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

47| Part 2 of –13 Late Kamakura Period: Genko (鎌倉末元寇)

This is a detailed part of chapter 13|Late Kamakura Period, Genko 鎌倉末元寇).  Please read chapter 13 before reading this section.

0-timeline - size 24 Late Kamakura

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

Genko (元寇):  Mongolian Invasion 

Chapter 13 described the Mongolian invasion simply.  Here is a more detailed description.  The Mongol Empire was a vast empire that spread between present Mongolia to Eastern Europe from the 13th to the 14th centuries.  The grandson of Genghis Kahn, Kublai Kahn, sent several official letters to Japan demanding Japan to become a dependent state of the Mongol Empire (元: Yuan), and ordered to send a tribute to them.  They threatened Japan that they would invade if Japan did not follow their demand.  Hojo Tokimune (北条時宗), who was in power in Kamakura Bakufu (government) at the time, refused and ignored the letters many times.  That led to the two-time invasions by the Mongol Empire.  It is often said that the strong typhoon hit Japan on each occasion, and Mongols were pushed away by the two big typhoons.  This is correct, but the real story had a lot more to it.

Bun’ei-no-eki (文永の役)  1274

The first Mongolian invasion was called Bun’ei-no-eki.  In early October in 1274, Mongol troops (Mongols, Han people, and Koreans) of 40,000 men* departed from the Korean Peninsula on 900* large and small ships and headed to Japan.  After they arrived on Tsushima Island (対馬), Mongol troops burnt villages and killed many people, including the island people.  Village people were captured and sent to the top officials of the Mongols as their slaves.  It was a very sad scene. 

The Mongols moved to Iki Island (壱岐の島), to Hizen shore (肥前),  to Hirado Island (平戸), to Taka Island (鷹島), then to Hakata Bay (博多).   In each place, the disastrous sad scene was the same as everywhere.    On each battlefield, Japanese soldiers and villagers were killed in large numbers.  The Kamakura Bukufu sent a large number of Samurai troops to the battlefield.  The Japanese forces sometimes won and pushed the Mongols back, but mostly lost.  Many Japanese wives and children near the battleground were captured. 

Eventually, no soldiers dared to fight against the Mongols.  Mongols’ arrows were short and not so powerful, but they put the poison at the tip, and they shot the arrows all together at one time like rain.  Also, this was the first time the Japanese saw firearms.  The loud sound of explosions frightened horses and Samurai.

Japanese troops had to retreat, and the situation was awful for the Japanese.  But one morning, there was a big surprise!  All the ships disappeared from the shore.  They were all gone on the morning of October 21st (on today’s calendar, November 19th).  All Mongols vanished from the shore of Hakata

What happened was that the Mongols decided to quit the fight and went back to their country.  The reason was that even though they were winning, they also lost many soldiers and one of the key person of the army.  The Mongols realized that no matter how much they won, the Japanese kept coming more and more from everywhere.  Also, the Mongols realized that they could not expect reinforcements from their country across the ocean.  Their stocks of weapons were getting low.  The Mongols decided to go back.  Here was a twist.  Around the end of October (November by today’s calendar), the sea between Hakata (where Mongols were stationed) and Korea was very dangerous because of the bad weather.  Only a clear day with the south wind made it possible to sail over the sea.  The name of the sea where the Mongol soldiers had to sail back is called Genkai Nada (玄界灘), very famous for the rough water.  For some reason, the Mongols decided to head back during the night.  That was a mistake.  They may have caught a moment of the south wind, but it did not last long.  As a result, they encountered a usual severe rainstorm.  Many ships hit against each other, against the cliff, capsized, and people fell into the ocean.  Several hundred broken ships were found on the shores of Japan. 

The Mongol invasion ended here.  This war is called Bun’ei-no-eki (文永の役).  The Mongols lost a large number of people, ships, soldiers, food, and weapons.  Actually, it was Korea that lost a great deal.  They were forced to supply people, food, weapons, etc., by the Mongols.  After the war, in Korea, only older men and children were left to work on the farm.  On top of it, they had a drought and prolonged rain.

