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Unformatted text preview: erations (after the end of the medi- The Canons of Medieval Taste 109 eval age) came increasingly to feel that Godaigo, for all his ineptitude in
governing during the Restoration, had been wrongfully deprived of his
imperial prerogatives by the Ashikaga. These later generations were also
deeply stirred by the accounts in the Taiheiki of the selfless devotion and
sacrifice of the courtiers and samurai who fought for the ill-fated Southern cause. And in the modern era, the Japanese have revered the more
prominent of these Southern supporters as the finest examples in their
history of unswerving loyalty to the throne. (At the same time, they have
regarded Ashikaga Takauji and his chief lieutenants as the most unpardonable of national traitors.)
Of all the Southern Court heroes—indeed, of all the samurai heroes
in Japanese history—none has been more revered than Kusunoki Masashige (d. 1336), a local warrior of the central provinces, who joined Godaigo’s cause at its beginning and eventually gave his life selflessly for it
in battle. In the modern age until the end of World War II in 1945, Masashige was held up as the supreme model of loyalty to the emperor: schoolchildren, reading about his exploits in their texts, idolized him; and
kamikaze pilots set forth on their suicide missions toward the war’s end
proclaiming themselves modern-day Masashiges.
According to the Taiheiki, Masashige appeared first to Godaigo in a
prophetic dream and, upon being summoned, advised the emperor in
“The eastern barbarians (i.e., the forces of the Hòjò), in their recent rebellion, have drawn the censure of heaven. If we take advantage of their weakness, resulting from the decline and disorder they have caused, what difficulty should we have in inflicting heaven’s punishment upon them? But the
goal of unifying the country must be carried out by means of both military
tactics and carefully devised strategy. Even if we fight them force against force
and although we recruit warriors throughout the more than sixty provinces of
Japan . . . , we will be hard...
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- Spring '13