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.

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                            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

17| Nanboku-cho Period History 1333-1392(南北朝歴史)

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

After Jokyu-no-Ran (Chapter 10 Jokyu-no-Ran), the power of the Imperial Court declined significantly.  The successor, the Hojo clan with a dominant power during the Kamakura period, also began to have financial difficulty and started to lose control over the regional lords.  One of the reasons was the cost incurred by the Mongol invasion.  The Kamakura Bakufu (government) could not reward well to the Samurai who worked hard during the war.  As a result, they were very dissatisfied with the Bakufu.  Seeing this as a chance, Emperor Go-Daigo attempted to attack the Kamakura Bakufu two times but failed both times.  He was exiled to Oki island.  Meantime, Ashikaga Takauji (足利尊氏) and several groups of anti-Kamakura Samurai gathered arm forces and succeeded in destroying the Kamakura Bakufu (1333).  This war ended the Kamakura period.

Emperor Go-daigo, who had been exiled to Oki island, returned to Kyoto and attempted political reforms.  This reform was called Kenmu-no-Chuko (or Kenmu-no-Shinsei, 建武の中興).  His reform, however, failed to satisfy most of the ruling class.  Taking advantage of this situation, Ashikaga Takauji attacked the Imperial Court in Kyoto, deposed Emperor Go-daigo, and placed a member from the other branch of the Imperial family on the throne. 

Emperor Go-daigo, however, insisted upon his legitimacy, moved to Yoshino in the South of Kyoto, and established another Imperial court.  Thus began the Northern and the Southern Dynasties.  With much strife between these rival courts and their problems within each court,  more Samurai groups began moving to the Northern Dynasty.  About 60 years later, the Southern Dynasty was compelled to accept the Northern Dynasty’s proposal.  Consequently, the Northern Dynasty became the legitimate imperial court.  These 60 years are called Nanboku-cho or Yoshino-cho period. 

During the Nanboku-cho period, Samurai demanded larger and showy yet practical swords.  Soshu Den was the height of its prominence.  However, the Soshu group was not the only group that made the Soshu Den style swords.  Other schools and provinces of the different areas also made Soshu Den style swords.

Late Kamakura Period Swordsmiths (Early Soshu-Den time)

  • Tosaburo Yukimitsu (藤三郎行光)  
  • Goro Nyudo Masamune (五郎入道正宗)     
  • Hikoshiro Sadamune (彦四郎貞宗)

 17 Masamune hamon (Sano) 14 masamune1            Masamune from Sano Museum Catalog (permission granted)

Nanboku-cho Period Swordsmiths  (Middle Soshu-Den time)

  • Hiromitu (広光)   
  • Akihiro (秋広)

18 Hiromitu photo 20 Hitatsura Hiromitsu Hitatura )                  Hiromitsu from Sano Museum Catalog (permission granted)

Muromachi Period Swordsmiths (Late Soshu-Den time)

  • Hiromasa (広正)    
  • Masahiro (正広)

10| Jokyu-no-ran 1221 (承久の乱)

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 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.