Ko’an-no-eki (弘安の役) 1281

The second Mongolian invasion is called Ko’an-no-eki in 1281.  After the first attempt to invade Japan, Kublai Khan kept sending messengers to Japan to demand it to become Mongol’s dependent territory.  The Kamakura Bakufu kept ignoring and killed messengers.  Kublai Kahn decided to attack Japan again in 1281.  The top advisers of Kublai Kahn tried to convince him not to do it because the ocean was too dangerous, the country was too small, the place was too far, and there would be nothing to gain even if they win.  But Kublai Kahn still insisted on attacking. 

This time they came in two groups.  One was the East-route troop with 40,000* soldiers on 900 ships, and the other was the South-route troop with 100,000* soldiers on 3,500 ships.  This was the enormous scale of forces in history.  They planned to depart from each designated port, and they planned to join on the Iki Island (壱岐の島) by June 15th, then work together.  The East-route troop arrived there before the South-route troop.  Instead of waiting for the South-route troop to come, the East-route troop started to attack Hakata Bay (博多) on their own.  But since the previous invasion of the Bun’ei-no-eki, Japan had prepared to fight and built a 20-kilometer-long stone wall.  This stone wall was 3 meters high and 2 meters thick.  The East-route troop had to give up to land from Hakata and moved to Shika-no Shima Island (志賀島).  In this place, the fight between Mongols and Japan was even, but in the end, the East-route troop lost and retreated to Iki Island, and decided to wait for the South-route troop to arrive. 

The South-route troop never came. They had changed their plan.  On top of that, while the East-route troop was waiting for the South-route troop to arrive, they lost over 3,000 men over an epidemic.  Some suggested going back home with difficulty like this, but they concluded to wait for the South-route troop as long as their food would last. 

Meanwhile, the South-route troop decided to go to Hirado Island (平戸島), which was closer to Dazaifu (太宰府).  Dazaifu was the final and most important place they wanted to attack.   Later, the East-route troop found the South-route troop went to Hirado Island.  Finally, two forces joined on Hirado Island, and each group was stationed on the nearby island called Takashima Island (鷹島).  The problem was that since this island had very high tide and low tide, the ships were not easily maneuvered.

In the meantime, 60,000 Japanese men were marching toward the place where the Mongols were stationed.   Before Japanese soldiers arrived to fight against the Mongols, a big typhoon came on July 30th, and Mongols were caught in a big typhoon.  Their ships were hitting each other, and many sank.  People fell from the boats and drowned.

By this time, it had been about three months after the East-route troop left Mongol in early May.  That means they were on the ocean for about three months or so.  In the northern Kyushu area (九州), typhoons usually come, on average, 3.2 times between July and September.  The Mongols were on the ocean and Japan’s shorelines for about three months.  They were bound to be hit by a typhoon sooner or later.

The Mongol Empire lost 2/3 of its naval forces in the event of Ko’an-no-eki.   Even after the Mongols failed the two invasions, Kublai Khan still insisted on attacking Japan again, no matter how his advisers reasoned him not to.  In the end, the plan was delayed and terminated because of many rebellions and upheavals, and no lumber was left to build ships.  Soon later, Kublai died in 1294.  The historical record of Mongols indicated that Mongolian officials highly praised Japanese swords.  Some even say one of the reasons why it was not easy to defeat Japan was their long sharp swords.  The experience of the Mongolian invasion changed the Ikubi kissaki (猪首切先) sword to the new Soshu-Den (相州伝) style sword.  The next chapter describes a new style of sword, Soshu-Den swords.

49 Photo of part 2 of 14 Late KamakuraThe stone wall scene.  Photo from Wikipedia.  Public Domain

* Number of soldiers by https://kotobank.jp/word/元寇-60419 .  Referred to several different reference sources.  They all have a similar number of soldiers and ships.

