Defeated and humiliated, in dejection and despair, dethroned and in hiding, the emperor had a dream.

The dense foliage of a vast evergreen tree sheltered a company of great lords and officials. In their midst was a raised platform of thick mats. It faced south — as the emperor himself did when enthroned. The platform was vacant. For whom had it been prepared? "Sit there awhile," said a child, suddenly appearing. "It was made ready for your sake."

It was year three of the Gentoku Era, 1331 by our calendar. Emperor Go-Daigo, not content to merely reign over Japan, intent on ruling as well, had plotted to overthrow the holders of real power — the bakufu (military government) based in Kamakura in the remote and (by courtly standards) barbaric east country. The plot betrayed and crushed, Go-Daigo fled to a mountain temple, where, in his shattered state, he dreamed his mysterious dream. What could it mean? "Now the supreme highness thought," says the anonymous 14th-century chronicle Taiheiki (translated by Helen Craig McCullough), "'This was a dream conveying a heavenly announcement to Us.'"