Kamakura shogunate

The Kamakura shogunate (Japanese: 鎌倉幕府, Kamakura bakufu) was a Japanese feudal military government[1] of imperial-aristocratic rule[2] that ruled from 1185 to 1333. The heads of the government were the shōguns.[3] The first three were members of the Minamoto clan.[4] The next two were members of the Fujiwara clan.[5] The last six were minor Imperial princes.[1]

Kamakura Shogunate

Kamakura bakufu
(Emperor's palace) Kamakura, Sagami Province
(Shōgun's residence)
Common languagesLate Middle Japanese
GovernmentFeudal militarism
Minamoto no Yoritomo
Prince Morikuni
Hōjō Tokimasa
Hōjō Moritoki
 Minamoto no Yoritomo appointed shogun
July 12 1185
April 25, 1185
 Hōjō regency established
February 9, 1199
May 18 1333
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Heian period
Kenmu Restoration

These years are known as the Kamakura period. The period takes its name from the city where the Minamoto shōguns lived.[1]

After 1203, the Hōjō clan held the office of shikken.[6] In effect, the shikken governed in the name of the shōguns.[7]



Before the establishment of the Kamakura shogunate, civil power in Japan was primarily held by the ruling emperors and their regents, typically appointed from the ranks of the imperial court and the aristocratic clans that vied there. Military affairs were handled under the auspices of the civil government. However, after defeating the Taira clan in the Genpei War, Minamoto no Yoritomo seized powers from the aristocracy. In 1192, Yoritomo and the Minamoto clan established a military government in Kamakura.[1]

The Hōjō Regency

After Yoritomo's death, Hōjō Tokimasa, the clan chief of Yoritomo's widow, Hōjō Masako, and former guardian of Yoritomo, claimed the title of regent (shikken) to Yoritomo's son Minamoto no Yoriie, eventually making that claim hereditary to the Hōjō clan. Eventually, Tokimasa deposed Yoriie, backed up his younger brother, Minamoto no Sanetomo, as a new shōgun, and assumed the post of shikken. The Minamoto clan remained the titular shōguns, with the Hōjō holding the real power. In 1219, Sanetomo was assassinated by his nephew Kugyō. Since Sanetomo died childless, the line of shōguns from the Minamoto clan ended with him.

With the Regency, what was already an unusual situation became even more anomalous when the Hōjō usurped power from those who had usurped it from the Emperor, descending from Emperor Kōkō, who usurped it from the children of Emperor Seiwa. The new regime nonetheless proved to be stable enough to last a total of 135 years, 9 shōguns and 16 regents.[8]

With Sanetomo's death in 1219, his mother Hōjō Masako became the shogunate's real center of power.[8] As long as she lived, regents and shōguns would come and go, while she stayed at the helm. Since the Hōjō family did not have the rank to nominate a shōgun from among its members, Masako had to find a convenient puppet.[9] The problem was solved choosing Kujo Yoritsune, a distant relation of the Minamoto, who would be the fourth shōgun and figurehead, while Hōjō Yoshitoki would take care of day-to-day business.[9] However powerless, future shōguns would always be chosen from either Fujiwara or imperial lineage to keep the bloodline pure[9] and give legitimacy to the rule. This succession proceeded for more than a century.[9]

In 1221 Emperor Go-Toba tried to regain power in what would be called the Jōkyū War (承久の乱, Jōkyū no Ran), but the attempt failed.[10] The power of the Hōjō remained unchallenged until 1324, when Emperor Go-Daigo orchestrated a plot to overthrow them, but the plot was discovered almost immediately and foiled.[8]

Mongol invasions

The Mongols under Kublai Khan attempted sea-borne invasions in 1274 and 1281.[11] Fifty years before, the shogunate had agreed to Korean demands that the Wokou be dealt with to stop their raids, and this bit of good diplomacy had created a cooperative relationship between the two states, such that the Koreans, helpless with a Mongol occupation army garrisoning their country, had sent much intelligence information to Japan, so that along with messages from Japanese spies in the Korean peninsula, the shogunate had a good picture of the situation of the pending Mongol invasion.[12] The shogunate had rejected Kublai's demands to submit with contempt. The Mongol landings of 1274 met with some success, however there was no rout of the Japanese defenders, who in any case greatly outnumbered the 40,000 combined invasion force of Mongols and Korean conscripts. Noting an impending storm, the Korean admirals advised the Mongols to re-embark so that the fleet could be protected away from shore; however, the typhoon was so destructive that one-third of the Mongol force was destroyed.[13]

After the surviving forces returned to Mongol territory, Kublai was not dissuaded from his intentions on bringing Japan under Mongol control, and once again sent a message demanding submission, which infuriated the Hōjō leadership, who had the messengers executed. They responded with decisive action for defense—a wall was built to protect the hinterland of Hakata Bay, defensive posts were established, garrison lists were drawn up, regular manning of the home provinces was redirected to the western defenses, and ships were constructed to harass the invaders' fleet when they appeared.