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

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.

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. 

 

20|Muromachi Period History (室町時代歴史)    

0-timeline - size 24 Muromach
                   The red circle iabove ndicate the time we discuss in this section

The Muromachi period began after Ashikaga Takauji  (足利尊氏) and several other prominent leaders ended the Nanboku-cho period.  (discussed in 17|Nanboku-cho Period History (1333-1393).

The grandson of Ashikaga Takauji, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満:often called Shogun Yoshimitsu), built a new beautiful palace at Muromachi (室町) area in Kyoto.  The palace became the center of the government called the Muromachi Bakufu (室町幕府: Muromachi Government).   This is the beginning of the Muromachi period.  Ashikaga Yoshimitsu built the famous “Kinkaku-ji Temple* (Golden Pavilion)” in Kyoto as his second house.

Kinkaku-ji Temple* (金閣寺: Golden Pavillion) ————- Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満) built Kinkaku-Ji Temple in 1397.   Later, it became Rinzai-shu (臨済宗) school Buddhist temple, but it was initially built as the second house for Ashikaga Yoshimitsu as well as a state guesthouse.  Today, it is designated as a world heritage site.  This temple was burnt down by an arsonist in 1950 but was rebuilt in 1955.  The novelist Mishima Yukio wrote the novel “Kinkaku-ji” related to the Golden Pavillion and the arsonist.  The famous quote in the book is, “The Ho-oh (A mythic golden bird, a Chinese version phoenix) on the roof of the Kinkaku-ji Temple is stationary, but it flies through the time eternally.”

In the Muromachi period, the emperor’s power became declined.  The Shogun (将軍) held all the political power.  Little by little, several groups of Samurai who were officially appointed as a Shugo Daimyo (守護大名: high-ranking officials) started to gain political and economic power by holding the critical positions in the Muromachi Bakufu.  They also owned a large land.  A couple of powerful Shugo Daimyo were the Hosokawa (細川) family and the Yamana (山名) family.

The Ashikaga family made a great effort to make the Muromachi Bakufu sound and powerful through politics.  The beginning of the Muromachi period was peaceful and prosperous.  Yet by the time Ashikaga Yoshimasa (足利義政) became the 8th Shogun, the Muromachi Bakufu was corrupted very severely.  Shogun Yoshimasa did not pay much attention to his job, governing the country as a shogun.  Instead, he was chasing women (his mother had to scold him for that), spent a large amount of money on building the Silver Pavilion called “Ginkaku-ji Temple (銀閣寺), and retreated himself there.  Shogun Yoshimasa did not have an heir.  Therefore, his brother, Yoshimi (義視), was named to the next Shogun.

However, later, Yoshimasa’s wife Hino Tomiko (日野富子)* had a son, Yoshihisa (義尚).  Now, brother Yoshimi (義視) allied with a family of a high-ranking official, the Hosokawa’s (細川) while the son, Yoshihisa, tied with another powerful family, the Yamana’s (山名), and several other smaller groups of Samurai allied with either side and the war broke out.  This war is called Onin-no-Ran (応仁の乱) in 1467.  It spread out all over the country and continued for 11years.

Hino Tomiko (日野富子)*——————The wife of Shogun Yoshimasa.  She took advantage of her political privileges to make a large amount of money by investing in the rice commodity market to control rice prices and sold with a high profit.  Then she loans the money to the high ranking officials at a  high-interest.  The corruption reached an uncontrollable level.

As a result of Onin-no-Ran, beautiful Kyoto was burnt down to ashes.  The authority of the Muromachi Bakufu only reached the vicinity of the small surrounding area of KyotoOnin-no-Ran caused the next period called the Sengoku period (戦国時代), that is the Warring States period.  During the Sengoku period, Japan was divided into 30 or so small independent countries and fought each other until Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Iyeyasu united Japan as one country.  

57 Kinkakuji trip 2019

 The photo was taken in May 2019, a family trip to Kyoto

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.