43 | Part 2 of –10 Jyokyu-no-Ran and Gotoba-joko (承久の乱)

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

0-timeline - size 24 jyokyuu no ran

                            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 imperial regalia); 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 fighting.

In the end,  the 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 had 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.

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

39|Part 2 of — 6 Kamakura Period History 1192 – 1333 (鎌倉時代歴史 )

This chapter is a continued part of Chapter 6| Kamakura Period History (1192 – 1333).  Please read chapter 6 before reading this section.  Some of the information here may overlaps with Chapter 6 since this is the continued part.

0-timeline - size 24 Kamakura Period                         The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

 

Taira-no-Kiyomori (平清盛)

Chapter 6| Kamakura Period History  described there were two major samurai groups, the Genji (源氏) and the Heishi (平氏) at the end of the Heian period.  The head of the Genji was Minamoto no Yoshitomo (源義朝), and the head of the Heishi (or Heike) was Taira no Kiyomori (平清盛).  They were childhood friends.  Yet, because of the political situation and circumstances, they became enemies by the time they grew up to adulthood.      After their several power struggles, the Genji side lost, and Taira-no-Kiyomori became very powerful.  He favored his men and gave high positions to them, and had his daughter married to the emperor.   As a result, Kiyomori’s power went even beyond the emperor.  This was the time people would say, “if you are not a part of the Heishi family, you are not a human being.”   A situation like this created too many opponents against him.  Eventually, the suppressed Genji and other samurai groups gathered and raised an army, fought against the Heishi, and defeated them.

While Taira-no-Kiyomori was in power, he actively started trading with China, contributing to Japan’s economic prosperity.  The picture below is the Itsukushima Jinja Shrine (厳島神社) built by Taira no Kiyomori.  It is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

shutterstock_252533968-600x375

From Wikipedia.  The photo is in the public domain. Author: Rdsmith4      File Itsukushima Floating Shrine.jpg 8 /05/04

Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune (源頼朝)

Minamoto no Yoritomo (源頼朝) was a son of Minamoto no Yoshitomo(源義朝).  After Yoshitomo was defeated by Taira no Kiyomori (平清盛 ),  the direct bloodline of Genji, Minamoto no Yoritomo was sent to Izu Island.  He was in his early teens. 

Yoritomo grew to be a young man in Izu Island and eventually met Hojo Masako (北条政子) there.  She was a daughter of Hojo Tokimasa (北条時政) who was a local government official.  While Tokimasa was on a business trip to Kyoto, Yoritomo and Masako had a baby. Tokimasa was afraid that if the Heishi found out about his daughter and Yoritomo, the Hojo family would get into trouble.  So, he planned to have Masako marry somebody else.  But she eloped with Yoritomo the night before the wedding.  It is said that this story was written in the famous Japanese history book called “Azuma Kagami: 吾妻鏡” and in a few other books.  People started to believe this is how it happened between them.  However, some say the story may not be exactly how it happened.

In the meantime in Kyoto, the Heishi became very powerful and tyrannical in the central government called Chotei (朝廷) and suppressed the opponents.  All the angry, dissatisfied groups formed an army to attack the Heishi.  Minamoto no Yoritomo was the head of those opposing groups, and his army grew bigger and stronger with the help of Masako‘s father, Hojo Tokimasa.  By this time, Hojo Tokimasa had realized he would have had a better chance if he had sided with his son-in-law.  The Genji‘s army pushed the Heishi all the way to the southern part of Japan.  The Heishi was defeated in a place called Dan no Ura (壇ノ浦) near Kyushu (九州) in 1185.

Yoritomo set up Kamakura Bakufu (Kamakura government) in Kamakura.  After Yoritomo‘s death, his wife Masako proved herself as a very able leader, and she saved Kamakura Bakufu when it was attacked by Chotei, the central government. 

Here is one famous story about her.  When Yoritomo used to go around to see other women in the town of Kamakura, Masako sent her men to follow her husband and had them set fire on the house of the woman whom her husband was after.  In her mind, the Hojo was the one who made Yoritomo the head of the Kamakura Bakufu.  Without aid from the Hojo family, Yoritomo had no chance to be what he became.

1024px-Kaguraden-Hachimangu_Kamakura

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu  in Kamakura  Author: Urashimataro      From Wikipedia  Photo is public domain

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is one of the major shrines in Kamakura.  It is a walking distance from Kamakura train station.  In the photo above, there is a big shrine at the top of the long steps.  Every year on Dec 31, a large number of people come to the shrine to listen to the Joya-no-Kane (除夜の鐘: the night watch bells on New Year’s Eve)

Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune (源義経)

Minamoto-no-Yoritomo (源頼朝) had several half-brothers.  Taira-no-Kiyomori (平清盛) saved those young boys’ lives on the condition that they would become a monk when they grew up.  For Kiyomori, they were childhood friend’s sons, after all.  One of them was Ushiwak- maru (牛若丸: later Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune源義経) who was raised by Taira-no-Kiyomori while he was an infant, believing Kiyomori was his father.  Later Yoshitsune was raised in Kurama Yama Temple. 

He spent his life there until he became mid-teens.  After that, he went to live with the Oshu Fujiwara (奥州藤原) family.   They were in the northern part of Japan, quite some distance away from Kyoto.  Oshu Fujiwara was a very wealthy clan.  They had a luxurious culture there.  Because of the distance from Chotei (central government), they behaved as if they were living in an independent country.   They created great wealth by mining gold and trading it with some countries outside of Japan. 

