2015-08-06

Heike legends

- BACK to the Daruma Museum -
. Japanese legends and tales 伝説 民話 昔話 - Introduction .
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Heike densetsu 平家伝説 legends about the Heike clan

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The Tale of the Heike (平家物語 Heike Monogatari)
is an epic account compiled long prior 1330 of the struggle between the Taira and Minamoto clans for control of Japan at the end of the 12th century in the Genpei War (1180-1185). Heike (平家) refers to the Taira (平) clan; "hei" being an alternate reading of the first kanji (character) of Taira.
Note that in the title of the Genpei War, "hei" is in this combination read as "pei" and the "gen" (源) is the first kanji used in the Minamoto (also known as Genji) clan's name.
- - - More in the WIKIPEDIA !


. Itsukushima Shrine (Itsukushima Jinja 厳島神社) .
Miyajima 宮島 - Hiroshima
It was renovated to its present splendor by Taira no Kiyomori 平清盛 in 1168.

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. Taira clan 平 The Rise of the Taira .

. Taira no Atsumori 平敦盛 (1169 - 1184) .

. Taira no Kiyomori 平清盛 (1118 - 1181) .
- 10 legends to explore -

. Taira no Masakado 平将門 (? – 940) .
- 18 legends to explore -

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. Heike Ochudo densetsu 平家落人伝説 legends about the Heike Ochudo .

Ochudo, the defeated soldiers of the Heike
They are said to live in many parts of Japan, often in remote rural mountain regions.

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. Fireflies, firefly (hotaru) - Introduction .



Heike-botaru, heikebotaru 平家蛍 - Luciola lateralis (right)
Genji-botaru, genjibotaru 源氏蛍 - Luciola cruciata

To understand the deep appreciation of the Japanese for fireflies, you need to know a bit about Japanese history and the conflict between the clans of the Heike and the Genji around 1180, which ended in the fall of the Heike clan.

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. Crabs (kani 蟹) - Introduction .

Heikegani 平家蟹 Heike crabs, Heikea japonicum



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Heikegani (平家蟹, ヘイケガニ) (Heikeopsis japonica)
is a species of crab native to Japan, with a shell that bears a pattern resembling a human face which many believed to be the face of an angry samurai hence the nickname Samurai Crab. It is locally believed that these crabs are reincarnations of the spirits of the Heike warriors defeated at the Battle of Dan-no-ura
as told in The Tale of the Heike.
- - - More in the WIKIPEDIA !


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The legend of Heikegani: the Samurai ghost crabs
Heikegani is a species of crab native to Japan, with a shell that bears a pattern resembling a human face. According to Japanese folklore, the Heikegani crabs contain the souls of the Heike samurai warriors who were slain at the Battle of Dan-no-ura in 1185 AD, a war over the Japanese imperial throne. The story goes that the Heike samurai, reincarnated into the Heikegani (Heikeposis japonica) crab, were showing their allegiance to their clan by donning a fierce mask on their shells.



The battle of Dan-no-ura (Dannoura), immortalized in the Heike Monogatari (the Tale of Heike,) was a pivotal moment in Japan’s history, which established the first shogunate (military dictatorship) and resulted in the death of a child emperor.
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Carl Sagan’s Theory of Artificial Selection
During an episode of the PBS science show, ‘Cosmos: A Personal Voyage’, Carl Sagon expounded on a theory put forward by Julian Huxley in 1952, to explain the strange face-like characteristics of the Heikegani crab shell. Huxley theorized that the crab’s samurai faces are the result of artificial selection. He proposed the fishermen fishing Japan’s waters would throw back any crabs whose shells looked like a samurai’s face out of respect for the fallen heike. This preserved the DNA of the heikegani with samurai-like faces while thinning the genetic lines of those without.
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- source : ancient-origins.net/myths-legends -


