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The Kamakura period (鎌倉時代, Kamakura jidai, 1185–1333) is a period of Japanese history that marks the governance by the Kamakura shogunate, officially established in 1192 in Kamakura by the first shōgun , Minamoto no Yoritomo. The period is known for the emergence of the samurai, the warrior caste, and for the establishment of feudalism in Japan.
During the early Kamakura period, the shogunate continued warfare against the Northern Fujiwara which was only defeated in 1189. Then, the authority to the Kamakura rulers waned in the 1190s and power was transferred to the powerful Hōjō clan in the early 13th century with the head of the clan as regent (Shikken) under the shogun which became a powerless figurehead. The later Kamakura period saw the invasions of the Mongols in 1274 and again in 1281. To reduce the amount of chaos, the Hōjō rulers decided to decentralize power by allowing two imperial lines – Northern and Southern court, to alternate the throne. In the 1330s, the Southern court under Emperor Go-Daigo revolted and eventually led to the Siege of Kamakura in 1333 which ended the rule of the shogunate. With this, the Kamakura period ended. There was a short re-establishment (1333–1336) of imperial rule under Go-Daigo assisted by Ashikaga Takauji and Nitta Yoshisada but would later lead to direct rule under Ashikaga, forming the Ashikaga shogunate in the succeeding Muromachi period.
Several significant administrative achievements were made during the Hōjō regency. These provided the opportunities for other military lords to exercise judicial and legislative authority and the government established a council centered around collective leadership. The period saw the adoption of Japan's first military code of law in 1232. There was an expansion of Buddhist teachings into Old Buddhism (Kyū Bukkyō) and New Buddhism (Shin Bukkyō).
The Kamakura period marked Japan's transition to a land-based economy, and the concentration of advanced military technologies in the hands of a specialized fighting class. Lords required the loyal services of vassals, who were rewarded with fiefs of their own; the fief holders then exercised local military rule. Once Minamoto no Yoritomo had consolidated his power, he established a new government at his family home in Kamakura. He called his government a bakufu (幕府, tent government), but because he was given the ancient high military title Sei-i Taishōgun by Emperor Go-Toba, the government is often referred to in Western literature as the Shogunate. Yoritomo followed the Fujiwara form of house government and had an administrative board (政所, Mandokoro ), a board of retainers (侍所, Samurai-dokoro ), and a board of inquiry (問注所, Monchūjo ). After confiscating estates in central and western Japan, he appointed stewards for the estates and constables for the provinces. As shōgun, Yoritomo was both the steward and the constable general.
The Kamakura shogunate was not a national regime, however, and although it controlled large tracts of land, there was strong resistance to the stewards. The regime continued warfare against the Northern Fujiwara, but never brought either the north or the west under complete military control. However, the fourth leader of the Northern Fujiwara Fujiwara no Yasuhira was defeated by Yoritomo in 1189, and the 100-year-long prosperity of the north disappeared. The old court resided in Kyoto, continuing to hold the land over which it had jurisdiction, while newly organized military families were attracted to Kamakura.
Despite a strong beginning, Yoritomo failed to consolidate the leadership of his family on a lasting basis. Intrafamily contention had long existed within the Minamoto, although Yoritomo had eliminated most serious challengers to his authority. When he died suddenly in 1199, his son Minamoto no Yoriie became shōgun and nominal head of the Minamoto, but Yoriie was unable to control the other eastern warrior families. By the early 13th century, a regency had been established by Hōjō Tokimasa—a member of the Hōjō clan, a branch of the Taira that had allied itself with the Minamoto in 1180. The head of Hōjō was installed as a regent for the shōgun; the regent was termed the Shikken during the period, although later positions were created with similar power such as the Tokusō and the Rensho . Often the Shikken was also the Tokusō and Rensho. Under the Hōjō, the shōgun became a powerless figurehead.
With the protection of the Emperor, a figurehead himself, strains emerged between Kyoto and Kamakura, and in 1221 the Jōkyū War broke out between the cloistered Emperor Go-Toba and the second regent Hōjō Yoshitoki. The Hōjō forces easily won the war, and the imperial court was brought under the direct control of the shogunate. The shōgun's constables gained greater civil powers, and the court was obliged to seek Kamakura's approval for all of its actions. Although deprived of political power, the court retained extensive estates.
