Heike Festival and Tsurutomi-hime of Miyazaki

Trurutomihime & Hietsuki

Tsurutomi-hime and hietsuki (pounding millet)

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The doll pictured above is Tsurutomi-hime, a Heike lady of Miyazaki, on the southern island of Kyushu. Recall the Heike-Genji war of the 12th century. The decisive sea battle of Dannoura took place in 1185, in the waters of the Shimonoseki Strait. This site lies between Shimonoseki of Yamaguchi-ken on the island of Honshu and Kitakyushu of Fukuoka-ken on the island of Kyushu.

The Heike lost and fled for their lives. Some Heike went to Iwate and Miyagi. Others went south to the remote reaches of Kyushu.

Tsurutomi-hime was the daughter of a leader of the Heike who found refuge in the deep mountains of Miyazaki. Their life was hard, they could grow no rice, and so they pounded hie which is Japanese millet.

A Genji warrior, Nasu Daihachiro, was sent to search for the refugee Heike. He found a group of Heike living a wretched life in a place called Shiiba. Instead of destroying them, he fell in love with Tsurutomi, and he lived happily with her in Shiiba. However after three years, Nasu was ordered to return to Honshu by Shogun Yoritomo. He left behind a daughter with Tsurutomi.

Today in Shiiba, there are descendants of the Genji warrior Nasu Daihachiro with the family name Nasu. A Heike festival is held there every November. This love story is recreated and sung in the Hietsuki-bushi. Shiiba is a tiny village of about four thousand residents, but people come from far and wide to participate in the festival and remember the love between a Genji man and a Heike woman over 800 years ago.

 

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