born 1118, Japan
died March 21, 1181, Kyōto
Leader of the powerful Taira family and the first member of the warrior class ( samurai ) to rule Japan.
The Taira family had made itself useful to the imperial court quelling pirates on Japan's Inland Sea. In 1156, when the retired emperor Sutoku (see insei ) enlisted the aid of the Minamoto warrior family to help in a rebellion against the reigning emperor Go-Shirakawa, Kiyomori supported Go-Shirakawa and defeated the Minamoto. The Minamoto staged a comeback in 1159–60, but Kiyomori defeated them again, executing all the Minamoto males except the children Minamoto Yoritomo and Minamoto Yoshitsune , who would later overthrow him. Temporarily victorious, Kiyomori received the highest court rank and manipulated the throne by marrying his daughters into the imperial family. The Taira forces took on the effete ways of the aristocrats and were no match for the frontier-hardy Minamoto, who defeated them in 1185. See also Gempei War ; Kamakura period .