Several significant administrative achievements were made during the Hōjō regency. In 1225 the third regent Hōjō Yasutoki established the Council of State, providing opportunities for other military lords to exercise judicial and legislative authority within the Kamakura regime. The Hōjō regent presided over the council, which was a successful form of collective leadership. The adoption of Japan's first military code of law—the Goseibai Shikimoku —in 1232 reflected the profound transition from court to militarized society. While legal practices in Kyoto were still based on 500-year-old Confucian principles, the new code was a highly legalistic document that stressed the duties of stewards and constables, provided means for settling land disputes, and established rules governing inheritances. It was clear and concise, stipulated punishments for violators of its conditions, and parts of it remained in effect for the next 635 years.
As might be expected, the literature of the time reflected the unsettled nature of the period. The Hōjōki describes the turmoil of the period in terms of the Buddhist concepts of impermanence and the vanity of human projects. The Heike Monogatari narrated the rise and fall of the Taira clan, replete with tales of wars and samurai deeds. A second literary mainstream was the continuation of anthologies of poetry in the Shin Kokin Wakashū , of which twenty volumes were produced between 1201 and 1205.
During the Kamakura period six new Buddhist schools (classified by scholars as "New Buddhism" or Shin Bukkyo) were founded:
During this time the pre-existing schools of Tendai, founded by Saichō (767–822), Shingon, founded by Kūkai (774–835), and the great temples of Nara, collectively classified by scholars as "Old Buddhism" or Kyū Bukkyo, continued to thrive, adapt, and exert influence. : 24–25 For example, all of the above six reformers had studied at the Tendai Mt. Hiei at some point in their lives. : 562
Throughout the Kamakura period, older Buddhist sects including Shingon, Tendai, and the Nara temple schools such as Kegon, Hossō, Sanron, and Ritsu continued to thrive and adapt to the trend of the times. : 561–563
At the start of the Kamakura period, the Mount Hiei monasteries had become politically powerful, appealing primarily to those capable of systematic study of the sect's teachings. The Shingon sect and its esoteric ritual continued to enjoy support largely from the noble families in Kyoto. [ citation needed ].However, with the increasing popularity of the new Kamakura schools, the older schools partially eclipsed as the newer "Kamakura" schools found followers among the new Kamakura government, and its samurai.
The times that gave way to the Kamakura period were marked by political and military conflict, natural disasters, and social malaise attributed to the perceived arrival of the Latter Day of the Law. The new social order of a declining aristocracy and ascending military and peasant classes resulted in new forms of religion, both indigenous : 12 and Buddhist while Indian and Chinese influence continued. : 556–557 : 11, 13 Furthermore, the Shōen manor system which had taken root in this era resulted in the increased prosperity and literacy of peasants which in turn provided more financial support for Buddhist teachers and their studies.
The first originators of Kamakura Buddhism schools were Hōnen and Shinran who emphasized belief and practice over formalism. : 546
In the latter part of the 12th-century Dōgen and Eisai traveled to China and upon their return to Japan founded, respectively, the Sōtō and Rinzai schools of Zen. Dōgen rejected affiliations with the secular authorities whereas Eisai actively sought them. : 574 Whereas Eisai thought that Zen teachings would revitalize the Tendai school, Dōgen aimed for an ineffable absolute, a pure Zen teaching that was not tied to beliefs and practices from Tendai or other orthodox schools : 566 and with little guidance for leading people how to live in the secular world. : 556
The final stage of Kamakura Buddhism, occurring some 50 years after Hōnen, was marked by new social and political conditions as the aristocracy declined, the military class asserted new influence, and Buddhist-infused local kami practice among peasants flourished. These changing conditions created a climate that encouraged religious innovation. Nichiren and Ippen attempted at this time to create down-to-earth teachings that were rooted in the daily concerns of people. : 555–556 Nichiren rejected the focus on "next-worldly" salvation such a rebirth in a Pure Land and instead aimed for "this-worldly" personal and national liberation through a simple and accessible practice. : 557 Ippen emphasized a popularized form of nenbutsu recitation with an emphasis on practice rather than concentrating on an individual's underlying mental state. : 559
As time evolved the distinctions between "Old" and "New" Buddhisms blurred as they formed "cultic centers" and various forms of founder worship. The medieval structures of these schools evolved into hierarchical head temple-branch temple structures with associated rituals and forms of worship. This culminated in the state-sanctioned formalized schools of the Tokugawa period. : 36–37
The repulsions of two Mongol invasions were momentous events in Japanese history. Nichiren had predicted these invasions years earlier, in his Rissho Ankoku Ron , a letter to the regency. Japanese relations with China had been terminated in the mid-ninth century after the deterioration of late Tang dynasty in China and the turning inward of the Heian court. Some commercial contacts were maintained with the Southern Song dynasty of China in later centuries, but Japanese pirates made the open seas dangerous. At a time when the shogunate had little interest in foreign affairs and ignored communications from China and the Goryeo kingdom, news arrived in 1268 of a new Mongol regime in Beijing. Its leader, Kublai Khan, demanded that the Japanese pay tribute to the new Yuan dynasty and threatened reprisals if they failed to do so. Unused to such threats, Kyoto raised the diplomatic counter of Japan's divine origin, rejected the Mongol demands, dismissed the Korean messengers, and started defensive preparations.
