Daibutsu, Kamakura

Daibutsu, Kamakura
Daibutsu in Kamakura, June 2010. There were thousands of school kids visiting that day. It was still great fun.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The First "Permanent" Shogun

Minamoto no Yoritomo

Minamoto no Yoritomo is considered the first shogun in Japanese history when he rose to power in 1192. However, the title of shogun actually predates Yoritomo. The title shogun actually comes from the ancient title seii taishōgun which essentially means "barbarian-subduing-generalissimo." This title had formally been assigned on a temporary basis to military commanders whom the Imperial Court had dispatched to lead expeditions against insurgents or independent tribal groups on the borders of the imperial realm.

Yoritomo had his headquarters at Kamakura, and the Kantō was his base of power. What distinguished Yoritomo's shogunal appointment from previous ones was that it sanctioned what became a permanent government known as a bakufu, "tent government." The later Ashikaga and Tokugawa shogunates were also referred to as bakufu.

What is interesting about the great Minamoto Yoritomo and the bakufu he established was that his Minamoto family actually lost control of their bakufu by 1203. Although Yoritomo's Kamakura bakufu continued on for another 130 years, it was actually controlled by a powerful vassal family of regents following the assassination of Yoritomo's sons. The powerful Hojo family of regents were the true powers behind the Kamakura bakufu from 1203 until 1333 when the Kamakura bakufu fell during the brief Kemmu imperial restoration. The Hojo arranged to have malleable people from Kyoto designated shogun, never claiming the title for themselves, preferring to wield power from behind the scene.

5 comments:

  1. Ah, Minamoto no Yoritomo. I've visited his grave in Kamakura a couple of times. The first time was alone. Creepy place when you go alone.

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  2. Yeah, I could see how visiting alone would be creepy.

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  3. Great post with some historical information I otherwise didn't know.

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  4. If you want to buy the 2005 Kunitori Monogatari movie cheap, go to jpdorama and type in Kunitori Monogatari.

    Unfortunately, for the who do not understand Japanese, there are no English subtitles. Still, a nice movie.

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  5. Thanks for the recommendation.

    ReplyDelete