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The fall of the Kamakura Period

26 Apr 2017History Essays

The Period of Kamakura

The Kamakura period was the period between 1185 up to 1333 wherein the form of government is not indicated by an aristocratic regime. The form of government was described as a samurai-structured way of ruling wherein the warriors had the power over the imperial class. This was primarily due to the fact that the imperial and the aristocratic groups clang more on the warriors in order to protect themselves. Although the emperor was still the head of the state, his function was more of ceremonial. Because of this, two notable warrior clans had started to have supreme access to power due to such dependency of the aristocrat groups. These two clans were the Taira and the Minamoto clans.

The Taira clan was considered to be the most influential warrior clan in the Kamakura period not until they were outdone by the Minamoto clan. The chief cause of their defeat was that they tended to break-up from their primordial function as warriors while adapting the lifestyle of the aristocrat class. Such blunder caused their defeat.

On the other hand, the Minamoto clan did not follow the wrong path that the Taira clan had gone through. They fastened their way of life to their original military practices. With such attitude, they even improved their status as the ruling –class and indicated new way of culture and governance in Japan that is far from the traditional system of government.

Yoritomo established himself as the first shogun (appointed by the emperor himself). His regime was characterized as military form of government – the bakufu. He was successful of strengthening his regime by getting the support of the local families of the warrior clans. Yoritomo initiated the divorce from the imperial form of ruling (while other said that he labeled himself as a warden of the imperial form of government). However, he allowed the court to settle and implement sanctions until the fall of the Kamakura Period.


Yoritomo’s regime began tough and unyielding. However, one of the factors that initiated conflicts during the Kamakura period was that Yoritomo failed to put his family in order. Although he was enable to resolve several attempts of dethroning him (initiated by some members of his family), he failed to resolve the conflict in leadership. It was become evident when he died that pursuit of power disintegrated the bond of his family. From the maternal side of Yoritomo, the succession of shogun was bestowed upon (the Hojo Family).

This snatched of power from the pure-blooded Minamoto descendants of Yorimoto by the maternal side of him severed the conflict – the maternal side of Yoritomo was said to come from the Taira clan which agreed to support the Minamoto clan when Yoritomo initiated the rise of the Minamoto clan to power.
The rule of the Hojo Family marked the decline of the established bakufu. The bakufu lost its power while the shogun only functioned as a ceremonial head losing its original status as the sole implementer of rules.

One of the great factors that resulted to the decline of the Kamakura Period was the clash between the regime of the Hojo Family and the Kyoto court. The Kyoto court during the time of Yoritomo was given the authority to pass law and implement sanction. Conversely, when the Hojo family took the reign, they saw the Kyoto court as a big threat to their regime. In trying to prevent the Kyoto court from overwhelming them, the Hojo family distributed more power to the family clans which undermined the authority of the Kyoto court. The result of such distribution of power to the family clans was that the court needed to consult their works from the ruling family before they may employ them.

The last factor that completed the fall of the Kamakura period was when a descendent from the Southern Court was put into the throne. With such succession, the Minamoto clan totally lost its power. The last scenario was described as the return of the imperial rulings replacing the samurai or warrior-type of government.

Reference:

  • The Clear Mirror: A Chronicle of the Japanese Court During the Kamakura Period (1185-1333). Trans. George Perkins: Stanford University Press 1998.

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