51| Part 2 of — 17 Nanboku-Cho Period History 1333 – 1392 (南北朝歴史)

This section is a continued part of 17|Nanboku(Yoshino) Cho Period History (1333-1392) .  Please read Chapter 17 before reading this section.

0-timeline - size 24 Nanboku-cho

                      The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

 The Nanboku-cho period (1333 – 1392) was between the fall of Kamakura Bakufu and the beginning of the Muromachi Bakufu.  It was the time when the North Dynasty and the South Dynasty co-existed at the same time.  Right around the time of the Mongolian Invasion, Emperor Go-saga passed away without deciding the next emperor.  Because of that, his two heirs and their family lines, the Daigakuji-to (大覚寺統) line and the Jimyoin-to (持明院統) line, alternately took the emperor position after Emperor Go-saga‘s death.  This system was politically precarious.  On top of that, many inconvenient problems happened; for example, while one emperor was still very young, the next-in-line emperor died young from a head injury when he was playing on a slippery stone.

At a time like this, Go-daigo (後醍醐天皇) became the emperor.  He was put on the throne as a temporary emperor until young emperors grew up.  Around this time, the power of the emperors was declining.  The Kamakura Bakufu (government) controlled the emperors.  After the Mongolian Invasion, even though typhoons chased Mongolian troops away, Kamakura Bakufu was in financial trouble because of the cost of war.  Many Samurai who fought during the Mongolian Invasion did not receive any rewards nor got paid for the expense they incurred themselves.  They were also in trouble financially.  All these problems piled up, and people resented the Kamakura Bakufu.

Emperor Go-daigo did not want to stay as just a filler emperor.  He decided to remain as an emperor himself and decided to attack the Kamakura Bakufu.  For some reason, the Kamakura Bakufu found out about the plan.  Emperor Go-daigo somehow managed to avoid being accused as an instigator.  After this happened, the Kamakura Bakufu appointed another heir for the next emperor.  But Go-daigo insisted on remaining as an emperor.  He planned another attack one more time.  This time, he had carefully planned and allied with prominent, powerful temples in Yamato (Nara today) since the Kamakura Bakufu did not control themRefer, 15| The Revival of Yamato Den(大和伝復活)and 49| Part 2 of — 15 The Revival of Yamato Den (大和伝復活) .

This time again, the rebellion plot came to light.  Go-daigo sneaked out of Kyoto and fought against the Kamakura army.  Go-daigo’s army had fewer soldiers than the Kamakura army, but several groups opposing the Kamakura Bakufu rose from various places throughout Japan.  Eventually, Go-daigo was captured and sent to Oki Island (the same place where Emperor Go-toba was sent).

Even after sending Emperor Go-daigo to Oki island, the Kamakura Bakufu still had to fight against other uprising groups.  One of the famous rebels was Kusunoki Masashige  (楠正成).  Go-daigo’s son was also actively fighting against the Kamakura Bakufu and managing to ally with more groups.

More and more people wanted to overthrow the Kamakura Bakufu.   Even Ashikaga Takauji (足利尊氏), one of the Kamakura Bakufu’s top men who fought against Emperor Go-daigo, betrayed the Kamakura, and changed sides, and became the emperor’s ally.  In the meantime, Go-daigo escaped from Oki Island.  More and more uprisings against the Kamakura Bakufu emerged from everywhere.  Eventually, the main political center called Rokuhara Tandai (六波羅探題) of the Kamakura Bakufu fell.  Nitta Yoshisada (新田義貞)*, who was another uprising group attacked Kamakura and won.  The Kamakura Bakufu fell in 1333.

Emperor Go-Daigo started a new political system called Kenmu no Shinsei (建武の新政).  This new system was a disaster.  He made a great effort to make things right, and changed the old political system drastically.  But this political reform created a big commotion.  It was not good for anybody, and nobody would gain anything.   Ashikaga Takauji (one of the prominent people of merit) and his men did not receive any high-ranking jobs.  His new reform was very idealistic and too far advanced for the time.  It was too disadvantageous for the noblemen.  His new policy only invited chaos and corruption.

