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Fukuhara, Japan's Continental Capital

Prof. Mikael Adolphson, University of Alberta
Lecture and Workshop
in SOS 250

Early in the sixth month of 1180, Taira no Kiyomori (1118-1181) moved the royal court, including his grandson Antoku Tenno, to his countryside estate in Fukuhara, in present-day Kobe. Conventionally seen as an escape from Kyoto and the powerful monasteries in that area, the move was in fact part of an ambitious plan to build a new capital to conduct trade with the continent. However, despite Kiyomori’s efforts to build new palaces, the monarch and his entourage ended up staying in the mansions of their hosts until monastic resistance and the challenge presented by warrior houses in the east forced the Taira to return to Kyoto less than six months later. The Taira eventually succumbed entirely in 1185, and Fukuhara has become all but forgotten in historical narratives of twelfth-century Japan. By examining the Taira’s activities in the coastal area around Kobe, this talk will present a narrative of the Taira as innovative and progressive actors, in contrast to the standard image of them as incompetent and tragic imitators.