Kiyomori Taira

Kiyomori Taira (平清盛)was the powerful leader of two major samurai clans in the 12th century. Samurai were originally employed by nobility to keep their manors and people under control. As time passed, samurai took advantage of their positions and expanded their power to gain wealth. Kiyomori's grandfather and father did so and as a result he was quite wealthy. During his youth, he sided with the then emperor, beat his rival clan through a coupe and power struggle, and became the first samurai in a politically high position. His daughter became an empress and had a son, who became an emperor with great support in politics and finance from his grandfather. In those days the country might be said to have been ruled by Kiyomori.


In 1146, Kiyomori was appointed warded for today's western part of Hiroshima Prefecture, serving for ten years. He directed the expansion of Itsukushima Shrine in Miyajima in 1168. The shrine's goddess is a protector of sea traffic and therefore Kiyomori and his clan often visited to pay homage.


As he intended to trade with China by ship, gaining enormous wealth, he needed a shorter, more convenient sea route to Miyajima and China. Cutting open the Ondo Strait was his solution. The strait, located between the southern tip of mainland Kure and Ondo island, is some 90 meters wide with large tidal gaps that connect the island during low tide. Two dams were built on both ends of the strait to stop the tidal flow. The work required a great deal of labor and time. Legend said that when evening drew in, Kiyomori beckoned back the setting sun and the difficult engineering work was completed in July 1165 on a spring tide. In 1170  trade ships from China sailed through the Ondo Strait to Owada no Tomari, today's Kobe harbor (also improved by Kiyomori), and countless ships have been sailing through it since.


Some say cutting open the strait is only a legend, which might have come about because the local people wished to have a close connection with the historic hero. Today a statue of Kiyomori in early formal kimono, hat with folding fan, stands on Takagarasudai near the Ondo no Seto Park, which offers a perfect view of the Seto Inland Sea. The statue, Himanekizo, was erected in 1967 to celebrate the 800th anniversary of his work. Across the strait is"Kiyomorizuka" mound, built in 1184 out of the people's gratitude for Kiyomori's achievement. Today the Kiyomori Festival, where hundreds of local people in gorgeous traditional clothes parade, is held around the mound.


#120 Parkway Vol.21 No.2 April - June 2007






中国との貿易によって膨大な富を得ようとしていた清盛には、宮島と中国への海路を短く便利にする必要があった。音戸の瀬戸の開削が問題の解決策だった。呉本土の南端と音戸の島の間にある海峡は幅90メートルで、干満の差が激しく、干潮時には地続きとなる。潮流を止めるため、海峡の両端に2本のダムが作られた。この作業には多大な労力と時間を要した。伝説に、夕方が近づくと、清盛は沈みかけた太陽を呼び戻し、難工事は1165年7月に無事完成したというのがある。 1170年には中国からの貿易船は、音戸の瀬戸を通り、今日の神戸港、大輪田泊(同じく清盛が改修)へ入港、以来数多くの船が航行する。


海峡開については、歴史的な英雄と密接な関係を築きたいという地元の願望による伝説に過ぎないという人もいる。 音戸の瀬戸公園近くにある瀬戸内海を一望する高烏台には扇を持ち正装の着物に身を包む清盛の銅像が立っている。日招き像は1967年、清盛の功績800年を祝う際に建立された。海峡の反対側には清盛の偉業への感謝の印として作られた「清盛塚」がある。今日、清盛塚周辺では、清盛祭りが行われ、豪華な伝統衣装をまとった地元の人々が練り歩く。