Now Ashikaga Takauji turned against Go-daigo and defeated him.  Go-daigo left the Imperial Palace and opened a new government in Yoshino, the south of Kyoto.  Therefore, it was called the Southern Dynasty.  Meanwhile, Ashikaga Takauji set up a new emperor, Emperor Komyo (光明), in Kyoto, and established the North Dynasty.  This is how the North and South Dynasties came about.

Two dynasties co-existed for about 60 years.  Little by little, many samurai groups moved under the North Dynasty, and after Go-daigo and his several key men passed away, the South Dynasty became weakened.  Eventually, the South Dynasty accepted the offer from the Ashikaga side, and the North and the South united in 1392.  During all those fights between the emperor and Kamakura Bakufu, the sword style changed to broader and longer, like 3, 4, or 5 feet long.  Later, most of the Nanboku-cho (the North and South Dynasties) style long swords were shortened.

53 Ashikaga Takauji

Kibamusha (騎馬武者像)     This portrait was once believed to be Ashikaga Takauji, but now some claim otherwise. “Public Domain” owned by Kyoto National Museum

*Nitta Yoshisada (新田義貞)

When Minamoto no Yoritomo opened the Kamakura Bakufu, he chose the Kamakura area as the center of the Bakufu because mountains surrounded Kamakura on three sides, and one side faced the ocean.  That means it was hard to be attacked and easy to protect themselves.  And they made seven narrow, steep roads through mountains called Kiri Toshi (切り通し) connecting with several major cities.  Those seven roads were the only ways to go out and to come into Kamakura.

When Nitta Yoshisada tried to attack Kamakura, he first tried to attack through the land road but failed.  So, he approached the town from the ocean side, but the cliff sticks far out to the ocean, making it impossible for them to pass.  The legend says that when Nitta Yoshisada came to the area called Inamura Gasaki (稲村ヶ崎), he threw his golden sword into the ocean and prayed.  Then the tide went out, and all the soldiers could go around the cliff on foot.  They charged into Kamakura, and the Kamakura Bakufu fell.  There are several different views on the story.  Some scholars say that is not true, some say it happened, but the date was wrong, some say unusual ebb tide occurred that day, and so on.

Today, Inamura Gasaki, a part of the Shonan (湘南), is one of the favorite dating spots for young people in the evening.  The evening scene of Inamura Gasaki is beautiful.  The sunset from Inamura Gasaki toward Enoshima (江の島;a small island with a shrine on the hilltop) is gorgeous.   My parents’ house used to be above the cliff in the vicinity called Kamakura-yama, overlooking the ocean.

53 Inamura gasaki

Inamura Gasaki      Photo is “Creative Commons” CC 表示-継承 3.0 File: Inamuragasaki tottanbu.jpg    Public domain

40|Part 2 of — 7 Overview of Kamakura Period Sword (鎌倉太刀概要)

This is the second part of Chapter 7| Overview of the Kamakura Period Swords (1192-1333).  Please read chapter 7 before reading this section.

0-timeline - size 24 Kamakura Period

                         The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section.

The Kamakura period was the golden age of sword making.  Approximately half of the well-known swords at present were made during the Kamakura period.  It is probably because the war between the Genji and the Heishi demanded many swords, and the swordsmiths improved their swords through the war experience.  Also, Emperor Gotoba (後鳥羽) invited many skilled swordsmiths to his palace and treated them highly, and encouraged them to create excellent swords by giving them high ranks.  During the Kamakura period, the techniques of sword making improved significantly.

Middle Kamakura Period —- Yamashiro Den (山城伝)

The Middle Kamakura period was the height of the Yamashiro Den.  Among Yamashiro Den, there were three major groups (or families).  They are Ayanokoji group (綾小路), Awataguchi group (粟田口), and Rai group (来).

