A force despatched to Bitchu with the object of arresting the abduction of Antoku and recovering possession of the regalia, had the misfortune to be confronted by Taira no Noritsune, one of the stoutest warriors on the side of the Heike. Ashikaga Yoshikiyo, who commanded the pursuers, was killed, and his men were driven back pele-mele.
Munemori, refusing to listen to the counsels of the more resolute among his officers, applied the torch to the Taira mansions at northern and southern Rokuhara, and, taking with him the Emperor Antoku, then in his sixth year, his Majesty's younger brother, and their mother, together with the regalia the mirror, the sword, and the gem retired westward, followed by the whole remnant of his clan.
When every allowance is made for the incompetence of the Taira commander, Munemori, and for the crippling necessity of securing the safety of the child-sovereign, Antoku, the battle of Yashima still remains one of the most extraordinary military feats on record.
The Taira leaders having carried off the Emperor Antoku, there was no actually reigning sovereign in Kyoto, whither the cloistered Emperor now returned, an imposing guard of honour being furnished by Yoshinaka. Go-Shirakawa therefore resumed the administration of State affairs, Yoshinaka being given the privilege of access to the Presence and entrusted with the duty of guarding the capital.
Antoku had not abdicated. His will had not been consulted at all by the Taira when they carried him off; nor would the will of a child of six have possessed any validity in such a matter.
He had proceeded to the pageant of opening a new bridge over the Sagami River, and it was popularly rumoured that he had fallen from his horse in a swoon caused by the apparition of Yoshitsune and Yukiiye on the Yamato plain and that of the Emperor Antoku at Inamura promontory. Just twenty years had elapsed since he raised the Minamoto standard in Sagami.
One was to fix upon the Minamoto the heinous crime of having done a sovereign to death, so that some avenger might rise in future years; the other was to hide the fact that Antoku was in reality a girl whose sex had been concealed in the interest of the child's maternal grandfather, Kiyomori. Yoshitsune's signal victories were at Ichi-no-tani and at Yashima.
Taken completely by surprise, the Taira weakened, and the Minamoto, pouring in at either flank, completed the rout which had already commenced. Munemori was among the first of the fugitives. He embarked with the Emperor Antoku and the regalia, and steered for Yashima, whither he was quickly followed by the remnants of his force. Shigehira, Kiyomori's fifth son, was taken prisoner.
Nor were the privileges of the temple confined to barren honours, for it was endowed with lands of the value of five thousand kokus of rice yearly. When Iyéyasu died, the shrine called Antoku In was erected in his honour to the south of the main temple.
These things could not fail to engender some discontent, and presently a much graver cause for dissatisfaction presented itself. Fujiwara Kanezane, minister of the Right, memorialized the Court in the sense that, as Antoku had left the capital, another occupant to the throne should be appointed, in spite of the absence of the regalia. No valid reason existed for such a precipitate step.