The Mongols returned in 1281 with a force of some 50,000 Mongol-Korean-Chinese along with some 100,000 conscripts from the defeated Song empire in south China. This force embarked and fought the Japanese for some seven weeks at several locations in Kyushu, but the defenders held, and the Mongols made no strategic headway. Again, a typhoon approached, and the Koreans and Chinese re-embarked the combined Mongol invasion forces in an attempt to deal with the storm in the open sea. At least one-third of the Mongol force was destroyed, and perhaps half of the conscripted Song forces to the south over a two-day period of August 15–16. Thousands of invading troops were not able to embark in time and were slaughtered by the samurai. Such losses in men, material, and the exhaustion of the Korean state in provisioning the two invasions put an end to the Mongol's attempts to conquer Japan.[14] The "divine wind," or kamikaze, was credited for saving Japan from foreign invasion.

For two further decades the Kamakura shogunate maintained a watch in case the Mongols attempted another invasion. However, the strain on the military and the financial expenditures weakened the regime considerably. Additionally, the defensive war left no gains to distribute to the warriors who had fought it, leading to discontent. Construction of defensive walls added further expenses to the strained regime.[15]

Decline and fall

In 1331 Emperor Go-Daigo took arms against Kamakura, but was defeated by Kamakura's Ashikaga Takauji and exiled to Oki Island, in today's Shimane Prefecture.[10] A warlord then went to the exiled emperor's rescue, and in response the Hōjō sent forces again commanded by Takauji to attack Kyoto.[10] Once there, however, Takauji decided to switch sides and support Daigo.[10] At the same time another warlord loyal to the emperor, Nitta Yoshisada, attacked Kamakura and took it.[8] About 870 Hōjō samurai, including the last three Regents, committed suicide at their family temple, Tōshō-ji, whose ruins were found in today's Ōmachi.[8]

In 1336, Ashikaga Takauji assumed the position of shōgun himself, establishing the Ashikaga shogunate.


The Kamakura shogunate functioned within the framework of the Heian system of Imperial rule.[16]

Yoritomo established a chancellery, or mandokoro, as his principal organ of government. Later, under the Hōjō, a separate institution, the hyōjōshū became the focus of government.

The shogunate appointed new military governors (shugo) over the provinces. These were selected mostly from powerful families in the different provinces, or the title was bestowed upon a general and his family after a successful campaign. Although they managed their own affairs, in theory they were still obliged to the central government through their allegiance to the shōgun. The military governors paralleled the existing system of governors and vice-governors (kokushi) appointed by the civil government in Kyoto.

Kamakura also appointed stewards, or jitō, to positions in the manors (shōen). These stewards received revenues from the manors in return for their military service. They served along with the holders of similar office, gesu, who delivered dues from the manor to the proprietor in Kyoto. Thus the dual governmental system reached to the manor level.

List of Kamakura shōguns

  1. Minamoto no Yoritomo, r. 1192–1199[17]
  2. Minamoto no Yoriie, r. 1202–1203[18]
  3. Minamoto no Sanetomo, r. 1203–1219[19]
  4. Fujiwara no Yoritsune, r. 1226–1244[20]
  5. Fujiwara no Yoritsugu, r. 1244–1252[21]
  6. Prince Munetaka, r. 1252–1266[22]
  7. Prince Koreyasu, r. 1266–1289[23]
  8. Prince Hisaaki, r. 1289–1308[24]
  9. Prince Morikuni, r. 1308–1333[25]

List of Kamakura shikken

  1. Hōjō Tokimasa, r. 1203–1205[26]
  2. Hōjō Yoshitoki, r. 1205–1224[27]
  3. Hōjō Yasutoki, r. 1224–1242[28]
  4. Hōjō Tsunetoki, r. 1242–1246[29]
  5. Hōjō Tokiyori, r. 1246–1256[30]
  6. Hōjō Tokimune, r. 1268–1284[31]
  7. Hōjō Sadatoki, r. 1284–1301[32]
  8. Hōjō Morotoki, r. 1301–1311[33]
  9. Hōjō Takatoki, r. 1316–1326[34]


