The scene is set at Sanuki of Awa Province. There are some individuals waiting, with their backs toward the Taira who were out at sea, for the Minamoto to arrive. From a cave of the mountain yonder emerges 14, no 15 cavalrymen. Their numbers increased to 20, followed by their companions. Together, the army, led by the commanding officer known as Minamoto no Yoshitsune, rose to almost 300 soldiers.
“The day is late. We cannot come to a conclusion for this battle.” Yoshitsune remarked. As he and his army were about to fall back, a single exquisitely decorated small ship paddled against the waves. Coming as close as around 140 to 150 meters, it faced the shore sideways.
“What’s that over there?”
This was muttered as they watched emerge from inside the boat a lady who, appearing to be around 18 to 19 years of age, was truly beautiful in appearance. Wearing a light yellow-green¹ 5-layer garment² with crimson red hakama³, she invited the observers’ eyes with her hand towards a fan that was attached to the side of the ship. The fan was a crimson red, with a circle drawn in the center, which faced the shore. Commanding officer Yoshitsune yelled towards Gotō Hyōe Sanemoto.
“What is that supposed to be?” he exclaimed.
“Looks to be an invite to shoot that fan down. However, I believe that there is a scheme in motion where as we attempt to shoot, our arrows will miss the target due to our attention distracted by the beautiful woman. In any event, we have to shoot the fan down.” Sanemoto replied.
“Is there anyone in our company that can shoot the fan down?” Yoshitsune inquired.
“We have numerous skilled archers within our ranks. Among them is Yoichi Munetaka, the son of Nasu Suketaka, resident of Shimotsuke Province. Although small in stature, he excels in his archery skills.”
“What proof do you have?” Yoshitsune remarked.
“When competing with others, such as in shooting down flying birds, he can surely hit 2 out of 3 birds.”
“If that’s the case, bring him forth.” Upon receiving his order, Sanemoto went to retrieve the young archer.
At the time, Yoich is a man around his 20s. Wearing an attire that is a dark blue with red undertones on the front of his collar and the edge of sleeves of his court robe. He wore a majestic light yellowish-green armor, and carried a silver-ornate tachi⁴ at his waist. Visible are the notches that sit high on the eagle-feather fletching arrows Yoichi is carrying, which are the left overs of that used in the battle that day. A signaling arrow, made out of deer antler featuring a wave pattern and fletching made of an eagle’s tail feathers, was also included. Yoichi presented himself humbly before his Commanding Officer as he braced the limb of his rattan bow between his left arm and side of his body, and carried his removed armor by the fastening strings.
“Hey, Munetaka, show the Taira that you can shoot that fan straight through the center over there.” Yoshitsune commanded. Yoichi, with great discipline, replied to the order.
“I cannot guarantee that I can shoot the fan down. If I fail in my shot, possibly I will be permanently shamed before my comrades. I know someone who can fulfill your order and can surely hit the fan.”
Yoshitsune became enraged at the response.
“Those individuals who departed from Kamakura and made their way to this western country must bear the responsibility of receiving my orders. It would be best that anyone who shows even the slightest of opposition leave from this place.”
Weighing his options, Yoichi figured it would be a bad decision to desert his current company.
“I will attempt the shot if this is what you order me to do, although I am uncertain if I will miss the mark or not.” In saying this, he retired from Yoshitsune’s presence. Yoichi made his way towards a black horse that was big and sturdy in stature, carrying with him a small whip. Placing an ascidian-patterned saddle on top of the horse, and rode off on it. Yoichi readjusts his bow, wraps the reins around his hand, and trots his horse into the midst of the crashing waves. His fellow soldiers sees him off as they watch from behind.
“I believe this young man shall truly fulfill this task for us,” Yoshitsune commented as he too watches with a hopeful gaze.
Yoichi rode his horse into the sea around 21 meters, as the shooting distance was too far from the shore. Even then, the distance of the fan appeared to be at a distance around 147 meters.
The time was around 6 pm, evening, of the 28th day of the 2nd month. Yet, at the time the wind from the north was blowing strongly, and the waves that crashed upon the shore were tall. As the boat bobs up and down, the fan also waves around on the pole troublesomely. Out in the sea, members of the Taira gather to one side of their boat as they look on. At the shore, Yoshitsune looks on while straightening the bit of his horse. There is no one, absolutely no one, who would not say this moment is grand.
1) In the original text, the term yanagi (柳) , which means “willow”, is used as a label to indicate the color scheme of the young woman’s upperwear. By stating “yanagi”, the listener can automatically envision the color, which is a light yellowish green.
2) During the Heian period, women of status wore many layers of clothing as a standard. These layers contributed to the color scheme of their outfit.
3) Split skirt-like pants
4) Battlefield sword