The rebellious ones…
Fujiwara Chitsune, Chiharu and Chikata
In part one we covered Fujiwara no Kamatari and how his lineage leads to Fujiwara no Chikata, the legendary infamous rebel General that led a campaign against the imperial court. In this second installment of three (possibly four or five) separate posts, I want to cover the details of how some of the Fujiwara family came to be seen as rebels by the imperial court and why Chikata is considered one of the early ancestral founders of ninjutsu in the Iga region.
To start let’s go back to his lineage chart and remember who the clan says his father was, Fujiwara no Chitsune. Keep in mind we are talking about things that happened just over 1,000 years ago. So, bear with me as much of this is now legend, complete with demons and wizards with superhuman powers.
Chitsune's father, Chikata’s grandfather, was Fujiwara no Hidesato, a "kuge" level imperial court bureaucrat, well known for his courage in many battles and is believed to be the common ancestor of several clans. Hidesato was what I call an "Imperial Tiger" because he fought for the Japanese emperor, Suzaku.
As I mentioned in the previous post, the Fujiwara clan highly respected the military text from mainland China known as the "Rikutō", especially the 4th chapter titled "Secret Teachings of the Tiger". This text along with another, the “Sanryaku”, came to be the basis of the teachings we in the Bujinkan label the Gyokko Ryū.
Gyokko is written with the kanji characters for "Jade" and "Tiger". In old China and Japan, Jade was the symbol of the imperial court, and tigers were often symbolic of warriors. So here we have a potential meaning of "imperial warriors", Gyokko, and the base of their teachings in Japan were contained in a scroll known as the "Tora no Maki". According to Takamatsu Sensei's writings, this was the same martial art that was taught to Minamoto no Yoshitsune at Kurama mountain by the yamabushi and shūgenja that were there under the guidance of Kiichi Hōgen. Takamatsu Sensei also notes that Yoshitsune's leaping skills known as "Hassōtobi" is the same as "hichōjutsu" from the Gyokko Ryū.
Ok, back to Chitsune's father Hidesato... he also fought alongside Taira no Sadamori in 940 CE to suppress the revolt of Taira no Masakado, a provincial magnate (gōzoku) and warrior that lived in eastern Japan. He was most well-known for leading the first ever recorded uprising against the imperial government in Kyōto. As a reward for his service Hidesato was appointed to the position of "Chinjufu-shōgun" or (Defender of the North) and Governor of Shimotsuke Province. So, to say that Chitsune came from a military family would be an understatement.
What I feel is important about Hidesato’s sons, Chitsune and Chiharu, is that they both rebelled in Shinano, the same province as Mt. Togakushi, homeland of the Togakure Ryū of ninjutsu. As a result of this rebellion, known as the Anwa Incident of 969 CE, an incident in which the legitimate branch of the Fujiwara Hokke clan ousted other clans, Chiharu was captured by a warrior of the opposing Seiwa Minamoto clan, Minamoto Mitsugi, and exiled to the small island province of Oki. His whereabouts after that have always been a complete mystery. The island was so remote that during the late Heian period it came to be well known as a place for political exile. Later in 1332 CE, Emperor Go-Daigo was sent into exile on the island but later managed to escape and regain control of the country. Maybe Chiharu managed to escape too. I may even have a clue as to what happened to him...we will talk about that later.
Chitsune, surviving unscathed, in the following New Year (970 CE), was appointed as the shogun of his township and later also served as a lieutenant and governor of Mino province. While Chiharu was caught and exiled Chitsune’s military might was strong enough for him to maintain official positions even after his insurrection.
And now for the interesting part….
Fujiwara no Chikata, the son of Chitsune, or was he?….
According to the “Sonpi Bunmyaku”, a Japanese genealogical text originally written by Tōin Kinsada in the late 14th century, the genealogy of Hidesato, Chitsune, and Chikata is annotated as saying "the actual person (Chikata) is Chitsune's younger brother”, making him the “Chinjufu” or the Shogun of Mutsu Province. So according to this, it seems like it could very well be that Chikata is Chiharu after a potential escape from exile. This would be a very good reason to change your name, raise an army and attack the emperor. And do it in style, as did our good old Chikata of the legends…
Chikata in the Taiheiki
While the most referred to version of the story of Fujiwara no Chikata is found in the Taiheiki, written in the late 1300’s CE, it is obvious that there is an error, and we see somewhere, someone got it wrong. Most researchers have always pointed to our man Chikata, the son (or brother) of Chitsune as being the real person that the legends and stories from the Iga region are based on. This would place Chikata’s birth sometime in the late 900’s CE. But in the Taiheiki, he is placed much further back in time, by a few hundred years to the time of the emperor Tenchi (天智天皇). It could just be that the author did not know when Chikata actually lived and decided to “place” him in history where he thought fit, but there is no way to say for sure.
In another manuscript known as the “Kokinwakashū” written in 905 CE, but completed and edit several times afterwards, the story of Fujiwara no Chikata is also found mentioned along with his four “demons” or “Oni” and again placing him at the time of emperor Tenchi. It is likely that this is the source text for the mention of Chikata in the Taiheiki. So, the next question is, did the author of this text make the mistake of placing Chikata too far back in history? I think it is highly unlikely, because our Fujiwara no Chikata, according to the family’s lineage chart, was not born for about 80 years after the publication of this text.
To me it seems much more likely that Fujiwara no Chikata is a fictional character based on a historical model and the Fujiwara clan and the Iga region legends lay claim to him. This I find likely because there is not a single mention of Fujiwara no Chikata rebelling against the court in any of the imperial archives. If Chikata was historical and did indeed base himself out of Iga to fight against the imperial government with thousands of warriors (and 4 demons) I am sure there would be some evidence of this left behind by the imperial scribes and archivists. It is well known that they were meticulous. Historical or not, the Fujiwara clan and the people of Iga wanted to claim Chikata as their own.
It could even be that he was not Chitsune’s son or brother, but rather born a few generations earlier. Possibly even Fujiwara no Kamatari’s son or grandson, that would place him at the correct time.
So just what do the stories and legends say about this Fujiwara no Chikata and how does that tie in with the Hidden Lineage of the Bujinkan and the origins of ninjutsu in Iga???
Stay tuned for part three…
Sean Askew – 導冬 – Dōtō
September 27, 2021
Visit Sean Askew's website and blog: BKRBudo.com
Shane Sensei is a licensed Shidoshi in the Bujinkan and member of the Shidoshi-Kai. He has trained in the Bujinkan since 1998 and regularly travels to Japan for training.