Hogen Disturbance

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  • Date: 1156
  • Japanese: 保元の乱 (Hougen no ran)

The Hôgen Disturbance or Hôgen Rebellion was a conflict between the Retired Emperor Sutoku and his younger brother, reigning Emperor Go-Shirakawa, for power. Along with the Heiji Disturbance of 1159 and Genpei War of 1180-1185, it represents the beginning of the rise of the samurai class. Though the major action of the Disturbance was only one night attack, it also represented the first fighting in Kyoto proper since the 9th century.

The forces loyal to Sutoku were led by Minamoto no Tameyoshi and his son Minamoto no Tametomo, while those loyal to Go-Shirakawa were led by Taira no Kiyomori, and by one of Tameyoshi's other sons, Minamoto no Yoshitomo. While members of the Minamoto and Taira clans fought on both sides in this conflict, its resolution set up the conditions for the development of a rivalry between the two clans.

The famous Hôgen monogatari war tale (gunkimono), while romanticizing and lionizing in its approach, is the chief source of the narrative of the events of the conflict. According to that text, Emperor Sutoku's forces gathered in the Shirakawa Palace in Kyoto, and discussed their plan of attack against the forces of Go-Shirakawa, who were gathered at the Takamatsu Palace nearby. Though Minamoto no Tametomo suggested that they launch a night attack on the Takamatsu Palace before his brother Yoshitomo did the same to them, Minister of the Left Fujiwara no Yorinaga insisted that this was not a proper way to conduct battle, and that they should wait until both sides had gathered all their warriors and allies, to face off against one another properly. That night, Tametomo's expectations proved correct; unable to launch the attack on the Takamatsu Palace, he instead found himself defending Sutoku's own Shirakawa Palace. Taira no Kiyomori, along with Itô no Go, Itô no Roku, and Itô no Kagetsuna of Furuichi (in Ise province) led a vanguard of fifty horsemen against the palace. Tametomo was initially successful in repelling the attacking force, striking Itô no Roku dead with a single arrow shot and frightening the others into seeking a different approach to the palace; however, in the end, they simply set the palace alight, forcing Tametomo's (Sutoku's) men to flee.

The conflict ended in victory for Go-Shirakawa, while the defeated Emperor Sutoku was exiled to Sanuki province in Shikoku. Kiyomori gained considerable political power in the process, further cementing his power by defeating his former ally Minamoto no Yoshitomo three years later in the Heiji Disturbance.


  • Conrad Schirokauer, David Lurie, and Suzanne Gay, A Brief History of Japanese Civilization, Wadsworth Cengage (2013), 71.
  • William de Bary, Sources of Japanese Tradition, vol 1, Columbia University Press (2001), 272-273.