Sunday, 11 March 2018

Kamakura Period Of Japan

The Kamakura period 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. The period was preceded by Heian Period which lasted from 794 - 1185 CE.


Once Minamoto Yoritomo, the first shōgun (1192–1199) of the Kamakura shogunate, had consolidated his power, he established a new government at his family home in Kamakura. After confiscating estates in central and western Japan, he appointed stewards for the estates and constables for the provinces.  After confiscating estates in central and western Japan, he appointed stewards for the estates and constables for the provinces.

Minamoto Yoritomo

The Kamakura regime continued warfare against the Northern Fujiwara, but never brought either the north or the west under complete military control. However, the 4th 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.

A Zen Temple in Kyoto

Minamoto no Yoriie (1182 – 1204 CE) was the second shōgun (1202–1203) of Japan's Kamakura shogunate, and the first son of first shogun Yoritomo. He was, however, criticized for his abandonment of his father's policies, and his mother forbade him from any involvement political activity. On June 30, 1203  his remaining powers were formally taken from him and assumed by a council of 13 elders, headed by his grandfather Hōjō Tokimasa.

Minamoto no Yoriie

With the protector of the Emperor (shōgun) 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 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.

Jōkyū War

Several significant administrative achievements were made during the Hōjō regency in Kamakura period of Japan. In 1225 the third regent Hōjō Yasutoki established the Council of State, providing opportunities for other military lords to exercise judicial and legislative authority at Kamakura. The Hōjō regent presided over the council, which was a successful form of collective leadership.



After further unsuccessful entreaties in Japan, the first Mongol invasion under Kublai Khan 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. Local Japanese forces at Hakata, on northern Kyūshū, defended against the superior mainland force, which, after one day of fighting was destroyed by the onslaught of a sudden typhoon.

Kublai Khan

In the Mongol invasion of Japan, the Mongol soldiers grouped in close cavalry formations against samurai, who were accustomed to one-on-one combat. 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.

The samurai Suenaga facing Mongol and Korean arrows and bombs

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 reign and gave rise to civil war.

Japanese samurai boarding Mongol ships in 1281

To further weaken the Kyoto court, the shoganate 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.

Emperor Go-Daigo

In 1331 the shogunate exiled Emperor Go-Daigo, but loyalist forces, including Kusunoki Masashige, rebelled. They were aided by Ashikaga Takauji, a constable who turned against 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.

Ashikaga Takauji

In the swell of victory, Emperor 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. 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.

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