Patrilineal descent

  • Emperor Ninmyō, 54th Emperor (808–850; r. 833–850)
    • Emperor Montoku, 55th Emperor (826–858; r. 850–858)
      • Emperor Seiwa, 56th Emperor (850–878; r. 858–876)
        • Imperial Prince Sadasumi (873–916)
          • Minamoto no Tsunemoto (894–961)
            • Minamoto no Mitsunaka (912–997)
              • Minamoto no Yorinobu (968–1048)
                • Minamoto no Yoriyoshi (988–1075)
                  • Minamoto no Yoshiie (1039–1106)
                    • Minamoto no Yoshichika (d. 1108)
                      • Minamoto no Tameyoshi (1096–1156)
                        • Minamoto no Yoshitomo (1123–1160)
                          • I. Minamoto no Yoritomo, 1st Kamakura shōgun (1147–1199; r. 1192–1199)
                            • II. Minamoto no Yoriie, 2nd Kamakura shōgun (1182–1204; r. 1202–1203)
                            • III. Minamoto no Sanetomo, 3rd Kamakura shōgun (1192–1219; r. 1203–1219)
                    • Minamoto no Yoshikuni (1091–1155)
                      • Minamoto (Ashikaga) no Yoshiyasu (1127–1157)
                        • Ashikaga Yoshikane (c. 1154–1199)
                          • Ashikaga Yoshiuji (1189–1255)
                            • Ashikaga Yasuuji (1216–1270)
    • Emperor Kōkō, 58th Emperor (830–887; r. 884–887)
      • Emperor Uda, 59th Emperor (867–931; r. 887–897)
        • Emperor Daigo, 60th Emperor (884–930; r. 897–930)
          • Emperor Murakami, 62nd Emperor (926–967; r. 946–967)
            • Emperor En'yū, 64th Emperor (959–991; r. 969–984)
              • Emperor Ichijō, 66th Emperor (980–1011; r. 986–1011)
                • Emperor Go-Suzaku, 69th Emperor (1009–1045; r. 1036–1045)
                  • Emperor Go-Sanjō, 71st Emperor (1034–1073; r. 1068–1073)
                    • Emperor Shirakawa, 72nd Emperor (1053–1129; r. 1073–1087)
                      • Emperor Horikawa, 73rd Emperor (1078–1107; r. 1087–1107)
                        • Emperor Toba, 74th Emperor (1103–1156; r. 1107–1123)
                          • Emperor Go-Shirakawa, 77th Emperor (1127–1192; r. 1155–1158)
                            • Emperor Takakura, 80th Emperor (1161–1181; r. 1168–1180)
                              • Emperor Go-Toba, 82nd Emperor (1180–1239; r. 1183–1198)
                                • Emperor Tsuchimikado, 83rd Emperor (1196–1231; r. 1198–1210)
                                  • Emperor Go-Saga, 88th Emperor (1220–1272; r. 1242–1246)
                                    • VI. Imperial Prince Munetaka, 6th Kamakura shōgun (1242–1274; r. 1252–1266)
                                      • VII. Imperial Prince Koreyasu, 7th Kamakura shōgun (1264–1326; r. 1266–1289)
                                    • Emperor Go-Fukakusa, 89th Emperor (1243–1304; r. 1246–1260)
                                      • VIII. Imperial Prince Hisaaki, 8th Kamakura shōgun (1276–1328; r. 1289–1308)
                                        • IX. Imperial Prince Morikuni, 9th Kamakura shōgun (1301–1333; r. 1308–1333)
                                    • Emperor Kameyama, 90th Emperor (1249–1305; r. 1259–1274)
                                      • Emperor Go-Uda, 91st Emperor (1267–1324; r. 1274–1287)
                                        • Emperor Go-Daigo, 96th Emperor (1288–1339; r. 1318–1339)
                                          • Imperial Prince Moriyoshi, 1st Kenmu shōgun (1308–1335; r. 1333)
                                          • Imperial Prince Narinaga, 2nd Kenmu shōgun (1326–1338?/1344?; r. 1334–1336)

