This chapter is the continued part of 10| Jokyu-no-ran (承久の乱) 1221.  Please read Chapter 10 before reading this section.

11 Red timeline Jyokyu-no-Ran

                           The red circle 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),  a Japanese short poem.   To compose waka, it requires several elements in it, such as scenery, season, one’s inner feeling with the refined sentiment, or the surrounding state with limited numbers of words.  It really requires a literary talent.  He was also good at equestrianism, Kemari (ball game for the upper class at that time), a great swimmer, good at Sumo, good at music, archery, swordsmanship, calligrapher, painting and became a great swordsmith.  His contribution toward the sword field created the Golden Age of sword making in the middle Kamakura period.  Surprisingly, Gotoba Joko was not only good at in many different fields, he really mastered in all those fields to the top level.  Especially his waka (poetry) is highly regarded.  He edited Shin Kokin Wakashu (新古今集).  This is a collection of waka; it contains 1980 wakas.

 Emperor Gotoba was enthroned at the age of 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 become an emperor, the head of the emperor’s family has to appoint the next emperor.  While Emperor Go-Shirakawa (後白河天皇) was in a jail, Emperor Antoku was appointed by Taira no Kiyomori (平清盛).  Though Kiyomori was the head of the most powerful Samurai group, the Heishi but not the emperor family.  That is against the tradition.  This was not acceptable for Go Shirakawa Emperor (後白河天皇).  Go Shirakawa Emperor was furious toward Taira no Kiyomori and the emperor picked his own choice and enthroned Emperor Gotoba.  This is the reason two emperors coexisted.

There was ne more thing.  To be an emperor, the emperor must have Sanshu-no-Jingi (三種の神器: Three Sacred Treasures); that is three items the emperor must have to be a legitimate emperor.  They are the Mirror, the sacred sword, and the Magatama (jewelry)*.

But Sanshu-no-Jingi was taken by the Heike family together with Emperor Antoku when they fled from Genji.  The Heike clan was chased 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 only recovered the jewelry, and the Mirror, but not the Sword.  Because of the tradition that the emperor must have Sanshu-no-Jingi otherwise not 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 (伊勢神宮: Ise Shrine).  The sword is still missing somewhere in the ocean.  Some say that the lost sword down in the ocean was a copy and the one with at Atsuta-Jingu (熱田神宮) is the real one

* Sanshu-no-Jingi (三種の神器 )—–The sword; Kusanagi no Tsurugi (草薙の剣)   The Mirror; Yata-no-Kagami  (八咫の鏡)  The MagatamaYasakani-no-Magatama (八尺瓊勾玉) by Token world:

Politics by  Gotoba-Joko

 Gotoba-Joko wanted political power back from the Kamakura Bakufu.  He was a very impulsive and passionate and unpredictable quick-tempered person.   He wanted to revive Chotei (朝廷) power.  The Chotei was the central government controlled by an emperor and aristocrats.  Gotoba-Joko decided to rely on the armed forces to achieve this.  He set up the Saimen-no-Bushi (西面の武士: armed forces directly under the Emperor Gotoba).

When he saw Minamoto no Sanetomo was killed, he realized Kamakura Bakufu must be in a turmoil.  Thinking this is a good chance, he sent out the emperor’s order to all daimyos to fight against the Kamakura Bakufu.  He expected an easy victory, but Kamakura Bushi was united tightly and maneuvered well under the leader of Hojo Masako, the nun shogun.  She organized one tightly united armed forces.  Whereas the Gotoba-Joko side was not very organized.  They were not used to fight.

In the end, the Gotoba-Joko’s side lost.  When he realized he had lost, he claimed it was not him, but it was done by his men only.  He insisted it was nothing to do with the emperor, therefore it is wrong to punish him.  But of course, Hojo Masako and Kamakura Bakufu did not believe that and exiled Gotoba-Joko to Oki Island.  Gotoba-Joko ended his life there.  As smart as he was and accomplished so many different fields, he could not win the grandma nun-shogun Hojo Masako.

Sword making by Gotoba-Joko

Gotoba Joko had a superior ability to connoisseur sword and he became a superior swordsmith himself.   He invited many top-level swordsmiths from different sword groups to his court and gave them the title and treated them respectfully.  Also, he made them his instructor and assistants.  Gotoba-Joko brought in skilled swordsmiths from places like Bizen, Awataguch, and Bicchu alternately.  Those who were invited to the palace were called Gobankaji (御番鍛冶), an honorary title.  On the sword he created, he inscribed the Chrysanthemum with 16 petals.  This is still used by the present emperor as the emperor’s crest.  The sword with the Chrysanthemus is called Kiku Gyosaku (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 can be reached by airplane directly from Osaka.


45 part 2 of ---11Oki-no-Shima map

11 «part 2» Gotoba Joko photo
Gotoba Joko (owned by Minase Shrine) This picture is public domain

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