This chapter is a continued part of 10| Jokyu-no-ran (承久の乱) 1221. Please read Chapter 10 before reading this section.
The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this chapter.
Chapter 10 described how Jokyu-no-Ran (承久の乱) had started. In the end, Emperor Gotoba (or Gotoba Joko) was exiled to Oki Island (隠岐の島).
Emperor Gotoba was a very talented man in many fields. He was very good at Waka (和歌), Japanese short poem. To compose Waka, you are required to include several elements such as scenery, a season, one’s inner feeling with the refined sentiment, or the surrounding state, within the very limited number of words. It requires a literary talent. He was also good at equestrianism, Kemari (a ball game for upper-class men at that time), swimming, Sumo wrestling, music, archery, swordsmanship, calligraphy, painting, and even sword-making. His contribution toward the sword field created the golden age of Sword making in the middle Kamakura period. Surprisingly, Gotoba Joko was not just good at things in many different areas, but he mastered them to the top level. Especially his Waka (poetry) was highly regarded. He edited Shin Kokin Wakashu (新古今集), which was a collection of 1980 Waka poems.
Emperor Gotoba, Enthroned at the Age Four
Emperor Gotoba was enthroned at the age of four (some say three). The problem was Emperor Antoku had already existed at the same time. They were both about the same age. Two emperors at the same time was a big problem. How did it happen?
To have a new emperor, the head of the emperor’s family had to appoint the next emperor. While the Emperor Go-Shirakawa (後白河天皇) was in jail, Emperor Antoku was set by Taira no Kiyomori (平清盛). Though Kiyomori was the head of the Heishi, the most powerful Samurai group, he was not from the emperor’s family. That was against the tradition. This was not acceptable for Go-Shirakawa Emperor (後白河天皇). Emperor Go-Shirakawa was furious at Taira no Kiyomori and picked Emperor Gotoba and enthroned him. This is the reason why two emperors coexisted.
There was one more thing. To be an emperor, the emperor must have Sanshu-no-Jingi (三種の神器: Three Sacred Treasures); There are three items the emperor must have to be a legitimate emperor. They are a mirror, a sacred sword, and a Magatama (jewelry)*.
But Sanshu-no-Jingi were taken by the Heike family together with Emperor Antoku when they fled from the Genji. The Heike clan was pushed by the Genji all the way to Dan-no-Ura (壇ノ浦), and they were defeated there. Dan-no-Ura is a sea between Kyushu (九州) and Honshu (本州). When it became clear for the Heike family that they were defeated, all the Heike people, including the young Emperor Antoku, jumped into the sea and drowned. They took Sanshu-no-Jingi with them into the ocean.
Later, people searched for the Sanshu-no-Jingi frantically; however, they recovered only the Jewelry and the Mirror but not the Sword. Because of the tradition, the emperor must have Sanshu-no-Jingi; otherwise, he was not recognized as a legitimate emperor. Gotoba Joko was tormented for a long time for not having all three.
Today, the Jewelry is with the present Emperor family, and the Mirror is with Ise Jingu Shrine (伊勢神宮). The Sword is still missing somewhere in the ocean. Some say that the lost Sword down into the sea was a copy and one kept at Atsuta Jingu Shrine (熱田神宮) is the real one.
* Sanshu-no-Jingi (三種の神器 )—– 1. The Sword; Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi (草薙の剣) 2. The Mirror; Yata-no-Kagami (八咫の鏡), 3. The Magatama (Jewelry); Yasakani-no-Magatama (八尺瓊勾玉) by Token World: www.touken-world.jp/tips/32747/
Politics by Emperor Gotoba
Emperor Gotoba wanted political power back from the Kamakura Bakufu. He was a very impulsive, passionate, unpredictable quick-tempered person. He tried to revive the Chotei (朝廷) power. The Chotei is the central government controlled by the emperor and aristocrats. Emperor Gotoba decided to rely on the armed forces to achieve this goal. He set up a Saimen no Bushi (armed forces directly under Emperor Gotoba’s command).
When he saw Minamoto no Sanetomo was killed, he realized Kamakura Bakufu must have been in turmoil. Thinking this was a good chance, he sent out the emperor’s order to all the daimyos to fight against Kamakura Bakufu. He expected an easy victory, but Kamakura Bushi was united tightly and fought well under Hojo Masako’s leadership, the “Nun Shogun.” She organized one tightly united armed force, whereas the Emperor Gotoba side was not very organized. They were not used to fight.
In the end, Emperor Gotoba’s side lost. When he realized he had lost, he claimed it was not him, but his men did it independently. He insisted that it was nothing to do with him. Therefore it was wrong to punish him. But of course, Hojo Masako and Kamakura Bakufu did not believe Emperor Gotoba and exiled him to Oki Island. Emperor Gotoba ended his life there. Although he was so smart and accomplished in so many different fields, he could not win against the grandma “Nun-shogun,” Hojo Masako.
Sword-Making by Gotoba Joko
Gotoba Joko had a superior ability to evaluate swords, and he became the superior swordsmith himself. He invited many top-level swordsmiths from different sword groups to his court, gave them a title, and treated them respectfully. Also, he made them his instructors and assistants. Gotoba Joko brought in skilled swordsmiths from many places in rotation. Those who were invited to the palace were called Gobankaji (御番鍛冶), an honorary title. On the Sword he created, he inscribed a Chrysanthemum with 16 petals. The present emperor still uses this design as the emperor’s crest. The Sword with the chrysanthemum design is called Kiku Gosaku (菊御作).
Today, you can visit the Emperor Gotoba Museum on Oki island, and there are a few sites that are believed to be the emperor’s sword making site. Some people say it is debatable if the sites are real. Today, Oki Island is a beautiful resort island. It can be reached by ferries from Shimane Prefecture, which takes about 2 hours by boat. Also, it can be reached by airplane directly from Osaka.