Toba Palace. Two years have passed since then, in which time Takakura's half-brother was killed in battle. There had been chaos in the country with the transfer of the capital to Fukuhara. The worsening state of affairs is mirrored in Takakura's failing health. Mental distress causes further physical illness. Then the sovereign hears of a new disaster: the destruction of the temples of Nara. His illness worsens and he dies in Rokuhara, the headquarters of the Heike.

This reminds us of an irony here: the cause of all of these calamities is ultimately one man, Takakura's father-in-law Kiyomori, yet his name is held back. Whether or not this silence is deliberate, the effect is to suggest that Takakura is the victim of events that are larger than any one person. One is reminded of the Hojoki where the same transfer of the capital is stripped of almost all of its historical context, making it seem like yet another hostile act of nature. But in the case of the Heike, all of these catastrophes had human agencies, as books 3-5 had repeatedly made clear.

Shortly afterwards, in the "Kogo" episode, the narrator makes Kiyomori personally responsible for Takakura's death. Fear of Kiyomori causes Kogo to flee. His disapproval leads attendants and courtiers to shun the Emperor, and to leave Takakura bereft of company. Nakakuni finds Kogo and brings her back despite fear of Kiyomori's anger, but when Kiyomori hears of her return, he takes her away again and forces her to become a nun. In summing up the story, the narrator reports that"it was rumoured that things like this were what caused him to fall ill and finally die" か様の事共に、御悩はつかせ給ひて、遂に御かくれありけるとぞきこえし [Ichiko 1994, 1:440, cf. McCullough 1988, 206].

The Tale of the Heike is a house that underwent repeated and extensive renovation. If one looks closely enough, the joints show here and there, despite the best efforts of the editors to paper over the cracks. Here the problem for the remodellers was that the Kogo story seems originally to have been designed for book 3, as an illustrative example of Kiyomori's evil deeds. The Yashiro variant still has it there, placed after the death of Shigemori.

The phrase "kayo no kotodomo ni..." was added by the Kakuichi editors to give the Kogo story an entirely new context, as one of the causes of Takakura's death. Rhetorically it is a professional piece of workmanship, papering over the cracks well. The expression gono 御悩 was also a key word in the two accounts of Takakura's sufferings we looked at earlier. This phrase calls to mind the previous accounts. A satisfactory sense of closure is achieved to a story which supplements the previous reasons given for Takakura's illness and death. The joints become obvious only when we reconstruct the chronology of the Kogo story from internal evidence and from the many primary sources that mention Kogo.

The chronological chart on your handout is an attempt to put the Kogo story in its historical context.

Note the chronological order of the events that were listed as causes of Takakura's death. Reading the story of Kogo we are left with the distinct impression that the shock of losing her was a final blow to the sensitive monarch, and that he died shortly afterwards. In fact whatever the effect on Takakura might have been, Kogo took the tonsure before all but one of the events that are said to have brought about his early death.

I shall end by looking at how the Kogo story in its various permutations was influenced by other tragic tales of Emperors and their beloved.

First let us the leitmotif of the "yoru no otodo" 夜の御殿. Takakura withdraws to the Imperial Bedchamber on two other occasions, both in book 6. In "Aoi-no-mae" 葵前 [6.3], he secludes himself there after he decides to heed public criticism about his favoritism to a low-ranking woman at court, and withdraws there again when Kogo disappears in the next section [6.4]. I believe that this is a literary topos, and refers both to Genji monogatari, and to Chinese tales of woeful Emperors.

In Genji monogatari, when the Kiritsubo Emperor grieves after the death of Genji's mother, he hides away in his bedchamber, unable to sleep, and hardly eating the next day


To avoid comment, he retired to the imperial bechamber, but sleep refused to come. And when it was time to rise in the morning, he recalled the poem about sleeping "unaware of the dawning day," and was seemingly as indifferent as in the past to his matutinal duties of state. He made only the merest pretense of eating breakfast [...]

Abe et al. 1970, 1:112; trans. McCullough 1994, 34; cf. Seidensticker 1976, 13.

Insomnia and loss of appetite are stock conventions in the literature of love the world over, but a number of clues here would suggest that this is a specific, East Asian subset of that convention. When the Kiritsubo lady was alive, the Emperor spent night and day with her, not attending to the matters of state. Now she is dead, he neglects the "daybreak court" out of grief. As we all know, Murasaki refers repeatedly in the opening chapter to the story of the Tang Emperor Xuan-zong and Yang Guifei--there are two references in the quotation alone, once directly to a line in Bo Juyi's poem, once to a Japanese poem based on the same passage.

The Heike makes more than a dozen references to this tragic love story, known in Japan both through Bo Juyi's "Song of Lasting Pain" and its companion piece, the prose "Account to Go with the 'Song of Lasting Pain'" written by the poet's friend Chen Hong.

In the remainder of the paper, I examine the creative reception of this story in the Heike, and its significance for the "Aoi-no-mae" and "Kogo" episodes.