20 January, 2012

What's Taira no Kiyomori?

 Many Japanese people look forward to watching Taiga dramas (or “big river” drama), which are broadcasted by NHK. These annual dramas centre on historical figures who from a critical juncture of Japan’s history and often have a great influence on tourism to towns related to the characters or settings of the dramas themselves. It is very similar to the way many people visit Rome to travel to the settings of the movie “Roman Holiday.” The 2012 drama is about Taira no Kiyomori. He is closely connected with Hyogo-Kobe, a fact that stimulates local tourism greatly. So, who is he?

Who is Taira no Kiyomori?

 Taira-no-Kiyomori was a samurai warrior in medieval Japan (approximately 900 years ago). He was the first samurai in history to take a political place among Japan’s nobility, thereby establishing a samurai-dominated administrative government in Japan. He is often described as a villain or an anti-hero in a famous piece of Japanese classical literature, “the Tale of Heike.” After Kiyomori and his clan won a deadly battle against another samurai clan, all of Japan came under his rule and his family and the members of his clan kept all the important posts in the government to themselves. They placed too much confidence and pride in their own power and ability, and as time went by, they fell down from their proud existence of glory and elegance. However, Kiyomori was also an innovative harbour and urban planner with a good sense of economy and internationality. Kiyomori’s clan improved the old port in Kobe (“Owada-no-Tomari”) and its surrounding area as one of their bases. He dedicated his life to enriching the country by international trade; he prepared and improved the trade infrastructure of the old port and laid the foundations of full-scale international trade, including construction of an artificial island. He established a trade relationship with the Sung dynasty of China and put imported Chinese coins into public circulation, bringing about a money economy in Japan. He relocated the capital from Kyoto to Fukuhara, present-day Hyogo Ward in Kobe. Nonetheless, the new capital stayed just for less than half a year before being returned to Kyoto again due to various reasons.
 The frustration with the dictatorship of the Taira clan was growing among the nobility, temples, shrines and other samurai clans. Kiyomori died of a fever while his inveterate enemy, the Genji clan, rose up in arms supported by an anti-Taira clan movement. His ashes were buried in a temple in Kobe. Thus, Kobe has been closely connected to Kiyomori, and many sites in Hyogo Prefecture keep historical treasures left by Kiyomori and his clan.

The Great Buddha of Hyogo sitting at the temple where Kiyomori became a priest

 People pay a lot of attention to any city or town which provides the setting for any NHK Taiga drama. These locations come to be the central attractions of tourism in the area. Hyogo will take this opportunity to promote places of interest related to Taira-no-Kiyomori.

 Our next blog will introduce a new exhibition pavilion in Kobe which is connected to the NHK drama "Taira no Kiyomori." Don’t Miss it!

Useful links:

Hyogo Tourism Guide
http://www.hyogo-tourism.jp/english/column/2009_04_tid.html (English)
http://www.hyogo-tourism.jp/english/hyogotsu/index.html (English)

Taira no Kiyomori
http://www.hyogo-tourism.jp/aitaihyogo_2011/ (Japanese only) .
http://www.kiyomori-genpei.jp/ (Japanese only) 
http://feel-kobe.jp/genpei/nagare04.html (Japanese only)

KOBE de Kiyomori
http://kobe-de-kiyomori.jp/ (Japanese only)

NHK Official Drama page
http://www9.nhk.or.jp/kiyomori/ (Japanese only

Yoko (Hyogo Tourism Association)