III. The Postclassical Period, 500–1500 > E. East Asia, to 1527 > 6. Japan, 1185–1493 > b. Major Events
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
b. Major Events
Minamoto no Yoritomo, as the effective military dictator, organized the new bakufu with the aid of Kyoto scholars like e Hiromoto (1148–1225). He had already created, in 1180, the Samuraidokoro (Board of Retainers) to perform police duties and to control affairs of the warrior class. In 1184 he had established an administrative board, renamed the Mandokoro in 1191. In 1184 the Monchjo (Board of Inquiry) had also been established as a final court of appeal. Impartial administration of justice characterized the rule of the Kamakura bakufu and was one of the chief reasons for its long duration.  1
In 1185 Yoritomo appointed military constables (shugo) in some provinces and placed military stewards (jit) in many of the large manors. A few such appointments had been made in preceding years, but now he expanded this system to strengthen his influence in regions in which he had hitherto had no direct control. The constables were special military governors in charge of the direct vassals of the Minamoto. The stewards, representing Yoritomo on estates not otherwise under his control, levied taxes on the estates for military purposes. Thus the fiscal immunity of the estates was violated, and Kamakura retainers were scattered in key posts throughout the country. The constables and stewards rapidly grew in importance in the economic and political life of the provinces, and in time developed into the feudal lords of later centuries.  2
Yoshitsune was killed on the orders of Yoritomo, who apparently was jealous of the fame the former had won as the brilliant general responsible for the greatest victories over the Taira. Yoritomo similarly disposed of other prominent members of the family, including his cousin Yoshinaka (1184), who as a warrior ranked next only to Yoshitsune; his uncle Yukiie (1186), who was one of the prime movers in the Minamoto uprising; and his brother Noriyori (1193), who was also one of the clan's great generals. His cruel treatment of his own relatives contributed to the early extinction of the family.  3
Yoritomo crushed the powerful Fujiwara family of northern Japan on the grounds that they had killed Yoshitsune, albeit on his own orders. The northern Fujiwara in the course of the previous century had become a great military power and had made their capital, Hiraizumi, a major center of culture. Their elimination removed a serious menace to Minamoto supremacy.  4
Eisai (1141–1215) propagated the Rinzai branch of the Zen sect after his return from a second study trip to China. The Zen sect enjoyed the official patronage of the Kamakura bakufu and the special favor of the warrior class in general.  5
Yoritomo had himself appointed Seii taishgun (“barbarian-subduing great general”), or shogun for short. Though not the first to bear this title, he was the first of the long line of military rulers called shoguns.  6
Transition from Minamoto to Hj rule. Yoritomo was succeeded as the head of the Minamoto by his eldest son, Yoriie (1182–1204), who was not appointed shogun until 1202; instead his mother, Masako (1157–1225), ruled with the aid of a council headed by her father, Hj Tokimasa (1138–1215). The latter, though a member of the Taira clan, from the start had cast his lot with Yoritomo and had exercised great influence in the Kamakura councils before Yoritomo's death. The Hj, though loyal to the military government, unscrupulously did away with Yoritomo's descendants and crushed their rivals among other Minamoto vassals.  7
Yoriie was exiled and his younger brother, Sanetomo (1192–1219), was made shogun by Tokimasa. The following year Yoriie was murdered.  8
Tokimasa was eliminated from government by Masako. His son, Yoshitoki (1163–1224), then became regent (shikken) of the shogun, a post held by successive Hj leaders, who were the real rulers.  9
The Minamoto line came to an end when Sanetomo was assassinated, probably with Hj connivance, by his nephew, who was in turn executed.  10
The period of rule by the Hj as regents for weak shoguns of Fujiwara and imperial stock was characterized by administrative efficiency.  11
An uprising under the leadership of retired emperor Gotoba (r. 1184–98) was the gravest menace the Hj faced, but it was quickly crushed. Two prominent Hj leaders were left in Kyoto as joint civil and military governors of the capital region. The estates confiscated from the defeated partisans of Gotoba gave the Kamakura much needed land with which to reward its followers, and the abortive uprising gave the Hj a chance to extend the system of constables, stewards, and military taxes to regions hitherto unaffected by it.  12
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.