送り火やどちへも向かぬ平家蟹
okuribi ya dochi e mo mukanu heike-gani

bonfires for the dead --
in every direction
Heike crabs


Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶
Tr. David Lanoue


月の夜やなすこともなき平家蟹
井上井月

鈴となつても怨霊の貌平家蟹
下村ひろし

長恨の丹のいろうすれ平家蟹
中原道夫

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. Akama Jingu 赤間神宮 Akama Shrine .
Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi
In honor of the young Emperor Antoku (安徳天皇 Antoku-tennō) (1178 – 1185, died at age 16)

- - - - - In Shimonoseki crabs are also called
onigani 鬼蟹 demon crabs
kimengani 鬼面蟹 crabs with demon faces

kamo 鳧 duck - gan 雁 geese - Heikegani 平家蟹
At the Kameyama Hachimangu in Yamaguchi, during the festival on March 14, 15 where live animals are let free as offerings, farmers oberved that about three or four days before and after the festival there were no ducks and geese flying and at Akama more Heikegani than usual would come up.

In some villages the back shell of a crab 蟹の甲羅, which looks like a human face, is hung at the entrance of the home to ward off evil influence and disaster.


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Kagawa 香川県, Takamatsu, Yashima 屋島

Heike no boorei 平家の亡霊 the souls of the dead Heike

The poet Iwata Ryoto 岩田凉菟 (1659 - 1717) lived in Yashima, famous for the fight of the Genpei. When he saw his first Heikegani crabs, he wrote the following haiku about the namako (sea cucumber) and the Heikegani:
(There are various versions given in Japanese sources.)

なまじひに海鼠にもならで平家蟹 / なまじかに海鼠にならで平家蟹

But at night he could not sleep and thought he was cursed by the Heike for it.
So he re-wrote his poem:

海鼠ともならでさすがに平家なり / なまことも ならでさすがに平家なり
海鼠にもならで流石は平家也 / / 海鼠ともならで果てけり平家蟹

After this, the curse was taken away from him.
Ryoto was a student of Matsuo Basho. He was a Shinto priest, living in Ise Yamada.


and Haiku poet

Ryooshoo 蓼松 Ryosho (1762-1832)
dreams about being a sea slug harassed by hundreds of crabs:

水底に平家滅びて海鼠かな

on the seabed
the heike dying out
sea slugs


- Tr. Robin D. Gill -

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In other parts of Japan these strange-looking crabs have different names and legends to go:

- - - - - In Settsu 摂州 (now part of Osaka and Hyogo)

. Takebungani 武文蟹 Takebun crabs .
onigani 鬼蟹 demon crabs // kimengani 鬼面蟹 crabs with demon faces

(attributed to 秦武文 Hata no Takebun, who was killed in Hyogo Bay 兵庫湊.
also called Shimamuragani 島村蟹 - named after 島村武文 Shimamura Takebun


- Hata no Takebun - Photos -


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- - - - - In Aichi 愛知県

Osadagani 長田蟹, Osadagai 長田貝 Osada shells
They wash up at the shores of Mihama in Aichi - also at the shores of Kaga 加賀国 and Etchu 越中国 provinces.

They are attributed to 長田父子 father and son Osada, who where killed in Mihama by 源頼朝 Minamoto no Yoritomo. Not only the crabs, but also the shells have taken over the curse of the killed.

. Osada Tadamune 長田忠致 (? - ?1190) .
and the death of Minamoto no Yoshitomo at 野間大坊 Noma Daibo


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- - - - - ABC List of the prefectures :

.................................................................. Kagawa 香川県 ....................................................................
Takamatsu, 東植田町 Higashiueta

Heike no ochuudo 平家の落人 Ochudo, the defeated soldiers of the Heike

. Heike Ochudo densetsu 平家落人伝説 legends about Heike Ochudo .


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yokai database 妖怪データベース - reference
- source : Nichibun Yokai Database -
Heike 平家 63 entries (02)
Taira no Kiyomori 平清盛 10 entries
Heikegani (crabs) 平家蟹 12 to explore

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. minwa 民話 folktales / densetsu 伝説 Japanese Legends .
- Introduction -

- Yookai 妖怪 Yokai Monsters of Japan -
- Introduction -

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. Join the friends on Facebook ! .

- #heikelegends #heikeclan #heikemonogatari -
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