After further unsuccessful entreaties, the first Mongol invasion took place in 1274. More than 600 ships carried a combined Mongol, Chinese, and Korean force of 23,000 troops armed with catapults, combustible missiles, and bows and arrows. In fighting, these soldiers grouped in close cavalry formations against samurai, who were accustomed to one-on-one combat. Local Japanese forces at Hakata, on northern Kyūshū, defended against the advantageous mainland force, which, after one day of fighting was destroyed by the onslaught of a sudden typhoon. Kublai realized that nature, not military incompetence, had been the cause of his forces' failure so, in 1281, he launched a second invasion. Seven weeks of fighting took place in northwestern Kyūshū before another typhoon struck, again destroying the Mongol fleet, which was mostly composed of hastily acquired, flat-bottomed Chinese ships especially vulnerable to powerful typhoons.
Although Shinto priests attributed the two defeats of the Mongols to a "divine wind" or kamikaze,a sign of heaven's special protection of Japan, the invasion left a deep impression on the shogunate leaders. Long-standing fears of the Chinese threat to Japan were reinforced. The victory also convinced the warriors of the value of the shogunate form of government.
The Mongol war had been a drain on the economy, and new taxes had to be levied to maintain defensive preparations for the future. The invasions also caused disaffection among those who expected recompense for their help in defeating the Mongols. There were no lands or other rewards to be given, however, and such disaffection, combined with overextension and the increasing defense costs, led to a decline of the Kamakura bakufu. Additionally, inheritances had divided family properties, and landowners increasingly had to turn to moneylenders for support. Roving bands of rōnin further threatened the stability of the shogunate.
The Hōjō reacted to the ensuing chaos by trying to place more power among the various great family clans. To further weaken the Kyoto court, the bakufu decided to allow two contending imperial lines—known as the Southern Court or junior line and the Northern Court or senior line—to alternate on the throne. The method worked for several successions until a member of the Southern Court ascended to the throne as Emperor Go-Daigo. Go-Daigo wanted to overthrow the shogunate, and he openly defied Kamakura by naming his own son his heir. In 1331 the shogunate exiled Go-Daigo, but loyalist forces, including Kusunoki Masashige, rebelled. They were aided by Ashikaga Takauji, a constable who turned against the Kamakura when dispatched to put down Go-Daigo's rebellion. At the same time, Nitta Yoshisada, another eastern chieftain, rebelled against the shogunate, which quickly disintegrated, and the Hōjō were defeated.
In the swell of victory, Go-Daigo endeavored to restore imperial authority and tenth-century Confucian practices. This period of reform, known as the Kenmu Restoration, aimed at strengthening the position of the emperor and reasserting the primacy of the court nobles over the warriors' caste. The reality, however, was that the forces who had arisen against Kamakura had been set on defeating the Hōjō, not on supporting the emperor. Ashikaga Takauji finally sided with the Northern Court in a civil war against the Southern Court represented by Go-Daigo. The long War Between the Courts lasted from 1336 to 1392. Early in the conflict, Go-Daigo was driven from Kyoto, and the Northern Court contender was installed by Ashikaga, who established a new line of shoguns.
Shogun, officially Sei-i Taishōgun, was the title of the military dictators of Japan during most of the period spanning from 1185 to 1868. Nominally appointed by the Emperor, shoguns were usually the de facto rulers of the country, though during part of the Kamakura period, shoguns were themselves figureheads. The office of shogun was in practice hereditary, though over the course of the history of Japan several different clans held the position. The title was originally held by military commanders during Heian period in the 8th and 9th centuries. When Minamoto no Yoritomo gained political ascendency over Japan in 1185, the title was revived to regularize his position, making him the first shogun in the usually understood sense.
Kamakura is a city in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan.
The Kamakura shogunate was the feudal military government of Japan during the Kamakura period from 1185 to 1333.
The Ashikaga shogunate, also known as the Muromachi shogunate, was the feudal military government of Japan during the Muromachi period from 1336 to 1573.
Minamoto no Yoritomo was the founder and the first shogun of the Kamakura shogunate of Japan, ruling from 1192 until 1199. He was the husband of Hōjō Masako who acted as regent (shikken) after his death.
