Japanese History – Part 4, 1185AD to 1333

Japanese History – Part 4, 1185AD to 1333

Between 1192 to 1333 – Kamakura Period

Minamoto no Yoritomo, having become shogun and ruling from Kamakura, began a period of shogunate rule that lasted until the Meiji Restoration in the second half of the 19th century. Despite this great achievement Yoritomo ruled only until 1199 when he died suddenly. His son, Minamoto no Yoriie, who was 17 when he died, became the shogun at age in 1202 but was not as strong as Yoritomo. Soon thereafter and all the way to the end of the Kamakura period Yoritomo’s wife’s family, the Hojo, took control through the office of shikken (執権) a special regent for the Shogun. Their power was greater than the shogun himself throughout the period.

Tairano Kiyomori (the head of the Taira clan at the end of the Heian period) having introduce money started a shift to a land based economy having military rule with a hierarchy of fiefdoms. The shift solidified with separate groups in the north and the west that were not willing to follow the shogun. However, within the central region commerce flourished and the Sake brewed at the Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines became widely available.

As the first shikken of Kamakura, Hōjō Tokimasa, took over complete controlled of the shogunate. Yoriie, just 2 years after becoming shogun is thought to have been assansinated by Tokimasa. Minamoto no Sanetomo, Yoriie brother and Yoritomo’s second son was then made shogun. However, Tokimasa was losing the trust of those around him. Seeing this and that he would not be able to continue to rule he retire to a monastery. His second son, Hōjō Yoshitoki, became the second skikken in 1205.

In 1221, Go Toba, the retired emperor, decided the lines of succession without consulting the shogunate. Recall that the emperors had been completely subjugated by Yoritomo in 1185 and placed under the control of the Kamakura shoganate. In order to determine who he could trust, Go Toba invited a great many key Kyoto samurai to a great festival. A key samurai revealed his loyalty to the shogun and was killed for it; soon after the Imperial Court declared Hoji Yoshitoki, the second skikken, to be an outlaw. Yoshitoki mounted an offence on Go Toba using the same strategy as Yoritomo did in 1180. His forces won, putting down the Jōkyū Disturbance.

After the jokyu disturbance, legal disputes over land increased so the third skikken, Hōjō Yasutoki, compiled a code of law in 1232 called the Goseibai Shikimoku (御成敗式目). The Goseibai Shikimoku, also known as Joei Shikimoku  (貞永式目), is a military code of law much more direct and clear than the imperial code which is based on Confucianism.

In 1252, a severe drought hit and the shogunate decreed that there should be no more trafficking in sake and that all but one sake pot per house should be smashed. The official number of pots counted was 37,274.

Near the end of the kamakura period Japan faced two Mongol invasions that where both thwarted by weather. The first invasion took place in 1274 with 600 ships and 23,000 troops. Despite having a superior force the Mongols were turned back by a typhoon. In 1281 the Mongols made a second attempt and after seven weeks where again the victim of a typhoon that ended their bid. While both losses were caused by weather, many took it as a sign of the superior fighting capability that would last into the 20th century.

However, the war strained the economy and many could not be compensated for their efforts. Roving bans increased and the shogunate needed to find new ways to strengthen their control. To weaken the imperial court they determined that the emperors would be taken in an alternating manor from the south clan then the north. This seemed to be working until emperor Go Daigo took the thrown in 1318.

Go Daigo wanted to return the power and authority of the imperial thrown and over through the shogunate. He declared his son as his successor which would break the north, south succession pattern. In 1331 the shogunate decreed that Go Daigo must be exiled. However, forces loyal to Go Daigo combined with others, including Ashikaga Takauji, who turned on the Hojo clan and the shogunate was defeated in 1333. 900 people, the entire Hojo clan killed themselves when Nitta Yoshisada took Kamakura.  Go Daigo began working on the Kemmu restoration to make the imperial court supreme over the warrior class. Takauji, however, sided with the northern court verses the southern court which was represented by Go Daigo. Ashikaga established a new line of shoguns and installed a new emperor from the northern court. This is the dawn of the Muromachi period.

Between 1192 to 1333 – Muromachi Period

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