The little girl sitting by Miss Nippon (yeah, I know, it doesn’t look like her at all, but all the newspapers said it was really Miss Nippon) is emperor Antoku (安徳天皇).
Emperor Antoku was a little boy who became Emperor when he was two years old. Miss Nippon is supposed to be his mom, Tokuko TAIRA (平徳子) who was the daughter of Kiyomori TAIRA (平清盛). He was the most famous and successful TAIRA clan member. Kiyomori is Emperor Antoku’s grandpa. Go through Kiyomori TAIRA’s Wiki to understand Heike Taisai - I’m too lazy to give the full-blown version here.
But here’s the Cliffs Notes summary:
Back in 1183, the TAIRA clan people (= Heike - 平家 in Japanese) were kicked out of Kyoto by Yoshinaka MINAMOTO (源義仲). And while being kicked out, they sort of kidnapped poor Emperor Antoku, along with the Imperial Regalia of Japan. Emperor Antoku’s grandmom decided to jump into the Danno ura sea, with Antoku naturally, and both drowned. Miss Nippon also tried to die with them but that chickenshit was saved… there’s something in the old legend about her being pulled out by her long hair using a rake. How exciting. Go figure. The Imperial Regalia sunk too, but allegedly, the jewels were recovered, though not the sword. Again – allegedly.
The remaining Heike members kept running away from the MINAMOTO clan (= Genji - 源氏 in Japanese). A remote village called Yunishikawa (湯西川) in Nikko city, where the Heike Taisai festival is celebrated, is considered to be “one” of the places where the Heike people were hiding for a certain period of time. It is said that the grandchild of Kiyomori TAIRA, Tadafusa TAIRA (平忠房), escaped there and his offspring lived there. We are not certain about that but that’s what it’s said.
Heike Taisai just reenacts the escape of the Heike clan to Yunishikawa – currently a district in Nikko city. However, there is no historical reference about Kiyomori TAIRA (played by the mayor of Nikko city), Emperor Antoku (a 3rd grade girl from a local elementary school was chosen to play him), and Tokuko TAIRA (Miss Nippon, Mina Hayashi - 林史乃) getting together and escaping to Yunishikawa… It’s all just a fake parade…
And more photos of Mina Hayashi, Miss Nippon 2010, with all the grace and personality of a bunraku puppet, are here.