Among the Awataguchi group, six swordsmiths received the honor as the “Goban-kaji ” from the Emperor Gotoba (後鳥羽上皇).  Awataguchi is the name of an area in Kyoto. 

Ayanokoji ( 綾小路 ) group lived in the Ayanokoji area in KyotoMy sword textbook had a note that I saw Ayanokoji Sadatoshi (綾小路定利 ) on March 22nd, 1972.  The note was not much but it said O-suriage, Funbari, narrowbody, and Ji-nie.

Rai group started from Rai Kuniyuki (来国行 ).  Rai Kuniyuki and Ayanokoji Sadatoshi are said to have had a close friendship.  Rai Kuniyuki created many well-known swords.  His famous Fudo Kuniyuki (不動国行) was owned by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiteru (足利義輝 ), then changed hand to Matsunaga Danjo (松永弾正), then to Oda Nobunaga ( 織田信長 ) to Akechi Mitsuhide (明智光秀 ), then to Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉).  They were all historically famous powerful Daimyo.  It is said that Toyotomi Hideyoshi held this sword for the memorial service of Oda Nobunaga.  Rai Kuniyuki’s son was Niji Kunitoshi.  He also created well-known swords.

Middle Kamakura Period —– Bizen Den (備前伝)

The Bizen Den during the Heian period was called Ko-bizen.  They are similar to the one in the Yamashiro Den style.  The true height of the Bizen Den was in the Middle Kamakura period.  The Bizen area (today’s Okayama prefecture) had many ideal aspects for sword making: the good climate, the good production of iron, the abundant wood for fuel, and the convenient location. Naturally, many swordsmiths moved there, and it became a major place to produce swords.

The Bizen region produced many swords whose quality level was higher than other sword groups and more famous swordsmiths.  Fukuoka Ichimonji Norimune (則宗) and his son Sukemune (助宗 ) received the honor of the Goban-kaji from the Emperor Gotoba.

 Among the Osafune group (長船), famous Mitsutada (光忠) and Nagamitsu (長光) appeared.  My father owned four Mitsutada.  Three Tachis and one Tanto.  He was so proud of owning four Mitsutada that he asked his tailor to monogram Mitsutada on the pocket inside of his suit jacket.

From Hatakeda group (畠田), Hatakeda Moriie (畠田守家), and from Ugai (鵜飼) group, Unsho (雲生 ) and Unji (雲次) appeared.  The famous Kunimune (国宗) also appeared around this time.   Because there were many swordsmiths in the Bizen Den, a large number of Bizen swords exist today.  Each swordsmith showed his own characteristics on their swords.  Therefore, kantei on Bizen  swords can be complex.  This is the time Ikubi Kissaki appeared.

The classification of the sword ranking from the top

  1. Kokuho (国宝: National Treasure)
  2. Jyuyo Bunkazai (重要文化財: Important Cultural Property)
  3. Jyuyo Bijutu Hin (重要美術品: Important Artwork)
  4. Juyo Token (重要刀剣: Important Sword)        more to follow

Below are my father’s four Bizen Osafune Mitsutada.  He took those pictures many years ago at home.  You can see he was not much of a photographer.  He wrote the name of the swordsmith, the period the sword was made, the name(s) of Daimyo who owned it in the past, and the classification on a rectangular white paper.

img027               img028                Osafune Mitsutada (Juyo Bukazai)                 Osafune Mitsutada (Juyo Bunakzai)

img029            img030 Osafune Mitsutada (Juyo Token)                 Osafune Mitsutada(Juyo Bunkazai)

Late Kamakura Period —– Soshu Den (相州伝 )

Yamashiro Den started to decline in the latter part of the Kamakura Period.  At this time, many swordsmiths moved to the Kamakura area under the new power of Kamakura Bakufu (鎌倉幕府) by the Hojo clan.  The new group, Soshu Den (相州伝 ), started to emerge.  Fukuoka Ichimonji Sukezane (福岡一文字助真) and Kunimune (国宗) from Bizen moved to KamakuraToroku Sakon Kunitsuna (藤六左近国綱) from Awataguchi group of Yamashiro Den moved to KamakuraThose three are the ones who originated the Soshu Den in Kamakura. Kunitsunas son is Tosaburo Yukimitsu, and then his son is the famous Masamune (正宗)Outside of Kamakura area, Yamashiro Rai Kunitsugu (来国次), Go-no-Yoshihiro (郷義弘) from Ettshu (越中) province, Samoji  (左文字) from Chikuzen province (筑前) were the active swordsmiths.

