Japan During Hōjō

Japan During Hōjō

Upon his death (1199) a family council appointed Hōlō Tokimasa, his father-in-law, guardian (shikken) of his son Yoriie. Power thus fell into the hands of Tokimasa and his daughter Masako, widow of Yoritomo. A short time later, Tokimasa allowed Yoriie to enter religion and, in 1204, had him killed; less luck had his plot to get rid of Sanetomo (1192-1219), brother of Yoriie, since, discovered, he was relegated to exile (1205) and Sanetomo was saved by his mother Masako, who continued to govern close to his brother Yoshitoki. In 1219, Sanetomo was assassinated by his nephew Kugyō, son of Yoriie and with him the direct descendants of Yoritomo were extinguished and the field remained free for the Hōiō. For over a century they succeeded each other (see hōtō) to effective power, but they do not dare to claim the title and office of shōgun, to which they raise members, almost always children, of the Fujiwara family and of the imperial house, who are often deposed still at an early age. Thus, events had matured this peculiar condition of things: the government of public affairs was a tutor who governed in place of the shōgun, who was a vassal and, in theory, mandatary of the emperor, who, in turn, was not generally than a child at the mercy of an effeminate and corrupt court.

According to Loverists, it is during this unfortunate period that the only attempted invasion of the national territory that the political history of Japan can remember takes place. Qūbilāy Khān, having conquered China in 1280, had heard of the wealth of the islands of the Japanese archipelago and estimated their conquest easy. Left unanswered a letter (1268) and an injunction of vassalage (1271), he sent an expedition that in 1274 took possession of the island of Tsushima. Confident, therefore, in the intimidating effects of this first war action, he sent an embassy to Japan whose members were beheaded. A second expedition, of over 3000 ships and 165,000 men, was then set up and actually managed to land on the island of Kyushu,

In 1316 he assumed the office of shikken Hōjō Takatoki (1303-1333). Dissolved, short of wit, full of pastimes and pleasures, he let his minister Nagasaki Takasuke rule at his talent. Bad administrator, he did not take long to arouse general discontent. Emperor Go Daigo (1319-1338) believed he was taking advantage of this to try to restore imperial authority. After a first plot, which failed due to the betrayal of some conspirators, another was plotted with the participation of the powerful Tendai Buddhist sect. The Kamakura court, informed in time, ran for cover. An army sent against the capital forced Go Daigo to flee and pursued him to his refuge. The emperor, arrested, was exiled to the island of Chiburi (1332), but the the following year he managed to escape and find protection among devotees to the dynasty. Among these stand out the figures of Kusunoki Masashige and Nawa Nagatoshi who, having gathered troops, prepared for the rescue. An army of the shikken smashed against the defenses of the castle of Funa-no-ue, where Nagatoshi had welcomed the ruler. Another, commanded by Ashikaga Takauji and sent against Kyōto, as soon as he arrived, immediately passed through the imperial ranks, while Nitta Yoshisada, at the head of 20,000 men, marched on Kamakura. Takatoki, his relatives and servants, having lost all hope, killed themselves (1333), and with them ended the family and the power of the Hōjō. they prepared for the rescue. An army of the shikken smashed against the defenses of the castle of Funa-no-ue, where Nagatoshi had welcomed the ruler. Another, commanded by Ashikaga Takauji and sent against Kyōto, as soon as he arrived, immediately passed through the imperial ranks, while Nitta Yoshisada, at the head of 20,000 men, marched on Kamakura. Takatoki, his relatives and servants, having lost all hope, killed themselves (1333), and with them ended the family and the power of the Hōjō. they prepared for the rescue. An army of the shikken smashed against the defenses of the castle of Funa-no-ue, where Nagatoshi had welcomed the ruler. Another, commanded by Ashikaga Takauji and sent against Kyōto, as soon as he arrived, immediately passed through the imperial ranks, while Nitta Yoshisada, at the head of 20,000 men, marched on Kamakura. Takatoki, his relatives and servants, having lost all hope, killed themselves (1333), and with them ended the family and the power of the Hōjō.

But it was destiny that the much disputed restoration would still have to take five centuries, since the return of Go Daigo to the throne was only the starting point of new struggles. The distribution of fiefdoms to those who had helped him had left Ashikaga Takauji unsatisfied. His discontent was revealed when he, sent against Hōjō Tokiyuki (the last survivor of his family who, having escaped its destruction with the help of a faithful servant, had attempted a coup on Kamakura), marched against him, and, defeating him, he took possession of the city, proclaiming himself shōgun (1335). The emperor declared him a rebel and sent Nitta Yoshisada against him, but Takauii, conquered by Hakone, immediately marched on the capital. Kusunoki Masashige and Nawa Nagatoshi tried to block his way, but were rejected. Go Daigo took refuge on Mount Yoshino, but, in the meantime, an army, under the command of Kitabatake Akiie, came to his aid from the north and managed to defeat Takauji in Miidera; the emperor was thus able to return to Kyōto. But the rebel had already prepared for the rescue and from the island of Kyushu, where he had gone to gather troops, reappeared in the field. In Hyōgo (today Kobe) he clashed with Nitta Yoshisada and Kusunoki Masashige, sent against him, and won them (1336) in a battle that remained memorable for the heroic efforts made by the supporters of the dynasty. Go Daigo fled from Kyōto again, where Takauji raised Emperor Kōmyō to the throne (1336). Thus begins in the history of the country a dynastic schism that will last 56 years, during which the rulers of the new northern dynasty will reside in the capital (hokuch ō), protected by the shōgun; to the south of it, those of the southern dynasty (nan – ch ō), considered legitimate by indigenous historians, will live in continuous struggle with the former. Both rulers, the one on the throne and the other in exile, have the title: the effective power is of the Ashikaga.

Japan During Hōjō