Tale of Heike

Multi Elemental Battle

By Anonymous
From Selections from Tale of Genji & Heike
Translated By Helen Craig McCullough
Japanese, (c. 1010, before 1330), 1994
Ancient Epic 

Main Attractions

Helen Craig McCullough Translator

1. Society Breaking Down
2. A Monk’s Pilgrimage
3. Leisurely Country Life
4. Warriors into Battle
5. Monks & Ladies, too
6. Supernatural Scenes
7.Beautiful, Timeless Philosophy
8. Many Buddhist Themes
9. Peace Amongst War
10. Moments of Sublime Beauty

Cuisine & Delicacies
Ranked as: Dessert Bar
This one is tough to rate because it could be complex with a lot of variety like a Han Jeon Shik.  But it’s atmosphere is breezy like a summer salad.  So I have to go with the variety that a Dessert Bar can provide.  Tale of Heike would be at the delicious ice cream end of the desert bar, with all the toppings to select from.  The footnotes can provide even more variety and lead to a journey into Japan’s rich literary past or the vast collection of Buddhist Scriptures that have been translated into English.  The story of the Heike cast such a calming spell that can be so light and airy to read.  But then the philosophy of it can inspire you to sit up and take notes.

Why Visit Here

This tale was composed in the 13th Century as a historical chronicle that tries to give some ethics for how to live in this age of war & honour.  Originally, it was meant to be told through lute playing bards.  The Buddhist themes slowly crept in as the bards faded out from the way of telling this story.  This brief explanation is a tiny snippet from this fantastic video:

The Genie War and the Tale of the Heike, Japan’s Greatest War Story
By East Asian Studies Centre, Ohio State University
A 17 min. Clip explaining the historical context and brief summary of the epic.

Destination Summary

The Tale of the Heike begins at the end of the Heian Period.  This tale is about the Genpei War that occurred for 5 years, 1180–1185 and is a conflict between two clans: Taira and Minamoto.  The outcome resulted in the downfall of the Taira and the establishment of the Kamakura shogunate under Minamoto no Yoritomo in 1192.

Off the Beaten Path

This exquisite calligrapher recreates the opening lines of Tale of Heike:
"The Tale of Heike" performed by Masako Inkyo

Packing List
✓ Tea & Instrumental Music
✓ Lotus Sutra or other Buddhist Text
✓ Cherry Blossoms Drifting in the Wind

Recommended Resources
Alternate Books
✓ The Mahabharata By Vyasa (c. 400 BCE) - Like the Tale of Heike, this epic is also about the break down of the social order but because of a breakdown in the Dharma or natural order that governs life.  An epic war also breaks out in this epic from India.

Alternate Movies
Heike Monogatari (Full Version) - Duo Ueda-Offermans, Miyoshi, Japan
A 26 min. Traditional Japanese musical adaptation of Tale of Heike

The Tale of Heike, Bio & Historical Context