Yoshitsune lived there rather happily for a while, but when he heard his half-brother Yoritomo raised an army to attack the Heishi, he decided to join them.  Yoshitsune was quite skillful in the battles.  He won many famous battles, which were very critical for Genji to win the war.  

Yoritomo had a big political plan on how to proceed to take over the Heshie’s power.  But Yoshitusune did not understand that.  He was a good warrior but not a politician.  That made Yoritomo irritated and angry at him.  On top of that, Yoshitsune became very popular in Kyoto.  That made Yoritomo anxious, and he decided to get rid of Yoshitsune. 

Yoshitsune fled to O-shu Fujiwara’s.  In the beginning, O-shu Fujiwara protected Yoshitsune but could not hold against Yoritomo’s army.  Yoritomo destroyed O-shu Fujiwara entirely at the end.  Today, a grand architecture built by O-shu Fujiwara was restored.  You can visit “Konjiki-do: 金色堂” inside the “Chuson-ji Temple: 中尊寺”.

Chinese knew about the wealth of O-Shu Fujiwara.  Later, Marco Polo heard about the wealthy small country further into the East.  He mentioned this wealthy small island in his book, “The travels of Marco Polo.”  In this book, he wrote, “All the houses are made of gold”, this described O-shu Fujiwara.  Of course, all the houses were not made of gold.

Marco Polo introduced Japan as “Zipangu” in his book.  It means the golden country.  The name “Zipangu” evolved into Japan.  However, we, the Japanese, don’t call our country Japan.  We call it “Nihon” or “Nippon,” and both are correct. 

 

4 | Heian Period History (平安時代歴史) 794 – 1192

Heian period(平安時代 ) is from the time when the Emperor Kanmu(桓武天皇) moved the capital city to Heian-Kyo(平安京) at 794, that is Kyoto(京都) today.

0-timeline - size 24 Heian

                             The circle indicates the time we discuss in this section.

During the Heian period, the emperors ruled Japan.  However, in the early part of this time, the Fujiwara family, a very wealthy aristocrat family, had real political power. The Fujiwara family managed their daughters to marry the emperors.  They obtained power through those marriages.  The family was called “Sekkan-ke” (摂関家), which means the family of the guardian or the representative of the emperor.

In those days, aristocrats led an elegant, refined lifestyle and cultivated a graceful culture.  Many essays and novels were written by female authors during the time.  The most famous one is “Tales of Genji (源氏物語)” written by Murasaki Shikibu (紫式部).  The Imperial court held ceremonies quite often followed by elaborate and extravagant banquets.  The imperial social life played an important role for aristocrats to get ahead in their political careers.  Women also actively participated in the ceremonies.  Many high-ranking officials had several huge houses.  Sometimes those houses were inherited by their daughters, and the daughters lived in the house.

The way of courting was very different then.  To begin a romantic relationship, a man would write a poem called “Waka” to a lady he set his eyes on and would have his servant bring the poem to her, hoping she would write him back a corresponding poem.  Once he was accepted by the lady, first he was allowed to visit her for a short time from some distance away.  As the relationship deepened, he visited her more often and stayed longer.  Once they were married, and if she was his first legal wife, she lived with him in his house.  However, if she was not the first legal wife, she remained in her home, and he would visit her for a few days or longer at a time.  The wife’s family raised their children.  In those days and up until the next Kamakura period, the women’s lineage was considered important.  By the middle of the Heian period, the Emperors regained their political power since their mothers were not from the Fujiwara family.

5 b Genji photo

Those two are scenes from the “Tales of Genji”.   I found those pictures in Kyoto sometime ago.

Origin of Samurai

Although the Heian Imperial court and aristocrats had a graceful and elegant life, they did not have a strong political power to control the country.  There were many thieves, constant fires, and fights everywhere.  The Imperial court, aristocrats, and temples began hiring armed guards or security force to protect themselves in order to maintain public peace.  Those hired hands were the origin of Bushi (武士) or Samurai (侍).  Samurais spread their presence and grew larger in power as they formed groups and quelled uprisings.  Eventually, two powerful samurai clans emerged: One was Heishi (平氏) or often called Heike (平家), the other, Genji (源氏).  Little by little, they gained power in the Imperial court.   After many power struggles between them, Heishi started to control the Imperial court by having their daughters married to the emperors.  Later in the Heian period, the political power was shifted to the Heishi.  They became tyrannical and arrogant.  This behavior created many enemies.  The Genji clan, together with the Fujiwara family, started a war against the Heishi.  The Genji pushed the Heishi to the final battleground called Dan-no-Ura (壇ノ浦) in 1185 and destroyed them.  This battle is the famous Genpei-Gassen (源平合戦).  The collapse of the Heishi was the end of the Heian period.

 5-map-dan-no-ura-.jpg

The Heian period is the time when curved swords appeared for the first time. Until then, swords had a straight blade.  Historical studies on Japanese swords start from this point.  The elegant, graceful lifestyle and culture the dominant Fujiwara family created then were certainly reflected upon the swords’ style.  A group of swordsmiths in the Kyoto region created a particular sword style called Yamashiro Den (Yamashiro School).  The shape of their blades shows a graceful line.  The most well-known sword among Yamashiro-Den is Sanjo-Munechika (三条宗近), which is a national treasure today.  The style of Yamashiro Den represents Heian period swords.

Sanjo Munechika

Sanjo Munechiak (三条宗近)  From Showa Dai Mei-to Zufu (昭和大名刀図譜)  by NBTHK  Owned by Tokyo National Museum