Family Tree

Minamoto no Yoritomo(1)
r. 1192–1199
(d. 1190)
Bōmon Hime
Ichijō Yoshiyasu

Minamoto no Yoriie(2)
r. 1202–1203

Minamoto no Sanetomo(3)
r. 1203–1219
Kujō Yoshitsune
Daughter of
Ichijō Yoshiyasu
(d. 1227)
Ichijō Zenshi
Saionji Kintsune
Minamoto no Ichiman
Kujō Michiie
Saionji Rinshi
Saionji Saneuji
Minamoto no Yoshiko

Kujō Yoritsune(4)
r. 1226–1244
Omiya no Tsubone
daughter of
Fujiwara no Chikayoshi
(b. 1211)
Kujō Jinshi
Konoe Kanetsune
(d. 1308)
Taira no Muneko
Emperor Go-Saga
Saionji Kitsushi

Kujō Yoritsune(5)
r. 1244–1252
(b. 1241)
Konoe Saishi

Prince Munetaka(6)
r. 1252–1266
Emperor Kameyama

Prince Koreyasu(7)
r. 1266–1289
Daughter of
Prince Koreyasu

Prince Hisaaki(8)
r. 1289–1308

Prince Morikuni(9)
r. 1308–1333


See also


  1. Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric. (2005). "Kamakura-jidai" in Japan Encyclopedia, p. 459.
  2. "...not only was the Heian system of imperial-aristocratic rule still vigorous during the twelfth century, but also it remained the essential framework within which the bakufu, during its lifetime, was obliged to operate. In this sense, the Heian pattern of government survived into the fourteenth century - to be destroyed with the Kama-kura bakufu rather than by it." Warrior Rule in Japan, page 1. Cambridge University Press.
  3. Nussbaum, "Shogun" at pp. 878–879.
  4. Nussbaum, "Minamoto" at pp. 632–633.
  5. Nussbaum, "Fujiwara" at pp. 200–201.
  6. Nussbaum, "Hōjō" at pp. 339–340.
  7. Nussbaum, "Shikken" at p. 857.
  8. "A Guide to Kamakura". History. January 2006. Retrieved 2008-04-28.
  9. "Encyclopædia Britannica online". The Hojo Regency. Retrieved 2008-04-28.
  10. Kamakura: History & Historic Sites - The Kamakura Period, the Kamakura Citizen Net, accessed on April 27, 2008
  11. Turnbull, Stephen R. (1987). Samurai Warriors, p. 38; Turnbull, (1966). Samurai Warfare, p. 98–99
  12. Sansom, George Bailey. (1958). A History of Japan to 1334, p. 438–439.
  13. Murdoch, James. (1964). A History of Japan, Vol. I, p. 511–513.
  14. Sansom, p. 443–450.
  15. Murdoch, p. 525.
  16. Mass, Jeffrey P. (1996). "The Kamakura Bakufu" in Warrior Rule in Japan (Marius Jansen, ed.), p. 1.
  17. Nussbaum, "Minamoto no Yoritomo" at p. 635.
  18. Nussbaum, "Minamoto no Yoriie" at p. 635.
  19. Nussbaum, "Minamoto no Yoritomo" at pp. 633–634.
  20. Nussbaum, "Fujiwara no Yoritsune" at p. 212; "Kujō Yoritsune" at p. 571 linking "Hōjō Masako" at p. 340
  21. Nussbaum, "Fujiwara no Yoritsugu" at p. 212.
  22. Nussbaum, "Munetaka Shinnō" at p. 666.
  23. Nussbaum, "Koreyasu Shinnō" at p. 561.
  24. Nussbaum, "Hisaakira Shinnō" at p. 321.
  25. Nussbaum, "Morikuni Shinnō" at p. 660.
  26. Nussbaum, "Hōjō Tokimasa" at p. 340.
  27. Nussbaum, "Hōjō Yoshitoki" at p. 341.
  28. Nussbaum, "Hōjō Yasutoki" at p. 341.
  29. Nussbaum, "Hōjō Tsunetoki" at p. 341.
  30. Nussbaum, "Hōjō Tokiyori" at p. 341.
  31. Nussbaum, "Hōjō Tokimune" at p. 341.
  32. Nussbaum, "Hōjō Sadatoki" at p. 340.
  33. Nussbaum, "Hōjō Morotoki" at p. 340.
  34. Nussbaum, "Hōjō Takatoki" at p. 340.
  35. Genealogy, showing the different lines of descent from Emperor Ninmyō and the main family links between the Kamakura Shōguns (jp)
  36. Fujiwara-Ichijō genealogy (jp)

Further reading

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