The Heiji Disturbance was a conflict between the Minamoto and Taira clans, led by Minamoto no Yoshitomo and Taira no Kiyomori respectively. Along with the Hôgen Disturbance of 1156, it marks the rise of Taira power, the beginning of the decline of direct Imperial power, and the early stages of the rise of the samurai class.
The attack on the Sanjô Palace on 1159/12/9 was the chief action of the conflict. Minamoto no Yoshitomo attacked the Imperial residence with roughly 500 warriors, kidnapping the Retired Emperor Go-Shirakawa and setting the building aflame. The events are dramatically depicted in a famous, later, handscroll composition now in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and entitled "Night Attack on the Sanjo Palace."
Following the Taira victory, Minamoto no Yoshitomo was executed along with his eldest son, Minamoto no Yoshihira. His wife, Tokiwa Gozen, was spared along with their two younger sons, Minamoto no Yoritomo and Yoshitsune, who merely fled into exile, or into hiding. Yoritomo and Yoshitsune would later grow up to lead the Minamoto in destroying the Taira clan in the Genpei War of 1180-1185.
- Conrad Schirokauer, David Lurie, and Suzanne Gay, A Brief History of Japanese Civilization, Wadsworth Cengage (2013), 71.