(Rebellion of Taira Masakado – took place in the eastern provinces of Hitachi, Kosuke, Shimotsuna, and Musashino. Attempt to establish a rival government to the court).
The first point about this book which makes it particularly worthwhile is the fact that it outlines the lordship system and system of land distribution as practiced during the Heian era. What it particularly emphasizes is that in Heian Japan, the transfer of property occurred exclusively within the family concerned, and that familial ties counted for very little. For example, siblings might remain loyal to one another while their father was alive, but upon his death the property would be divided up among the children, with both sons and daughters entitled to their share. Each son would then form his own branch of the family apart from that of his siblings, and would in fact compete with them for posts etc. Thus the ties between brothers (and sisters) were tentative at best, and those between cousins even thinner. Essentially blood relations played a very small role in the political decision making process of most estate owners – their main motivation was what would it do for their own household. Thus the concept of Taira and Minamoto `clans` is mostly a convenient historical tool, for in reality these two entities did not exist – they were a conglomerate of different houses, each with their own agenda.
Another good point brought up by Friday is the removal of the illusion that warfare as practiced in the Heian era was anything but as civilized as the war tales of the time, particularly the Heike Monogatari, might suggest. The classic description of battle at the time states that after a mostly desultory exchange of arrows, each side would have a champion that would ride out, announce his lineage and title, and challenge another on the other side to combat. Each would then duel, with mercy declared for the loser if requested, and care taken for onlookers so that they might not get in harm`s way. The reality, derived from records of the time, paints a completely different picture. The object of battle in the Heian era was to resolve the problem as straight-forwardly as possible, which meant no exchange of lineage and rather more emphasis on the use of arrows. Each side would then attack the other, with scant attention paid to whoever might inadvertently get in the way. The Heian era also saw the introduction of new forms of armor giving the horseback rider much greater movement in the shoulders, and the more widespread use of what became the classic samurai sword, or the tachi (straighter swords were still in use at the time as well). Another point emphasized by Friday is that the use of violence could only occur within a certain context, for ultimately it was the court that could decide if war should be announced or punitive measures taken. The provincial warriors knew this as well, as thus acted within the confines of the law as far as possible, however they did exceed their authority on occasion which could bring retribution from the court. It was his plea to the court that allowed Masakado to be elevated in status after his feuds with his cousins, for without it they would not have recognized the legitimacy of the actions that he took against Taira Yoshitake, Yoshimasa and so forth.
Friday also shows in good detail what constituted the Japanese warhorse. It was mostly a breed derived from Mongolian steppe horses and other Chinese bred horses that had existed in Asia for millennia. These horses were shorter than their Arabian or European cousins, much stockier, hairier, with shorter noses, and much less stamina. A Japanese horse could only carry a mounted warrior at full speed for a very short distance, afterwards it would slow to a trot (about 9 kilometers an hour), compared to a European horse that would travel at 16 kilometers an hour without a rider (and thus slower if carrying a load). Such horses could be exhausted if forced to carry a 50 kilogram rider with 45 kilograms of armor for more than 10 kilometers at a quick pace (which probably brings back the argument about the use of arrows and archers in medieval Japanese armies, armies which, at the most, might consist of 400 men. It would be much easier to stand off at a distance and shoot arrows at an opponent then attempt to ride him down on a horse that couldn`t maintain much pace for very long. Or the samurai could use the horse mainly for transport to the battlefield, although once he dismounted he would effectively be forced to fight on foot for the rest of the conflict, as his horse would wander off – there were no servants attending the samurai in the Heian era).