10| Jokyu-no-ran 1221 (承久の乱)

0-timeline - size 24 jyokyuu no ran
 The circle indicates the time we discuss in this section.

Jyokyu-no-Ran (承久の乱)

After Minamoto-no-Yoritomo (源頼朝) died, his son, Yoriie (頼家) succeeded the shogun position.  His mother, Hojo Masako (北条政子) Yoritomo‘s wife, thought her son was too incompetent.  She was afraid that others could take over the Kamakura Bakufu (Kamakura government).  To prevent this from happening, she established a council system consisting of 13 members including herself, her father, Hojo Tokimasa (北条時政) and her brother, Hojo Yoshitoki (北条義時).

In time, Shogun Yoriie‘s in-law became powerful.  During the Heian and the Kamakura period, the wife’s family was considered very important.  To suppress her son’s in-laws, Masako and her father, Tokimasa, plotted an assassination of Yoriie and killed him.

After Yoriie’s death, Masako’s younger son, Sanetomo (実朝), became the next shogun.  Now, his grandfather, Hojo Tokimasa’s second wife, wanted her son-in-law to be the next shogun.  To please his young wife, Hojo Tokimasa attempted to kill Sanetomo, bud failed.  Finding this plot, Hojo Masako imprisoned her father, Tokimasa.  Although Sanetomo was Masako’s son, she was again very disappointed in his incompetence.  In the end, Shogun  Sanetomo was killed by his nephew Kugyo, the son of the previous shogun, Yoriiee.

After all these incidents, Masako’s brother, Hojo Yoshitoki, took control of the Kamakura Bakufu and brought a figurehead from the Fujiwara family, a powerful aristocrat family in Kyoto.   After all the turmoil, the Hojo family eventually took full control of the Kamakura Bakufu (government).

Meanwhile, in Kyoto, Emperor Gotoba had been planning an attack on the Kamakura Bakufu.  He had built up military power.  When Sanetomo was killed, Emperor Gotoba saw the chance to attack Kamakura.  He ordered local feudal lords to attack the Kamakura Bakufu, but very few followed the order.  Instead, the Hojo family captured the emperor and exiled him to Oki island.  It was in 1221 and called Jokyo-no-Ran or Jokyu-no Hen.

Emperor Gotoba was the one who really encouraged sword making and treated swordsmiths respectfully.  After the Jokyu-no-Ran, the Imperial family’s power decreased, and the Kamakura Bakufu became a powerful and stable regime.  From the time of Minamoto-no-Yoritomo‘s death to the end of the Jokyu-no-Ran, the Kamakura Bakufu was still an unstable government.  It was Hojo Masako who led the Kamakura Bakufu to a stable regime.  She was called “Ama Shogun” or a “Nun Shogun.”   She was a sharp and talented but tough, critical, and often mean politician.

Kamakura people (I am one of them) like Hojo Masako very much Minamoto no Yoritomo and Hojo Masako were both buried in Kamakura City.  Minamoto no Yoritomo at Shirahata Shrine (白幡神社), and Hojo Masako at Jufukuji Temple (寿福寺).

Kamakura is about one hour from Tokyo by train on the Yokosuka line.  Both Jufuku-Ji temple and Shirahata shrine are within walking distance from Kamakura station.

11 Jufuku-JiJufuku-ji (寿福寺) Temple  From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

11 Yoritomo GraveFrom Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository       Minamoto-no-Yoritomo’s tomb.