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. 

 

25| Edo Period History 1603 – 1867  (江戸時代歴史)

edo Period with Momoym
The circle above indicates where we discuss in this chapter.

Between the Sengoku period (戦国時代) and the Edo period (江戸時代) on political history, there was the time called the Azuchi Momoyama period (安土桃山).  It was from around 1573 to 1614, as shown in the third (bottom) timeline above.  This was the time when Oda Nobunaga (織田信長), Toyotomi Hideyoshi(豊臣秀吉) and Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康) played central roles in politics.

After Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康) won the battle of Sekigahara (関ヶ原の戦い) in 1600 and defeated Toyotomi’s vassals (Toyotomi Hideyoshi had already been deceased by then), Tokugawa Iyeyasu became the Shogun (将軍) in 1603.  This is the beginning of the Edo Period (江戸).  In sword history, as you see in the middle timeline above, the Edo period comes right after the Sengoku period.

At the end of the Sengoku period and during the Azuchi Momoyama period, the  economy grew a lot, and new culture flourished.  The gorgeous and spectacular art, such as paintings, architecture, interior designs, and handicrafts, were created.  The tea ceremony was developed by Sen No Rikyu (千の利休), and Kabuki also began to be performed around this time.  It was somewhat similar to the European Renaissance. Strangely, this new art emergence happened at the same time in Japan and Europe.

Around this time, many Europeans came to Japan.  That was the time of the exploration to the East by Europeans.  They were from England, Spain, Holland, and Portugal.  The novel “Shogun” by James Clavell was based on the real people’s stories, William Adams and Jan Joosten Van Londersteyn*¹ at the time.   You can see Jan Joosten’s statue in Tokyo Station today.  On my yearly visit to Japan, I stay at a hotel near Tokyo Station.  I often pass in front of “Yan Yoosten’s” statue.   It is located inside the Tokyo Station, underground in the middle of the bustling shopping area.  It can be very easily missed unless you look for it.  There is another statue of him outside the Station.

Shogun Tokugawa Iyeyasu hired William Adams and Jan Joosten (Japanese call him Jan Joosten, not his full name) as his advisers, and he acquired information on Europe from them.  Shogun Tokugawa Iyeyasu treated them well.  The area where Jan Joosten lived is now called Yaesu (八重洲) after his name, Jan Joosten.  William Adams changed his name to Miura Anjin and lived in the Miura area.  This place is approximately one hour and a half south by train from Tokyo today.  The records of these two people are well kept and can be found easily.

Europeans brought many European goods and ideas.  Although Christianity became popular and widely spread in the early Azuchi Momoyama period, Toyotomi Hideyoshi banned it later.  After the Meiji Era (1868), a religious restriction was lifted.

The Edo period began when Tokugawa Iyeyasu became the Shogun (1603).  It lasted until the Meiji (明治) Restoration in 1868.  Tokugawa Bakufu (Tokugawa government) was the only entity that governed the country during the Edo period.  The emperors existed, but the political power was shifted to the Tokugawa Bakufu.

Gradually, ports for the European ships were limited.  Eventually, Spaniards were not allowed to come to Japan, then Portuguese.  Japanese were forbidden to travel abroad.  By around 1640, a port town called Dejima in Hirato in Nagasaki prefecture was the only place in Japan that opened for foreigners to do business with the Japanese.  From Europe, only the Dutch were allowed to come.  Japan closed the country to the outside world until the Meiji Restoration (1868).

During the Azuchi Momoyama period and the early part of the Edo period, many European ships visited Japan.  Strangely, many of them shipwrecked near the shores around Japan.  One of the reasons is that Japan is a volcanic island.  Even if the sea’s surface does not show anything sticking up from the water, there are many obstacles underneath, such as underwater mountains and massive hidden reefs.  The Europeans did not have the waterway information that was common to the Japanese seamen.

Additional stories to share just for a fun

Another reason why many ships were wrecked was that those ships were looking for gold.  When Marco Polo traveled to China, he heard from Chinese people that there was a small island country further to the east.  The land was wealthy, and the emperors’ palace was made of gold and silver.  After Marco Polo went back to Italy, he wrote a book (in late 1300) about his journey and published it.  In his book, he mentioned what he heard in China about the island country, Japan.  Even though he had never visited Japan himself.  The book was widely read in many countries in Europe.  When traveling to the East became possible for Europeans, they came to Japan to find gold.

Yes, Japan produced a large amount of gold.  But for the Europeans, it was too late.  By then, most of the gold was mined by the Fujiwara family in the Oh-shu area (奥州 Northern part of Japan).  The area includes today’s Aomori, Akita, Fukushima, and Miyagi prefectures, where the big Tsunami hit in 2011.  Toyotomi Hideyoshi also owned many gold mines but already mined as much as possible with the skills they had then.  Japan used to have many gold and silver mines all over the country.  Those mines were already exhausted, and only a few were left for mining today.

Throughout history, there have been facts and rumors about “Maizo-kin: 埋蔵金.”  Maizo-kin is the gold buried or hidden by the people like Tokugawa Shogun, Hideyoshi, and wealthy Daimyos and merchants.  Without having today’s banks’ vault, burying in secret places is the only way to store gold then.  Several Maizo-kins have been found, including one in the middle of Tokyo, Ginza.  There are still several big ones that haven’t been found yet.  Those are said to be Hideyoshi Maizo-kin, Tokugawa Bakufu Maizo-kin, and a few more big onesAlthough several maps indicated the locations of the Maizo-kin, those maps were fake, of course.  Today, whenever the ground is dug to build a large building structure, people start talking about a possible discovery of a big Maizo-kin.

Gold flowed out to outside Japan little by little over the centuries until the Meiji Restoration time.  Because the exchange rate between gold and silver was much cheaper in Japan compared to the rest of the world.  Today, we still mine gold on a small scale.

It is said that the name of the country, Japan, comes from Marco Polo’s book.  He called Japan “Chipangu,” which means “gold country” in his book.*²   “From “Chipangu” to “Zipang” to “Jipang,” it eventually evolved to “Japan.”  Japanese don’t call the country Japan but “Nihon” or “Nippon” (日本).

ヤン ヨーステン Jan Joosten van Lodenstijn https://www.weblio.jp

                                       Or Jan Joosten van Londensteyn 

*² Wikipedia “Names of Japan” or Check (Click) right to go to the link Jipangu 

26 map of Cipangu1492

Cipangu described in the 1492 Martin Beham globe.  From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository (Names of Japan)