Hōjō Masako was a Japanese Buddhist nun and politician who exercised significant power in the early years of the Kamakura period, which was reflected by her contemporary sobriquet of the "nun shogun". She was the eldest daughter of Hōjō Tokimasa and sister of Hōjō Yoshitoki, both of them shikkens of the Kamakura shogunate. She was the wife of Minamoto no Yoritomo, and mother of Minamoto no Yoriie and Minamoto no Sanetomo, the first, second and third shōguns of the Kamakura period.
The Kenmu Restoration was a three-year period of Imperial rule in Japanese history between the Kamakura period and the Muromachi period from 1333 to 1336.
Ashikaga Takauji was the founder and first shōgun of the Ashikaga shogunate. His rule began in 1338, beginning the Muromachi period of Japan, and ended with his death in 1358. He was a male-line descendant of the samurai of the (Minamoto) Seiwa Genji line who had settled in the Ashikaga area of Shimotsuke Province, in present-day Tochigi Prefecture.
The Hōjō clan in the history of Japan was a family who controlled the hereditary title of shikken (regent) of the Kamakura shogunate between 1203 and 1333. Despite the title, in practice the family wielded actual governmental power during this period compared to both the Kamakura shōguns, or the Imperial Court in Kyoto, whose authority was largely symbolic. The Hōjō are known for fostering Zen Buddhism and for leading the successful opposition to the Mongol invasions of Japan. Resentment at Hōjō rule eventually culminated in the overthrow of the clan and the establishment of the Ashikaga shogunate.
The shikken was a titular post held by a member of the Hōjō clan, officially a regent of the shogunate, from 1199 to 1333, during the Kamakura period, and so he was head of the bakufu (shogunate). It was part of the era referred to as Regent Rule.
Myōan Eisai/Yōsai was a Japanese Buddhist priest, credited with founding the Japanese line of the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism. In 1191, he introduced this Zen approach to Japan, following his trip to China from 1187 to 1191, during which he was initiated into the Linji school by the master Hsü an. It is also said that he popularized green tea in Japan, following this same trip. He was also the founding abbot of Japan's first Zen temple Shōfuku-ji and Kennin-ji. He is often known simply as Eisai/Yōsai Zenji (栄西禅師), literally "Zen master Eisai".
Ashikaga Tadayoshi was a general of the Northern and Southern Courts period (1337–92) of Japanese history and a close associate of his elder brother Takauji, the first Muromachi shōgun. Son of Ashikaga Sadauji and Uesugi Kiyoko, daughter of Uesugi Yorishige, the same mother as Takauji, he was a pivotal figure of the chaotic transition period between the Kamakura and Muromachi shogunates. Tadayoshi is today considered a military and administrative genius and the true architect of many of his elder brother's successes. In contemporary chronicles he is rarely called with his name, but is instead called either gosho (御所) or Daikyū-ji-dono (大休寺殿) from the name of his family temple. His posthumous name was Kozan Egen (古山慧源).
Hōjō Yoshitoki was the second Hōjō shikken (regent) of the Kamakura shogunate and head of the Hōjō clan. He was the second son of Hōjō Tokimasa. He was shikken from the abdication of his father Tokimasa in 1205 until his death in 1224.
Hōjō Tokimasa was the first Hōjō shikken (regent) of the Kamakura shogunate and head of the Hōjō clan. He was shikken from 1203 until his abdication in 1205.
This is the glossary of Japanese history including the major terms, titles and events the casual reader might find useful in understanding articles on the subject.
Musō Soseki was a Rinzai Zen Buddhist monk and teacher, and a calligraphist, poet and garden designer. The most famous monk of his time, he is also known as Musō Kokushi (夢窓国師), an honorific conferred on him by Emperor Go-Daigo. His mother was the daughter of Hōjō Masamura (1264-1268), seventh Shikken (regent) of the Kamakura shogunate.
The Genkō War, also known as the Genkō Incident, was a civil war fought in Japan between the Emperor Go-Daigo and the Kamakura Shogunate from 1331 to 1333. The Genkō War was named after Genkō, the Japanese era corresponding to the period of 1331 to 1334 when the war occurred.
The Saionji family was a Japanese kuge family related to the Northern Fujiwara branch of the Fujiwara clan and the Imadegawa clan.
Matsuda clan is a Japanese family tracing its origins to Bizen Province, and heirs of Fujiwara no Hidesato.
The Hiki clan was a Japanese samurai family descending from the Fujiwara clan. As close retainers of shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo, they served the Kamakura shogunate during the early Kamakura period, wielding considerable power. However, after they came into conflict with the Hōjō clan, the clan was ultimately destroyed.