Minamoto no Sanetomo

Minamoto no Sanetomo (源 実朝, September 12, 1192 – February 12, 1219, r. 1203–1219) was the third shōgun of the Kamakura shogunate. He was the second son of the Kamakura shogunate founder, Minamoto no Yoritomo. His mother was Hōjō Masako and his older brother was second Kamakura shogun Minamoto no Yoriie.

His childhood name was Senman (千万). He was the last head of the Minamoto clan of Japan. His Buddhist name was Daijiji tono Sei ni Kurai Gosho Ko Jingi (大慈寺殿正二位丞相公神儀).

He was an accomplished waka poet.

Early life

After the death of Yoritomo in 1199, Sanetomo's grandfather and Shikken Hōjō Tokimasa usurped the political and military power of the Shogunate, relegating the position and title of Sei-i Taishōgun, or shōgun, to a figurehead. Through hereditary succession, Sanetomo's older brother Yoriie became Sei-i Taishōgun in 1202, only to be stripped of the title a year later and put under house arrest for plotting against the Hōjō clan. This was presumably to keep the shōgun a child and thus needing a regent (shikken) to make decisions in his place. Shortly thereafter in 1203, Sanetomo became head of the Minamoto clan and was appointed Sei-i Taishōgun.

In the next year, 1204, Yoriie was assassinated by the Hōjō. Sanetomo was never more than a puppet for his mother Hōjō Masako, who used him as a pawn in her war with her father Tokimasa; Tokimasa tried to depose his grandson a number of times, beginning in 1205, causing Sanetomo to fear for his life thereafter.

Waka poet

Sanetomo, understanding his own powerlessness and not wanting to meet the same fate as his brother, put his time and energy into writing waka poetry and gaining posts within the powerless but honorary imperial court. Sanetomo was a talented poet, writing over 700 poems between the age 17 and 22 while he was tutored by Fujiwara no Teika. He published his private waka collection Kinkai Wakashū, even having one of his tanka included in the anthology Ogura Hyakunin Isshu ("100 Poems by 100 Poets"), a collection of Japanese poems of the Heian and early Kamakura periods. Sanetomo reached the third highest post of the imperial court, Udaijin (Minister of the Right or "vice-premier") in 1218.[1]

Eventually, Sanetomo lapsed into inactivity and despair, plagued by fear of assassination and tormented by his chronic alcoholism (an addiction which Priest Eisai once tried to break by replacing alcohol with tea).


Under heavy snow on the evening of February 13, 1219 (Jōkyū 1, 27th day of the 1st month), Sanetomo was coming down from the Senior Shrine at Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū after participating in a ceremony celebrating his nomination to Udaijin.[2] His nephew (the son of second shōgun Minamoto no Yoriie) Kugyō (Minamoto no Yoshinari) came out from beside the stone stairway of the shrine, then suddenly assassinated him.[2] For his act, he was himself beheaded a few hours later,[2] thus bringing the Seiwa Genji line of the Minamoto clan and their rule in Kamakura to a sudden end.

Minamoto no Sanetomo was succeeded by Kujō Yoritsune as fourth shōgun of the Kamakura shogunate.


Eras of Sanetomo's bakufu

The years in which Sanetomo was shogun are more specifically identified by more than one era name or nengō.

See also


  1. Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric. (2005). "Minamoto no Sanetomo" in Japan Encyclopedia, pp. 633–634, p. 633, at Google Books
  2. Azuma Kagami; Mutsu (1995/06: 102-104)


  • Azuma Kagami, accessed on September 4, 2008; National Archives of Japan 特103-0001, Digitized image of the Azumakagami (in Japanese)
  • Brinkley, Frank; Kikuchi, Dairoku (1915). A history of the Japanese people from the earliest times to the end of the Meiji era. The Encyclopædia Britannica Co.
  • 神谷道倫 (2006). 深く歩く鎌倉史跡散策上. ISBN 978-4-7740-0340-5.
  • Jeffrey P. Mass (1995). Court and Bakufu in Japan. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-2473-9.
  • David Murray; Kentarō Kaneko (1906). Japan: Continuing the history to the close of 1905, with the provisions of the treaty of Portsmouth between Russia and Japan, and supplementary chapters. Putnam. p. 504.
  • Mutsu, I. (1995). Kamakura: Fact and Legend. PeriplusEdition. ISBN 978-0-8048-1968-8.
  • Ponsonby-Fane, Richard Arthur Brabazon. (1962). Sovereign and Subject. Kyoto: Ponsonby Memorial Society. OCLC 1014075
  • Frédéric, Louis; Roth, Käthe (2002). Japan enciklopedia. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-01753-5.
  • Rin-siyo, Siyun-zai (1834). Annales des empereurs du Japon. Oriental Translation Fund.
Preceded by
Minamoto no Yoriie
Minamoto no Sanetomo

Succeeded by
Kujō Yoritsune
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